as to the name/logo. i'm the guy who asked one of you at portland nahbs if you had any amateur radio interests. that tower/antenna/waves is extremely common in the ham world. but of course yours is the classiest. (in code now) 73 de w1ade
I know nothing about radio.
We all know, or have some idea what makes your work similar to other made to measure/custom frames/bicycles, ie. Quality materials, tester joinery methods, attention to detail, and the delicate balance of producing a frame that is both esthetically pleasing and functional, but what makes your bike different?
I think that it goes without saying that each of the builders in the “smoked out” thread create superior work, so without comparing yourself directly to another builder(s), what is it about your frames/bicycles that draws (or will draw) in clients?
Thanks you've been an awesome resource, thanks for sharing your knowledge. I think Nate got that fillet, we should probably put it in a glass case somewhere.
That's a good question. What makes us different..?
Iíd like to think itís the way our eyes work, the way our hands work and the way our brains work. A bike is just a bike, and we know that the differences are minimal between a Columbus spirit tubed bike built by us or another builder. Differences arise where the builder decides to say ďitís good enoughĒ. The point where the joint or miter or whatever is finished is probably the biggest difference between builder A and builder B. At this point building a bike takes us quite a long time, and I donít think that makes our bikes better, but I think it makes us happier with the end product. We want to be proud of the work we did yesterday and the work we did last year. Iím not saying we make perfect bikes, but we are constantly moving closer. That ideal perfect bike has changed over the last three years too, Itís subtle, but choices in tubing, how we cut our seat sleeves, perfect placement of the dropout faces, what style of cable stop or bridge we want to useÖ I think thatís a big part of growing up. Those style choices will vary less and the differences will become clearer as we move forward. For now what makes us different is we do sweat the details, some people notice that stuff and will hopefully be drawn to what we are doing.
I'm just chiming in to say that I like you guys. I like what you're doing, I like you both personally and I know you're putting out solid work with is the most important thing. It's been great to see your progression as builders and as a company. Keep doing what you're doing, it's working.
Thanks man. It's no secret that we think very highly of what you do too. Are you going to post on the smoked out board?
The baby is great, it's been an amazing trip the last 8 months. She has the key to my heart.
I really didn't have an idea what this was going to be like, other than the time spent at the bench making file dust, but I'd say the big surprise has been realizing how difficult it is to make money selling $6000 bikes. Our cost per bike is pretty high and it still takes us a long time to finish a bike. We are working on efficiencies to make this better, and we are in a better place than we were three years ago, but we still have a way to go.
In Signal's "smoked out" thread I've let Matt do most of the talking and he has answered all the questions regarding how Signal came to be. About how we do this and that and what makes us stand out in this competitive industry. In his answers I have been reminded how uniquely solidified our partnership has become over the last 3 years. It's interesting how you can work next to someone for so long building a product that is evidence of the shared passion and reasoning behind your company, yet answering a few questions from your peers puts words to this adventure that were only sensed before. It's been a great ride so far and many times I wonder if Signal would have ever got going if Matt and I had tried to make a go of it on our own.
I'll be honest and I hope it doesn't get me in trouble or cast doubt. I started building bikes because I was bored and needed more. I wish it was more romantic than that. I have loved bikes my whole life and have drawn a meager paycheck in the industry since I was 15 or 16 years old. But for some reason, working as a mechanic for years always left me feeling half-full and looking for another creative outlet. It was a rainy Oregon winter and friend in the same funk that became the beginning of Signal. It was not a full-bore endeavor to sign up with UBI or find an apprenticeship or any other means that would rush a process. It was simply a source of joy.
I never thought that Matt and I would someday be building frames professionally. All I knew was that I loved bicycles again!! Some people can get great joy out of simply riding a bicycle. Racing, touring, commuting. All they need to know is that the bike will go forward when pedaled. Designing and building frames turned out to be the source of creativity and intimacy that gave me new pride in my career in the bike industry. Learning new things, solving new problems, creating a unique "thing" that would not have otherwise existed was very rewarding. There was a time in art school when I was especially frustrated with finding worth in my paintings and my favorite professor told me that if I didn't push myself to finish a painting that it would never be enjoyed by myself or others, like having a great story that you never share. I think making bikes for people is sharing that story.
I just turned 31 a few days ago, reminding me that I have worked with bikes for half my life and I start to wonder if bikes will ever not be a part of my daily life. I ride my bikes everyday, but right now, if I don't turn on the torch or push a file for a few days I start to feel like I'm going backwards. I have lots of ideas for Signal's future and the bikes we will build for the years to come. Each one is new and inspiring and will make a great story.
Thanks for those who have chimed in and the questions that were asked. -Nate
Howdy Nate! (belated howdy), and I know you guys are busy with the show. I had come over here to inquire as to why I haven't been seeing posts from Signal. I had missed your entry to the S/O.
It is really cool when it doesn't happen the other-way-'round as far as putting those words together. Hope ya'll had a great show and both of yous check in here some more.
Wade and everyone who happens to still read our thread,
Thanks for the message. We chose not to go to the local show last weekend. The timing was all wrong for us this year, and the break was welcomed. It was cool to go to the show and see what was going on. Always good to see Mitch and Joseph and Tony and Jordan and Phil and Mike and... you get the point. The reason I've been a bit scarce lately is that my computer kind of crapped out on me. It's been frustrating to post any pictures and even opening programs was getting pretty ridiculous. I now have a new machine that is pure magic (macbook pro I5) so I'll be sure to try to add to the VS conversation more frequently. On a side note, it's kind of nice to not check the computer every day!
I thought I'd rescue this thread from the bottom of the heap with a re printed blog post. I know the buy local mantra is chanted a lot, but it needs to be.
I was invited to join a discussion with a local radio station last week. The station (Oregon Public Broadcasting) has a show called Think Out Loud every morning at 9:00am. The topic was the A&O cluster, which is a group of businesses that make and sell products for the athletic and outdoor sector (audio archive here). The big players in the market are of course Nike, Adidas and Columbia. But there are hundreds of other businesses that fit into this category, mostly apparel makers, bike shops, and bike makers like Signal. I got to meet Peter Kallen the design director at NAU clothing. I'm kind of still trying to figure out how Signal fits into the larger discussion. We make bikes, but we don't make bikes in Portland because Nike is here. It seems that the PDC is trying to group all of these businesses together to identify a market and new business trend that they can then promote. I suppose the attention can provide momentum to improve conditions for businesses like ours.
I feel like the cluster we really a part of is the bike industry, and in Portland there is a lot of room to promote this industry. There are no large manufactures of bicycles in Portland. I always wish we had our own Trek or Specialized. A successful company that was active in the national market and provided jobs here in town. It's hard to have this discussion without talking about domestic manufacturing. Most of the small builders like us make their own stuff. There are a few who contract out, but only one I know of that imports frames from Asia. Is there room for domestic manufacturing at a larger volume? China and Taiwan can kill us in price (and sometimes quality), but providing jobs here in the states should have some value too. The problem is that no one wants to pay the true cost of a product. "If I can get something cheaper, who cares where it is made?" I think we all should care. Being a citizen in our society means that we are more than just consumers. How would you feel if you went to work and found out that your company was moving everything you do to China because they can provide exactly the same service or product for a 60% reduction in price? It happens. If we demand the lowest price for a product as the only benchmark for making a purchase decision, we are just moving the wealth of our community out where it will do us no good.
I guess this is getting to be a rant. I'll stop there.
Buy local please.
Last edited by cardinal; 11-27-2010 at 05:30 PM.
I enjoyed reading your post, and I agree with you.
One of the phrases I have seen used on this forum from time to time is the phrase he/she "get's it". Usually it seems to be geared towards riding or using the bike for it's intended purpose, vs getting hung up on details like paint color, component choices, etc. On the one hand, I understand what they mean. On the other hand...I would submit that bigger picture, the consumers who are willing to pay for quality, for knowing the individual(s) who made what you are purchasing, for something made locally......in my opinion, those are the consumers who really "get it".
Great post. And keep making those great bikes.