A little charity does the heart good...
It's important to keep our past alive, so as a knod to those who have come before me in the bicycle fabrication world, I do some gratis work for Jeff and Wes of First Flight Bicycles and their Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology (MOMBAT). This is a pure restoration of an early 80's garage build frame. The original builder is unknown, the only clue being the serial # added to the bottem bracket: "****". At at least two other hands before me have worked on this frame due to the physical evidence present. I kept the evolution of the frame intact, repairing only what was necessary and repainted it in a nice 1982 Lime Green Poly metallic. It will live on in the museum as a piece of work that contributed to the designs we ride today.
I don't typically have a lot of time to peruse the V forums, as I spread my computer time emailing with customers and e-marketing; updating this thread, my blog, and the business facebook.
The last two days, while taking a quick break for lunch, I've been reading a thread over in the general column about the current state of frame building and the economy. Looky here... http://www.velocipedesalon.com/forum...hit-28017.html
Of course, now that I wanted to contribute to the discourse, it is locked. So here it goes...
Although the thread takes a few branches as it climbs up the tree, there were two thoughts that piqued my interest.
The first is why some builders no longer contribute to the knowledge base and the second, what is a sustainable business model?
I felt the first was well covered...time constraints of "life" balanced with the fact that a fundamental bank of information already contributed and existing on myriad of fabrication subjects is readily available with a little searching throughout the forums. An element missing in the discussion, however, is the sentiment by many builders that there is such a wash of misinformation spread across the interwebs, accepted as absolute truth, when they do attempt to provide solid guidance based on their personal years of professional fabrication experience, they are challenged or attacked for their differing perspective. When trying to offer honest assistance with no other impetus but to advance the knowledge and opportunity for someone who desires the information, these builders soon find that if their information is not valued, why waste their time?
It's a shame so many have chosen not to contribute due to this fact...how are we to right the ship if we cannot get everyone paddling together?
The second issue...what is a sustainable business model?
Richard commented and was affirmed in his perspective by Steve...
"I think the one-at-a-time, each-one-different, each-client-different-from-the-last, never-do-the-same-thing-twice business model is a major league, varsity sport level stress-a-thon and one totally counter to allowing a profit that would allow for a sustainable living wage atmo."
It is a perspective that is echoed by many of todays successful builders and is one that, ironically, is totally opposite of mine.
I do one at a time, each one different, each client differnt from the last, never do the same thing twice, control the entire process, complete all the fabrication in house, day in and day out business. That's one of the reasons my customer base comes to me...because no one else does. Within the framebuilding world are plenty of niches...mine is totally unique projects, personalized for each individual customer, with as much made by my hands as possible. A project may take anywhere from 40 hours to over 6 months to complete dependant on it's complexity. Yes it is stressful, yes it takes more time, and yes...the fulfillment and rewards are greater than just sending out a standard frame with custom geometry.
So how is this sustainable?
Charge what you work is worth darling.
I may only complete 10 - 12 projects a year, but those come at a price that provides a level of income necessary to keep the doors open (or closed with air conditioning on!), upgrade equipment and tooling yearly, and provide food and clothes for the family, for which I am the sole income earner.
Want to know what the secrete is to surviving in the bicycle fabrication business?
Do good work: never let an item out the door you are not satisfied you gave your best
Communicate and be honest: through good and bad, open communication and honesty should be a foundation of your business model
Treat your customers with respect:
Charge what your work is worth, not what you need to survive: if you've done the previous three, your customers will gladly compensate you.
are so important for the lively hood of all and the benefit of our customers.
A big thanks to No Tubes for creating a page to feature our small builders...
Carmella's road bike...
For those of you who appreciate geneology, a UK mountain bike enthusiast, Dave McDougall, has spent the last year working on a New England builders Family tree. Beginning in the early 70's and working forward, he has traced the intimate beginnings of our sport and taken them forward to where we are today. We are rich in heritage and the tradition of craftsmen passing on knowledge to younger generations. Thanks Dave for such an awesome piece of research...
New England Bicycle Bloodline. | Angles & Poise
Building the Bikes spine...
the seat tube is the spine of the bike...if it's not straight and structurally sound, nothing else will build upon it.
Here's a posting about the process I use for creating my seat tubes...
Groovy Cycleworks 330-988-0537: Creating the spine of the frame...
Reggies LD stem
An old school design to fit modern components...
LD front ceramic.JPGLD rear ceramic.JPG
Ti 650b belt drive...
Day one of fabrication on the blog for those that like to watch the blow by blow...
Groovy Cycleworks 330-988-0537: Martin's Ti belt drive 650b
thanks for watching,
Ti 650b belt drive...head tube
Doesn't look like a full days work on the mill does it?
More on the blog if you would like to see the whole process... Groovy Cycleworks 330-988-0537: Martins 650b day 2...
Re: Ti 650b belt drive...head tube
Thoroughly enjoying these recent blog posts, thanks for taking the time to chronicle this build!
The final project...all done!
Deliberate focus, constantly straining both physical and emotional limits, is often the element that tips the scale between success and failing to meet ones goals. At times the concentration needed pounds like a hammer, exceeding patience and slowly eroding resolve. Progress so grudingly gives ground, fighting at every turn. Slow, consistent effort and belief that success is just the next process away, the next completed element of the whole, bolsters the spirit and fuels mental toughness. Soon the final piece materializes from your hands and melds into place, the whole exceeding expectations. Such is the ebb and flow of working on custom projects. Martin's 650b is complete and though the journey challenged me, it is satisfying to stand back and breathe a peaceful sigh, knowing the end product is the best I can give.
The rundown... Ti 650b belt drive single speed, internal cable routing to run with gears, custom trail ready EBB, hidden seat stay split, parallel radius bent seat tube, compound bent seat stays, curved/ovalized top tube, custom 44id machined head tube, Ti unicrown 15mm thru axle fork with indexed female socket, Ti one piece Luv bar/stem combo, Ti Disco stick seat post, Hot Rod cranks, handbuilt wheels, and a whole lot of love.
Enjoy it Martin...I hope Austrailia is ready for such a unique ride.
Re: The final project...all done!
An inside look at the Ti fork construction...
The test beds...race frames
One of the times I have an opportunity to try some new ideas, push limitations, and just see what does and does not work is with the sponsored race frames I put out there. It gives me a chance to see what tubing choices, fabrication techniques, and variations to geometry actually do in a harsh, balls to the wall race environment.
I built Carey a race frame that used aggressive geometry for a 100mm fork, very light road tubing, and rear post mount disc brake. The goal was to see just how light we could go and have the frame last the season. The tubing choices were mostly Columbus, using their 7/4/7 butted profile.
Two seasons in, Carey's down tube water bottle boss cracked the tubing around the braze due to the weight of the bottle jacking it around along with the flexion in the down tube due to a longer travel 120mm fork he installed. We left it go, too busy to attend to it at the time.
Now, with one race left in the third season, the lack of the fixed boss has allowed flexion cracks to propagate away from the vacant area...a predictable result but one that now needs attention.
Carey and I pushed through two mornings, before he had to head to work, to cut out the old tube, fabricate a new one and then spray it up in a quick and dirty paint job (a one coat paint/clear DCC that goes on quick and is flash dried) as he was leaving to ride tomorrow morning for the weekend at Raystown.
The new downtube is an OX Platinum that we bi-ovalized, 1/8/1 butted...
new dt small.jpg
We over built this down tube, insuring the lighter gauge top tube will be well protected. We are going to do a dropout swap at the end of the year, re-paint with a killer hydrographics red boa pattern, and send him off for another season of racing. Booh Yah
Gol' dang...she's ugly. An ugly miter angle that is.
ugly miter tiny.jpg
Working on Ti Luv handles today, so thought I'd give you a table eye's view of the complexity of the dual compound miter in the center section that creates the sweep and rise for the grips. To attain this, I have custom fixturing that bolts into the vise and a removable carraige that holds the center section allowing the .875" cutter to pass through the ovalized end of the center at just the right position, which is a nasty, long, ugly miter.
Of course, we mountain bikers like it nasty and long anyways ;)
Doug's Ti goodies
Working through some custom ti goodies for Doug's build and completed a bar/stem combo and a seat post for him. Should have some more build pics depending on his final direction later this week...sometimes it's sooo hard to decide what one wants
dougs ti goodies.jpg
Re: Doug's Ti goodies
What a pleasure reading these last 9 pages.
Thanks for sharing your stories, philosophy, and pictures.
Re: Doug's Ti goodies
Just watched a video of you being interviewed @ NAHBS 2012 IIRC in which the interviewer is completely out to lunch. Loved your left-handed hand shake at the end and your witty comments throughout. Bizarre and hilarious! Was the dude on something?
Back at y'all
@ Classen...thanks, glad you enjoyed it. If you did not pass out from boredom reading through the S/O, there is like 5 years worth of blog postings that will bore the tears right out of ya :)
@ Drew...yes, Hollywood Jeff is a unique character and I enjoyed the interview for it's "artistic" wanderings. This years video interview was much more serious and I basically called out the industry for all the bs marketing we've seen the last few years, surprisingly, as the views ruffled a few advertiser's feathers, they never did put that video up online. Oh well, guess I'm better at comic relief than preaching anyways.
Thanks to Don and his fine crew for letting me get a few words out, a nice interview for the NAHBS newsletter...
What the Builders Say
Rody Walter of Groovy Cycles has been making hand-made bikes since the early 90's. Building out of his shop in Ohio, Rody's mantra now, as it ever was, is: design it with the rider in mind; involve the customer in process, build it to last forever; and settle for nothing less than big smiles. He offers designs for road, mountain bikes or tandems, all available in steel, titanium, or aluminum.
NAHBS is an event that Rody says provides regular show-goers with the opportunity each year to observe builders advance at their craft, solidify their dedication to the customer and build business stability.
The personal interaction that takes place in the show hall is hugely important to him, a builder that really likes to know and communicate with his customers. "So much of the communication as a frame builder is usually done via email or over the phone, so I wouldn't miss the opportunity of meeting people at NAHBS," he says.
But customer interactions are only half the story. Rody sees his participation in NAHBS as a way of giving back the frame building community, which generously educated him many years ago, and helped change his path in life. "The continued evolution of this profession depends on the willingness to share knowledge, techniques, and career development tools with each other, to collectively advance the success of our trade," he says.
The instructional seminars that have always formed the backbone of knowledge at NAHBS are one of the most valuable aspects of the show for him.
He advocates for a dedicated day prior to the public opening that allows for instructional seminars to take place, allowing more builders to participate without the stress of leaving their booths.
These seminars, he says, "Enrich the educational value of the gathering for exhibitors, having an open forum, to discuss business trends, customer service, problem solving, etc... creating an environment of beneficial open/cooperative discourse.
He concludes, "Personally, I thrive on meeting folks, sharing stories, and passing on a smile. NAHBS marks the one time a year I can do that with friends and customers alike."
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