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Thread: Boedie Cycles

  1. #1
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    Default Boedie Cycles

    I have considered writing a Smoked Out since I read some of the first ones. But then I thought, why jump through hoops for something like this? Why does it really matter? What will it accomplish? Why does anyone care about what I do? Hopefully the answers to these questions will unfold in my narrative.

    I started building frames in 2008; however, my interest in bicycles began over 20 years ago working as bike mechanic in my local bike shop during high school. I have always wanted to build bikes, but like so many of us, where do you begin? How do you find time, money, skills?

    In 2008, I was living in Seattle, working as a bike mechanic at Recycled Cycles. I was finally at a point in my life where I thought I could afford the UBI frame building course, so I enrolled in the brazing course. I came out of the course with a fillet brazed road frame, which I commuted on in Seattle just about every day and is still my current road bike. I named it the “Lithium Flyer,” because it brought happiness to me while riding - and because of rumors of lithium traces in the Ashland water supply.

    I really learned a lot at the UBI course and really debated over the TIG course vs. the brazing course. I chose brazing because of the low start up equipment costs, and I think because of an old love of lugged frames. If I had it over to do again, I would have gone the TIG route. Before I took the course I did a track dropout conversion on an old Trek frame. It took forever, but gave me a lot of good experience to reflect on in the class.

    I lived in Seattle for 3 years, and then fled the city as soon as my wife finished her graduate program. While in Seattle, I had the pleasure and opportunity to work for Steve Hampsten (in all my free time). I mainly built up complete bikes for Steve, but also built a few brazed racks. I learned a lot working for Steve, and in a lot of ways, wished I was still working for him.

    After completing the UBI course, I started building right away. I built quite a few bikes for friends and some for actual customers. I displayed at the Oregon Manifest one fall, and got meet a lot of talented builders. I was sandwiched between Winter Bicycles and Ahrens and felt like I was a little under-gunned. It was a great experience overall, but very financially taxing.

    I truly do enjoy building frames and when I hear folks say, “Follow your Dreams.” Well, this is my dream. I wished it was as easy as that. I have built around two dozen bikes, repaired many steel frames, and built a few racks along the way. I haven’t made a dime and have spent a lot of money on materials and tooling. I enjoy building different types of bikes, and always welcome a challenge. (Probably part of my profitability issue)

    I currently live in Whitefish, MT and still build when given the opportunity. I have only built one frame since the birth of my son a year ago. I sometimes wonder how many full time builders have children and how they stay afloat if they do. When you have a child, your priorities change quite a bit. I love my son, and consider him my best creation to date.

    I have had many jobs over the years and often get harassed about the number and diversity. Past jobs include, but not limited to- building rifle barrels, fixing espresso machines, manufacturing composting toilets, carpentry, landscaping, or trail work. I currently work for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks in the maintenance shop. I get to do quite a lot of fabrication in this position and spend a lot of time with the MIG welder. Those who MIG weld know that it is less than glamorous. It’s just a way to join metal and build stuff.

    I get a number of inquiries from people over the internet, but still have not sold a bike truly over the internet. After all, why would anyone buy a bike from Boedie Cycles in Whitefish, MT.? I feel like I always get the totally bizarre requests, like chariots or a full suspension bike for a 5 year old. I have had one lugged MTB frame show signs of cracking at the TT/HT lug. Luckily I caught it tuning up the bike and replaced the head tube at no cost for my friend.

    I have built bikes to display in bike shops in NC and NYC. No new business resulted from this. I decided to start doing bike repairs out of my shop last summer to help generate the funds to purchase a TIG welder. It almost worked, but ended up using the money to get me through the slow season at work. I have really struggled with paint finishes. The finish of the bike is so important. I have tried many finishers, but never am very happy with the results. I have a frame at Spectrum currently that I am pretty hopeful for. They really are good and produce beautiful frames. The only draw back is the long wait. When I get it back, it will be two months from when I sent it in. I was using a local “hot rod” finisher who did beautiful work. The only problem was the durability of the paint. I feel like I have not found the magical relationship with a finisher yet.

    One saying that has always rung true for me is, ”You get out of it what you put into it.” Whenever I put the energy into the business, I usually get something out of it. It’s just finding the time to do it. Building bikes is not the hard part for me- it’s the mental game of self worth that goes along with it and not being too critical on myself.

    I feel like I represent the majority of frame builders in the country. I am passionate about building bikes, but just too afraid (or maybe the word is realistic) to quit my full time job, which provides for my family. I considered selling all my equipment this last winter, but that thought makes me truly sad. I recognize that I am in this for the long haul, and just need to keep building a name.

    Thank you for reading,

    Chris Boedeker
    Boedie Cycles

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Hey there Chris,

    a lot of truths in your introductory statement that I can identify with. Kudo's to you for telling your particular version of the f'building journey, and congratulations on the birth of your son. Didn't know that you had become a father.

    Good to hear from you.

    Alistair.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Thank you Alistair!

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    I really enjoyed your story. I read "gritty passion" in your fabricating journey and "profound passion" in your family journey. Perhaps an investment of time and energy messaging to your audience with these two elements will inspire your audience to engage you in creation. These two passions are your "why".

    People buy your "why", not your "how" or your "what".

    Your story stirred inspiration in me.
    Thank you for sharing, Chris.
    "Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is "empathy", for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound, purpose‐larger‐than‐the‐self kind of understanding." - Bill Bullard.

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Keep plugging away Chris. Everything that is sustainable takes time to create. There are very very few instant successes.

    Jonathan

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Thank you guys! I always remind myself that hard work pays off. I hope to get into the shop more, as we figure out childcare and scheduling. This forum is a good way for me to draw motivation to keep building.

    Chris

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Great OP and story atmo. It reads like a good plan for folks who want to build frames but don't want to, or
    can't, leave their present routine for the unknowns that come with self-employment and the niche. Nice!

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    chris,

    --much like my first parachute freefall --- step out the aircraft door, no look-back / can't get-back, pull the rip and enjoy..
    couldn't wait to repack and repeat higher & longer..

    you will do fine, you have heart...

    ronnie with a smile

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Hey thank you Richard and Ron! I spend alot of time thinking and analyzing how other builders have made a living at building frames. Some come up with something truly novel/needed and market it correctly, some have a famous racing background, some have worked for other successful builders, some have a unique sense of design and eye for detail, and most put in the hard work and go through the necessary steps to succeed. One common denominator I see is folks "showing" up at bike shows and winning an award/recognition. Moving to northwest Montana was probably not my best bike building career move, but I know other builders that have made it living it remote locations. We do have a vibrant cycling community in Whitefish and I have sold more than a few bikes to folks here in the Flathead Valley.

    I can think of a million things I need to do to market myself better. Now I just need to act on them. Thank you to all the people who have answered my forum questions over the years. I try to recripricate whenever I am knowledgeable of the subject.
    Best,
    Chris

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    My friend Brendon has one of yours. It's gorgeous.
    Got some cash
    Bought some wheels
    Took it out
    'Cross the fields
    Lost Control
    Hit a wall
    But we're alright

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    nice write up mate and i can feel 100% from where your coming from, having a family (in my case 8 kids) and having to have a normal day job (well sort of normal) to pay the mortgage. keep plugging away at it as long as it brings you joy and pleasure thats what it´s about.

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Boedie View Post
    One common denominator I see is folks "showing" up at bike shows and winning an award/recognition.
    That's the lowest common denominator. Avoid it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Boedie View Post
    I can think of a million things I need to do to market myself better. Now I just need to act on them.
    Give yourself that recognition mentioned above atmo.

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Boedie View Post
    . After all, why would anyone buy a bike from Boedie Cycles in Whitefish, MT.?
    The same reason they buy from that guy in Bozeman, MT and for the same reason that people buy craft beer instead of something from Budweiser (Trek), Miller (Cannondale), or Coors (Specialized). I think on a basic level it's exclusivity and something that isn't marketed to the masses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Boedie View Post
    I can think of a million things I need to do to market myself better. Now I just need to act on them.
    What are those things?

    What types of bikes do you prefer to build?

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Thanks for taking the time to tell it like it is Chris. There are so many people in this world who have no vision and complain about how bored they are. You've taken your passion and done something with it. The process will lead to something, we will all enjoy hearing where this takes you.

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by chasea View Post
    My friend Brendon has one of yours. It's gorgeous.
    Thank you chase! Appreciate the comment.

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Mosley View Post
    The same reason they buy from that guy in Bozeman, MT and for the same reason that people buy craft beer instead of something from Budweiser (Trek), Miller (Cannondale), or Coors (Specialized). I think on a basic level it's exclusivity and something that isn't marketed to the masses.

    I like your analogy Todd!



    What are those things?

    For one, build more bikes. There is nothing more beneficial then a happy customer riding their bike and spreading the word. I have a few contacts/networks that I need to follow up on to get more bikes out there.

    Two, my website pretty much stinks. I realize that I have done little business solely through the website, however it is not how I would like to represent Boedie Cycles. I know quite a few graphic designers/website types, but I think I'm always hesitant to spend money on this.

    What types of bikes do you prefer to build?
    I like to build a variety of bikes. Sometimes I wonder if this hurts me by not specializing in a particular kind of bike. Cruisers are alot of fun, because you don't have to worry so much about weight, and you can get creative with lines and curves. Touring bikes are nice because of the practicality and adventure behind them. Whitefish is on two major touring routes, so we see alot of tourists coming through town- both on pavement and dirt. My go to bike lately has been my 29er. They are a great bike for the area and I have built several over the years. Dirt road bikes and light commuters are fun to build. I really like the bicycle as a commuter and used to commute by bike daily. Road bikes are my quickest builds (most of the time).

    I like to say that I prefer to build bikes that people pay me for......within reason. I declined a chariot build (think Spartan chariot). I hesitate when someone says that they have a concept that they want to discuss with me, but still listen.
    Last edited by Boedie; 11-25-2013 at 02:20 PM. Reason: poor computer skills

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Nice read and great phrases/thoughts on your story. Thanks for sharing and hope to see more coming!

    Cheers

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Boedie View Post
    Two, my website pretty much stinks. I realize that I have done little business solely through the website, however it is not how I would like to represent Boedie Cycles. I know quite a few graphic designers/website types, but I think I'm always hesitant to spend money on this.
    It looks like you are using a basic wordpress theme hosted on your own domain. It's fairly simple to a "designer" theme and you can buy them fairly inexpensively. Here are some examples: WordPress.com & ThemeForest. Originally, I hired a guy to do one domain I had for my law practice and he set it up where I managed everything afterward and could modify and add new content. Just to play around, I was able to copy that theme into another domain I had and redesign it for a different business. I use GoDaddy for hosting and they were able to walk me through that.

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    Thanks for the suggestions Todd. It has been a few years since I created the site with Wordpress. It looks like they have alot of new ones, so I will look into that. My wife used a Wordpress theme, hosted by GoDaddy for her business and was recently spammed with ads. She decided to redo it with GoDaddy to hopefully to hopefully avoid this in the future. Now that winter has settled in, I have some more time to work on this.

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    Default Re: Boedie Cycles

    In my experience, that's usually from not using private registration. If you don't use it, all of your info is available here: Whois boediecycles.com. I let some domains expire and once the private registration was no longer in effect, I got lots of spam to buy back my domain.

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