Editor's note: As I've said many times in the past, one of the best bits about riding a bicycle is having the opportunity to make new friends. Such is the case with the following profile of John Laqualia, whom I met at this spring's Frost Heave Fondo. We didn't have much of a chance to chat during the event, as he took off like a rocket. But catching up with him over a beer afterward, I quickly realized I was in the company of a kindred spirit when it comes to loving bikes and riding them. I can hardly wait to go for a pedal with John. Enjoy today's posting.
Tell us about the first bicycle you can remember riding. Where did you go on this freedom machine?
I have fond memories riding bikes with friends as a young child in the '70s and early '80s. We rode bikes everywhere, sans helmet, and the only restriction I recall was to be home before dark. We raced down the steepest hills we could find and built bike jumps from scrap wood. Life was simple and the bike was truly a freedom machine!
Three preference questions ... and your reasons why.
— Rim vs. disc brakes
For road, I prefer rim brakes — simple, classic, lightweight, and more than adequate. Rarely do I road ride in the wet and have never wished for discs. For mountain and gravel riding, discs are my preference. In wet and dirty environments, disc brakes are far superior.
— Road vs. off-road
I have a passion for road and off-road riding, but prefer mountain biking to escape road traffic. For reasons I don’t understand, some drivers are angered when they encounter a cyclist — even if it's on a secluded country road in the early morning hours. I'm fortunate to live near hundreds of miles of quiet country roads, but I choose my routes and riding hours carefully.
— Steel vs. carbon
From a performance perspective, carbon is king. However, steel is real — the character and soul found in a handmade frame is magical. My favorite frame material is titanium, which blends the soul of steel with carbon's performance characteristics. A titanium frame feels alive and I never tire of admiring the craftsmanship.
Do you believe Maine is a bike-friendly state? Any suggestions to make it even better?
For road biking, Maine is a better than average state. Thousands of miles of quiet country roads await road cycling enthusiasts. An idea to make road cycling better? Improve driver education for new drivers: how to share the road with cyclists and address the consequences of driver inattention. Maine NEMBA chapters are outstanding in their mission of growing off-road riding opportunities with quality trail systems. There has never been a better time to ride a mountain bike in Maine and I think the future is bright.
In chatting with you, I believe you favor small-batch bike makers as opposed to the big boys. Your comments, please.
Handmade frames are amazing and I enjoy riding them as much as I enjoy looking at them. A benefit of small-batch fabricators is the investment value — I've owned several that were sold for more than I paid for them. My favorite handmade frame is a Fat Chance Yo Eddy. It was custom fabricated in 2020 to my specifications by Chris Chance, one of the original mountain bike fabricators.
Tell us about the bikes you currently own.
I currently own two mountain bikes, a fat bike, one road and one gravel bike. I enjoy single speed and lightweight bikes. All of my off-road bikes are hard tail, single speeds. Some of my bikes have parts that I've made — such as a carbon suspension fork and Dyneema DM20 spokes.
— Fat Chance Yo Eddy Titanium — single speed mountain bike @ 20.5 lbs.
— Pivot Les — single speed rigid carbon mountain bike @ 16.5 lbs.
— Carver Omega Beast Ti — single speed fat bike @ 24 lbs.
— Time Alpe d'Huez — carbon road bike @ 14 lbs.
— Giant TCX — carbon cyclocross/gravel bike @ 16 lbs.
Why do you ride a bike?
For smiles, health, and spending time with family/friends!
Are there any favorite places you like to go for a pedal ... in Maine or elsewhere?
I enjoy riding at The Playground — a 25-plus-mile private trail system in Winslow developed by Glenn and Laurie Fenlason — technical single-track riding galore. Carrabassett Valley for the views, varied terrain, and climbing. The A-Trail in the Kennebec Highlands for the relentlessly challenging terrain and steep climbs. For road riding, Vassalboro is hard to beat — miles of new pavement and challenging hills — all on quiet country roads.
What's the most important thing a cyclist can do to maintain a well-running bicycle?
Wash your bike after every ride. Dry and lube the chain with Rock N Roll Gold right after the wash. Listen to your bike, noises usually indicate problems.