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Thread: Dornbox Bicycles

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    Default Dornbox Bicycles

    First off, what an awesome opportunity and honor it is to be invited to post on Smoked Out. Then, as if there’s no pressure for a newb like me to post after any builder on this site, Gaulzetti just posted a sick a$$, eloquently written, philosophical neo-manifesto just before I sat down to scratch out my "by comparison" children’s story…. Nice!

    My name is Chris Dornbach of DORNBOX Bikes. I find beauty in things that are useful. I love to build things. I love bikes! All bikes! As a builder, I strive to insure that my bikes embody the passion from which they’re made and above all, that they perform immaculately. By disposition, I’m more of a doer than a contemplator. But I am not a hasty person. I prefer to do everything right or I’d prefer to not do them at all. This doesn’t mean that everything I do is perfect… but I do try. And once I commit, it’s done.

    So why did I choose bikes...? The roundabout story: Besides the obvious, since I was kid I have always loved bikes, and that I have gradually come to despise the commoditization of mass produced bicycles; I’ve spent my life chasing titles and trying to find something to do that the world would views as “legitimate”. I’ve always been an active person so as a youth, the thought of sitting in a classroom for an additional 4 years after graduating high school didn’t sound too appealing. Desert Storm had just kicked off and I’ve always had a patriotic streak…. After 7 years of military service, I separated and started a long chain of truly great careers. I held at least three completely different titles that included the term “Engineer” before I ever set foot into a college. Then one day while riding my mountain bike, I tried to do a flip off a ramp without a helmet…. After I woke up, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands and came to the realization that I despised my job. So, I sold my bikes (including a custom Harley Davidson I built) and went to college with the intent on becoming a metal shop teacher. I got an Architecture degree instead.

    Bikes, right! Well, after feeling that I had properly vetted what the world wanted me to do or be, I decided that I was finally going to chase my passions: Beer, bikes, and self-employment! I’m making a good run at the first two…. So, after deciding that I wasn’t going to start a brewery, I ran down to the local C.C. and enrolled in a couple welding courses to brush up on an old skill set. While enrolling, I pulled some extra cash out of my student loans to cover a frame-building course. Originally I was planning on attending a titanium course at UBI. In the interim, I started working with a friend at his fab shop where he introduced me to the finer points of GTAW and exotic metals. I was pretty good right off the bat (structurally speaking). Then while waiting for the UBI class, I came across Toby at Hot Tubes. And after meeting with him in person, I scheduled a class ASAP.

    While at Hot Tubes, I ended up meeting Tony Maietta, Zanconato, and Mike Flanagan. Tony and I actually have a few close friends in common, small world. Anyway, after meeting a handful of builders, I realized that I really liked the crowd. So after finishing the class, I sold half my organs and leased my first-born son to a nice couple in China (or was it India) and started building bikes for friends. While I’ve only completed 10 frames so far, everything I’ve built rides awesomely including #1.

    So in short, I chose to build bikes because firstly, they’re in my blood. Secondly, while designing sustainable houses and buildings, I became increasingly sensitive to the environmental impacts of American consumerism which intern fueled my own self deprecating disgust for falling prey to the bike industries marketing ploys of transforming bikes, that are being churned out of foreign markets for the sole reason that they can be produced more cheaply, into a expiring commodity that should be replaced every couple years. Thirdly, damn I love bikes and all things that are remotely associated with bikes including the bugs that get stuck in my teeth while I’m grinning ear to ear while riding. Dirty chains however… they’re cool to look at… in a pile… in the corner of my shop. And I hate squeaky rattling noises when I ride... but everything else I love. Lastly, I have a lot to offer and enjoying being a positive steward to the industry.

    Fore!
     

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Dornbox Bicycles

    Chris,

    Can you describe the type of bikes that you have made, aspire to make going forward, and the progression thus far from #1 to 10?

    Thanks,

    Gary

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    Default Re: Dornbox Bicycles

    Gary,

    Thanks for the question. So far I've been mostly focusing on performance oriented road bikes and 29ers but as long as it's going to be ridden, I'd love to build it. I really enjoy objects that serve as art but have a much larger purpose. As I go forward, I'd have to say that I'm not aspiring towards a certain type of bike as much as I am aspiring to forming a team with a charity and or youth component. My wife was a national champ and spent sometime at the training center in colorado so she's solidly behind me on this one as well. I think she's really fired up to get involved with the coaching and or management aspect as too. Good thing, I'm more of a creative type, she's the organized brain. Although, with that said I do have a growing list of CX race bikes and a couple comfort oriented CX or 29ers that I'm excited to get going.

    As for the progression from 1-10.... I have nothing against cold setting a frame but I've been focusing on welding frames into alignment and have been getting really good results. Although, it does take me several short runs to complete a bead. I think I'd have to say that for now, I'm focusing on achieving amazing beads akin to those made by many of the great builders on this forum while having everything come out spot on.... I think that's a while out though.

    Many thanks!
    Chris
     

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    Default Re: Dornbox Bicycles

    hi chris, and welcome aboard atmo.
    i can't tell from the site so i'll ask here -
    is dornbox bicycles a full time gig?
    and ps what ethnicity is dornbox?
    i'm guessing it's not from ellis island.

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    Default Re: Dornbox Bicycles

    and , yeah - i have another question atmo:
    what aspect of your framebuilding do you trade upon to write orders?

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    Default Re: Dornbox Bicycles

    Nice! As a "Dornbach", I'd like to think that I'm a well oiled German machine but I'll stick with a fun loving German Irish from California instead. I'm a full time builder but that comes second to being a full time daddy. At the same time we were delivering our first (and currently Bridget and I were discussing the finer points of a launching a bike company with the idea that while I was laying the foundation, I could raise the next champion!

    This is all really surreal by the way.... This is one of the reasons why I love the frame building community atmo.

    Thanks Rich!
    Last edited by Dornbox; 10-12-2010 at 12:47 PM. Reason: I'm a horrible typist which often results in multiple spelling and grammatical errors.
     

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dornbox View Post
    Nice! As a "Dornbach", I'd like to think that I'm a well oiled German machine but I'll stick with a fun loving German Irish from California instead. I'm a full time builder but that comes second to being a full time daddy. At the same time we where delivering our first (and currently Bridget and I were discussing the finer points of a launching a bike company with the idea that while I was laying the foundation, I could raise the next champion!

    This is all really surreal by the way.... This is one of the reasons why I love the frame building community atmo.

    Thanks Rich!
    apologies for the oversight atmo -
    i didn't realize that the business name and the christian name were spelled differently.
    reading comprehension is not my forte.

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    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE View Post
    and , yeah - i have another question atmo:
    what aspect of your framebuilding do you trade upon to write orders?
    I often reflect and think, "what the hell am I doing... 10 frames and I started selling at number 3". Then I remember that I have a 20+ year past which includes a fair amount of metal work and fabricating. I also went back to school to brush up on my welding prior to setting out and I know what a bike should feel like.

    I guess I've always been a professional. I've always been passionate. While many of my friends and past colleagues may have thought I could be a little crazy at times, they always knew that if I was doing it, I was doing my best and in most cases that was pretty damn good. They believe in me. Even friends I hadn't talked to since high school believed/believe in me. So up until this point I've been drawing on friends, past acquaintances, word of mouth, and really just the way I come across when I talk to people. Also, I'm not afraid to say that I'm not an expert at fit and I'm new but I know I can design and build something that, by the numbers and through conversation, will fit way better that a generic frame and I draw a lot on my Architectural past to figure out the clients needs. Thus far my friends and clients have all been stoked with their bikes! Don't get me wrong, I know I have a TON....TON...TON... to learn but I stand behind my bikes and I take huge pride in my craft. This isn't a hobby for me, I'm setting the foundation for a new life. I draw from that and regardless of my shade of green people can see the warm fire beneath and go for it. That and the fact that I'm just damn cheap right now probably doesn't hurt too much either atmo.

    I hope that wasn't too cryptic...?
     

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    Default Re: Dornbox Bicycles

    Chris, I saw you making your first frame and witnessed some of the very normal trials and tribulations that go into making a frame from a box of tubes. Now that you're 10 frames in what is the biggest thing you've learned over these first few? Have you had any "a-ha" moments where you learned how to do something more accurately and efficiently? What is your number one goal for your brand over the next 12 months?

    I compliment you for starting off on the right foot. I remember during your class I had a conversation with you about liability insurance. You already had a quote and were going though the process of procurring it. It was evident you weren't taking it lightly and had respect for the trade. Thanks.
    Anthony Maietta
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    "The person who says it can not be done, should not interrupt the person doing it."

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    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE View Post
    apologies for the oversight atmo -
    i didn't realize that the business name and the christian name were spelled differently.
    reading comprehension is not my forte.
    I'm not sure that the christian name is really that present.... I think it's only on there once or twice at best. I still enjoyed the question.
     

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dornbox View Post
    I'm not sure that the christian name is really that present.... I think it's only on there once or twice at best. I still enjoyed the question.
    it's in the emails we have exchanged atmo.
    i went back between posts and saw it after the fact.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonymaietta View Post
    Chris, I saw you making your first frame and witnessed some of the very normal trials and tribulations that go into making a frame from a box of tubes. Now that you're 10 frames in what is the biggest thing you've learned over these first few? Have you had any "a-ha" moments where you learned how to do something more accurately and efficiently? What is your number one goal for your brand over the next 12 months?

    I compliment you for starting off on the right foot. I remember during your class I had a conversation with you about liability insurance. You already had a quote and were going though the process of procurring it. It was evident you weren't taking it lightly and had respect for the trade. Thanks.
    Tony!

    Right off the bat I have to say that my biggest, massive, 100,000 pound gorilla moment was in your shop a few weeks ago. When we were talking about fixtures and how things were going for me when I mentioned that I was completely miffed by my rear triangles. I swore everything was perfect but one side's miters where always a little different then the others. Then you looked at me and said " you know that the stays flex a little when you're mitering them (one side gets pulled and the other pushed) and you could/should correct this by offsetting your fixture a little". I think I shed a tear at that moment. Prior to that I had spent days cussing at my frame jig, my mill, myself, and questioning God as to why he had forsaken me all over that tiny discrepancy.


    As for the next 12 months, I'm really trying to focus on refining my process in my shop (make a couple fixtures etc.) and to get my frames out competing (sounds arrogant I'm sure). I have several friends that are very gifted riders/athletes, a couple past pro rider connections from high school and through my wife, and I'm not a total slouch on a bike either, that I'd like to beg or bribe into competing on one of my frames. Dreams.... Yes, but there is some meat there and in the long run it all works towards getting something charitable/community oriented going and that is part of my 5 year plan.


    As for the insurance, thanks! Like I said, I'm building the foundation for a new life. It's hard to spend money when nothing's coming in but... you got to. That was apparent after talking to you and other builders as well about the subject.
    Last edited by Dornbox; 10-12-2010 at 12:50 PM.
     

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    Chris,

    I'm sure you're aware that there's no shortage of framebuilders so my question is why should somebody buy a bike from you? In other words, what do you bring to the "table" that makes your bikes special? This is not meant as a gotcha sort of question. I'm just always curious as to what motivates someone to go into business.

    What are your bicycle industry influences? In other words, why have you designed and built these 10 bikes the way that you have? I'm not asking about tig vs. brazing. That's just sticking tubes together. I mean deeper stuff.

    Given that you're new at this, what sort of benchmarks do you use to decide something will work or is good enough? Again, I'm not looking to trip you up here. Just looking to elicit insight that might be of interest to the public.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Goodrich View Post
    Chris,

    I'm sure you're aware that there's no shortage of framebuilders so my question is why should somebody buy a bike from you? In other words, what do you bring to the "table" that makes your bikes special? This is not meant as a gotcha sort of question. I'm just always curious as to what motivates someone to go into business.

    What are your bicycle industry influences? In other words, why have you designed and built these 10 bikes the way that you have? I'm not asking about tig vs. brazing. That's just sticking tubes together. I mean deeper stuff.

    Given that you're new at this, what sort of benchmarks do you use to decide something will work or is good enough? Again, I'm not looking to trip you up here. Just looking to elicit insight that might be of interest to the public.

    Curt thanks for the great question and there's no worries about hitting me too hard. I'm much older than people think and have a decent skin. As for the "there's no shortage of framebuilders" question. I think the answer (void of style and specialty) is the same for everyone. Wether I go to Richard, IF, Black Sheep, Jones, Kirk, etc. I'm going to get a great bike. The same can be said for any industry. Why I choose one bike shop or builder or architect over the other is that I believe in that person, I like their personality and believe in them and their product and want to take a vested interest in his or her future. When I ask people to buy my frame I'm asking them to believe that my primary goals are to make them quiver with excitement every time they think about riding their bike, that I'll be there for them down the road, and that in the end I'll be investing in the cycling community as a whole to help insure that that others will get the same experience (regardless of the builder they choose). And while currently, I may just be aspiring to be the best "there's always room at the top".

    Why do I build the way that I do: Many of my influences have come vicariously through my wife and many are my own. I highlight "performance" in what I do and I feel that fit is a huge factor in achieving it but not everything. For my wife at 5'3" she won Nationals on an actual 53cm Colnago (sold as a 50 or 51) when what she needed was a 49-50 TT ... and couldn't even put two full water bottles on it or any other frame she's ever owned. Not to mention the whole handling and comfort issues with riding a bike that large. Me I've got long legs and a short body. Every time I've purchased a bike it's been a huge dilemma and the fitting have always sucked which has inspired me to buy another bike the following year. I never purchased a new gruppo for an old frame. I have spent hours riding everything under the sun. Through riding, building, and getting my head around fit and geometry, I've designed/adopted a philosophy ( I'm sure others have had the same thoughts long before me) that a taller (based on a specific rider), shorter frame creates a nice laterally ridged platform that handles with great spirit and comfort. I design my head tubes, when applicable, to what I would consider a medium height for comfort and all day go go but still allow for a fairly aggressive position in the drops. I prefer to keep my road bike stays as short as possible because it makes for a bike that jumps up the hills when I say go and descends like it's on rails -atmo.

    Good enough is something I aspire to reach. For now, when a client comes back to me with a grin, is glowing about the ride quality of the bike and that they love everything about it, and that how after only 15 minutes of riding it it feels like they've owned it forever.... That's good enough. For now.
    Last edited by Dornbox; 10-12-2010 at 02:48 PM. Reason: Clarifying a couple points for... clarity!
     

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    chris,

    luv your philosophy & technique --- great response ... ronnie as a potential new customer and rider can digest and "comfy" with..
    why i ride what i ride & believe in ...

    look forward to austin -- my best,

    ronnie
     

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    Quote Originally Posted by ron l edmiston View Post
    chris,

    luv your philosophy & technique --- great response ... ronnie as a potential new customer and rider can digest and "comfy" with..
    why i ride what i ride & believe in ...

    look forward to austin -- my best,

    ronnie
    Ronnie, Thanks! I'll be the fool with the big grin at the micro sized booth with my one frame! I look forward to seeing you there. Besides, bikes and Austin just go together. Jester, Courtyard, Terrace, Toro.... Ahhhh, my legs are quivering with joy and pain from the memories.
     

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    Default Re: Dornbox Bicycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Dornbox View Post
    I often reflect and think, "what the hell am I doing... 10 frames and I started selling at number 3". Then I remember that I have a 20+ year past which includes a fair amount of metal work and fabricating. I also went back to school to brush up on my welding prior to setting out and I know what a bike should feel like.

    I guess I've always been a professional. I've always been passionate. While many of my friends and past colleagues may have thought I could be a little crazy at times, they always knew that if I was doing it, I was doing my best and in most cases that was pretty damn good. They believe in me. Even friends I hadn't talked to since high school believed/believe in me. So up until this point I've been drawing on friends, past acquaintances, word of mouth, and really just the way I come across when I talk to people. Also, I'm not afraid to say that I'm not an expert at fit and I'm new but I know I can design and build something that, by the numbers and through conversation, will fit way better that a generic frame and I draw a lot on my Architectural past to figure out the clients needs. Thus far my friends and clients have all been stoked with their bikes! Don't get me wrong, I know I have a TON....TON...TON... to learn but I stand behind my bikes and I take huge pride in my craft. This isn't a hobby for me, I'm setting the foundation for a new life. I draw from that and regardless of my shade of green people can see the warm fire beneath and go for it. That and the fact that I'm just damn cheap right now probably doesn't hurt too much either atmo.

    I hope that wasn't too cryptic...?
    smoked out ----
    all of ya need to be english lit profs at some preppy college ----" if the worm turns wrong" ---- your great...

    ronnie
     

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ron l edmiston View Post
    smoked out ----
    all of ya need to be english lit profs at some preppy college ----" if the worm turns wrong" ---- your great...

    ronnie
    If I were to teach english, the world would be one extremely long eloquently verbose run on with horrible punctuation and full of unadulterated creatively intended misused words. But there are some smooth operators here on the V atmo.-Chris
     

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dornbox View Post
    If I were to teach english, the world would be one extremely long eloquently verbose run on with horrible punctuation and full of unadulterated creatively intended misused words. But there are some smooth operators here on the V atmo.-Chris
    no one can dangle a participle better than the V salon everyman atmo.

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    Default Re: Dornbox Bicycles

    I have to get out to the shop to assemble and ship a bike as well as run some errands (T shirts for the Expo). I'll be off line for a few but I'll be back later this evening. -Chris
     

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