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Thread: Foresta Frames

  1. #1
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    Default Foresta Frames

    Foresta: Craig Ryan

    In the framebuilding world, I'm one of the new guys. It's a place every framebuilder has to go, a place established builders may hardly remember, and a place you don’t want to hang out long. Posting after Mike Zanconato, and before all the others to come, is an honor. It’s hard to believe actually. Mike is pure inspiration to me. This is my story; forgive me if I ramble.

    The internet has changed framebuilding, especially in how it’s learned. I am an “internet framebuilder.” Big statement, but I think there are quite a few of us out there. Good or bad, it comes down to the person doing the building, and I'm hoping I'm one of the good ones. I like to document everything I do in my blog. It may be the teacher in me, but I get a lot of enjoyment sharing. I hope to help others get started with the building process, and set a good example through my work. My message is “You can do this, but do it right.” Hopefully, someone will read my blog and slow it down, get it right. I wish I knew more people who were following the same path and blogging as they go. I'd enjoy watching. Some of the pro's do it well, but the little guys are harder to find.

    I am a teacher, it is how I define myself. I find peace amongst teenagers. As I approach retirement age, it's hard to imagine spending my life any other way. Teaching art has provided many opportunities to me, and is largely responsible for my “can do” attitude. I developed the curriculum and taught the photography program at our school for 15 years. I was very heavily into the darkroom for my personal work and still have a darkroom in my home. I switched over to drawing and painting when it all started changing and the supplies and cameras weren't quite the same. The last time I used my darkroom was for a large multiyear project I did shooting roadside memorial crosses with a 4x5 pinhole camera on sheet film. I got a couple of shows out of it, and am very proud of my work with it. But that's a whole different story.

    I was born in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin along Lake Winnebago, and remember my first Schwinn Collegiate. In high school during the bike boom I moved up to a Gitane Interclub, bought some tools and from that point have done all my own wrenching. An Atala with chrome lugs followed, then a '73 Colnago. While in college at Beloit I rode the roads of Southern Wisconsin with buddies and am proud to have been a part of Zucchini Bike Shop. Back in the day I was one with my Emily K's and riding was my life. In '78 I first envisioned building a frame while living in Oregon. I'd picked up one of the first Trek frames before moving out west, and vividly remember having to stack it on the bottom of the pile whenever we loaded the van for races. I was working in a bike shop and saw a lot of nice west coast builders work, but a lack of money, focus, and opportunity kept framebuilding from happening. Many years went by, until at some point I realized I could do this, and a lifetime of experience with bicycles helped give me the start. Or maybe I had something to prove? Most people don't know I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. It's not good, and it's been a battle I've had to overcome. I have joint damage in my hands and feet, but I work around it and my meds control it. It's just one of those life things we all face sooner or later. If you make it to 55 and it’s the worst thing you’ve faced, life is good!

    I just did it. I just started building frames. Got some tubes and did it. That is how someone with no personal connections to the bicycle industry starts building frames. It'd be great if we could all say we worked at xyz bicycle company for a number of years; I have a career, and to be honest, this started as an art project. The information is out there if you look, so I made a drawing, got a torch, some files, and prep tools... it went pretty well, so I built more. And now I've built quite a few more, bought more tools and it's going really well. Scary? Maybe, but don't confuse me with one of the guys who took a class, made a web page and hung out his shingle, or gave bikes with no brakes to all his friends for barter, or is going “Leonardo” inventing a better bicycle. I’ve come to realize framebuilding starts with the rider and getting the pieces in the right spots. Good design starts with the intended purpose. I believe there is a right way to do things and it’s not always apparent until you’ve done it wrong. I am looking forward to building nice frames, for a long time. The name I put on my bicycles is Foresta. It was totally a whim, and I love it.

    I've yet to sell a frame. I haven't felt it's time yet. I've been working hard at getting better, and I am very close. I didn't start building frames to go into business, so until now I've just bided my time, and built. Selling them seems to make sense. After all, how long should I keep cutting up perfectly good frames? My joints are strong, my tubes are straight, my design is improving. Something I've given a lot of thought to, but at any moment am very unsure of. The future will tell. For the time being, my Mission Statement will guide me and I'll keep building.

    You don't have to look far to see my mentors, and I'd like to thank them for everything they don't know they've done for me. For a builder like me, learning the way I have, it's the little things that define a difference. There is no doubt I would not be where I am except for the excellent example set by other builders. And perhaps it is for this reason I have been so reluctant to market my work. There is a standard being set, and the bar is very high. I'm a bit competitive, I put a lot of effort into my work, and I want to be one of the best.

    Thanks for reading, I welcome your thoughts. Keep in mind I teach all day, so am away from the computer for extended periods.
     

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Craig,

    if and when you decide to tell everyone you are ready to sell frames, how many do you think you could do in a year and maintain your career and home life?

    Jonathan

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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Wow, that was wonderful. Your self-awareness, your approach to learning this craft and your appreciation of what truly matters in building a frame are all so refreshing.

    Good luck. I'm looking forward to seeing you continue to work towards your goals. I'll be checking out your progress.

    Uh, a question? OK, how do you think you'll know when you're ready to sell your first frame?
    GO!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Jonathon and David, thank you for the compliments! It sure didn't take long to come up with a question. It's hard to work intensively in your "off" time and keep the family happy, much less put the right kind of energy into a job. I'm lucky, the kids are grown and out of the house, no grandkids yet, Susan works many evenings, and she's just a super supportive better half. I get teased by her a lot, but she understands it's what I enjoy. At least I'm not down in the Silver Dollar Bar. Keeping balance is hard. I do know I've given up a lot of riding time to work in the shop.

    When I start selling my work I will first have to worry about getting the orders! But if the demand was there, I expect I could produce two dozen. I do have 11 weeks off in the summer!

    I'll know I'm ready to sell my first frame the day I buy the insurance! But really, it's the day I look at my work and know.
    Thanks for asking!
    Craig
     

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Ryan View Post
    For the time being, my Mission Statement will guide me and I'll keep building.

    so rawesome right now atmo -


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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Reminds me of that old commercial "We will sell no wine before it's time". Props to you for not throwing up a cool website and charging out the nose for your 3rd frame.
    That was a really nice frame you had at NAHBS, and if you feel that's not good enough for the public, then I shudder to think what kind of sweetness you'll be producing when you open up shop.
     

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Quote Originally Posted by edoz View Post
    Reminds me of that old commercial "We will sell no wine before it's time". Props to you for not throwing up a cool website and charging out the nose for your 3rd frame.
    That was a really nice frame you had at NAHBS, and if you feel that's not good enough for the public, then I shudder to think what kind of sweetness you'll be producing when you open up shop.
    You know, I've already cut that one up. Looked good inside too. I do think that one was about where I need to be.
    I've got 4 sets of tubes I'm lining up to build. If all is good, it will be a good indicator.
    Thanks! Craig
     

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    a figure of speech --- the mature / ventage builders of the "framebuilder forum" , preceived by ronnie --- seem to have apprenticed or started from ground zero, full time relative to "smoked out" ---- a seemingly full time at carreer professional, gravitating to their love and / or passion calling..
    is this do to economy, client attitude / preception change or norm change in society...

    ronnie
     

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    I admire your blogging as a progress tracker. Many times I wish I had taken detailed notes while building frames, there must be some loss. Imagine how your blog will look to you years from now, it will be like a photo album and I am sure it will make you smile.

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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Nice post, thanks Craig. I'm in that spot at the beginning, thinking about buying some tubes and taking a whack at it. Kind of a weekend/spare time thing. e-richie linked your mission statement in another thread and it really resonates with me - I'm a learn-to-do-it-right-or-go-home kinda guy as well.

    Has there been any point at which you've become disillusioned (for lack of a better word) with your choice to become a framebuilder?
     

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Hi Craig,

    Great story you have there. Are you completely self taught? I suspect that as a teacher you really know how to get to the bottom of a process.

    Another question I have is, of those chopped up frames in the bucket, how many were fully functional?
     

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    interesting. should make a great retirement enterprise.
    im probably around the same age.
    i wish you the best in retirement and the continuing enterprise.
    enjoy it.

    give some local guys race bikes once yr secure in the building.
    helps to work out details i thk.
     

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by John M View Post
    Hi Craig,

    Great story you have there. Are you completely self taught? I suspect that as a teacher you really know how to get to the bottom of a process.

    Another question I have is, of those chopped up frames in the bucket, how many were fully functional?
    John, I am completely self taught. I've never even watched another person braze except for videos. It's also why I've kept it simple and have focused entirely on lugged go fast bikes. I'm not sure being a teacher helped, my strategy was/is to read it all and absorb separating the bullshit out.

    Along the way I've chopped up different ones for different reasons. My second try never made it past the main triangle and it was devastating. Since then I've had two others front triangles that came out with a twist, so they never went further. I've ridden most of what I've built, then moved the parts to the next one. A couple I finsihed, hung up as I started the next, then never got to it again. I've painted about 10.

    It's very easy to get disillusioned in this process. It's been very expensive. The learning process costs money. No way around that one. I don't enjoy seeing builders at odds with each other. You almost have to lay out your stake in one camp or another. When Garro, Walker, Sachs and a couple of others left a popular place, so did I. Other times builders remain very quiet. I have to remind myself, these are people out there making income. They have a right to keep their cards close. If you follow all the threads and emails you'll know what I mean.
    Thanks for asking great questions.
    Craig
     

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by vulture View Post
    I admire your blogging as a progress tracker. Many times I wish I had taken detailed notes while building frames, there must be some loss. Imagine how your blog will look to you years from now, it will be like a photo album and I am sure it will make you smile.
    Thanks Wade, I check in on your blog regularly. I wish I could see your whole history, it would be really cool! I believe blogging is a great tool.
    Craig
     

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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Hey Craig,
    Thanks for sharing your story, your mission statement, and your passion for bicycles and frame building. Being a native Hoosier, I'm excited for the state of frame building in Indiana. In a world of mass produced, three sizes fits most and my bike looks just like Lance’s bike marketing, you, Tim and Don are doing the Indy area proud in putting out some wonderful examples of the lost art. Maybe a trip to Foresta World Headquarters will be in my future.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I feel your photographic pain in seeing the death of wet photography. I myself toiled many an hour in darkrooms and dearly miss the smell of fixer and stop bath.

    Keep up the good work.
    Andy
     

  16. #16
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    yo craig atmo -

    mad props. here's a question with a personal lead in.

    i can't imagine framebuilding without the benefit of production work, someone at the next bench
    whose work i can just about taste and smell, and/or even going it alone without having done all
    the routine and repetitive tasks that became part of my dna. but you're in 100 percent self-taught
    mode. and you're doing a GREAT job of it.

    i can only assume that every finished frame is a near epiphany in and of itself. you must have a few
    "man, how did i do that?" moments along the way every time one is completed. atmo, the many, many
    tasks that make up the whole are also possible a-ha makers. these could include the mitering, the design,
    the fixturing, the metal (finish) work, the brazing, the alignment checks, the graphics, blah blah yada etc.

    so my question is about the steps along the way. are there sub tasks that, when complete, offer up time to
    reflect and even feel gratification and a sense of accomplishment in the manner that a finished frame might?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcpdpayne View Post
    Hey Craig,
    Thanks for sharing your story, your mission statement, and your passion for bicycles and frame building. Being a native Hoosier, I'm excited for the state of frame building in Indiana. In a world of mass produced, three sizes fits most and my bike looks just like Lance’s bike marketing, you, Tim and Don are doing the Indy area proud in putting out some wonderful examples of the lost art. Maybe a trip to Foresta World Headquarters will be in my future.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I feel your photographic pain in seeing the death of wet photography. I myself toiled many an hour in darkrooms and dearly miss the smell of fixer and stop bath.

    Keep up the good work.
    Andy

    Loads of talent in those boys with not as much press as they should get.
    Dave Bradley...not the grumpy old Hogwarts caretaker "Mr. Filch" or the star of American Ninja 3 and 4.

    formerly "Mr.President"

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    Craig,
    Do you feel that your art background has been helpful in the transition to working with metal?

    DW

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE View Post
    yo craig atmo -

    mad props. here's a question with a personal lead in.

    i can't imagine framebuilding without the benefit of production work, someone at the next bench
    whose work i can just about taste and smell, and/or even going it alone without having done all
    the routine and repetitive tasks that became part of my dna. but you're in 100 percent self-taught
    mode. and you're doing a GREAT job of it.

    i can only assume that every finished frame is a near epiphany in and of itself. you must have a few
    "man, how did i do that?" moments along the way every time one is completed. atmo, the many, many
    tasks that make up the whole are also possible a-ha makers. these could include the mitering, the design,
    the fixturing, the metal (finish) work, the brazing, the alignment checks, the graphics, blah blah yada etc.

    so my question is about the steps along the way. are there sub tasks that, when complete, offer up time to
    reflect and even feel gratification and a sense of accomplishment in the manner that a finished frame might?
    Thanks Richard, that means a lot. There are so many "a-ha" moments, and they are all tied to experience. They go back to the first time the torch is lit or a tube is cut. Big ones... When you put it (main triangle) on the table still warm to our hand and it's straight. Seeing a rear wheel drop in perfect. Stepping back from a brazed bb and it's all glassy, and realize that every camera angle will be a good one. Not having to remove silver (excess) from between the chainstays for the first time. Seeing the water bottle bosses, which were put in as a very early step, line up perfectly after it's all together (same for the brake blocks). Watching a seatstay cap emerge as you file the mess of a slab on the stay down. Putting the frame back into the jig and being able to accurately judge it's dimensions, and how close they are to your intensions. Realizing when suddenly the tubes/lugs aren't fighting each other in the jig, and it may be responsible for a better frame. Riding one and realizing it's all put together well and you don't need to worry about any part of it, ever. And in the next thought planning how you're going to change the next one in some small geometric way to improve it. The list here could be very long. There are so many little decisions which are made during the entire process, and every one of them has to be gone through until there is a little a-ha moment for each and every one. I've noticed the a-ha moments change over time as tasks become more common, but I doubt they ever go away. For me now, an a-ha moment is when I do something and it's twice as fast, and twice as nice as I used to do it. All the a-ha's make me respect the critical eye which must be developed by you guys. The "ohshit" moments are much more common. Susan says that everytime I go out and test a new frame I come back smiling and say the same thing. "This is my best one yet!"
     

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Foresta Frames

    Craig,

    Great work. I was wondering if you would use the same materials to learn on if you had to do it all over again? I notice that your second frame was spirit with nuovorichie lugs. That's tough stuff! And expensive... But I also wonder if there are things that you learn from exotic thin steel that straight gauge 4130 in stamped lugs might not teach?
     

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