Stuff F#*ks with you constantly… if you listen to the materials they are constantly telling you ‘we don’t want to be a bike frame, we don’t want to go together.’” PS
This is going to be a challenge. I don’t know Paul Sadoff that well. I don’t even know him at all. I was fortunate to have been able to spend an afternoon exploring his shop while taking notes on his uniquely honest answers to a litany of ill-researched questions.
Rock Lobster has been around. Having grown up in the small town of Bishop on the eastern slope of the Sierras I spent my youth removed from metropolitan society. In my youth I read Mountain Bike Action (MBA) religiously. Despite my rigorous study of the many varietals of purple anodized aftermarket fork bridges and stem mounted suspension systems I had wrongly assumed that Rock Lobster was based in Maine. This was a direct result of my belief that Maine was the state from which all lobsters came. It wasn’t until I first heard the trilling wail of Kate Pierson’s chorus on B-52’s “Rock Lobster” my world, transmogrified by this revelation, led me to search out the true origins of Rock Lobster bicycles.
As it turns out, Paul has been making bicycles in and around Santa Cruz since the early eighties. He built his first Rock Lobster, a mountain bike in 1984 and arguably the first single speed specific mountain bike in 1987 and has been honing his breed of bicycles ever since. I say his breed because Paul isn’t the type of builder who will make just anything. His bikes are stripped of indulgence. Rock Lobsters are not known for their effusively intricate lug work. His frames are made to function and this focus on function informs their aesthetic. These are tools honed to perform.
Paul’s workspace assails the senses with cycling history combined with an undeniable atmosphere of artistic creation. I was forced to call upon the lessons learnt from my many repeated viewings of Lee, VanDamme, and Segal films, to find my center. Only then was I able to truly see the profound degree of historical artifact and bric-a-brac that covered every surface. The shelves of Paul’s workspace remind me of the accretion coin machines found in analog arcades. There is a tenuous balance of gravity and surface friction on display in the slopes of Paul’s collection. For some this cluttered scree field can be the cause of great anxiety. I felt at home, as anyone who has ever seen my workspace can attest I tend to curate a topography of experience through the sedimentary process. So no, I would not describe his workspace as messy; to me it seems only rational.
This physical biography gave Paul the ability to readily retrieve real artifacts from his past. Out came a cardboard storage vessel spilling over with tapes of Paul’s band slaying clubs in the mid-eighties. We listened to some recordings while talking and it turns out that Paul is a complete shredder, playing a western rock style that recalled the bombastic twang of Billy Zoom and Link Wray. There were zines written with his characteristic wit, dust covered jerseys, broken cranks, unstrung guitars, and forgotten coffee mugs, the assorted strata of a lifetime of bicycle building.
Our eyes couldn’t avoid landing on something interesting. Everywhere we looked a peloton of cycling history competed for the sprint finish of our attention. Each piece had a story and as we dug into the stacks I thought of underwater cave divers. How they use safety lines to guide them back to the surface, how essential this line is to survival. Our line to the surface was time and we had given ourselves a finite amount of time to explore, the ticking clocks would have to serve as our way out.
For years Paul has sponsored the formidable Rock Lobster cross team and we have been happy to support the team with Chris King product. The men and women aboard his aquamarine CX machines wreak havoc on the Surf City Cyclocross series and with alumni like Aaron Bradford and Scott Chapin aboard his bikes, Rock Lobsters have seen their fair share of whipped out airtime.
With so many amazing constructors building amazing bikes at the moment, the choice of what to buy has never been harder. Each of us will have our own reasons for buying what we do and as life long cyclist with a Spartan bicycle quiver I don’t need a ton of bikes, but I would make room for a Rock Lobster in my minimal fleet.