me and my matt chester
i began emailing matt chester sometime in 2003. i was interested in getting my paws on a 'ute, his one-time 26" frankenbike. at the time i was waiting for my old life (read house) to sell and i wanted a new bicycle to mark my new life. but this is all garnish... after a few emails backwards and forwards, coupled with the fact that matt stopped making 26ers, we ended up talking about a drop bar 700see fixie-specific monster cross freak of a rig. an indie rock! when i saw matt's personal rig on the f.g.g. i knew this was the bike for me. measurements were made, checked and scribbled on his order form, a paypal account was created, monies were sent and i waited... for quite a while.
now i have had several flame mails from matt chester-o-philes who have criticised me for calling matt slack. so let me set the record straight, matt IS slack. it took six months for my frame to arrive (against an estimate of 12 weeks) and a further seven months for my rick hunter fork and stem to arrive. on several occasions there were snotty emails (hey, i AM impatient!) but matt came through and, by way of apology, interim forks and stem were provided along with freebie tyres (sorry, tires) and bars. in fact, every time i got pissed with matt, he came back with a smile, an apology and a means to make it up. i was not matt's ideal customer. matt was not my ideal frame builder. but hey, i got my frame so smiles all round... or was it?
out of the box the frame looked BIG. i was and still am a SHORT ARSE. even before i popped my wheels into the fork and track ends it looked big. for starters the head tube was more than twice the size of that on my mtb! i was scared. had i blown my equity on something that wouldn't fit? the moment of truth came when the rig was built. it looked odd, kind of ugly and out of proportion. the saddle looked too low compared to the bars. the top tube looked hideously long, the seat post was barely visible and the stem just looked WRONG. this was compounded when i swung my stubby hobbit leg over the rig and discovered that my dignity rested nicely on the top tube. oh crap. it was BIG. the bike that is, not my johnson! what had i done? i was going to struggle to ride this machine on the road, let alone offroad... well, that's how it seemed.
riding my indie cross for the first time was a confusing experience. for starters, if the top tube was too long how come my hands rested in the drops perfectly? why didn't it feel strange that the bars were so high? why didn't it feel like i was a kid riding an adults bike? at this point in time i had been riding fixed gear on the road for about ten years but, other than the odd fire road, i had never ridden one off road. so it was with some trepidation that i went off to explore my local trails all fixed up for the first time... a drum roll is probably appropriate at this point.
well, the long and short of it was that this bike actually rode well. no, better than well, this bike just kept on surprising me with how well it handled. fire road climbs, nadgery singletrack, roots, carving switchbacks and gravel descents. this bike took it all and gave me confidence in return. ok, so there were things i didn't try such as steep drops and hideously off camber descents where fixed riding was never going to work. on all the worst of rock gardens the rig just rolled and i kept pedaling and i must confess to unclipping my feet and freewheeling with abandon and my feet up against the head tube on a long access road descent! bugger me if matt hadn't built me something good... well, don't. you get my point.
ok, i guess i should wax lyrical about the ti ride and the welds? err, no. it rides like a bike should and the ti looks nice. the welds look good and all the bits i put on the frame fit nicely so i guess the alignment is spot on! angles, schmangles. matt has ranted about fit and frames before and i don't see how i can add to this. i will say that i still do believe that the top tube could've been a wee bit lower but i am yet to have a serious testicle and top tube incident. this is clearly a frame that matt has put some thought into. maybe it's the fit or the fat rubber but this rig trackstands FOREVER. i sometimes think i could dismount and just leave it standing... well, maybe not.
fast forward to sometime in 2006 and i read on the interweb that matt is no longer going to build frames. does this shock me? no. does this make me put my rig on ebay? nope. i guess that the matt chester frame building empire has come to an end and he is off to live his bike monk, night-time deejay, raw vegan life away from the stresses of being a bicycle fabricator. sad, but completely understandable.
so i will toast matt chester every time i ride my rig and wait (impatiently) for my copy of his mag-o-zine, 700see. which i expect to be bigger than i first thought but very well made and thoughtful, if his frames are anything to go by. you see i AM impatient and matt IS slack. but that doesn't mean we can't get along.