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Thread: Groovy Cycleworks

  1. #1
    Rody's Avatar
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    Default Groovy Cycleworks

    Roots - disenchanted with our current tandem’s capabilities, my wife Christi and I decided to embark on designing a new tandem to meet out needs. With a goal of having a bicycle that could easily traverse diverse surface conditions, from full on road to the rough double track of some of our favorite Vermont areas, it had to be nimble, tough, and fully suspended…a difficult combination to achieve in the early 90’s with production models. With a Utopian design in hand, I began contacting the few custom builders I could find to see if anyone would be willing to work with us to bring our dream to fruition. I landed at Grove Innovations in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, where Bill Grove was not only receptive to working with us on the project, but was excited about it as well. Months went by with frequent exchanges in phone calls and a few prototypes making their way across the state line between Ohio and Pa before I finally traveled to the shop to watch the final steps in completing the frame take place. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed with the authenticity of the process; a few individuals performing each step of the creation in house, meticulously cutting, brazing, welding, and painting. It was like watching a new mechanical life being born. I was enamored with the union of man and machine, taken with the focus and dedication these guys possessed…I wanted to experience that for myself. Knowing that nothing in life is ever easily attained, I asked Bill if would consider taking me on as an apprentice, willing to work for the experience alone as money could never match that. With hope glimmering in my eyes, I was quickly rebuffed; “We are a small shop with a very busy workload, I can’t afford the time to bring on someone new.” Though disappointed, I was grateful to have been witness to the inner workings of a frame shop, and the smile quickly returned to my face.

    My visit ended the following day and as I loaded up our new tandem frame into the car, Bill strolled up and fired off a few serious questions;

    “You know, I’ve been thinking about your request. If you are willing to work long days and keep your mouth shut, I think we can work something out.”

    “I’m willing to put the work in…but I can’t guarantee the second” I replied with a dimple to dimple grin.

    So began my time working in a small custom/production shop. I had the opportunity over the next two years to learn from many of the guys who specialized in specific parts of the process; mechanical design and engineering from the boss, frame layout, machining and tube mitering from Hubby, the art brazing and Tig welding in Steel, Ti and Aluminum from Johnny, and was mesmerized by the colorful talents of Tommy in the paint booth.

    When I began building on my own, I took with me experience and a belief structure that I have continued to build upon…to bring a customers dreams to reality, a builder MUST be part of the entire process, from listening to the customers needs/desires through final assembly and delivery. Mastery is never achieved, but one must strive to move closer to it with each build.

    My knowledge, experience and style have slowly morphed through the years to reflect the hurdles and required changes that the passage of time challenges each of us with.

    The first obstacle that was thrust upon me was due to my own impatience and laissez-faire attitude; a toxic exposure to Imron vapors caused coronary vasospasm resulting in a heart attack at the tender age of 26. The damage resulting from the event has left me to this day with an internal defibrillator and on daily medication. Despite the prognosis that I’d forever be a cardiac couch potato, I’ve been able to battle back and continue to cycle, enjoying one of the purest meetings of man and machine.

    January 1, 2000 was another turning point in my frame building when I received a phone call at noon that the shop was on fire. Careless handing of a wood stove, used to heat the shop, by my shop mate had resulted in a total loss by the time I arrived. A loop hole exclusion in my insurance had left me with at 10% reimbursement, without equipment and trying to determine what to do next. Fortunately for me, two friends and I had been talking of building a few custom choppers. They had the money, I had the knowledge, so when faced with no shop or tools, they had me make up a list and they pulled the trigger. Suddenly, I was back in the game, working on custom choppers and doing frames after hours. The custom motorcycle game was a hoot, as we did everything the way I had been conditioned…in house. We got to make new fixtures, English wheels, and work with tubing that bent easily without kinking J In many aspects, the fabrication is much the same as with bicycles; solid design work, tube mitering, joining processes, alignment, and paint were all requisite skills. Creating smooth tanks, fenders, and machining custom mounts were all skills gained and transfer seamlessly into the metal work I do now. We took awards at Daytona bike week, got a photo shoot with a PMOY, and had all the excitement of rubbing on chrome pipes till our fingers were permanently black with compound. As my partner’s desire waned, so to did my time in that shop, landing me in my current location in 2003.

    Now, the most difficult hurdle I struggle with is time. I’ve been very fortunate that I have a customer base that not only desires a working relationship with me, they are very understanding of the current work load and time constraints. Difficulties enrich the value of life, and reinforce just how lucky we are to carve out a niche in this field. That said, the one aspect of building that I most enjoy, the one reason all is worth it, is bringing the customer’s dreams and desires to fruition, sharing the process with them. Seeing an excited face in person or in pictures never gets old…bicycles truly do bring the child out in all of us.

    I feel very blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to begin my experience by learning from those more knowledgeable than I. Even today, I am constantly amazed by how little I know and how large the knowledge pool can be to draw from. I do my best to share the little I possess with others, a goal that is made more attainable with the proliferation of the internet, and want to thank my brothers in this art for their participation. Thanks to V-Salon and Richard for a venue to make it all possible.

    rody
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    Last edited by Rody; 08-27-2010 at 11:32 AM. Reason: added pic
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  2. #2
    EnginCycles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Nice read while eating lunch. Rody I applaud you for your paint work (among other things) because you have the balls to go beyond the norm and still make everyone happy (well maybe a few look in disgust but that is just as rewarding!).

    Cheers,
    Drew
    Drew Guldalian
    Engin Cycles
    www.engincycles.com

  3. #3
    steve garro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    thanks for signing up to be "smoked out" Rody. You are a constant inspiration to me, and I consider you work to be the benchmark by which I judge custom fab. one thing - take some time off! I don't know how you juggle the fire fighting, frame building, a race series, trail advocacy, family life and still trying to have fun, but man - you do one awesome job of it! Kudos! - Garro.
    Steve Garro, Coconino Cycles.
    Frames & Bicycles built to measure and Custom wheels
    Hecho en Flagstaff, Arizona desde 2003
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  4. #4
    YiPsan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Thanks for sharing. I will have to make sure I stop by to introduce myself next year.

    Cheers,
    Renold Yip
    YiPsan Bicycles

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    dcpdpayne is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Hey Rody, Thanks for hopping in the queue to get smoked out. I think that everyone that meets you comes away happy and smiling…you just seem to be that nice a guy. Every builder has their own view on customer relations, from the builders that see their relationship as purely business to those who end up with a new friend with the completion of every project, so what’s your take builder/client interaction.

    And if I might be so greedy as to ask a second question: How do you mix your profession as a hose hound (absolutely no malice intended) with your work building/life. Do you find that working a fire schedule is conducive to getting you enough shop time/family time/riding time or do you find it difficult to have your shop time/personal life broken up with the 24 hour shifts?
    Cheers,
    Andy

  6. #6
    CyclesNoir's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Your story is as different and cool as your bikes! Great stuff.

  7. #7
    Craig Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Hey Rody, great to hear from you. I always keep up with what you're up to, and like the others said, you're a huge inspiration. I especially respect your "do the whole process" philosophy. When ready, give us the whole rundown on the jig.
    Craig

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    edoz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Rody, I'm glad you signed up for this. I follow your work, I love seeing the 'clean machine shop' style that you have. Your stuff makes me think of the old days of mtn biking back when I started riding. I met you at Richmond, and you're truly a fun guy to talk to. I can only imagine that the experience of buying a bike from you is a great one. I'd also like to thank you for all the knowledge you've shared, particularly about my fork.
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
    Summoner of Crickets
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    In Before the Lock

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Very cool Rody! I mostly know of you for your outrageous paint. While in the USA this summer I rode with a friend who has a set of Luv Handles with the skull and crossbones paint on his Coconino. I thought they were way cool and felt great. A few days later, I luckily/coincidentally scored a set of Ti Luv Handles which quickly replaced the RF carbon bars on my Litespeed. Changes the feel and the look of the bike! They work great on AZ and NM singletrack! I like 'em! People ask, I tell them what they are. Thanks for the killer creativity!
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  10. #10
    Rody's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Thanks for the warm welcome everybody...really struggled with what to write so I thought I'd just throw out the mini bio and let the questions fall where they may. Now your kind words got me blushing ;)

    "Every builder has their own view on customer relations, from the builders that see their relationship as purely business to those who end up with a new friend with the completion of every project, so what’s your take builder/client interaction."
    - DcpdPayne -

    Although I really love tinkering and building bikes/components, what I truly value is the opportunity to share something I love with others. Building for a customer is really a selfish way for me to do it :) When it comes to working with customers through the build process, I really try to seize the moment to learn who they are, what makes them excited about cycling, and how I can design a bike that allows them to have more fun. Often, I give as much of myself as I take from them in a conversation. That really is key to developing a trust that I'm going to take care of their needs throughout the process. At the end of the day, I want folks to choose me as a builder not because I work with a particular material or can mix up a paint scheme just for them, but because they want to work with me. Sappy perhaps, but the truth all the same. Months down the road, if a customer walks through their garage and stops to admire their bike fondly, gently resting their fingers on the top tube, wishing they could play hooky from other priorities that life demands, then I've done my job in fabricating a piece that encourages richness in their lives. How can you get to that point and not develop a relationship that moves beyond business? Forget the old saying that the man that dies with the most toys wins...friendships are far better to collect.

    "How do you mix your profession as a hose hound (absolutely no malice intended) with your work building/life. Do you find that working a fire schedule is conducive to getting you enough shop time/family time/riding time or do you find it difficult to have your shop time/personal life broken up with the 24 hour shifts?


    As I alluded to, time constraints are my nemesis. I'll be honest, I have a hard time finding a good balance in my life, often feeling like I'm shortchanging someone. From an early point in our marriage, Christi and I decided that we really wanted to be able to provide at least one parent at home for our kids at all times, a continuity in parenting that has become the minority instead of the norm. To do so, I've always held more than one job. So the reality of me being gone for longer periods has been a constant that she and the kids have known since the beginning. My life seems to have a cruel duality to it; the Fire Department is a career that both inhibits my time in the shop and allows it, all rolled into one big ironic mess. Working concentrated periods of time at the fire department, often 24 - 36 hours at a stretch, satisfies the economic realities of my life; a home for the family, health insurance, retirement, etc... It also allows me to get large chunks of time in the shop as well. It does not come without sacrifice though...the last 6 years I've averaged between 100- 120 hours a week to achieve our goals, a pace that demands missing lots of special days. The good news is that I don't waste a lot of time sleeping :)

    One of the hardest stigmas I personally have to deal with is when folks ask "when are you going to build full time?", to which I catch my breath and think, holy crap, I'm already working 40-50 hours a week in the shop, isn't that full time enough? I know what they really mean is when am I going to leave the fire department and concentrate solely on building. The stark reality is, I've got 20 years of service time in, I just cannot justify leaving with the benefits that are so close at hand in a few years. In the interim, I'll just keep plugging away until the day that I can relax and just play in the shop. Can't come soon enough for me. I hope that hits some of the high points for your Andy.

    Eric, I'd love to say that I remember meeting you at Richmond, but so many people flood through the booth that in the end, the whole experience becomes a blur. I appreciate your comment on the "clean machine shop style"...I guess that I do agree with you. I've always believed that good design and function is beautiful in it's own right. The opportunity to custom fabricate one off elements of a frame to meet a customer's desires is what really keeps me excited. I'd love to have the time and focus to work out a beautifully sculpted set of lugs or elaborate decorative elements, but there are so many that do that better than I because they have a passion for it. For me, clean lines, performance, and a dash of personality is more personally rewarding. Keep moving forward with your work, before you know it, that toe you've been dipping in the pond will lead to a raucous skinny dipping event of fabrication.

    Mimbresman, so glad that you are enjoying your Ti Luvs. That was a project that kinda took on a life of it's own. I was searching for a bar design that would allow me to ride with more comfort, as I've had some arthritis creep into my wrists in the last few years (arguably from the combination of rock climbing and lots of shop duty). Who would have thunk that the bars would have become so popular and consume so much of my time :)

    Craig, the fixture is a story all on it's own, but is not all mine to tell. Really, in it's simplist form, it shows the evolution of a building philosophy. More when the time is right. Anyhoo, I was so stoked to see you at Nahbs this year as an exhibitor. To watch you progress has been a joy in it's self. When you are ready for those Tig pointers, I'm just a handful of hours east :)

    "I applaud you for your paint work (among other things) because you have the balls to go beyond the norm and still make everyone happy"

    Thanks Drew, but I think you'd find it hard to find anyone who believes I'm anywhere near the norm, ever...the paint is just a result of the alternative universe I exist in ;) Can't wait to see you begin to throw down some color...you've gotta paint the first bike for the little one yourself, at the least.

    Steve-O, love ya man...thanks for the words of encouragement.

    rody

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    WadePatton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Nothing but love for ya Rody Walter!

    For those who don't know, Rody took me in for a few days to teach me a thing or two about paint. (I'll put the link up in my upcoming s/o.) Rody taught me a lot and cracked that whip, kept me moving. If I had to follow Rody's example to the letter, I'd have to bow out, because the man doesn't sleep. That's his secret. I think I saw his shadow sit down and take a break once, but not the man.

    Here's a simply one: How many Luv Handles have you sold? I wouldn't ride anything else in the woods.

    Tell Christi and the kids I said "Hey."






  12. #12
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Yo Wade, thanks for dropping in here at the Salon to say hello.

    For those of you who've not had the opportunity to meet Wade in person, he's definitely one funky dude

    Wade made note of his visit North for a bit of time in the booth, you can check out his experience from my perspective here...

    Groovy Cycleworks 330-988-0537: Wade's Visit...a lesson in paint

    I really enjoyed having him stop in, although it was a lot to share in the limited time we had together.

    As for you question Wade, I stopped keeping track of bar sales in total once we breached 500 last year. I was gonna do a special gold plated bar to mark the moment, then thought "Really? I'd rather take a few hours and go ride"...thus the moment passed and has receded into time.

    Looking forward to seeing the progress on your shop (hint hint)

    cheers,

    rody
    Last edited by Rody; 08-24-2010 at 10:18 AM.

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    Larry is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Rody

    I would also like to thank you for giving up some of your time to help me out. Can you please talk a little about your restoration work. I love following those on your blog. What is it about the Fat Chance's that you like or did that just happen by accident.

    Larry

  14. #14
    Rody's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Larry,

    I had a good time working with you on your tig technique as well...would love to see some of that effort result in a new ride for ya soon

    The restoration work really began as a plea from a Fat owner who was bemoaning the fact that their beloved bike had rusted through and she could not find anyone to help her fix it. Knowing the connection that I felt for some of my early bikes, I was empathetic and took it on as a "when I have time" project. Kinda like stray cats that follow you home, soon more hopeless causes arrived on the doorstep, slowly filling the shelves. From a fabrication standpoint, it is very rewarding to take a piece that otherwise was regulated to admiration status and return it looking brand new and ready for another 20 years of service. It is an excellent tool for learning from other builders designs, mistakes, and successes. To dissect a frame and see the results of years of service from a tactile perspective is priceless. The process of replacing tubes, machining one off pieces to match discontinued parts, and mixing colors to match are elements of the resto process that I believe make me a better original fabricator, as it challenges me to work beyond the controlled norm.

    The downside is that from a financial standpoint, resto work tends to be a labor of love, as most projects when done right, end up costing nearly as much as a new frame when all the hours are factored in. I rarely pass on the full cost of the projects, considering the joy of bringing back a lost cause much of the reward...that is also why I have not accepted any more of this type of work the last 2 years.

    I do agree, the restos are fun to document and I'm glad they are just as rewarding to follow on the blog.

    rody
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    Last edited by Rody; 08-27-2010 at 11:47 AM. Reason: added pics

  15. #15
    Too Tall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    We can hang ;) Your commitment to close association of clients and process are near and dear to me.

    Can I ask you to pls. upload some pictures of drawings, shop fixtures and whatever you are proud of?

    TIA, Josh

  16. #16
    VertigoCycles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Hey Rody,

    I'm just popping in to say that I'm a fan. Your work is superb and I'm always impressed with the fixtures and tools you make.

    It made me smile to read about your involvement with Bill Grove. He was one of the builders I always kept an eye on in the '90's because of his 'east coast style woods bike' design philosophy. He also seemed to give a ton of support to the trials community at that time with the sponsorship of Jason McLean and involvement with Jay DeJesus. It's very cool that you can trace your roots back to that.

    Question: How often do you repeat a process before you make a dedicated tool for it?
    Last edited by VertigoCycles; 08-25-2010 at 01:28 PM.
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Rody,

    Wow, great to read this! You've been an inspiration to me, a major help in getting me started, and that PM over on the other site was dead on and fixed my problem immediately. It's amazing that a quick sentence can change the way someone approaches their entire process moving forward. Lots of folks are so helpful in this tight community that we play in and you're a major source of inspiration to me and have a lot of the qualities that I aspire to be as I grow as a frame builder. No need to respond--I'd rather you spend that time getting something done or spilling a few keystrokes that may just get someone else over that next hump. You're a rock star.

    Thanks again,
    Jay

  18. #18
    Jonathan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Rody, I've been perving on your website for an hour or so and really like what you have going on. I admire your work ethic and having 3 full time commitments seems tough. You are obviously a full time pro, but do people assume you are part time because you have another career? With everything going on does marketing get pushed to the side or is that a big focus for you. It seems you really like to fabricate.

    Jonathan
    Last edited by Jonathan; 08-25-2010 at 09:20 PM.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    Too Tall,

    Thanks for the welcome, really enjoy the site. I'll add some photos to some of the pertinent posts and put a few recent items below (new fixture, run retro 29er with ti fork and bar, new shop progress), but so much can be seen on the blog if y'all feel like working through years worth of posts :)

    You don't happen to kayak as well? Ran into a fella in NC on a whitewater trip who posted as Too Tall over on Boater Talk about 10 years ago...would be a small world.

    "Question: How often do you repeat a process before you make a dedicated tool for it? " ... Sean

    Sean, I'll typically cowboy the first attempt to see how the process flows and what is involved; what are the necessary steps, any issues that need to be controlled, how repeatable can the outcome be made to be, etc... T'hen I'll work up a fixture design that attends to those items, meets the fabrication needs of the part, and makes me happy with access and ease of use. Normally, if I'll be utilizing the process in the future, it's worth the time to develope the tooling. If it's a one off, just rolling with it often adds a little flair and keeps the shop time costs down. Pretty logical stuff, but as you are already aware, the right tool makes the the work more accurate and enjoyable.

    Jay,

    Thanks for the kind words. The internet is such a dual bladed sword...there is so much information out there that it makes it so easy to pick up and learn new techinques, but also the information that is available is so personally detached that it makes it difficult to apply it well without lots of pot holes in the road of experience. Glad I could help you across a small bump.

    "but do people assume you are part time because you have another career? With everything going on does marketing get pushed to the side or is that a big focus for you. " - Jonathan

    Jonathan,

    The dynamic of the "pro" builder certainly is one that varies with perspective. I've been really keen on doing a comprehensive survey on the building niche to see just what the economic make up of this segment is. How many guys build full time and are the only income for the family, how many have a spouse that works in another career, how many are single and living hand to mouth to survive doing what they love? I think it would be interesting to get a real sense of what is possible is this profession and what it takes to sustain the lifestyle. So many new folks interested in being a "frame builder" jump in with two feet with their heart but have so little information for their economic desision making. In my case, I'm the sole bread winner in the family, so having two career roles has always been a given for me to sustain the family unit, regardless of whether building is part of it or not. For most of my customers, the duality is only addressed when it comes to timelines...there are only so many hours between the sun rising and setting so I don't move at as fast a pace as others who are able to focus solely in one direction.

    As for marketing, most folks find me. Aside from the occasional forum contributions, the only marketing I do boils down to the sponsorship of a race team (an effort that has yet to bring a single sale, but that's not what its about anyway), sponsoring and helping to promote/run a regional race series with the guys from 331 racing, and my annual trip to NAHBS, an effort I participate in more for the support of the profession than the market recognition I receive. I've been very fortunate that folks appreciate my efforts and have chosen to champion my products for me. I'd rather have enthusiastic customers that want to spread the word than pay for attention any day.

    cheers,

    rody
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  20. #20
    Eric Estlund's Avatar
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    Default Re: Groovy Cycleworks

    How is the new building coming? Will the new location change how you run the shop (still keeping the light retail end)?

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