The Legend of @Dan_R and Café Roubaix
Although he was already an active community member, I began my friendship with Dan Richter in early 2012 after he reached out to me regarding some wheels he wanted us to take along on Keepers Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012. At the time, he was an amateur wheel builder making some money on the side selling his wheels on eBay. Like many of us in this community, his heart tends toward the classics and the roughest roads around, and the wheels he was focussed on were largely classic wheels designed for rough riding.
Having read that I had built myself some wheels (three times, before I got it right) for the trip, and he wanted to see if his wheels would be able to withstand the torture of the cobbles of Northern Europe. We chatted about it, but the project never came to life as the wheels were damaged in an accident just before he was due to ship them off to me; with no time left to rebuild them, I left for France without a set of his wheels in my luggage.
But we kept up our communication and by the time I got back from the trip, he’s made up his mind to open a bicycle studio in Cochrane, Alberta, named Café Roubaix Bicycle Studio in homage to the greatest and toughest race in the world, Paris-Roubaix. I love seeing friends take a chance on starting a business, not to mention one built around Cycling; I was overjoyed at hearing the news and immediately offered any assistance we might be able to provide via our humble little community.
Fast forward a few months to November 2012 and delivery to my house of a set of Richter-branded carbon tubular wheels laced in a 3x pattern with bladed spokes; quite simply the most stunning wheels I’d ever laid eyes on, and shockingly light. With their lacing pattern, they were designed for Cyclocross but had an obvious use as wheels for the cobbles as well. I raced them the rest of the season before having an issue with one of the hubs. Dan quickly crossed that supplier of his list and sent me a replacement pair of wheels, this time co-branded with Velominati. These wheels were bullet-proof and carried me down the trench of Arenberg and every other cobbled road we hit during our 9-day trip.
In the meantime, I’d also commissioned a prototype climbing wheelset from him for my third attempt at not sucking on Haleakala. I still sucked, but I sucked a little less because the wheels were so insanely light and stiff; Dan immediately dubbed them the Haleakalas and offered them for sale as a standard wheelset through his studio.
But there was a nagging bit of feedback I kept getting from people who saw me out on the wheels, “Hey, how do you like those Ritchey wheels?” They’re not Ritcheys, they are Ricthers; read, you dumbass. (As I’ve said before, my natural charm has made me a good sprinter.) I brought the feedback that there might be some brand confusion to Dan over coffee one afternoon when he happened to pass through Seattle; after some brainstorming he decided to brand them after his shop’s fantastic name.
Every man needs a partner, a tailor, a wheelbuider and I’m proud Dan has been my official wheelbuilder for a few years now; his wheels are the best I’ve ever ridden and I’m grumpy any time I have to ride other wheels. It was only natural, then, that this past summer, we started working on an exciting project to co-brand a premium bespoke wheelset which would be available for sale to the public. KRX-10, Velominati’s trusty Graphic Designer, produced the most stunning design imaginable, before all our plans evaporated when Specialized sent the cease and desist letter. Velominati offered to publicize the matter, but Dan – the good guy that he is – decided to keep quiet and work it out between his lawyer and Specialized while laying plans to rebuild his brand from the ground up. It broke my heart to see his dream fall in shambles around him, but he always seemed to keep a good attitude and had confidence he would get back on his feet. He set about enlisting friends to brainstorm new names, and before long he was on his way to a fresh start.
Dan never asked for the outpouring from the Cycling community; he just gave an interview to a reporter who stopped by his shop and figured that was that. But within hours of its publication, the Cycling world went mad, launching into the biggest social media campaign I’ve ever seen around Cycling and one which Velominati were very proud to play some small part in. With the outpouring came the dropping of the lawsuit and, thanks to all of you in the community – not just here but in the Cycling world at large – Dan now has permission to continue using “Roubaix” in his shop name (although I’m not sure he can still use it on the wheels, we’ll have to ask him now how that works out legally.)
These past days, I have been more proud than ever to call myself a Cyclist, and I was just a bystander on the periphery of this amazing event – I can’t imagine how Dan feels. On behalf of all of us, we can not express our happiness and relief that this has worked out for a fellow Velominatus.
Vive La Vie Velominatus was ever thus.