First off- a big thanks to Richard for extending the opportunity to get Smoked Out. With any luck, this will result in less paranoia than the last time.
My story begins in the wilderness of Idaho's panhandle- at that time, real whacko territory. There is a whole lot of expository info I won't get into, but the salient bits are these: I grew up in a log house that my mother designed and drafted (she was a curriculum director at the time,) and my father built (he was a linesman for a telephone company.) I watched that house being built around me and saw first-hand the term “sweat equity” in practice. It was ingrained at a very young age that if you can't pay someone to do something, you better learn how to do it yourself- because it won't get done otherwise.
Learning to ride a bike on frost-heaved dirt roads led to a bump I can still feel on the back of my head. It also made it clear (in an age before Google maps) how much is out there to see, and I got hooked very early by the “where's that road go?” bug. When I hit high-school and came out of my AD&D cocoon it turned out my good friend's father was the COO of Outland VPP (we were living in Bellingham at this point.) My friends introduced me to Jim Sullivan (he of Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, um, fame) and I took up learning the fine art of keeping myself from viciously endo-ing every time I descended while riding a Softride stem. Mountain biking in Bellingham was one of those “didn't realize how good I had it” kind of things- you see, Portland does not have mountain biking. People can debate that, but at that point I had three or four extremely diverse trail networks within riding distance of my house, these days it's an hour and a half, plus, to get anywhere worth the time. I kind of spoiled myself to anything beyond riding from your house, and I think that's one of the major drivers of my shift to road riding.
I went to college in the charming little hamlet of Ashland, OR in the navel of the Rogue Valley. What a place to live for four years- tops. Were I there as a frame-builder, I might have been able to stay longer but no- I was there... as a thespian. I am the proud owner of a specialized degree in theatrical stage management, which in the context of Ashland puts you directly into a tight little echo chamber that some (many) never escape. It is quite easy to ride the “big fish, small pond” mentality if you're plugged into THE OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL. Ashland does have a massive amount of gorgeous road riding however, four or five climbs within a 10 mile radius of literally at least 15 miles in length. When you're a 19 year old kid, hopped up on Lance's latest duel with Jan and a brand new Litespeed Tuscany (worked my ass off to afford that bike, then pumped the tires to 120 because I liked the edgy ride it imparted....) you go hell-for-leather up every climb you can find. I would often take my night riding setup and ride up Mt. Ashland in the dark, “dancing on the pedals” all the way- I'm sure. I became quite good at going up and down mountain passes, and learned how to counter-steer from one of the older guys I'd ride with (he was probably riding a shock-your-eyes Landshark, many do down there.) The amount of descending I did while I lived there probably informs a lot of my personal preference in geometry and handling, and explains why my “stock geometry” charts look more like classic Euro than Industrial Park crit.
Fast forward several years, I've been living in Portland OR and stage managing my way into something like a career when I have an epiphany: this is not what I want to do with my life. As it turns out, professional stage management is more spreadsheets and stop watches than artistic engagement- basically it was my job to facilitate other people's artistic decisions, and keep my mouth shut. I clearly needed a change, and after much thinking decided I wanted to be in the bicycle industry, as it was the one throughline for all my other adventures since long ago. So what's an enterprising young bike enthusiast do in the internet age? Find a frame building class? Nope! Find a supplier of Taiwanese carbon frames and slap a name on them! Yes, my first attempt at building a legitimate brand was open mold (but hard to source) frames. Well, as it turns out, it's fairly difficult to convince people that your frame is better than a Cannon/Spec/Trek AND it's not very satisfying in the “actually creating something” dept. After a year of banging my head against the wall I made a “business pivot” and went about figuring out this whole custom carbon thing.
So, a few notes about L'Ecu- the brand:
-Ecu means “crown” or “coin” in french, it's also a heraldic symbol like a coat-of-arms. Taking all that together and putting it on a bike means the frames are the “coin of the realm,” or what you pay with- in this case, you pay with the effort you put into riding.
-My grandmother is French, so the name is in homage to her.
-I don't generally go in for florid paint-jobs, I like letting the material (carbon) speak for itself, and what better way than ghosted logos under clearcoat? Not to say that if a client asked I wouldn't go all Landshark on it, but my personal aesthetic trends towards black and simple.
-I love working with carbon, it's an amazing material and I truly enjoy manipulating it like a tailor- I guess my theatrical background wasn't a complete wash, eh? This next year I've got access to a VMC so I'll hopefully be collaborating with Bre Rue (Ruegamer Bikes) on some new projects that involve molds.
So, hopefully I'll be seeing a bunch of you at NAHBS, looking forward to communicating with all of you, and I truly look forward to seeing what everybody has been working on- this place is a fantastic source of inspiration for me on a daily basis. Thanks again for the opportunity!