To me Zakk seems to be one of the most passionate persons I know. This extends to far more then biking and may only be visible to someone who has spent time with him. Among all of my friends he seems to be the one who is the most consistent with regard to motivation, be it building trails, riding, walking his girlfriends dog or driving the car at night. Along with that he is also one of the politest persons I know – maybe except you behave respectless towards something that has been build with great effort by someone elses hands. He is a good guy. Now it´s his turn:
So here I sit. With a wish to give a short look what Last means to me…
I guess the best way I can go about this is to tell a couple of stories from my “Life with Last © “.
The best way to begin is from the beginning. I had moved to Germany (Essen) in August in 2002 and had lived here close to a year. The one thing that I was really missing was “riding”. I had found a couple of small places around the area that you could “ride” a little bit but not enough for my liking. ( I should say that I originally come from the USA – born in Wisconsin. Then in the mid-nineties I moved to North Carolina. For those of you that follow BMX biking, you will know what I mean when I say that it’s a small paradise as far as riding is concerned. Tons of spots to ride there, and even more “Big” name riders.) I had always ridden both BMX and MTB, but I only had a BMX here, in Germany. Since up until then, the trails spots that I had found were not really that smooth I had started looking into getting a MTB put together.
After several months, I finally decided to take a trip to the “Fun Box” skate park here in Essen. Back then, this park had an approximately, 7ft. Spine. I was overall just taking it all in, finally meeting people that seemed to have the same passion that I do for riding. After a while, an older man came along riding a MTB, which is something you never saw in the states. It was of course seen now and again at the local trails spot, but overall, it was unusual. The bike surprised me… it was a steal frame and not aluminum which again, at that time, was basically unheard of. MTB “wisdom” for years was that light-weight is more important than anything. This, however, was a theory I could never really follow. Even in cross-country bikes I preferred steel frames over aluminum. The fact is that in the beginning Aluminum is stiffer. But before too long, the Aluminum loses its stiffness much more and even faster than Steel. In other words the stability is much better over time with steel.
So as I sit there (honestly feeling a little shy to ride much), along came yet another rider on yet another seemingly similar bike. At closer inspection I realized that both bikes were probably from the same company. The second rider (after getting “padded” up) broke loose 3 plus foot airs over the spine with or without a nice “flatty” thrown in. Pedal grinds across the whole back wall quarter and so on. All that while riding a bike of the sort I had never seen before! Clearly riding at the same level as the “other BMXer” there. I immediately began to question the second rider – whom I later learned was Jochen Forstmann. I wanted to know what the name of the company was and where he bought it. He gave no hint to being the owner and designer of said frame, and politely answered my questions. It was only after looking that evening on the internet at the Last Home Page that I found out exactly who Jochen was. The frame seemed to promise everything I could possibly be looking for!
After a few e-mails back and forth about me ordering one through the shop I work at, Jochen invited me to come with him to the “Grand Opening” of the then new spot in Dortmund Hombruch. Later that evening we also stopped at the Bochum Trails and I immediately found my “new second home”.
To hold me over until I could afford the Rufus, I purchased a cheap frame and fork kit off the internet. (Basically, I paid as much for the cheap kit as I would be paying for just the suspension fork, even though I worked at a shop.) Anyway, I rode this aluminum MTB frame for a period of just a few months and the head tube was already “stretched” out! Also, I never really felt comfortable on it – It was “ok” but not good. Fast forward a few months–and I had saved up enough to get my hands on my own Rufus frame and give it a whirl.
All I can say is that to really understand how good it is, you just have to ride one once. My first time riding trails with the Rufus, I felt immediately at “home”. In many ways, (I dont know if its good or bad to say), to me, it feels like a big BMX bike. I guess its better to say that the Last bike’s geometry just “feels right”.
This leads me to my second story. Fast forward a couple years, and like I said earlier, the Bochum Trails became a new “second home”. Jochen and I became better and better acquainted. Jochen invited me to take a trip with him and a couple others (Björn and Chrisse – pronounced Krizza) down to the south of France. For years I had seen many of my friends, especially in North Carolina, go on riding “Road Trips”. This time it was my turn. Definitely one of the best experiences of my life!! I will always be thankful to Jochen for taking me along.
Jochen knew some people in Nies, our first “stop”. We had a great day of riding a “ditch”. That evening he said he knew of a spot that he had seen pics of. He actually knew the guy whose spot it was. This was JB, who had a small little spot of his own in Hyeres. What they did with this somewhat small amount of space was amazing! Added to that fact, everything was so clean and perfect you could have almost eaten off of it. Anyway, we spent our second day there. It was obvious we had found another great group of “kids” whose passion was riding. Most of them saw a Last Rufus for the first time that day. They almost immediately asked about it, and asked to take it for a spin. I kid you not when I say this; in just a few months, 3 or 4 of the locals there had a Rufus of their own. They got on it once, and, in a matter of minutes – In JB´s case it was more like seconds – they had decided to get one for themselves.
I could go on for hours about the great trip to France and about many other great trips I have made since then with Jochen and Last bikes. I just think these two stories kind of tell it all. It’s a rider owned company that is exactly what riding is all about – at least in my eyes. When you buy a Last bike you’re not paying some suit sitting in an office who has never taken a shovel in his hands to shape his own lips at the local spot. Most “suits” wouldn’t even know what that last sentence means! For this guy, buying his bike would be just making his pockets fatter. My point is when you buy a Last bike, your not just buying a great bike – you are helping to support a lifestyle.