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Thread: Crumpton Cycles

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    Default Crumpton Cycles

    Nostalgia brought me to cycling but I couldn't say exactly what keeps me here. It's better that way cause if I have that answer, I'm likely to muck it up. Born June '66 to Jean and Noel Crumpton of Reno Nevada, some of my earliest memories were of the many bicycles parked in the garage. My father, a member of the Reno Wheelmen at the time, collected BMW motorcycles and racing bicycles. Bianchi mostly. I was the youngest of 5 and by the time I was old enough to have any appreciation for the stuff, the bikes had long since disappeared leaving me with the faint memories associated with that classic road scene.

    Of the 5 kids, I seem to be the only one with this connection to our past. Although my oldest brother has the stories of reckless tandem attacks on Geiger Grade, dad getting him his first job in a Reno bike shop... Fast forward to 1979, my father dies never getting a chance to see his youngest (I'm 14 at the time) slowly making his way into the scene. So this is what really brings me here, we can skip all the "why I wanted to build".

    While it was a good 10 years from the 'I wanna build' light bulb moment to actually holding a torch, preparations began early by getting a job in a bike shop. In hindsight, it couldn't have been a better shop. TechnoSport was a high end tri and racing shop run by Kevin Bice. Kevin was a trend setter in building low spoke count trick aero road wheels and early in the game of US outsourcing production of house branded bikes. His were called Intertech. This name still lives on Tom Teasdale's list. So I was getting great exposure to bike design, fitting and the likes early on in my industry experience.

    A few years later I am with REI running the bike shop in Austin when I see a job opening in the Eugene store. Eureka! That fun some guys poke at Portland and all its builders? That's nothing new. In '94 my opinion was, in Oregon, there must be a frame builder on every corner and If I got myself there, I would be that much closer to building. I took advantage of REI's transfer and after a few months found myself with Hans and Allen Schultz of Greengear (BikeFriday). Hans was a great guy to work with on the floor. And while I couldn't say he taught me to build bikes, he did teach me to use the shop tools of the trade. After hours I was free to run-a-muck with everything from the TIG torch, engine lathe to the powder coat booth. But I'd have to say the biggest thing I came away from there with was exposure to dialed in processes and efficiency in work flow. Those guys are JIT masters.

    By '96 I am back in Austin running repairs for local masters and tri-athletes out of my garage. I get a torch and some files and start building. No big deal, fillet brazed mostly. Some lugged. Road, TT, track and even a few MTBs. Those early days were fun. No pressure, just trying to do a better job each time. All learning. Those first few frames were all balancing acts and bar clamps. Its amazing how little tooling you actually need to build and adequate bike frame. A few frames down the line I had a few chunks of aluminum machined to create an interesting fixture that converted from BB to DT and ST holding to then attaching the rear. I was still balancing HT to DT. Still a little later I made a full plate fixture not unlike the Nortac. The reality is I am hobby building at that time, just gotten married and feeling the need to do better for the future. So off to the corporate world for a stint.

    Years go by while I am buried in a cubicle wondering how could I make it full time in frame building. Mind you this is before the next round/resurgence of the current scene. It was happening but I didn't know it. I was busy with the job and working in the shop when I could. In 2000 there was no way I could be convinced that anyone new could make a go of it in traditional steel and actually make a living. With carbon fast on the rise in the production world, I hedged my bets and began researching the stuff. I spent a good 2 years learning as much as I could about advanced composites not really knowing exactly where it would go. Most everything lead to the idea of expensive molds and presses and little option to customize geometries. There was a couple examples of "tubed" carbon bikes, not really all that ideal as they were built around high cost tooling for joints and still not fully customizable.

    Take a step back, remember you're a frame builder. This approach reminded me that what I needed to do was stick tubes together. It didn't hurt that Dedacciai had just started shipping a complete carbon rear stay kit including dropouts. So I took a traditional frame building approach. I mitered tubes, tacked them in a fixture and then completed the joining but instead of a torch I used dry carbon clothe and laminating epoxy. I consolidated the joinery with a vacuum bag. I was riding that first prototype in June of '03 and had my buddies on them over the next few months. Some of you guys may remember the old hydromedia site? You may remember me posting pics of that bike there.

    A couple of years on, NAHBS 1.0 serves a the official launch Crumpton Cycles. A full time commitment. 6 years later I guess I can say it is a success. I have spent that six years refining a rather elementary process, still not perfected but with each frame, a little better. This is what continues to drive me. If I thought there was no room for improvement, I think I'd find it hard to go into the shop each day and produce a status quo.

    I hope this look into my history was interesting for those who took the time to read it. It rarely gets discussed as much as what's in front of me today. Lately I feel like my past deserves more of my own attention. If we don't know where we have been, how do we know where we are going?
    Nick Crumpton
    crumptoncycles.com
    Instagram
    "Tradition is a guide, not a jailer" —Justin Robinson

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    nick,

    what percentage your bikes are road vs. cross. vs. tt?
     

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by crumpton View Post
    Years go by while I am buried in a cubicle wondering how could I make it full time in frame building. Mind you this is before the next round/resurgence of the current scene. It was happening but I didn't know it. I was busy with the job and working in the shop when I could.
    Nick,

    I sit here, in my cubicle, reading your story...thinking about what I'll be doing in my shop tonight. What type of white collar work did you do? What was the tipping point for you: getting so fed up with your job you resigned and made "the bike thing" work, or was the framebuilding growing to a point where it was an easy decision?

    Thanks,
    Tony
    Anthony Maietta
    Web Site | Blog | Flickr
    "The person who says it can not be done, should not interrupt the person doing it."

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    The BF alumni crew is a pretty deep field-

    You mention looking at your own past- in a bike sense are there early ideas/ concepts that you moved away from (for whatever reason) that you are interested in revisiting now that you have a wider range of experience?

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    You mentioned focusing on carbon as a way to find a niche for yourself as a custom builder in a time when the steel custom marketplace was fairly saturated. You certainly were right on in seeing the rise in the demand for carbon. Seems to me the other side of that coin, though, is that there is a vocal, almost fanatical, buying community for custom steel. Does that exist in the same way for custom carbon? And as local bike stores increasingly carry the pro-sponsoring, high-end carbon bike brands, is it becoming more or less difficult to find the people who appreciate the custom option for carbon?

    Mike
     

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    I don't have a question at the moment but I'm sure some will come to me........... but I just wanted to say you do very nice work that I think you should be very proud of. Keep it up.


    dave
    D. Kirk
    Kirk Frameworks Co.
    www.kirkframeworks.com


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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    thanks for signing up, Nick! how many steel bikes did you make? just curious - Garro.
    Steve Garro, Coconino Cycles.
    Frames & Bicycles built to measure and Custom wheels
    Hecho en Flagstaff, Arizona desde 2003
    www.coconinocycles.com
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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Nick,

    Your frames are awesome, and you are a cool guy to talk to. I lingered in your NAHBS booth for an unreasonably long amount of time.

    I don't have a question here, except to say that I would really appreciate the variety of seeing some of your work in FNL.

    OK, I do have a question(s). How do your customers perceive your pricing? And who are your customers? Are they previous custom buyers coming from steel or titanium, or are they buyers of stock carbon seeking custom? The "custom premium" does not factor into your prices, compared to say a Dogma you are actually cheaper. That is not the case generally for production vs. custom in steel or titanium.
     

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    First, Thanks for the opportunity to share with you guys. Thanks in advance for all the kinds words and support. It means a lot.

    Quote Originally Posted by DarrenCT View Post
    nick,

    what percentage your bikes are road vs. cross. vs. tt?
    Darren-
    95% road. Cross for most of the remaining.

    Quote Originally Posted by anthonymaietta View Post
    Nick,

    I sit here, in my cubicle, reading your story...thinking about what I'll be doing in my shop tonight. What type of white collar work did you do? What was the tipping point for you: getting so fed up with your job you resigned and made "the bike thing" work, or was the framebuilding growing to a point where it was an easy decision?

    Thanks,
    Tony
    Tony-
    For most of my white collar crime days, I was a Technical Marketing Engineer for Cisco Systems. In that roll I provided technical support to global marketing and sales, acted as liaison between marketing and engineering, did large scale broadband connectivity proof of concept and white papers. Also, my favorite work in those days, I did competitive analysis! The product of that was for both engineering and marketing.

    As good as I was at that job, I never felt like it was for me. So the tipping point was my personal emotion. The rest was luck and timing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Estlund View Post
    The BF alumni crew is a pretty deep field-

    You mention looking at your own past- in a bike sense are there early ideas/ concepts that you moved away from (for whatever reason) that you are interested in revisiting now that you have a wider range of experience?
    Eric-
    Not really but I will say I’ve dreamed of making correct looking lugged track bikes since long before they were cool. Like real Italian and NJS stuff. Maybe someday.

    Quote Originally Posted by VA_MEL View Post
    You mentioned focusing on carbon as a way to find a niche for yourself as a custom builder in a time when the steel custom marketplace was fairly saturated. You certainly were right on in seeing the rise in the demand for carbon. Seems to me the other side of that coin, though, is that there is a vocal, almost fanatical, buying community for custom steel. Does that exist in the same way for custom carbon? And as local bike stores increasingly carry the pro-sponsoring, high-end carbon bike brands, is it becoming more or less difficult to find the people who appreciate the custom option for carbon?

    Mike
    Mike-
    Actually I focused on carbon because I thought there was no market for steel and what little there was had been well taken care of by the real “pros”. The truth was there was a growing market, I just didn’t see it coming because I was too deep in my world. But in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t see it for what it really was. Make sense?

    I wouldn’t say there is a fanatical faction of custom carbon buyers but I will say it draws awesome “repeat offenders” (return customers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Kirk View Post
    I don't have a question at the moment but I'm sure some will come to me........... but I just wanted to say you do very nice work that I think you should be very proud of. Keep it up.


    dave
    Thanks Dave. You are still one of the best looking builders.

    Quote Originally Posted by steve garro View Post
    thanks for signing up, Nick! how many steel bikes did you make? just curious - Garro.
    Steve-
    I count 27 between ’95 and ’99 and then 3 more during my current carbon gig. None in a few years now though. I do itch for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by nahtnoj View Post
    Nick,

    Your frames are awesome, and you are a cool guy to talk to. I lingered in your NAHBS booth for an unreasonably long amount of time.

    I don't have a question here, except to say that I would really appreciate the variety of seeing some of your work in FNL.

    OK, I do have a question(s). How do your customers perceive your pricing? And who are your customers? Are they previous custom buyers coming from steel or titanium, or are they buyers of stock carbon seeking custom? The "custom premium" does not factor into your prices, compared to say a Dogma you are actually cheaper. That is not the case generally for production vs. custom in steel or titanium.
    nahtnoj-
    Thanks for the kind words. Not sure how customers perceive pricing other than no one questions it. They are a good mix in terms of cycling background but mostly males between 45 and 65yo I am developing quite a strong following of women. Especially 5’2 and under cause I have a strange take on how to build those bikes and apparently they like what I do with them(the bikes). As for pricing, I do no price based on the market but rather a on COGS and margin. Should I raise my prices? I dono.
    Nick Crumpton
    crumptoncycles.com
    Instagram
    "Tradition is a guide, not a jailer" —Justin Robinson

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by crumpton View Post
    Thanks Dave. You are still one of the best looking builders.
    Well thank you Nick. I think you too are very handsome.

    Dave
    D. Kirk
    Kirk Frameworks Co.
    www.kirkframeworks.com


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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Kirk View Post
    Well thank you Nick. I think you too are very handsome.

    Dave
    can't this wait?

    hey nick, why aren't there MORE guys doing custom carbon? is the niche that small or is the barrier to entry too high? just curious...
    Steve Hampsten
    www.hampsten.blogspot.com
    "hey, we got grenades!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by hampco View Post
    can't this wait?

    hey nick, why aren't there MORE guys doing custom carbon? is the niche that small or is the barrier to entry too high? just curious...
    Steve-
    I am perplexed myself. I expected more by now. I mean the tech is available and not that big of a deal. Could be just a lack of information?
    Nick Crumpton
    crumptoncycles.com
    Instagram
    "Tradition is a guide, not a jailer" —Justin Robinson

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by crumpton View Post
    Steve-
    I am perplexed myself. I expected more by now. I mean the tech is available and not that big of a deal. Could be just a lack of information?
    In a sense that's kind of ironic, since you give a seminar on it at NAHBS. Not to say you can learn the niche in an hour.
    Anthony Maietta
    Web Site | Blog | Flickr
    "The person who says it can not be done, should not interrupt the person doing it."

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Nic, I've got some followup questions. For now, mind talking about what a Bad A$$ you are/were on the track and how racing influnced design?

    XXX Josh

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    yo nick - thanks for doing this atmo.
    what's next?
    you're at about 40 or so units per annum (that's latin for per year) iirc.
    do you expand production, raise the prices, and/or brand the name?
    also, what are your feelings wrt a helper?
    are you a loner type or can you imagine another voice in your personal space while you work?

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Nick, lots of people (myself included at one time) think of carbon fiber as something only the big companies do with 6 or 7 figure investments in tooling and research. Giants like Trek and Specialized put a lot of effort into convincing the masses that all that engineering and equipment are required to build with carbon. Do you have any thoughts about this perception, and do you feel like it affects your business at all? Have you ever felt like small carbon builders are passed over or not given full consideration because of marketing from the big boys?
    Also, do you ever want to build mountain bikes or because it sounds like you have a pretty wide fabrication skillset, combine carbon with another material, like steel or ti?

    The stuff you had in Richmond was amazing. You are pretty much the reason I don't think of carbon as a big company material anymore.
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Hi Nick,

    Great to read about your journey to where you are today and I wish you continued success. Did you notice any measurable benefit from the Editor's Choice award back in '08 or does that sort of 'mainstream' recognition cause more headache?

    Thanks for gettin' smoked!

    Jayme
     

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by crumpton View Post
    Most everything lead to the idea of expensive molds and presses and little option to customize geometries. There was a couple examples of "tubed" carbon bikes, not really all that ideal as they were built around high cost tooling for joints and still not fully customizable.

    Take a step back, remember you're a frame builder. This approach reminded me that what I needed to do was stick tubes together. It didn't hurt that Dedacciai had just started shipping a complete carbon rear stay kit including dropouts. So I took a traditional frame building approach. I mitered tubes, tacked them in a fixture and then completed the joining but instead of a torch I used dry carbon clothe and laminating epoxy. I consolidated the joinery with a vacuum bag.
    Hi Nick, really appreciate your doing this. Two questions:

    1) Is it useful, in an instructive way -- or, for that matter, even possible -- to make any generalizations about the different joinery methods for a carbon frame? I.e., cost of entry notwithstanding, are there reasons why mitered/tacked/laminated tubes might be a preferable method versus molded "monocoque" (sic) bladder whoozamawhatsits, or the glued-tubes-&-lugs that you've discussed elsewhere on this forum?

    2) Irrespective of the market opportunites, is there anything carbon offers -- let's say "performance-wise" -- that can't be achieved with another material? (And vice versa.)

    Thanks.
     

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    Default Re: Crumpton Cycles

    Yo Nick - Big fan, first time caller.

    I know you've done some contract building in the past, are you still doing it & plan on continuing? What are your thoughts on the economics of one man shops building outside their own brand?
    "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: Crumpton Cycles

    I was born in Reno too. You are closer to the future than most of us know. What about mountain bikes? Do you want to teach frame building classes?

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