Out of the Saddle is a video series spotlighting riders in the Above Category community and the dream bikes we build for them. In our first episode, we feature an icon of Marin cycling, Salifu Mohammed, a masterful painter from Ghana who reflects on how riding bikes became a way of life, his passion for art, and how his AC custom Mosaic GT-1 bike brings them together.
“In Ghana, if you have a bicycle, you use it out of necessity - to transport food, yourself, to live,” explains Salifu, as we sit down in the shop to talk about his evolution as a cyclist. “Just as Americans use the car to get around, we use our feet. But when I first arrived in America in the early 2000s, I saw people who looked to be out cycling simply for sport, for recreation!” he laughs. “That was a huge change for me.” Not that it took Salifu long to start enjoying the delights of recreational, and later, competitive riding as a keen participant in NorCal’s popular Grasshopper race series.
After painting all night in his home studio, Salifu, or ‘Alaagy’ as he is known in the art world, began heading out on his bike during the day as a way to reset. Before too long, his daily habit had blossomed into a lifelong love affair with the world-class road and gravel riding in and around Marin County and his status as a dapper and beloved member of the Northern California cycling community was sealed.
But if Salifu’s transition to serious cycling was a natural progression, finding a bike to suit his aesthetic and engineering demands was not. “When I began riding here, I bought a crappy bike. And then when that broke, something a bit better, until many bikes later when I realized that all I was doing was getting really good at buying crappy bikes!” he says, laughing again. A bad cycling accident that temporarily took away his color vision, and for a couple of days, his consciousness forced a reset - but not in the way you might expect. “At that point, I hadn’t really got anywhere with my cycling journey, and I knew that if I turned my back on the bike after a single setback, I would be running away from myself. So from that point on, I was all in. Cycling until I die!”
And that brings us to Salifu’s new bike, a custom Mosaic GT–1. “I never really knew what a good bike was,” he admits. “I guess I didn’t know what I was looking for, or how to bring everything together to make not just a nice-looking bike, but a bike that performed as I wanted it to,” he adds. “So one day, I was out on a group ride and found myself riding next to a nice chap on what turned out to be a custom-built Above Category machine. And that bike looked so perfect. One thing complemented the other, and you could tell it was something different, something on another level.”
After being given our details, Salifu contacted us and came by the studio to scope out his perfect bike. A few exploratory rides, talks and shared stories later, we suggested the Mosaic GT–1 platform, a superb gravel performer that can still hang with the best when the trail turns to road. Components, wheels and the ephemera of finishing kit followed, with each piece carefully chosen to complement Salifu’s riding goals, style and personality. The paint scheme, though, was all Alaagy. “I’ve always felt that what a person chooses to wear says a lot about their state of mind,” he says. “So my intention for the bike’s paint scheme was that it should reflect my state of mind when I’m ready to experience the essence of the outdoors, and by doing so, pull me into that space on those days when life gets a little too hectic.” With its triumvirate of blended greens, Salifu’s Mosaic certainly exudes a powerful sense of calm. But why those particular greens? “I chose them to represent health, nature and nurture, which together speak to the idea of infinity and the act of cycling itself."
Of course, the best moment of a client’s dream bike journey is when we show them their new machine for the first time. Judging by Salifu’s reaction when he came by the studio with our very own gravel king, Brennan Wertz to see his new Above Category custom build, his days of putting up with less than perfect bikes are long gone.
For a more detailed look at Salifu's stunning Mosaic, head to the gallery here.