Nostalgia brought me to cycling but I couldn't say exactly what keeps me here. It's better that way cause if I have that answer, I'm likely to muck it up. Born June '66 to Jean and Noel Crumpton of Reno Nevada, some of my earliest memories were of the many bicycles parked in the garage. My father, a member of the Reno Wheelmen at the time, collected BMW motorcycles and racing bicycles. Bianchi mostly. I was the youngest of 5 and by the time I was old enough to have any appreciation for the stuff, the bikes had long since disappeared leaving me with the faint memories associated with that classic road scene.
Of the 5 kids, I seem to be the only one with this connection to our past. Although my oldest brother has the stories of reckless tandem attacks on Geiger Grade, dad getting him his first job in a Reno bike shop... Fast forward to 1979, my father dies never getting a chance to see his youngest (I'm 14 at the time) slowly making his way into the scene. So this is what really brings me here, we can skip all the "why I wanted to build".
While it was a good 10 years from the 'I wanna build' light bulb moment to actually holding a torch, preparations began early by getting a job in a bike shop. In hindsight, it couldn't have been a better shop. TechnoSport was a high end tri and racing shop run by Kevin Bice. Kevin was a trend setter in building low spoke count trick aero road wheels and early in the game of US outsourcing production of house branded bikes. His were called Intertech. This name still lives on Tom Teasdale's list. So I was getting great exposure to bike design, fitting and the likes early on in my industry experience.
A few years later I am with REI running the bike shop in Austin when I see a job opening in the Eugene store. Eureka! That fun some guys poke at Portland and all its builders? That's nothing new. In '94 my opinion was, in Oregon, there must be a frame builder on every corner and If I got myself there, I would be that much closer to building. I took advantage of REI's transfer and after a few months found myself with Hans and Allen Schultz of Greengear (BikeFriday). Hans was a great guy to work with on the floor. And while I couldn't say he taught me to build bikes, he did teach me to use the shop tools of the trade. After hours I was free to run-a-muck with everything from the TIG torch, engine lathe to the powder coat booth. But I'd have to say the biggest thing I came away from there with was exposure to dialed in processes and efficiency in work flow. Those guys are JIT masters.
By '96 I am back in Austin running repairs for local masters and tri-athletes out of my garage. I get a torch and some files and start building. No big deal, fillet brazed mostly. Some lugged. Road, TT, track and even a few MTBs. Those early days were fun. No pressure, just trying to do a better job each time. All learning. Those first few frames were all balancing acts and bar clamps. Its amazing how little tooling you actually need to build and adequate bike frame. A few frames down the line I had a few chunks of aluminum machined to create an interesting fixture that converted from BB to DT and ST holding to then attaching the rear. I was still balancing HT to DT. Still a little later I made a full plate fixture not unlike the Nortac. The reality is I am hobby building at that time, just gotten married and feeling the need to do better for the future. So off to the corporate world for a stint.
Years go by while I am buried in a cubicle wondering how could I make it full time in frame building. Mind you this is before the next round/resurgence of the current scene. It was happening but I didn't know it. I was busy with the job and working in the shop when I could. In 2000 there was no way I could be convinced that anyone new could make a go of it in traditional steel and actually make a living. With carbon fast on the rise in the production world, I hedged my bets and began researching the stuff. I spent a good 2 years learning as much as I could about advanced composites not really knowing exactly where it would go. Most everything lead to the idea of expensive molds and presses and little option to customize geometries. There was a couple examples of "tubed" carbon bikes, not really all that ideal as they were built around high cost tooling for joints and still not fully customizable.
Take a step back, remember you're a frame builder. This approach reminded me that what I needed to do was stick tubes together. It didn't hurt that Dedacciai had just started shipping a complete carbon rear stay kit including dropouts. So I took a traditional frame building approach. I mitered tubes, tacked them in a fixture and then completed the joining but instead of a torch I used dry carbon clothe and laminating epoxy. I consolidated the joinery with a vacuum bag. I was riding that first prototype in June of '03 and had my buddies on them over the next few months. Some of you guys may remember the old hydromedia site? You may remember me posting pics of that bike there.
A couple of years on, NAHBS 1.0 serves a the official launch Crumpton Cycles. A full time commitment. 6 years later I guess I can say it is a success. I have spent that six years refining a rather elementary process, still not perfected but with each frame, a little better. This is what continues to drive me. If I thought there was no room for improvement, I think I'd find it hard to go into the shop each day and produce a status quo.
I hope this look into my history was interesting for those who took the time to read it. It rarely gets discussed as much as what's in front of me today. Lately I feel like my past deserves more of my own attention. If we don't know where we have been, how do we know where we are going?