Back-Burner to Hothouse. And Back Again.
We had plenty of time over the years, as MIN.D. went back and to from hot-house to back-burner, to speculate as to what kind of bike it would be? We presumed it would be super-aero, probably 1x12 or even 1 x 13, and in ambition at least, as disruptive as the U.P. was when it was launched seven years ago. And we were wrong on all counts.
The secret brief between Andy and Gerard, was in fact controversially counter to the market trend
– ‘classic’ and ‘simple’, minimal (MIN.) design (D.) = MIN.D.
Ergo Open’s first ever dedicated road-bike at the outset, neither sought to be particularly aero or stiff – this time the little Swiss company was being unintentionally rebellious by omission.
Gerard Vroomen seemed to feel spiritually unconstrained when he designed MIN.D. – freed of any superlatives that end with ‘est’ – ‘lightest’, ‘fastest’, ‘aero-est (ahem!)’ etc. He just needed to clear his consciousness and design a beautiful, well-mannered road bicycle that folk love to ride more of the time. And it is a mark of the man that to do that he didn’t look to what others were doing – Trek, Parlee, or even his old firm Cervelo. Instead he thought about bikes that he historically admired and for him, epitomised the perfect riding experience. And for that he looked to The Godfathers – Dario Pegoretti and Richard Sachs for their enduring work, together and separately, in setting the highest standards in hand-crafted steel.
The proclamation of his Pegoretti and Sachs influences, was enough for me to immediately place an order for a MIN.D. for personal use. Why? Because it was a confession on Vroomen’s part that whilst modern carbon is brutally effective - in the sense that you can design it to achieve stellar stiffness and lightness, or even form it into extraordinary shapes to cheat the wind; it has never been the most emotionally involving material, for either the rider or the frame builder. And this is been the drum I have been banging for the last twenty years – I intellectually understand that better should mean lighter, stiffer, faster, and that these things can then be measured and therefore proven. So why do I still prefer riding a steel Pegoretti or Serotta or a titanium bike from Seven or Passoni? What is it that I am not comprehending? Is it because I am a sentimental old fool, living in the past, refusing to move forward when obvious improvement and advance slaps me round the face? Or is there some other quality that I seek and appreciate?
Maybe it’s because humans are quite simple relationship machines? We interact with the world with our will and by transmitting forces, and in turn interpreting the responses that we receive back - from other people, from nature, from animals and of course from bicycles and materials? When I ride the world’s finest steel and titanium bicycles, I am obviously already placebo-intoxicated because I like and trust the people who bought these beautiful things into existence. But I also revere how these materials mediate the forces placed upon them by my own exertions and the external world. Try to find the fastest line at pace, around a sight-unseen, poor surfaced double-apex, out on the back roads, and I just enjoy the process more if this is interpreted through refined steel or titanium, rather than carbon. I have more trust in the process.