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Thread: Ellis Cycles

  1. #21
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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by conorb View Post
    Hey Dave,

    I really enjoy looking at your stuff.

    As you made the transition from Waterford to self-employed what was your process of going about setting up your business?

    Sure you had to come up with a name, design some decals, get a website up and running, etc., etc., but how did you go about getting the "word out?"

    Additionally, did you work with a business consultant or anyone to provide advice on branding or marketing?

    Lastly, you mentioned a drawing program. I presume this is for frame design. Is this something that you designed and built yourself or are you using an off-the-shelf program?

    Thanks,

    Conor
    Conor,

    Thinking back to the start of Ellis Cycles is a bit of a blur, those first couple weeks and months were a chaotic. I was literally on the phone the day I left Waterford, finding suppliers, getting some of the first parts and tools I would need. Thankfully, I had a good friend who had always promised to buy one of my frames if I ever set up my own shop. He got a call the first night and he didn't let me down. So before I even had the business set up, I had at least 1 order!

    In the first weeks I had contacted an attorney to help me draw up and file for Incorporation. I also knew I needed to have liability insurance set up before anything went out the door. I managed to find a salvaged steel table that worked perfectly as an alignment plate, I just needed to have some parts fabricated for the bottom bracket post and other parts. I enlisted a couple friends to help get the 500 lbs+ plate into my basement and onto it's final spot on the pedestal I had built, not easy!

    When I contacted Don at Anvil about a fixture, he had quite a backlog of orders before he could fill mine, so I ended up borrowing an old fixture from a friend of a friend in Milwaukee. I had never met Jason Sanchez before, but I'm glad I did. Not only did I borrow his fixture, he's also the guy who paints all my Ellis frames.

    My brother Steve is my secret weapon when it comes to the website and decal design. I had originally wanted to do a much more elaborate head tube logo with an iris, and it just never worked out. I even worked with an artist on this, but it never really came together. Steve designed the current head tube logo as something simple so we could make up a few t-shirts to wear at local events, and it's stuck.

    Getting the word out was/is the HARDEST part of getting the business set up. I set up a blog pretty early on, and there was word of my split that popped up on the Serotta forum as well, so that got some notice. My brother got the website set up pretty early on as well, and he's done an awesome job of making sure it gets found too. I left Waterford about a month before the NAHBS, so I knew there would be no way to display there, but I set my sights on the Cirque du Cyclisme in June as the first "show" I would attend. It was serendipitious that I would have a really fancy customer bike to display there as only the second Ellis that I had built and it won for "Best Track frame". I also had the luck to meet James Lalonde at Ben's Cycles where I was working part time. He asked if I would be interested in sponsoring him for the upcoming cross season and I hesitantly agreeded. Little did I know that James is fast! He went on to take the Singlespeed Cross National Championship in Kansas City. Finally, to follow that up with my first NAHBS in 2009 and the award for "Best Lugged" has really helped get me on the radar for more and more folks. I'm really glad they're liking what I put out there.

    OK, I've rambled on long enough, to answer you final question, I use BikeCAD for drawing all my frames.

    Cheers,
    Dave

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by RudAwkning View Post
    Dear Dave,

    4 questions for you:

    1) What is your fascination with those overengineered, underpowered paperweights known as Campy Delta brakes?

    2) Do you prefer to "scorch out with your torch out", or "style out with your file out"?

    3) How close did you come to "firing" me?

    4) Where's my frame?

    cheers,

    Me

    PS. Has the inspector ever rejected any of your work?
    1. Campy Delta brakes are one of the sexiest bike parts ever!
    2. ???
    3. I'm thinking about it right now!
    4. It's at Jason's, I just sent you pictures yesterday... Now picture me as Napoleon Dynamite, "idiot", aaghh!

    I sneak the stuff by while she's sleeping!

    phpaa7xc8AM.jpg

    Dave

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Dave,
    I am curious about the intellectual/emotional process that leads a builder to work in a single medium (presuming there is a process). I'll admit staright-up that I am an Ellis honk (own #27 and #34) and love the ride of steel, but with the availability of other materials, why only steel and would you consider working with aluminum, titanium, or carbon?
    I am not who I am.

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by armagh View Post
    Dave,
    I am curious about the intellectual/emotional process that leads a builder to work in a single medium (presuming there is a process). I'll admit staright-up that I am an Ellis honk (own #27 and #34) and love the ride of steel, but with the availability of other materials, why only steel and would you consider working with aluminum, titanium, or carbon?
    "There's no bad materials, only bad applications", quote from a Serotta engineer.

    Man, I've had to think about this one a bit. To tell you the truth, I've spent the last 13-14 years getting really good at brazing steel frames and I can't imagine trying to replicate that level of skill at welding or putting together carbon. I don't have a problem with any of those materials, but I do feel like steel stacks up pretty favorably against them or I wouldn't keep building steel frames.

    I did try to learn welding while I was still working at Serotta, and while I could get tubes stuck together, they were anything but pretty. Something about welding vs. brazing is very "left brain, right brain". When I braze, I hold the rod steady and move the flame around to flow whatever filler I'm using. With welding, you hold the torch really steady and move the rod. What kept happening to me was, I would just move the torch a bit and it would stick the tungsten to the tube, then I had to stop, break off the tip, sharpen it up and start over. Then you add in the Tig foot pedal and I'm all out of sorts! I'm sure it's like anything, if I had stuck with it, I could probably be welding really well by now, but it just never really held the appeal of lugs and brazing. What I love about a lugged bike is, I just need to do some tiny modification to the lug and suddenly it's the only one of it's kind in the world. I like that level of individuality.

    Cheers,
    Dave

    p.s. I have the utmost respect for great tig welders and carbon builders, it's just not my thing!

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Having worked at both Serotta and Waterford how in your mind do the companies differ in design philosophy and work environment.

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


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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Kirk View Post
    Having worked at both Serotta and Waterford how in your mind do the companies differ in design philosophy and work environment.

    dave
    Hey Dave,

    First of all, let's start by saying both of these places are factories, and they both have/had a factory type of environment. I'm not sure what things are like at Serotta since they moved into the new factory in Saratoga, but I can comment on the South Glens Falls days and there we had a group of cyclists who worked side by side with non-cycling factory guys. There was always some tension between the two groups, but at the end of the day, we were a bike company and I felt like being a cyclist was valued there.

    When I moved on to Waterford, the only guy I really met during my visit was the head builder, John Sotherland. He obviously came into the industry from a cycling background, as did Marc Muller the head design guy, but neither was really a rider anymore. What I discovered when I started working at Waterford was a work environment that was somewhat hostile to cyclists and the balance of cyclists to factory guys was skewed pretty heavily in the factory direction. To use my example from above, I felt like having cycling experience was not very valued at Waterford. I managed to get by pretty well simply because I was already skilled at building from the experience I'd had at Serotta, but I often think if I'd started out at Waterford I'd never have progressed as a builder the same way. Once John S. left, I found other employees at Waterford were very protective of their specific set of skills and were not open to teaching the "new guy" how to do their specific jobs and even more reluctant to try any new ideas for making their product either better or easier to make.

    I did have some cyclist co-workers over the 8 years I worked at Waterford, but by the time I left, I was really the only guy who rode a bike on a regular basis. We would have "Factory Rides" where local clubs would start a ride at the shop and get tours, but I was the only employee taking part in the rides.

    OK, now that I've written all this, it sounds like I'm full of sour grapes for Waterford, but I don't feel that way, I had a job building lugged frames there for 8 years and I was given quite a bit of latitude on how I did this by the end of my time there. From a culture standpoint, I've definately worked with some bike guys at both Serotta and Waterford who didn't cut the mustard when it came to getting work done, so I'm not imagining a shop full or bike nerds as some sort of utopia. It's more a matter of whether your cycling experience was viewed as a positive or a negative.

    From a design standpoint, I learned a heckuva lot more about touring bikes at Waterford than I'd ever been exposed to at Serotta. I think Serotta's are still viewed more as a "performance" or race bike while Waterford has a bit more of the cyclo-tourist vibe. I remember building CRT's at Serotta and looking at them like a touring bike, and once I got to Waterford, I was building real touring bikes!

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Hi Dave, first of all let me say that I'm glad you're and independent now. I love your style, your stuff looks amazing.

    I have a question, if everything works out the way you hope, what will Ellis Cycles look like in 10 years? What will you build, how will you spend your day and what things do you hope to do as your business continues to develop?

    Also, a second question, how do you like to ride? What type of terrain, type of ride or situation gets you out on the bike?

    PS, I'm assuming if you really like Delta brakes as much as RudAwkning says, stopping isn't a big priority:)
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wages View Post
    Hey Dave,

    First of all, let's start by saying both of these places are factories, and they both have/had a factory type of environment. ..........................d, I was building real touring bikes!
    That's interesting.

    I'm sure I must have told you at some point that when I started at Serotta I was very active racing and looked forward to the hammer-fest rides that no doubt went out of the shop after work. The only thing being hammered at the time was PBR's and the empty cans served well as ash trays. I was shocked that almost no one there rode.

    Over time it changed and we made a strong effort to hire cyclists whenever we could and it made a huge difference in productivity and QC. Those that came to work there that knew what a Serotta was certainly felt the pressure to live up to the name. It feels like at this point Serotta may have moved more in the Waterford direction with fewer guys that ride and ride hard.

    In the end it makes a difference doesn't it?

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


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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Dave

    Your bikes are beautiful and you have a wonderful eye for detail. If I ever stop by your shop and see you what type of beer should I bring? :)

    Ryan
     

  10. #30
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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by rphetteplace View Post
    Dave

    Your bikes are beautiful and you have a wonderful eye for detail. If I ever stop by your shop and see you what type of beer should I bring? :)

    Ryan
    Hey Dave,

    Jumping on the beautiful bikes bandwagon; do you have a special process or tool(s) that you like to use for doing your stainless work? Everyone seems to have a different technique and I'd like to hear about yours.

    Knowing your favorite beer is fine too. I guess.

    Conor
     

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl S View Post
    Hi Dave, first of all let me say that I'm glad you're and independent now. I love your style, your stuff looks amazing.

    I have a question, if everything works out the way you hope, what will Ellis Cycles look like in 10 years? What will you build, how will you spend your day and what things do you hope to do as your business continues to develop?

    Also, a second question, how do you like to ride? What type of terrain, type of ride or situation gets you out on the bike?

    PS, I'm assuming if you really like Delta brakes as much as RudAwkning says, stopping isn't a big priority:)
    Thanks for the love Carl.

    Ellis Cycles in 2020? I would love to be building about 40 steel frames a year. Hopefully I'll be moved out of the basement and into a new garage shop. The previous owner of out house poured a 24' wide by 32' deep concrete pad for a garage and then never managed to get it built. That would make a nice 2 car space with plenty of room left for a nice framebuilding and woodworking shop. My other goal is for the business to become profitable enough that my wife Lisa can finally leave her annoying job and find something more fulfilling. She's sacrificed as much or more than I have for Ellis, and it would be nice to pay her back.

    As for how I'd spend my days, I'm guessing it won't be that much different from the way I do now. I'm trying to get better at the business side of things so I'm spending less time on accounting and book keeping and more on the building, that's a definite goal as well.

    I probably ride 90% of the time solo, and it's usually just road rides in the countryside around Waterford. After being here 10 years, I'm still finding new roads to explore. I've also rediscovered mountain biking after not having a mountain bike for about 5 years. I was intriged by the 29'er thing and so I built myself a one and rode it a bit last year. I like it, but I'm not as fearless as I was at 19, now all I can think about is what happens if I crash and break something! Not a good scenario for a solo framebuilder.

    The fact of the matter is, I've never even ridden the Delta brakes, I've decided they're a bit too precious, so they're only coming out for shows! Peter Weigle had a good idea for that show bike, he suggested I find used versions of the Campy Record stuff and just hang the used stuff for riding and keep the NOS stuff for shows. I haven't done exactly that, but I have been riding that frame with some slightly more modern parts I had lying around.

    Cheers,
    Dave

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Kirk View Post
    That's interesting.

    I'm sure I must have told you at some point that when I started at Serotta I was very active racing and looked forward to the hammer-fest rides that no doubt went out of the shop after work. The only thing being hammered at the time was PBR's and the empty cans served well as ash trays. I was shocked that almost no one there rode.

    Over time it changed and we made a strong effort to hire cyclists whenever we could and it made a huge difference in productivity and QC. Those that came to work there that knew what a Serotta was certainly felt the pressure to live up to the name. It feels like at this point Serotta may have moved more in the Waterford direction with fewer guys that ride and ride hard.

    In the end it makes a difference doesn't it?

    dave
    It does make a difference, your comment reminded me of something else. I still amazed at how many employees we had at both Serotta and Waterford who smoked. Just seemed strange at a bike company that little clusters of guys would cut out of work 5 or 6 times a day for smoke breaks.

    My other favorite memory of non bike guys is about Ti stems and Steve the polisher from Serotta. When we built Ti quill stems, I used a chemical/electrical etcher to mark the extension limit line. We had a small, crude fixture that I would roll the quill of the stem across and the line would "magically" appear. Well, I must have been really busy or something, so they decide to have Steve run the etcher for a new batch of stems. Paulie, the production manager, (also a non bike guy) sets him up with the parts and away he goes. It's not until after he's finished that someone notices he's etched them all upside down. Now no bike guy would have done this, we know where a stem is inserted and how it works, but this guy didn't know a stem from any other widget. I could go on and on, but stuff that would be seem obvious to me would be completely foreign to someone with no bike experience.

    Cheers,
    Dave

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by rphetteplace View Post
    Dave

    Your bikes are beautiful and you have a wonderful eye for detail. If I ever stop by your shop and see you what type of beer should I bring? :)

    Ryan
    Ryan, thanks for the nice compliments!

    You're more than welcome to stop by anytime, but don't bring beer, I'm not a drinker. I like Mexican Coca-Cola though! It's chock full of the white stuff!... Pure sugar.

    Dave

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by conorb View Post
    Hey Dave,

    Jumping on the beautiful bikes bandwagon; do you have a special process or tool(s) that you like to use for doing your stainless work? Everyone seems to have a different technique and I'd like to hear about yours.

    Knowing your favorite beer is fine too. I guess.

    Conor
    Also, thanks for the nice comments!

    As for my stainless technique, that depends, are you asking about prepping and carving the lugs, or more about brazing? For carving I know alot of guys use jeweler saws and all kinds of tiny files, I do 98% of my carving with a dynafile, die grinder, and larger (6" at least) files. I finish the edges off with 80 grit emery and then it's ready to braze. Sometimes I'll scuff up the inside surface of the lug, but I think this is probably superstition more that anything. I braze all my lugs with 56% silver and Gas Flux Type "T" flux. I'd never seen Type "T" before I worked at Waterford and I don't think too many folks use it, but we would really slather the frame up with it when we were using stainless lugs. The saying went, "flux is cheap compared to taking a frame apart". What the huge amount of flux allows me to do is, I can work the lug gently and if I need to cool it off quickly or I'm just running out of flux, I just "wash" some more down from the extra I've applied. It really helps with heat control.

    Oh, and I also use a Gas Fluxer, I always have.

    Cheers,
    Dave

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Hi Dave,

    Beautiful bikes. The integrated Di2 frame is really next level.

    What's your favorite part about the build process? Design and conception? Mitering tubes? Brazing? Finish work? Final build out? Are there any specific points when you feel really lucky to be a framebuilder, or feel like hanging it up and going back to working for the man?

    I commend you on that 953 NAHBS bike. It takes a special kind of patience and motivation to do all that polish work. Any tricks you're willing to share?

    Thanks!
    - Ben
     

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by bfarver View Post
    Hi Dave,

    Beautiful bikes. The integrated Di2 frame is really next level.

    What's your favorite part about the build process? Design and conception? Mitering tubes? Brazing? Finish work? Final build out? Are there any specific points when you feel really lucky to be a framebuilder, or feel like hanging it up and going back to working for the man?

    I commend you on that 953 NAHBS bike. It takes a special kind of patience and motivation to do all that polish work. Any tricks you're willing to share?

    Thanks!
    - Ben
    Ben, thanks for the love, that Di2 bike is really one of my favorite recent bikes too, a little more stealthy that the 953 frame, but just as cool.

    As for the build process, I guess there are a few bits I like less than others, but I build each frame one at a time, so even if there's a tedious bit, I can just move through it without the promise of doing 2 or 4 more of whatever operation it is. When we would do production runs of Riv's or Herons at Waterford, it could get pretty tedious doing all the finishing in one shot.

    I feel lucky to be a framebuilder every time I make the commute down the stairs to my basement or go for a ride on one of my frames! Never going back to the man!

    The 953 polishing is triple secret! Firstly, I have to be super careful when I'm brazing, because any bit of extra silver will be visible on the finished bike, and then when I'm finishing I use the finest emery cloth I can get away with, something like 220 and then 320 so there aren't deep scratches in the polished surface. Then it's off to the polisher for the final super high gloss polish. He's the same guy I worked with at Waterford, and he does amazing work. There's the secret!

    Cheers,
    Dave

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wages View Post
    ...Then it's off to the polisher for the final super high gloss polish. He's the same guy I worked with at Waterford, and he does amazing work. There's the secret!....

    Cheers,
    Dave
    Names Wages.

    We want names.

    We want dates.

    We want pictures.

    The who, the what, the how.

    We want it all.



    conor
     

  18. #38
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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wages View Post
    Ryan, thanks for the nice compliments!

    You're more than welcome to stop by anytime, but don't bring beer, I'm not a drinker. I like Mexican Coca-Cola though! It's chock full of the white stuff!... Pure sugar.

    Dave
    Holy crap, I thought I was the only non-drinker in the cycling world. I like Mexican Coke, but I'm kinda partial to Dr Pepper, especially the stuff that comes from the Dublin, TX bottling plant. It's got real sugar, too:)
    I really love the bilam 29er that I saw in FNL a few weeks ago. I'm getting ready to build myself a new one, and when I saw your pics I started cutting some sleeves for mine.
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
    Summoner of Crickets
    http://edozbicycles.wordpress.com/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/edozbicycles/
    In Before the Lock

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by conorb View Post
    Names Wages.

    We want names.

    We want dates.

    We want pictures.

    The who, the what, the how.

    We want it all.



    conor

    The polisher is all mine and you can't have any!!!

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    Default Re: Ellis Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by edoz View Post
    Holy crap, I thought I was the only non-drinker in the cycling world. I like Mexican Coke, but I'm kinda partial to Dr Pepper, especially the stuff that comes from the Dublin, TX bottling plant. It's got real sugar, too:)
    I really love the bilam 29er that I saw in FNL a few weeks ago. I'm getting ready to build myself a new one, and when I saw your pics I started cutting some sleeves for mine.
    Thanks, I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Let's just say you owe me one of those special Dr. Peppers!

    Cheers,
    Dave

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