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Thread: Zanconato Custom Cycles

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    zank's Avatar
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    Default Zanconato Custom Cycles

    First off, a big thank you to Josh and Richard for allowing me the honor and privilege to kick things off here.

    I suppose I can trace my desire to build bicycle frames back to the 1993 Philadelphia Interbike show. I was a senior in high school and the bike shop I had grown up in and spent every dime of paper route money at invited me to attend with them. I had been riding a sweet 1981 Benotto that was handed down to me from my cousin in 1990, but walking into the hall and seeing all of the glitz and gleam was too much. Cliff, the shop owner and my teacher of all things cycling-tradition, directed me to the Carrera booth. He knew Claudio was my hero and the bikes were what he considered everything I would want and need. He was right. I ordered a Cassiopeia at the show. I loved that bike. I scrutinized every aspect of it, trying to figure out why Podium did what they did when making it. What I didn’t know at the time was that bike would become my muse years later.

    Like every other high school senior, I had my path in life all figured out. I would get my bachelors in chemical engineering, work in industry for two years, go back for my PhD in polymer science, go back into industry for five more years and then finish my career as a professor. Life intervened and things started chipping away at that plan. Two important things happened in January 1998 during my first senior year; I met my wife to be and I bought my first set of tubes and lugs. The only things that really prompted me to buy them were I wanted a cyclocross bike and I wanted to figure out how bikes were put together (in classic engineer style, right?). My dad and I, with a little help and a borrowed jig from a local guy who made some frames in the mid-80s, built the frame that summer and it still hangs in my dad’s shop.

    Fast forward a bit. I married Rebecca. I never went to grad school in polymer science. I steadily moved up the ranks at GE Plastics, moving more and more away from technical roles and into business roles. I threw an 18 month stint at Seven Cycles in there for good measure before going back to GE as a field marketing manager. My last role in the plastics biz was as a regional account manager for PolyOne. All the while, I was building frames and really honing my style, which prompted me to write this about the Carrera. The order book for the frames was growing, but I was also working towards going back to school. In 2008, I had a choice. I could go back to school or go full time with the bikes. With Rebecca’s support, I chose the bikes. She rocks.

    I get the “why do you do this?” question a lot. It’s pretty simple really.
    I like the people. Throughout my career, all of my jobs have been about relationships, especially this one. Cyclists are a passionate and inquisitive bunch, which leads me to…
    I like to teach.
    I like to work with my hands. My time at the bench is sacred.
    I like to figure out ways to makes things more elegant.
    I like running my own business. It’s as much a creative endeavor as the frame building itself.

    I’m pretty open about everything. I enjoy debunking the junk. I’m happy to talk about anything that’s on your mind, from the craft to the business strategies and tactics. Don't hold back. The hard questions are usually the most fun. Fire away.
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    Mike Zanconato

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    The bikes I saw at NAHBS prove you made the right choice. They're something for us all to aspire to.... customers to attain and builders to build to.

    It must have been a hard decision though, looking at it dispassionately, a certain income against a very uncertain one, coupled with family responsibilities. I say this as someone who was always good with their hands but got suckered in by the lure of filthy lucre....

    One question though..... can we see Zancs built from other materials in the future?

    PS...You don't need good luck.

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Thank you for the kind words!

    Regarding materials...I hope so. There are a couple of other materials that appeal to me. I would only add another material choice if it worked into my philosophy of creating functional and elegant bicycles, and it won't be before I am proficient in the construction process. Adding additional material options won't be for me-too reasons. It will be because I think there will be a real benefit to my customers. In general (this goes for all industries and products I research and buy), I don't like overlap in product lines. I know clear delineation between models is not often possible. But when things are so fuzzy that it leaves customers scratching their heads, things have gotten off-track. Make sense?
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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Mike,

    Hi, first of all, thanks for all the great pics (new shop, brazing, etc.) and your always informative posts. Two questions:

    1. I see that ATMO has the new Gaulzetti, so what other framebuilder's bike would YOU pay your own money for to own and ride and why? (which builder, what type of bike, what material, etc.)

    2. When are you and the other New England clan gonna sponsor a local framebuilder show in, say Springfield, MA or thereabouts ?

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Good stuff, as always from you.
    My question is, do you build yourself new bikes frequently, or do you have one or two that are long term rides? Do you have any other bikes from other builders?

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by riceburner View Post
    Mike,

    Hi, first of all, thanks for all the great pics (new shop, brazing, etc.) and your always informative posts. Two questions:

    1. I see that ATMO has the new Gaulzetti, so what other framebuilder's bike would YOU pay your own money for to own and ride and why? (which builder, what type of bike, what material, etc.)

    2. When are you and the other New England clan gonna sponsor a local framebuilder show in, say Springfield, MA or thereabouts ?
    Good questions!
    1. Yes! I am saving for an aluminum road bike from Dario. That probably gives away one of the materials I hope to work with some day!
    2. I have been talking to a few other like-minded individuals who want to see some type of event happen. But it wouldn't be exactly like what you are thinking. We hope to have some details fleshed out soon.
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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by edoz View Post
    Good stuff, as always from you.
    My question is, do you build yourself new bikes frequently, or do you have one or two that are long term rides? Do you have any other bikes from other builders?
    I try to build bikes for myself for the long haul, but I also try new things with my own bikes. Catch 22, right?

    At the moment, all of the bikes on the wall are zanks.
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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Zank - Enough about you, can we talk about your super hawt wife now?
    "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: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Feel free to discuss amoungst yourselves.
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    Mike Zanconato

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    a finish painter can make or break the preceived quality image, for a prospective client ---- your preception, please ....

    luv, your class, wormnship and kindness --- yo lady too,

    ronnie

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Given that you seem like such a down to earth guy:

    do you feel weird having your name all over the place?

    This is something that I think might bother me, but I can also see why other people like it. This is not intended as a judgment about the narcissism or not connected with branding.

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Are you still planning a visit to Mpls. this spring? Why the new floor in the shop?
    Curt Goodrich
    www.curtgoodrich.com

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    yo zank -
    what do you know now that you wish you could have known last month, or five years ago?
    i'm talking about the framebuilding stuff. and the answer doesn't have about a process at
    the bench, or a tactic that's related to running of the business, but it could be atmo...

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Mike ~ cool of you to do this. I have a shortlist of bikes I am lusting over. Speedvagen, Gaulzetti and a Zank. The SV and 'Zetti are lusted after as a new race bike. The Zank is coveted as a "forever" bike and that leads to my question. I know alot of people are like me and have to scrimp and save to get there dream bike. Do you ever get apprehensive when someone recieved there bike ? Know what I mean?

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by ron l edmiston View Post
    a finish painter can make or break the preceived quality image, for a prospective client ---- your preception, please ....

    luv, your class, wormnship and kindness --- yo lady too,

    ronnie
    Without a doubt, my friend. The paint is the first thing people see and, from my experience anyway, what people go over with a fine-toothed comb. It's a difficult thing when somebody finds a flaw on a part of a frame that I don't have much control over, except to tell the supplier that it has to be redone. That goes for any of the subcontractor work. Another example is the engraver I use. I've had to scrap entire lots of lugs and BBs because the logo was not where I wanted it or the finish work was not up to my standards. The worst thing I can possibly hear is that a rider sold a bike to another rider because the subcontracted work wasn't deemed to be up to the level of the rest of the frame. Ouch. Let me tell ya, that hurts. And it really haunts me to think of how many sales I've lost that I don't even know about because of similar situations. I want to control everything, but I know that's not possible. I can only trust that my decisions moving forward are the right ones based on what I've learned so far.

    Thanks for the question! Thoughts?
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    Mike Zanconato

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by JBLANDE View Post
    Given that you seem like such a down to earth guy:

    do you feel weird having your name all over the place?

    This is something that I think might bother me, but I can also see why other people like it. This is not intended as a judgment about the narcissism or not connected with branding.
    Thank you. I'm pretty even-keeled I suppose, though Rebecca might challenge that from time to time.

    I guess I don't give it much thought. I feel somewhat detached from my nickname as it pertains to the bikes and cycling in general. That's me, in this environment. I didn't intend for it to work out that way; it just did. As you might imagine, "zank" has been passed down through the generations in my family. My grandfather was "Dr. zank" when he was in the OR. My father's brother got the nickname in that generation and I picked it up in this round instead of my brother. Anyway, I didn't expect the nickname to become more synonymous with the bikes than my actual last name that is on the bike. It's funny to hear my nickname as a "thing" other than me. I get a kick out that. And it provides me with a bit of a buffer from the rest of my life.

    But I will say this. I get goose bumps when my name comes up in the same sentence as some of the builders that I have admired and emulated for so long. I kind of do a virtual "look around the room" as if to ask "you're talking about me?". It's pretty cool, but something I'm not yet used to. And there's a part of me that doesn't want to get used to it, because I fear that will lead to complacency.

    Thanks for the great question!
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    Mike Zanconato

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Goodrich View Post
    Are you still planning a visit to Mpls. this spring? Why the new floor in the shop?
    Hi Curt! Yes, I hope so. Rebecca and I are still trying to make something happen. I'll let you know.

    Ahhh, the floor. The floods of the past few weeks exposed some "vulnerabilities" in the structure. The landlord took things quite seriously and acted pronto. He determined that the best course of action was to add a couple of inches of stone and four inches of concrete to shore it up. My landlord rocks.
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    Mike Zanconato

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE View Post
    yo zank -
    what do you know now that you wish you could have known last month, or five years ago?
    i'm talking about the framebuilding stuff. and the answer doesn't have about a process at
    the bench, or a tactic that's related to running of the business, but it could be atmo...
    Breaking out the big guns...

    five years ago
    I wish I had done a real business plan and learned how much it actually cost to put a frame together. I was turning over cash thinking I was making money.

    three years ago
    I wish I had known how understanding most people are when sh*t hits the fan. Instead of setting unrealistic goals, missing them, and upsetting my customers, I should have been more forthcoming about my situation and figured it out from there with each of them. It's something I still work on everyday.

    six months ago
    I wish I had known that setting up a new shop is a lot tougher and time consuming than I thought it would be.

    I'm going to revisit this after I give it more thought. This was a tough one.
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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by zank View Post

    I'm going to revisit this after I give it more thought. This was a tough one.
    i'm only picking on you because you're a neighbor but...

    there's another question i wanna throw out atmo -

    what is the task in framebuilding that most confounds you , and has it always been that one,
    or would the answer change at different times in your career? ps mass fickung rocks, huh.

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    Default Re: Zanconato Custom Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE View Post
    i'm only picking on you because you're a neighbor but...

    there's another question i wanna throw out atmo -

    what is the task in framebuilding that most confounds you , and has it always been that one,
    or would the answer change at different times in your career? ps mass fickung rocks, huh.
    I'm loving the answers almost as much as Richard's questions! Thanks for doing this guys!

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