Contest info: Big big hint in this article! The chainring is not for a boat. This is bad timing on my part, but I may be away from email until late Thursday. If somebody gets the correct answer it may be a while before I can acknowledge it.
Random and I went up into rural Larimer County north of Longmont. We pulled into a gravel driveway to a workshop behind a house covered with solar hot water panels. The old, non-descript white concrete block building belongs to world-famous bike builder Mark Nobilette.
When we walked into Nobilette's shop, the organ rock tunes of Wayne Horvitz and Zony Mash were blasting from his ancient stereo system. Nobilette got into bike riding at the begining of the bike boom in 1972. As a high school student in Ann Arbor, he saved up for a South American bike tour when he heard about a class in Chicago offered by bike building legend Albert Eisentraut. Instead of touring, he learned to build frames and went to work for Eisentraut in Menlo Park, California.
Today, Nobilette custom crafts about 100 frames every year. He tells me that his typical customers are "bike weenies who appreciate high quality in a bike." He approaches each bike -- whether its a road bike, mountain bike (27" or 29er), tandem, bent or trike -- from an artistic angle. "I've learned some metallurgy and engineering, but I originally wanted to be an artist and took art classes all through school; jewelry, painting, sculpture, that kind of stuff."
His artistry shows in his fillets and lugs and crowns. Many of his lugs are custom machined in his shop. He bends his own tubing to get just the right look for his bikes, going so far as to custom-craft his own tube benders.
His custom frames are beautifully brazed and filed to produce seamless transitions between the tubes, while some of the frames he does for other people use a TIG-welded main triangle, brazed dropouts, and silver-soldered stays. His custom-made lugs are welded, brazed, then hand-filed into outrageous shapes, making the finished frames highly distinctive.
Nobilette builds under his own brand as well as all of the steel bikes for Lennard Zinn Cycles in Boulder, the frames used on Racermate's Velotron ergometer, and lightweight racing trikes for AngleTech. Nobilette has also built a few bikes for Rivendell over the past year, managing to meet the exacting specifications of Rivendell's legendary Grant Peterson.