That's the name that my friends have given this vehicle I'm driving on the road from poser to pro. So far, you've heard from some pretty solid dudes. Guys who've built reputations and businesses, and given their knowledge back to the community. You've also heard from a couple of guys will lead the charge for the next generation. They say all good things come to an end, and that's where I come in.
Building stuff runs in my family, and I was swinging a hammer in my grandfather's wood shop from an early age. Working on the car with my dad, taking things apart just because and building things I probably could have bought cheaper have been positive experiences for me. I started riding when I was a kid, like everyone else, but when I turned 16 I didn't stop riding like most of my friends. I rode even more, and I never stopped.
Fast forward many years, and now I'm a professional metal fabricator (wow, that sounds kinda fancy). I happened into the career by chance, lured to Tulsa by a TV ad for the welding school here. As a cyclist and a welder, I eventually had to field the inevitable question. “So when are you gonna start building frames?” I didn't know, but it was a damn good idea:) I heard that question so often it started to bother me. I wasn't, but there was no reason why I wasn't.
There's a local builder that I am friends with and we'd talked about his frames, and I'd picked his brain a lot and volunteered to help quite a few times. My 'apprenticeship' with him never took off, but I came to a point where I needed a frame repaired so I called him. I'd been racing a Waterford mtb, and I broke the driveside dropout. We talked about it, and since I had set it up as a single speed, he offered to help me put track style dropouts on it. When he saw the frame, he pointed out a crack in the chainstay as well, right behind the bb lug. I called Waterford to try to get a set of chainstays, and even though the stays weren't available anymore Richard Schwinn talked to me about all kinds of ideas to fix it. He ended up giving me the number for Henry James, and Hank just happened to have one last set of stays that he stopped selling long before. It was soon discovered that the Waterford had many more problems, and was a lost cause. So I had no race bike, and no project for these stupid chainstays. What I did have, was a mission. Rich had loaned me his old Paterek manual when I brought that frame over, and I decided I was gonna build a frame. A trip to the Great Oracle at Google introduced me to resources I never knew existed. A whole world of guys sharing their work and their secrets with yahoos like me. I felt like MacGuyver was letting me read his diary.
I had a garage, and some tools but no welder. I'm a good tig welder, but I didn't have one at home nor the cash to buy one. My boss would have been less that thrilled to see me welding a frame at work. Fortunately, someone at work had a torch set that they gave me for free. Torch, tips, regulators, hoses, and free. I hadn't brazed anything for a while, but I got some straight gauge and brushed up. Now what? Where'd I put that number for Henry James? Hank was super cool, and took all the time I needed helping me pick out a tubeset for my first frame. I scored some 80/20 from work and started building a fixture. I built the frame and fixture together, and sometimes work on the frame would stall while I changed the fixture. I made some dumb mistakes, too. Nothing catastrophically unsafe, just dumb. Really dumb.
When I got it done Rich told me to bring it over and use his alignment table. It was closer to straight than I ever would have imagined, all it needed was for the dropouts to move a little. I built it up and it rode good. I ordered another tubeset immediately. That was about 13 frames ago.
Since then I've built a few for me, and I've built a few for a small circle of test riders. I'm settling on how I like to do things and what I want stuff to look like. I hope to hang out a shingle, maybe next year. Until then I just have to trust that it'll happen when it's right, and if it doesn't happen then it just wasn't meant to be. I'm having lots of fun, though:)