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Best Bike Parts Phoenix 2011 - Unnamed Super-Secret Bike Gang

No visible tattoos, ironic Western shirts, or chunky-framed nerd glasses here. The three men sitting around Pete's living room are into bikes, but they're not fixie hipsters. Pete and Ed ran rivers long ago. Pete and Jordan met on Craigslist. The three form the nucleus of a loose, off-the-retail-grid network of cycling aficionados in metro Phoenix who buy, sell, and trade with each other. It's a web of enthusiasts who love to build classic bikes and often need classic parts that aren't made anymore.

In 1985, Pete participated in a ride from the Grand Canyon to Mexico. In what would become a defining moment, a guy on an orange 1972 Schwinn Paramount rolled by.

"I was on a shiny new Trek. I caught up to him, and I wanted to talk to him about his bike." Pete pauses before sheepishly offering a truth: "I hated my bike.

"Pete immediately started looking for a Schwinn Paramount, bought a frame and built it, then he found an Italian bike, then an English Raleigh Professional. Now he's acquired or built about 60 bikes, although he hasn't purchased a brand-new bike since 1985.

Jordan rides 12 miles each way to and from work each day. He grew up riding top-of-the-line mountain bikes in Oregon. One day, he spotted a pearl white Peugeot in an impound lot, paid $25 for it, then took it out on a canal in Eugene, where he had more fun than he'd ever had riding. "I was so happy with that bike, I bought three others that week."

The bikes they love are lugged-construction, steel-frame, and vintage bikes, and no garage sale or alley is beneath them. Craigslist functions as their virtual hangout. Friday nights mean combing listings, and when they convene, the first question thrown out is, "Did you see [awesome find]!?

"What's out there enables Pete, Jordan, and Ed to operate as a super-secret bike gang. Pete built a bike for a friend who heading off to college in August. He thought he'd found the perfect frame — a vintage, purple-pink '70s Japanese model, but the size was off. Then he stumbled upon a frame that really was perfect. Jordan ended up donating the stem and handlebars.

"It's part recycling ethic," adds Ed. "We salvage or rebuild. Bikes mean something to us.

"The same word of mouth that enables so much of their treasure-finding brings people into their underground world, too. "I'm known in this small neighborhood as a person who can fix your bike. A neighborhood should be a place where people do things for other people. We're a little bit of a socialist neighborhood," Pete says with a laugh.

Ed nods in recognition. He's the same guy in his neighborhood. Later, out in Pete's workshop, Pete runs his fingers lovingly over the lugged construction on several of the frames in his collection, pointing out the meticulous filing and metalwork. "Oh, here's that Schwinn Paramount," he rests his hand on its leather saddle, transported to some past ride. Jordan and Pete ride right along with him.

To see a slideshow of the bike-part collective,visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bestof2011.

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