R.I.P., Bruce Gordon

The SOPWAMTOS parade, with Himself in full fez regalia.

Well, goddamnit, I hope the Universe isn’t going to make a habit of this, snatching up all the interesting people before we’re finished with them.

This time it took Bruce Gordon, the acerbic framebuilder and one of the Self-Appointed Benevolent Co-Dictators for Life of the Society of People Who Actually Make Their Own Shit (SOPWAMTOS).

My Golden Toiddy

My Golden Toiddy for (what else?) Excellence In Bad Taste.

Back In the Day® Adventure Cyclist honcho Mike Deme and I tried to get Bruce to lay a bike on us for review purposes but we could never make it happen, possibly because Bruce was reluctant to work up a machine for the likes of us when it was tough enough to move product to the actual paying customers. Jagoffs, poseurs and wanna-bes are to be found in abundance, especially among the working press, and their pockets are notoriously shallow.

In the end I had to settle for a couple of SOPWAMTOS T-shirts, a Golden Toiddy from 1995 (I think), and his Rock n’ Road tires, which I still run on the Voodoo Nakisi. I’m pretty sure I paid retail for everything save the Golden Toiddy, too.

The last time I saw Bruce may have been at Interbike 2013.

“We were standing in line at dark-thirty for a cup of Starbutt’s finest and got straight to the kvetching, as a guy will before java is made available in a 20-year-old shopping mall masquerading as a casino-hotel. And afterward, too, come to think of it.

Well, some of us, anyway. One of these years Bruce and I should bring a small square of Astroturf and a couple of patio chairs to the show and while away the hours hollering at people to get the hell off our lawn.

I hope Deme has the Astroturf and patio chairs ready. He’s got company.

• Updated June 13: The hometown paper writes Bruce’s obit.


19 Responses to “R.I.P., Bruce Gordon”

  1. Kat Hardt-Holoch Says:

    Oh no! He was posting on Facebook or his site about Rock n’ Road tires pretty recently. Bummer.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      A drag, to be sure. When I was new in the bicycle-journalism game Interbike was infested with maniacs like BG and his co-dictator Mark Norstad of Paragon Machine Works, Scot Nicol of Ibis, Ross Shafer of Salsa, Brent Steelman, Sky Yaeger, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

      It’s a tough racket. Nicol and Ibis are still a thing, albeit a very different thing, and Sky is with Shinola, last I looked, but Ross and Brent have moved on, along with a bunch of other people.

      And now Bruce has stepped up to that big storefront in the sky. He and Faliero Masi are probably already talking shop while Deme works the bar.

  2. khal spencer Says:

    “Found dead” left me wondering about the cause of death. Did he check out of his own accord?

  3. Herb from Michigan Says:

    I remember seeing the little parade of what looked like escaped mental patients at several Interbikes while working appointments with dealers at assorted vendor booths. We would pause our palaver, watch them stroll by, cock our heads and wonder what the hell they were all about. Then back to bizness
    which was plentiful in those days. When someone eventually told me SOPWAMTOS gave awards to companies that made un-needed, rediculous, overpriced, over-teched bike stuff I was pleased. Even though at times I was guilty of selling it. As I survey my stable of two wheelers (a weak and ragged collection compared to POG’s) there isn’t a disc brake, carbon tube, watt meter etc to be seen. RIP Mr. Gordon and I’ll saddle up for a brisk jaunt in your honor this morning.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Bruce and the SOPWAMTOS gang were merciless. I covered a couple of the gatherings, lamented their subsequent absences, and applauded the occasional revivals. This industry needs a sense of humor.

      For those of you who never caught the act, here’s a short thing I wrote about the 1996 SOPWAMTOS parade and awards ceremony at Interbike Anaheim. But you really had to be there.

      Teats, Tats and Toiddys

      ANAHEIM, Calif. (BRAIN) — More than one Interbiker got to take a seat as the Society of People who Actually Make Their Own Shit (SOPWAMTOS) took its annual Golden Toiddys dump on the industry’s best and brightest.

      The annual parade of punishment — led by a gyrating belly dancer and a brace of grinning gents clad only in fezzes, tattoos and Mickey Mouse panties — began just before closing time on Friday at the Paragon Machine Works-Bruce Gordon Cycles booth in Hall A.

      Stunned silence, groans and giggles accompanied the Fezzed Funhogs as they strutted past (or through) manufacturers’ pavilions. “Ooooh, Mickey!” purred one female onlooker; another, a cab driver, honked while laughing uproariously as the procession marched out of the Convention Center and into a Rock Shox parking-lot beer bash.

      Dispersing to liberate refreshments, then reforming, the cavalcade continued along Convention Center Way toward traffic-clogged Harbor Boulevard as standard-bearers Bomber Bob and Gene-o Gene-o bellowed, “Dole for President!”

      The tinkling of bicycle bells announced the gathering’s arrival at Zaby’s Motor Lodge on Katella Boulevard. There, from the Olympian heights of the second floor, Self-Appointed Benevolent Co-Dictators-for-Life Mark Norstad and Bruce Gordon distributed bouquets, brickbats and the Toiddys — toilet seats rescued from the Sonoma County landfill and “crudely washed” by SOPWAMPTOS procurer David di Falco.

      And now, the envelopes, please:

      • Major Nerd Award — May-”nerd” Hershon.
      • Award for Not Having a Stupid Concept Bike — Cannondale.
      • Ugly Garage, Dumb Ad Award — Bontrager.
      • Mine’s Bigger than Yours Award (Biggest Booth in Show) — Trek, Bontrager, Klein, LeMond, Fisher.
      • Stupidest Job Title — Scott Montgomery, VP Listening.
      • Greatness is in the Eye of the Beholder Award — Keith Bontrager.
      • Most Revenue-Generating Personality Award — Chuck Ibis.
      • Slowest Ride, Fastest Bike — GT.
      • Best Move to Ward Off Sponsorship — Rebecca Twigg.
      • Fastest Woman Award — Carolyn “Curly” Curl.
      • I Can’t Believe He Said This Award — Gary Fisher, based on his quote from the Fishnet Web page (“I don’t do the torching on all my frames.”).
      • Bad Attitude Award — Sky Yaeger.
      • Lemming Award (We Got to Have a BMX Line Award) — Everybody with a new BMX line.
      • Most Promising Newcomer — Bomber Dave.
      • Having His Material of Choice in his Name — Brent Steelman.
      • Essence of SOPWAMPTOS (Lifetime Achievement) — Eddie Litton.
      • Person You’d Least Like to be Hugged By — Steve Potts.
      • Truth & Rudeness Award — S&M Cycles.
      • Andy Award — Andy Malecesczski.
      • Bruce Gordon Look-alike Award — Joe Bell.
      • Award for Promoting Cycling as Transportation — Ted Kaczynski.
      • Doesn’t Work and Play Well with Others Award — Shimano.
      • Tight Ass Award (For Being Too Cheap to Spend $427 to be in Our Booth) — Albert Eisentraut.
      • SOPWAMPTOS Hospitality Award — The “Scabies” (Zaby’s) Motel, for putting up with the awards ceremony.
      • Shut Up Already On the Internet Award — Jobst Brandt.
      • One Person Group Award — Interskill.
      • Best Refrigerator Magnet in the Industry Award — Rivendell.
      • Epic Marketing Award — Epic Team.
      • Whatever Happened To? Award — Pat Clark.
      • Most Published Photos with Tongue Hanging Out — Ross Shafer.
      • Wouldn’t You Like Have a Dog in Your Pants? Award — Al Kreitler.
      • Nicest American Bike Line Meticulously Designed in California and Built in Taiwan — Joe Breeze, taking his third consecutive Toiddy.
      • Homer Simpson Look-alike Award — John Uhte.
      • Best Performance by a Zipper in an Olympic Event — Paola Pezzo’s skinsuit.

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        Sad news for sure. My favorite was the year they gave Bridgestone (now Rivendell) Grant Petersen the Toidy for “Self-appointed Guru” Meanwhile, we delivered a bike earlier this week that meets all the SOPWAMTOS standards
        The new owner has thrashed it over the Appennines both up and down and we’re here on the sea just north of Levanto. Dunno who is happier right now – the owner or the guy who talked him out of paying the same (more?) $$ for a Made-in-China bike with Bianchi decals on the downtube?

      • Herb from Mixhigan Says:

        If that doesn’t cause a trip down memory lane nothing will. There was a time and place where worlds collided in the bicycling industry. You were there, I was there, yet we didn’t foresee the way things would play out eh? Even back then it seemed both limitless and yet doomed.

        • larryatcycleitalia Says:

          I wondered a time or two about that back then, having just exited the motorcycle industry where a super-mature market was causing the same sort of pain the bicycle biz is going through now. I didn’t see the bike biz being big enough and controlled by passionless bean-counters enough to follow the moto biz down the rat hole – but I was wrong, so here we are. Hard for me not to see things continuing in the same direction though the moto biz has been up and down a couple of times since then. I think both sides see e-bikes as a solution to their current woes, but only one of ’em can win that war and I ain’t betting on the bike biz.

        • Pat O'Brien Says:

          We don’t have enough cycling enthusiasts. We have consumers. I want it cheap, now, and delivered to my door. Considering the state of the world and environment now, the current mindset and marketing of bicycles is just plain stupid and unsustainable. I haven’t had a moto since 1984, but went to the 40th anniversary party of our local Honda/Yamaha/Can-Am dealer. In talking to the owner, I learned the moto business is down and ATV sales, especially the bigger ones, is up. How long can that last? Other than a few models, like the Honda Super Cub, or Yamaha SR400, there was nothing there that interested me.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          And then you read something like this and you think, “It’s already over.”


          I think Larry is right. The moto bidness is equally desperate (Harley is in the shitter) and better positioned to end up running the e-bikes, if that fad lasts, especially if the State takes an interest and starts insisting on licenses, registration and what have you. Plenty of cagers already think we pedal-bike types should be sporting plates. Just wait until they’re “sharing” the road with a bunch of e-bikes.

          An e-bike can be a gateway drug for a moto. I’m not convinced it can serve the same purpose for a bike you actually have to pedal yourself. Again, as Don Lorenzo has taught us, if it replaces a car, I’m good with it. If it replaces an actual bicycle, not so much.

          Maybe “subscriptions,” a.k.a. “rentals,” will be the way forward, since the Youngs don’t seem to want to own anything. As usual, fuel prices will be key. U.S. auto sales enjoyed a slight uptick in May, though they are expected to dip about 2.5 percent this year over last.

          And what’s selling? According to The Old Grey Lady:

          Passenger car sales have fallen steadily as Americans abandon sedans in favor of larger, more comfortable pickup trucks and SUVs, which are also far more profitable for automakers.

        • Pat O'Brien Says:

          Tying in with PU trucks and big SUV, is a headline I never expected to see, even on NPR.


          This shit is depressing. I’m going for a ride.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          This has to be Obummer’s fault, amirite? Hey, the new guy said he was gonna drain the swamp. He just didn’t say where to.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    A long Bruce Gordon interview here from a couple years back. https://bikerumor.com/2019/06/08/in-memorium-a-tribute-to-bruce-gordon/

    The cynical bastard in me likes the part where “more people see climate change in floods and extreme weather” and at the same time “Americans abandon sedans in favor of larger, more comfortable pickup trucks and SUVs”. Same kind of cognitive dissonance that got us The Orange Monstrosity.

    How the blazes can we have a Green New Deal when all these liberals and progressives in the People’s Republic of Santa Fe are sporting their “save the planet” bumper sticker on the back of their SUV as they drive to the La Tierra trailheads with bikes on the roofs? Oh, never mind. I should buy a Super Duty dualie, look for a McMansion, vote for Trump, and start to eat beef again at every meal. I’ll retire to Bedlam, thank you.

    We watched one of the dictator episodes last night on PBS. The Il Duce one, to be precise. Scary how history repeats itself. You not satisfied with the size of the chicken in your pot? Elect a shit-disturbing con man who will promise you the world while picking your pocket.

    • larryatcycleitalia Says:

      The dictator stuff is scary – few are left from those days to remember how these things start. Of course hindsight’s 20-20 and we’d never, ever let someone like Der Fuhrer or Il Duce come to power again but who doesn’t believe Trump or Salvini would jump at the chance? And that they’re laying the groundwork? I think Salvini’s regime will croak on its own (but I thought they’d last 6 months at best) but IMPEACH THE MOFO ALREADY in the case of Don the Con!

      • khal spencer Says:

        Larry, my worry is that its been too long since Mussolini or Mr. Schicklgruber were on the scene. We might some day have to re-learn that message. What I see today playing out is the Rethugs slavishly following Don the Con around just as the German and Italian elite and industrialists followed Benito and Adolf, thinking they could play those two guys for their own benefit. Then the SHTF.

        You know what your wife says….

  5. Dale Says:

    Way, way off topic. I watched the pre – world cup friendly match between the men’s US and Venezuela teams this afternoon. It seemed as if John Bolton was coaching and Mike Pompeo was the assistant when you looked at the final score.

    US 0
    VZ 3

  6. Jimbo... Says:

    I had the good fortune to meet Bruce at a bike show several years ago in Santa Rosa and I remember it vividly because of the impression his work, and equally so, the impression he made on me. I was new to the handmade bike world, and had no idea who he was, or how big his legend was at the time, but he had clearly seen it all and was clearly sick of everyone’s shit! But the quality, and craftsmanship, and creativeness of the bike he was showing was awesome. It had titanium lugs and carbon fiber tubes, and a custom, one-off carbon light. Just amazing. I stood there for probably 15 minutes transfixed by that bike, asking him all sorts of stupid questions, and it seemed like standing there talking to me about his bike was the last thing he wanted to be doing. He was curmudgeonly, but in an endearing way. I remember him saying that he would never make another bike like that again because it took him way too long and he could never sell one for enough to make it worth his time, and that clearly pissed him off. It made me chuckle at the time. RIP Bruce.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      There are so many characters in this sport/biz, and it’s been my good fortune to meet a few of them. Bruce was definitely one. Scot Nicol is another. Jacquie Phelan. Shit, that Petaluma-Santa Rosa area is fairly crawling with ’em.

      John Neugent recalls a classic Bruce line: “What’s the difference between a frame builder and a large cheese pizza? The pizza can feed a family of four.”

  7. Emily Gibson Says:

    Full-day memorial for Bruce, complete with bicycle rides, on June 30th in Petaluma. Details here:

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