When All the Bikes Burn

What is it like to lose everything you have worked so hard to build? This is a question I do not wish anyone to be able to answer for it would mean that something devastating had occurred.

Unfortunately, I can answer the question.

Sunday. November 22nd. 5:44am.
I receive a phone call from my good friend Randy. I answer in my usual fashion, “Yo!? What’s up?”

His response, I did not believe what I heard at first. “Your shop is on fire.”

I thought, “What is he saying? What???” My first reaction was to ask how bad it was. Randy didn’t know, as he was only the messenger. At 5:30am, our mutual friend Mike was getting ready to drive to Portland when he noticed smoke pouring out of my shop – the shop that housed the US headquarters for the Planet X, On-One and Titus bike companies. Our dedication to mountain biking is fierce, and we were so proud to have chosen Oakridge, the heart of Oregon mountain biking, as our home. But I am still living in Portland.

Within 15 minutes of the call, I was dressed, in the truck and on I-205 heading south. The 160 mile drive from Portland went by fast. Many hopeful thoughts swirled in my head during that drive. “Maybe it only looked like my shop was on fire.” “Ok, so the fire department put the fire out and it was just the steam and smoke that Mike saw…” It was only part of the building and we’ll be back at it by end of the month…” “I hope it doesn’t spread over to Lion Mountain Bakery…”. (unfortunately it did) I called my GM in England and informed him of the fire. He quickly told me, “Don’t worry too much about it. We are insured. We’ll sort it all out on Monday.” I took slight comfort in his words and relaxed a bit. I slowed to 80mph.

The smoke was visible from the Chevron station several miles away. I told my daughter, who came with me for support, “There it is.”

As I rolled into uptown, I felt the stares of the community. After all, in Oakridge there is only one white pick up truck with big red decals that read “Planet X, On-One, & Titus”.

I parked a block away and walked over to where the firefighters had set up their perimeter. My walk slowed. I paused. I remember my jaw dropping and slowly, an expletive escaped from under my breath. I pulled my hat off my head, as if I had a clearer view my eyes would reveal that it was just a shadow causing the blackness where the shop was. I stood out front of the smoldering building. I could only muster a solid chuckle. Not sure where it came from or why. Must have been my twisted sense of humor kicking into overdrive to help me cope.

The next couple of hours were spent answering questions and giving statements to the fire department, Oakridge Police, Oregon State Police investigators and taking pictures.

The move to Oakridge from Portland left us with a bare bones inventory, but what we did have was crammed into our 1,200 sq foot showroom/office/storage room/build shop. Unfortunately, just 10 days prior I had just emptied a storage space on the east end of town and packed it into the shop.

I had quite a few complete mountain bikes and road bikes in the showroom. I had two brand bikes that were waiting to be shipped out. The showroom is now a box filled with blackened debris of carbon shreds, partially consumed tires, and wheels that seem to have melted into the floor.

The office was reduced to blackened mounds of melted printers and computers. The tool box I left on my desk on Friday was a black pool of plastic with some tools embedded in it. There is the silhouette of two solid figures that stand out above the chaos all over the floor. Our Park Tool double armed repair stand in the back room and the Feedback Sports mobile stand standing by the front door.

I haven’t been able to see much else in the two back rooms, which were filled with our stock of Titus service parts, stems, seat posts, grips, bar tape, etc. Peaking through the busted out back windows, tool boxes are leaning as if they are drunk. Nothing else is recognizable.

Today I got the chance to stand inside the showroom. Steel frames were still holding up. Carbon frames were merely ghosts of their former selves. Carbon wheels had come unwoven. Disc brake rotors hung onto portions of hub shells. Display cases were reduced to piles of molten glass and charred wood. It was not the smell of a bicycle store.

I’ve been wearing a strong face for the last few days, but I think it’s only because it hasn’t quite hit me yet. Calls to utility companies are making it a bit more real to me. The community of Oakridge has been extremely supportive. The Brewers Union 180, our local pub, has been my makeshift office.

Standing in front of my home away from home since August, I cracked a little. It wasn’t due to the extreme physical loss I saw before me, it was for the loss of time, effort and pure love that went into making this shop in a tiny town happen.

Friends and family sacrificed their time and energy to help me with this entire adventure. They believed in me and my dedication to the task before us. I owe them. I owe them all my very best efforts to make a success story out of the hours of sweat and effort we all put in. Friendships were made stronger. Bonds reinforced. My family saw me work hard for something I believed in with all of my being.

At the time of this writing, I do not have any official word on what the investigation found or what ideas are being explored.

For the immediate future, I will be back in Portland working from a home office.
Planet X USA is in mobile mode now. #HaveWiFiWillTravel #AintNoFireGonnaKeepUsDown

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Vince Rodarte is a bicycle industry expert with experience in retail sales and technical service. When not busy working for Titus / On-One / Planet X, you can find Vince grinning from ear to ear on his mt. bike.

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