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Thread: Lighthouse Cycles

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    lighthousecycles's Avatar
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    Default Lighthouse Cycles

    I was born in Austin Texas. I was an army brat and moved a lot at the whim of the military.

    I remember my first good bike. They called them British Racers way back then. It was a British made upright bar bike with fenders and a Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub. It was red and the brand was called Rocket. It was too big (we’re talking wood blocks on the pedals) so I could “grow into it.” I rode that Rocket everywhere until high school. It wasn't okay to ride your bike to high school.

    As a teenager, I became interested in performing magic. This landed me my first job out of high school at the Magic shop in Disneyland. Interestingly, I had a coworker at the shop named Steve Martin, who later became “a wild and crazy guy.”

    Next, I spent time as a metal hand former for Douglas Air Craft Company and worked as a radio mechanic with American Airlines at LAX. After that I attended college in Santa Maria, California where a jewelry class project got me a job as a jewelry designer while attending school.

    I dug out that Rocket, overhauled and painted it and began riding it. Longing for a 10-speed, a friend talked me into buying a White Peugeot U-08. (You would be surprised at how many older riders have a U-08 in their background.)

    I moved on to finish my Philosophy degree at the University of California at Santa Cruz. I started riding the Peugeot in the local mountains and got hooked. I fell in with a group of riders out of the Bicycle Center shop in Santa Cruz and was quickly educated in the ways of the peloton.

    Roger Sand’s Bicycle Center was an important pro shop and helped promote serious cycling by offering the highest quality bikes and clothing available at the time. I got a job at the Bicycle Center with that Philosophy degree and soon became shop Manager.

    I built my first bike in 1975 while at the shop. Orders started piling in from all the homies and I began building full time in 1976. I was still making jewelry at the time and wanted to create a head badge for the frames and selected the Lighthouse image as a tribute to those Santa Cruz roots.

    The first handful of bikes had an investment cast Lighthouse on the head tube. I realized it was taking too long to make those badges and designed the current decal image of the Santa Cruz Lighthouse in1977. I built steadily for a growing clientele.

    I was delighted when Spence Wolf of the Cupertino bike shop, located in Pacific Grove California approached me to build custom frames for his shop. My collaboration with such a high powered shop was truly gratifying. Spence’s shop was unsurpassed! He only carried custom-built frames by Alex Singer in France, and mine in the USA, establishing Lighthouse as one of the very best.

    During that time I built a full-on touring bike for a fellow with a fledgling bike company. His name was Mike Sinyard. Mike’s company was called Specialized Bicycle Imports and under the shorter SPECIALIZED, it would become one of the world's top bicycle companies.

    In 1981 Mike was ready to hire a designer and called me. I designed and oversaw the production of the first bikes. The Allez, The Sequoia, The Expedition and the industry changing Stumpjumper, one of which is on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

    The Specialized time was very exciting, traveling to Japan to oversee production as the company grew fast! And, how many times do you get to gave dinner with Eddy Merckx?

    But I missed frame building and those beautiful roads on the California Central Coast. I left Specialized in 1981 to set up shop in Santa Barbara with my new wife Lorraine. The Lighthouse reputation coupled with a large cycling scene in Santa Barbara made for steady work.

    Looking for a bit quieter community (not to mention better roads) we moved our family to the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley just inland from Santa Barbara in 1986. By now I had been building for 20 years with over 1000 custom frames under my belt.

    I had always loved to cook and in 1990 Lorraine and I created The Gourmet Century. This was a ride that was a step above the regular rides. The food was extremely high quality throughout the day, followed by an elegant sit down dinner for 500 riders and their partners. The ride became very popular and one year ESPN sent a film crew to cover it. A devoted crew, including Chris King, and I prepared all the food for the 10 years of Gourmet Century.

    I found that catering these large events brought my food skills up to the professional level. I was also teaching at the Jordanos Cooking School in Santa Barbara during this time working side-by-side with some of America’s great chefs.

    In 1996, I decided to make my hobby my job and accepted a position of Executive Chef at the El Rancho Marketplace in Santa Ynez. I was responsible for leading a crew producing and serving $3 million dollars worth of food a year.

    After 10 years in the professional kitchen, I built another frame for myself. This time I used the new oversized Columbus Genius Tubing, fillet brazed in a compact frame configuration and ended up with a 17 ˝ pound bike.

    I fell in love with bikes all over again and started dreaming of frame building. I re-tooled the shop around a new, state-of-the-art Anvil Jig and BikeCad computer system.

    In 2009, I finally began building again with the enthusiasm that only a return to ones destiny can bring. The dream has come true; beautiful new, custom Lighthouse bikes are back on the road again!
    The most beautiful thing about a custom bike is not just what you see, it's what you feel.--www.lighthousecycles.com

  2. #2
    Dornbox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Tim, great story and even better paths life has laid out for you. How much has modern tooling changed the way you build and has it effected your enjoyment for the craft? Thanks-Chris
    Last edited by Dornbox; 01-31-2011 at 06:22 PM.

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    Too Tall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Thanks much for your time here and if I am the first in a long list of folks who consider you as an icon of industry well than I'm very glad about it.
    I've admired your work for an long time.
    Looking forward to hearing the answers to some hard thought questions here.
    I'd very much like to hear your take on why American Handbuilt bicycles are seeing a swelling in ranks. What happened to change the marketplace and how can the new(er) builders create an sustainable business? Last, if you care to comment...do you believe that companies such as Seven, Serotta and Merlin benefit by sponsoring Professional racing? If so what will that add to the brand and bottomline?

    Peace, Josh

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Tim, thank you for the nice narrative which hits on all the high points of your life. What a trip! I have a couple of questions which are a bit strange, but interesting to me. First, when you got going with the whole Specialized venture, was the first product sold under that name their clincher tires? I remember back in the day seeing that name first associated with a decent clincher, and I bought them. Also, in '09 when you decided to get back to building again, what was your tooling "gotta get" list? Are you the type of builder who decided you needed 3 horizontal mills, a lathe etc., or did you decide to go with less machinery? Thank you in advance.
    Craig

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    What a trip you've had. Your range of experience over the decades has to be one of the widest in the industry. Your degree in philosophy is similar to mine in sociology, broadening, but not much on a bicycle industry resume. So, how do you see your "non-bicycle" experiences influencing your building? I know that is a very broad question, but Iv'e given this sort of thing a lot of thought over the years and I'd love to hear your take. Congratulation on getting Smoked.
    Tom Kellogg
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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Tim, it's great to see you in smoked out. Your compact frames look like rockets! Was weight reduction your primary motivator in adopting this geometry?

    Has your location on the Central Coast influenced your approach to design and build? More generally;To what extent does the local geography and cycling scene influence builders?

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    A true Renaissance man!
    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Very cool! I was part-time wrenching back when the first Specialized bikes came out. They looked great then and they still look just right. Hope you can post some work in FNL for us to ogle.

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Since you've returned, do you have interest in building different stuff, or do you desire more to pick up where you stopped?
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
    Summoner of Crickets
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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Dear Readers,
    A bit of computer chaos has caused my replies to be late. My workshop has always been pretty low tech. I use a fixture on a large drill press for mitering cuts with hand file finishing. No mill no lathe. I think my roots as a jeweler has encouraged the hand made theme for my frames. Having said that I am using an excellent Anvil Jig which is a far cry from the Andrew Hague jig from the old days. And Bike Cad has retired my T square. Tom and I both share a liberal arts education and I must say as a one man shop I do have time to ponder the nature of reality. I'm very interested in cosmology these days. I think critical thinking is an important aspect of building. My frames seem to fall into two categories these days. The road race frames which is my favorite ride are Compact oversize designs. When it comes to race (by that I simply mean high performance) frames I feel that less is more and the compact frame is lighter and stiffer. Fillet brazed construction lets me pursue these designs The other theme these days is a modern take on my Sequoia and Expedition frames I created for Specialized. The Sequoia is a true Randonneur design and can be created with classic lugged construction or fillet brazed for those riders that like that aesthetic. The Expedition is a full on loaded touring frame ready to take the rider anywhere they wish to go. Both use over sized tubes for good strength to lightness. I love the old school aspect of the trade and must say I have always liked skills plied by humans for a long time either bicycle making of cooking. I feel honored to be a part of the old timers fraternity of builders. In this ere a Chinese mass production there is really something special about a frame hand made with every file stroke taken with a specific rider in mind, few things are made today like that. Thank you all very much for your interest in me and my frames.
    Tim
    The most beautiful thing about a custom bike is not just what you see, it's what you feel.--www.lighthousecycles.com

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Tim,

    You had and Andrew Hague jig? And I had one of his sew-up bags - who was this guy, Andrew? Anyone?

    So Tim, you and I both pursued cooking and bicycle frames, although in slightly different directions. What parallels would you draw between the two subjects - how are they similar? I remember Tim Isaac showing me how to braze and saying that brazing a frame is like cooking an egg: when it's done, more heat won't make it better. Your thoughts?

    And I sure look forward to the next time we can cook and ride together - seems like it's been a while!
    Last edited by hampco; 02-03-2011 at 03:24 PM.
    Steve Hampsten
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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Hey Steve,
    We called then Andrew Vague jigs due to their rustic nature.They came out of England, they also made a line of stamped lugs. If there is a parallel between cooking and frame building I think of baking which is all about adhering to a recipe. And there is heat involved. I like an egg analogy, a perfectly cooked egg is like a perfectly brazed joint. We need to get together I have a guest room now if you want to come get some perfect miles in the valley.
    The most beautiful thing about a custom bike is not just what you see, it's what you feel.--www.lighthousecycles.com

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    rebecca daughton atmo.
    discuss.

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    tim-
    holy shit what a great life and what a career! looking through your gallery, everyone of your bikes looks right but not contrived or derivative. what drives your designs re: geometry, fit, tube selection etc.? and what's the best meal you've ever eaten or cooked?

    thanks,
    craig

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Craig,
    I have tried and true front end geometries that I use for Racing, Randonneur of Touring bikes. Modifying that for very small frames. I let the riders femur suggest the proper seat tube angle. Top tube length is combined with ideal stem length within a limited range to get the proper reach with the appropriate weigh distribution. I feel that each size frame(seat tube length) has a limited range of proper stem length. As in: small frames use short stems and large frames use long stems to maintain the proper relationship of the bars/hoods to the front wheel. With basic adjustments made in the top tube length. The tubing gauge is determined with rider weight, intended use and frame size taken into consideration.
    As for food, I was once given a very fresh Black Truffle. I used it to make Frittatine al Sugo. This is a cake made with 20 layers of basically crepes made with just eggs , salt and pepper. They are layered with fresh tomatoe and basil sauce and parmisan cheese to form a multi larered cake that is cut into wedges to serve. I finely grated the truffle and mixed it into the eggs before making the crepes. The truffle flavor and aroma were mind blowing and indescribable Much like Rebbeca Daughton (for e-Richie) atmo.
    The other best was a dinner at the French Laundry. $600 for two, nuf said
    Tim
    The most beautiful thing about a custom bike is not just what you see, it's what you feel.--www.lighthousecycles.com

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    benson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by lighthousecycles View Post
    Hey Steve,
    We called then Andrew Vague jigs due to their rustic nature
    .
    Hague catalog

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Craig
    I forgot to answer your Specialized tire question. Yes the Tires were the first "Specialized" products. As I recalled Mike set up a deal with the company that was making the fine Schwinn tires and they put pressure on not to build for Specialized . Mike found a new factory and the rest is history
    Tim
    The most beautiful thing about a custom bike is not just what you see, it's what you feel.--www.lighthousecycles.com

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    holy smokes (out), great stuff Tim. thanks for sharing. wondered how truffles were prepared. are you coming to the show?






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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Wade,
    Truffles are notorious paired with eggs. I won't be at the show this year.
    The most beautiful thing about a custom bike is not just what you see, it's what you feel.--www.lighthousecycles.com

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    Default Re: Lighthouse Cycles

    Hi Tim
    I know your post is about 6 months old but having just found this fourm I just found your post. As you know, there are 2 Lighthouse cycles in my family--mine and son Josh's. Not only is your bike a delight to ride, but as I have previously said it is a work of art also. What else would one expect from a jewelry maker! The exquisite paint job you did on my bike is still a head turner and I never fail to get comments when out for a ride on my trusty tricolor lighthouse. I will never forget the dinner Josh and I had at your house in Santa Ynez when we flew out to measure Josh up for his Lighthouse. It was a superb Mexican meal, but the best part was your comment at the end of the meal when you said "what we really need now is some grapefruit tequila sorbet." That line lives on in infamy every time we have Mexican food (none of which lives up to the meal we had with you). I now live in Denver and ride weekly with our dear friend MH.

    All the best to you and Lorraine. Without a promise, I will try and send you pix of our 2 wheel steeds.

    Justin

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