The first time I went to a foreign country was January 2003, Berlin. I had flown from Seattle to Berlin with one or two transfers, somehow successfully negotiated to get to the hotel near Alexanderplatz. My German language skills were pretty meager, and I was jetlagged as fuck with nothing to do but wait for my globetrotting girlfriend-at-the-time to meet me at the hotel. It was daylight out, but I couldn’t tell if it was morning or afternoon. In retrospect I think it was a Sunday, because Alexanderplatz was ghostly empty for the most part, the bitter winter wind only occasionally interrupted by the sound of automobiles. I was hungry for some food and the hotel’s room service menu looked awfully steep for a vacationing bike mechanic. Actually, I couldn’t really trust my my ability to read the German on the menu, but I had seen a McDonalds on the way to the hotel. I was sure I could read that menu well enough.
So I trundled out to the street to find the cheeseburger embassy, quickly discovering that not owning a real winter coat was going to be a woeful miscalculation throughout this trip. I stepped carefully across the icy streets, and then the very first bicycle I see up close was a Kirk Precision. For those who don’t know, Kirk Precision bicycles were made for a short time in the late 80s in the UK and uniquely known for their cast magnesium construction. Kirk frames were so visually distinctive, you might never forget the time you saw one, and so rare you might never see one again. The sight of that bike locked outside in a frigid Berlin is permanently etched in my memory.
Below is a photo I found of another Kirk Precision, one seemingly in better condition than the one I saw in person years ago. As a product, the Kirk frames had some early reliability issues, but it seems that the main reasons the design disappeared are related to the costly, prolonged development and the small manufacturer’s failure to yield timely returns to its parent company.