“Deep Custom” is a film about one man who makes custom bikes by hand, and what it is about bikes that makes people love them. The film was conceived when art director Tony Franklin and photographer T.C. Worley decided to collaborate on a personal project together, and roped in Erik Noren, owner of Peacock Groove Custom Cycles. They spent the better part of the past summer filming on weekends and in their free time. The results of this collaboration will be seen in public for the first time on Monday, December 12 at The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. We were lucky enough to get all three to talk about the film project and everything leading up to it.
What do you remember about your first bike?
Erik Noren: My first “bike” was a purple trike I used to ride around everywhere at my parents cabin. Up the hill down the hill, feet kicked out so I could go faster, on the gravel road, off the porch steps and sometimes into the pond. I ruled on that thing. I was a 4 year-old terror on it, until my mother ran it over with the Chevy Suburban. She still will not admit to it either. It was also the only time she ever drove. I had a silver bike later at 5 that I rode all over and got into many adventures that required a spanking after I got home. I guess when you are 5 you are not supposed to ride you bike by yourself and be gone for over four hours.
T.C. Worley: My first bike had a huge, padded banana seat. It was a hand-me-down that my dad had repainted blue. My sister scratched my name in the rear fender, which was yellow plastic underneath the blue paint. When it got stolen once, that’s how we identified it at the police station. Also, I learned to ride without training wheels on a plastic wheeled Strawberry Shortcake bike at my grandma’s house.
Tony Franklin: I rocked a BMX bike. It had some mean pedals that put scars on my legs. That’s what I remember.
Erik, what led you to start building your own frames?
Erik: After I worked for Croll cycles and it closed, I just didn’t know what to do. I knew I had to do something, but I was not sure how to get back into frame building. A cheap space opened up, and I knew I had to start building again. There was a hole in my heart and mind that needed to be filled.
T.C. and Tony, what inspired you to make a film about Erik and Peacock Groove?
T.C.: I had noticed Erik’s horrid website and offered to shoot photos for him in exchange for some sort of swap. He was in no position to do that at the time, but I started shooting photos anyway because I just had to — I was too intrigued to walk away. The film was born from what I saw when I’d visit the shop. At the same time, Tony wanted to collaborate on a project and this was a clear choice because to us. It had all the makings of an interesting film.
Tony: I was looking to collaborate on a project as a director. I ran into T.C. and started to talk about a subject. He brought up Erik and I could we could make an interesting story and help him out at the same time. The dude has heart and is stellar at his craft. After meeting him, I knew we had to tell the world about his metallic prowess.
How did “Deep Custom” come together?
Tony: T.C. took the reins on this. He was connected to Erik through the Minneapolis bike scene. After it was locked in I met them at the shop to discuss our story idea. Then I started looking around the shop and I was even more certain we had found gold.
T.C.: Erik was already accustomed to me hanging around and was flattered at the idea of a video. Despite what some people think, he’s a humble person. He’s been amazing about allowing us access and being available any time we needed him. My respect for Erik is second only to my admiration of his skills. He’s a neat guy, and one I like to call my friend.
Erik: I remember it being something T.C. and Tony wanted to do. What their vision of what goes down at the shop, and the feel of the Groove, and well, I guess me. It is weird saying that. I don’t think I am that interesting, so I must be amusing to them or something. What T.C. said to me one day kinda puts it in perspective: “ I want people to see the Erik Noren that I know.” That really meant a lot to me, because I really feel that I am misunderstood a lot of the time. Sometimes people just take things that are not worth it too seriously.
Erik, how does it feel to watch a film about yourself and the way you make bikes?
Erik: I don’t know, because they haven’t let me see it yet.
No way. Seriously?
Erik: I think that they knew it they sent me a final edit I would probably blab it all over and ruin the premiere. But, I am weirded out by the whole “Come watch me talk about bike stuff on the big screen” thing. On the other hand, it is nice to have someone say, hey nice job on working your ass off for the last nine years building up Peacock Groove. What’s even better is all the stuff yet to come out of this shop.
T.C. and Tony, having made a film about someone who builds one-of-a-kind bicycles by hand, do you look at bikes differently?
Tony: It’s definitely opened my eyes to the world of custom bikes and how difficult it is to do it right. Of course, Erik makes it look effortless. But that’s probably because he’s the Liberace of Bicycles.
T.C.: I already valued a custom bike above an assembly line bike, but far more so now. The way Erik touches every part of the bike is special. And where a lot of custom builders are really small-batch builders, he is truly custom. Each bike is different. There are no “models” with different sizes. He’s a gifted craftsman. He’s also supposedly working on my next mountain bike. I can’t wait to ride it!
Erik, what are some of the design features or techniques that are unique to a Peacock Groove bike?
Erik: I would say the head badge and dropouts. It’s just not that, though, I think it is the use of certain technologies paired with the creative spirit that make me always want more. It is in the application of these things and how they relate to the customer I am working with too. How do they all add up? They sum of it is always more than just the parts that go into it for me. The whole experience and the happy customer is what makes it truly a Peacock.
You have a strong point of view about, well, everything. Do you ever refuse to take on a project because it doesn’t jive with what you want to do as a builder?
Erik: Yes, I have done just that. I believe that there are things out there that just don’t work in the long run. After building for so many years and seeing what goes on out there sometimes, I just shake my head. Just ‘cause you see it in an ad doesn’t make it work in the real world. For example: eccentric bottom brackets, extended seat tubes, and slider dropouts. I don’t do those things and the box here is too small to explain why. I try and make the best bike I can to the person who ordered it. I don’t do fads. We make real shit that works. Then we paint it all sparkly and stuff.
You’ve built a ton of bikes. Does one in particular stand out as a favorite?
Erik: I really, really like the Yellow Lion Voltron bike I made a little bit ago. It is something I have wanted to do for over a decade to do. I have a lot that I hold in high regard, but right now I think its that one. Or, my Country Mile. Or the Old Style bike. Oh geez…
T.C. and Tony, sum up “Deep Custom” in one sentence.
T.C.: “Deep Custom” is an honest look at a custom bicycle frame builder whose creativity and passion has set him in a class of his own.
Tony: “Deep Custom” is about a man with a welding torch, a dream, curiously sculpted facial hair and a huge heart.
If you had to choose one bike to ride for the rest of your life, what would it be?
T.C.: I’d choose a steel CX bike with fat tires, maybe 44’s, and wide drop bars so that I could go relatively fast on the road, but also tear up some singletrack if the chance arose. Okay, this makes me miss summer…
Tony: I dig riding downhill bikes in the right location. I had a Marin Wildcat for a while and had a blast riding out west, Lutsen, and some private courses in Wisconsin. Here in the cities, I’ll stick with my single speed.
Erik: My Country Mile, the gold bike in the video. I love that bike, its just incredible.