Who is Eugene?
My name is Eugene Katkov. I was born in Russia, in the city of Kurgan, which is not so far from the Ural mountains. At 17, I moved to St. Petersburg. I’m studying at an agricultural university, unemployed for now. There is a community in the Russian social network vk.com called «CYKLING». I found it by accident, when I was in school. There you could see a lot of photos of touring, cyclocross, gravel and many other cool bicycles. Without any suspension, only rigid forks and frames made of steel. I began to fall in love with these bikes in the pictures, with these thin steel tubes and fat tires.
As a child I had a regular MTB with 26″ wheels. But I did not like it. I wanted a regular cr-mo steel bike, the simpler the better. When I was 14 y.o. my classmate said that she had an old soviet bike that had been lying in a yard for several years. It was January when I came to visit her and she showed where the bike was. A tree grew in its front wheel and it was frozen in ice. I took off the wheel and pulled the bike out of the ice. I put it on my back and drove 15 kilometers to home, then it was -30°C outside.
This bike was the 1987 ХВЗ «Старт-шоссе» (HVZ Start-highway). I was building it up and I was plunged into the world of old soulful bicycles with their 28″ wheels and other stuff. It was fast on tarmac and gravel, despite the fact that the brakes did not work. I liked everything about it. Therefore, I always dreamed of “Start-Highway.”
After I moved to St. Petersburg I had a hope that my dream would come true. At one of the parties I met a guy nicknamed Karsten. I told him about my idea to remake an old road bicylce into an off-road bike. And he said: “Of course. Why not?”
So I started thinking how to bring my idea to life. In the end, I decided that I really needed new dropouts, 1-1/8″ steerer fork instead of 1″, and disc brakes mounts. Because I wanted to ride fat tires, it was decided to make a home-made “horseshoe” behind the bottom bracket. My friend made a drawing of new dropouts on paper, my father converted drawing into a 3D model and machined it from 5 mm steel with a CNC machine. Also my father made custom headset cups with a lathe according to my drawings.
Finally I came to the Karsten’s “Speed Shop” garage with all this stuff and we welded this monster in 3 days. I gave him the name of Цыган (Gypsy) in honor of one of the main characters in the movie “Snatch” (character Mickey O’Neil). After all, my bike looks ugly, weak, but it has great potential, and it feels more confident than many modern bikes on the off-road.
What is your first bike related memory?
My first recollection of a bicycle is my own tricycle. My father welded it at the factory, painted it blue. It had white wheels and a Harley-Davidson sticker on the frame. It was the most stylish bike on the block, it certainly stood out among the plastic Chinese bicycles 🙂
How would you define your relationship with bikes and how is it part of your everyday life?
I have been riding bicycles since childhood, but they became a part of my life when I was somewhere between 14 and 15 years old, when I started riding on my 1987 ХВЗ Старт-Шоссе. I began to ride it to a music school, to my friends, for walks. Then I met the fastest cyclist in my city, Alexander Zhukov, we became friends and started to ride together. We often went on the highway and trained. He showed me what it is like to ride in slipstream, how to climb into really steep climbs and many other things.
How often do you ride?
Now I ride almost every day. On a weekdays I go to the store and just ride for fun. On weekends with my friends by 80-100 kilometers out of the city.
Is there a specific track you ride which never bores you?
In free time me with my mate Misha Maltsev we ride the highway along the Gulf of Finland. There is a very nice place. A forest along the highway in which it’s very fun to ride off-road bikes, and along the highway itself you can quickly ride in a fixed gear bike. There is a beautiful area, coniferous forest, water and sand, there are places where you can stop and have a picnic. Most often, we just go along the highway to the neighboring town, buy some beers, and on the way back we stop at the bank of the gulf and meet the sunset, drinking and talking on interesting topics.
Have you ever travelled far from home with your bike?
Unfortunately, I have not had touring as such. But in the summer I go to the forest with a tent about 70-120 km from the city for several days.
In Leningrad region we have a great cycling event, a race named Reverse Side Of The Road (ex Gravel King). This is a three day event attended by people from different parts of Russia and even from some other countries like Finland and Netherlands. First day people come to a camp in the forest, usually about 120 km from the city, pitch tents, light bonfires. On the second day, the race itself takes place. In 2019, the race was 126 km long. 126 km of sand, mud, off-road, river crossings, broken gravel roads, as well as magnificent nature, lakes, rivers.
By the way, I drove all 126 km without any problems. At the end my hands ached, I repulsed them on the “washboard” section. My bike endured all problems with pride.
After the race, everyone rests, has fun, talks, drinks, smokes something, and listens to music. Third day – time to clean up and go home. This is a really cool underground cycling event, extremely rare in Russian reality. But everyone who has visited it is looking forward to the next year to have fun again, sit by the fire and meet friends.
What is in the kit you always carry with you? Or tell us if there is a particular object you always carry with you.
I always have a U-lock by me. If I’m ride farther than 20 km from my home, I’ll take a multitool and a 15 mm wrench as well.
Tell us about the most intense emotion you have felt whilst riding.
There is not only single one emotion. Each ride with friends is special for me. Once me and three of my friends looking for a camp, we rode from the train station through the woods along the sand paths, the moon lit our way. It was some kind of unity with nature, with people around you.
Or another time when we went on a picnic along the highway with a convoy of cyclists. All on fixed gear bikes, high speed, the sun shines, heat, wind in the face and a feel of freedom.
What was your first bike like?
The bike that I really started riding was the 1987 HVZ Старт-Шоссе. It was blue, small size – 52 cm seatube. Of the new parts, there were only new Shimano R500 wheelsets. It feels very light, very agile. It was very fast and the brakes almost didn’t work. But I love it very much. Every scratch on it comes with a story, an adventure. Each sticker tells about some stage of life, a moment. Therefore, I do not like bikes with a perfect paint job. I think a paint job cannot be perfect on a bike that is really used every day.
For now this HVZ frame hanging on my wall as a decoration after 6 years from the first ride. Good memory.
Of all the bikes you have or have had, is there one you love most?
Most of all I love my “Gypsy” bike. It’s really good. This bike excites me. It’s steel made, with big wheels, and eats gravel on a breakfast ) On the tarmac, it goes as well. It has good brakes and sealed bearings in all parts, the range of the cassette allows you to go absolutely everywhere. It has a front rack so I can carry anything. It makes me a bit famous in cycling community, many people love it. It is stylish, I like the way it looks. Its rust combined with new shiny details. All as we love.
What is the best thing this passion has taught you?
Bicycles showed me that the most important thing in life is the people around you. Friends and family support me, help me. Bicycles unite and show who is really worthy of friendship. Friends who will always come to the rescue when you break down far from home. Parents who will support when something went wrong. Thanks to the bikes, I found my friends.
What are your other passtimes or hobbies?
In addition to bicycles I am fond of music, play the guitar.
What genre of music do you prefer, who is your favourite singer/band?
My favorite music genre is stoner, psychedelic rock 60s, 70s. I adore Black Sabbath, Stooges, Cream, Kyuss, Electric Wizard. I cannot imagine my life without music.
My favorite track is Gardenia by Kyuss.
Is there a book or film that you consider important for your life?
In fact, I read very little, but I can highlight my favorite book. This is “Crime And Punishment” by Dostoevsky.
And I watch a lot of movies. In the field of cycling I can single out the Lucas Brunell’s “Line of Sight”. A truly excellent film that shows people, underground subculture and addiction with cycling. The soundtrack is amazingly matched.
I also like films by Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino.
I would also like to highlight the movie by Richard Linklater «Dazed and Confused». I really like its atmosphere. Music, cars and the mood of adolescents of that era.
Wine or beer?
Hamburger or pizza?
Riser or dropbar?
What are the threads/forums/sites and social profiles (Instagram) that you follow with most interest?
On instagram I often visit profiles @save.the.rat.bike, @crustbikes, @ultraromance
Do you have new builds/projects or journeys planned? If yes tell us about them, so we can continue to follow you waiting to see you realize them.
In the future I plan to make another instance of my bike, only more thoughtful. With a shorter base, a more beautiful “horseshoe”. I think I will make it by June 2020.
We chose to inverview you because we believe that you are ispiring for our readers, if you could give them advice what would it be?
First of all, I want to say thank you to have noticed me and my bike. Guys and girls, never forget of your dreams and ideas. What seems ridiculous or impossible can be brilliant. Enjoy life, have fun, ride bikes with your friends and listen to good music. From Russia with love!
INTERVIEW BY: EMANUELE VALLORANI