Anders Waiker is a big, gentle, generous, kind and reticent Swedish man. He also builds custom bike frames.
He was our first sponsor, before we even really had a series. I believe the conversation happened in an inauspicious carpark in Wainuiomata. You're picking up the cyclocross series? he asked. Yeah, reckon someone has to, I replied. Cool, well do you want me to throw in a custom frame as a spot prize?
Just like that. That sort of casual and thoughtful spirit typifies him.There was no song and dance or transaction about it, just a very affirming "what you're doing is cool, let me help" sort of thing.
We've had a few conversations throughout the seasons - he's given us two frames already and this year will mark the beginning of a third - and I've always been anxious to ensure he is getting a good return on his investment. You know, that we're spreading the good word or whatever. Every time I've just been met with a shrug, and it is clear that he's in it for the love.
Building bike frames isn't Anders' daily bread, he just does it because he loves the process.
"If I charged a fair hourly rate nobody would buy a frame", he once remarked to me.
In terms of what Anders is about, does the case really need to be made for a custom frame? His website is pretty informative in that regard. By engaging an expert to build something for you, it is charged with only relevant things. It represents you anatomically, but also philosophically - it is optimised for what you want to get from it, what you want to visit on it, and what it is about riding that gets you buzzed.
The previous winners' bikes represent this. They've both gone to very deserving winners. Richard's disc cross is a stunning build. In that way that we have of justifying things he said, well I've saved a shitload on the frame, so I can splash out on everything else. And Kirk's drop bar monster thrash adventure slayer is exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to see between the legs of a big, strong, adventureful man. It was wonderfully executed. We've thrown in some pics of Anders' current build - a lovely Reynolds 853 Randonneur Bike.
But aside from the fact that he is a major spot prize provider, the real reason we want to plug Anders is because of who he is as a person. The generosity, reticence and kindness that he exudes is bound to result in an exceedingly pleasant build experience.
For a sport that captivates us and breathes fresh air into our lives on a daily basis, we are remarkably stingy and short-sighted about our gear. Sure, that Taiwanese frame that is knocked together for your aggregate size is cheaper and will do the trick, but the real value we see in Anders' product is the ability to engage in the process. It's almost as if the finished product is the denouement - the physical resolution of the process that came before it. The true story.
Anders, and by extension Crucial Custom Cycles, is a rare pocket of Wellington where you can still engage in old school, soulful construction. While it might cost more than riding the LCD wave, we're talking apples and oranges. We're only around a short time, and there is a compelling argument to be made about taking a little extra time, and maybe burning a little extra cash, to make sure it's done once, and in a very permanent and specific way.
The support we have from Crucial Custom Cycles is extremely gratifying. To have Anders stand behind us attests to the soulful nature of what we're doing. Hopefully this little contribution can bring some attention to his craft. If you're minded to look at getting a new frame, we encourage you to give Anders a call and start the conversation. It could turn into once of the most pleasant you've had for some time.