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Thread: Kirk Frameworks

  1. #1
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    Default Kirk Frameworks

    As we go through life we have experiences that shape and guide us in both our personal and professional lives. Some of these experiences fade from memory over time and some never do. Below are a few anecdotes that have stuck with me and played a role in shaping me as a person, my choice of career, and the essence of Kirk Frameworks.

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    In the mid 1960’s many American military officers came back from tours of Europe with exotic cars they bought overseas. Living in Rome New York, next to the Griffiss Air Force base, meant there were a large number of foreign cars in the area that needed servicing. This was a time when foreign cars were truly foreign and you couldn’t bring your V12 Jaguar to the corner garage to have it serviced - so enthusiasts brought their cars to my father, John Kirk. His natural mechanical skills and knowledge of foreign cars made him very popular. So popular that it was normal to wake up on Saturday morning to see the driveway outside our apartment filled with British, German and Italian sports cars owned by men who wanted John’s help synchronizing their Weber carbs or deciphering the mystery that was Lucas electronics. I watched my dad work on the cars just for the joy of working with his hands on such exotic machinery. Bent over the cars, he used his experience and sensitive hands, eyes and ears to diagnose problems with ignition timing or carburetor jetting and with a few tweaks got the cars running as they were designed to run. Seeing the smiles on the owner’s faces told the story.

    It was at about this time that John gave me my first real bike. Despite the fact that he worked on expensive cars he didn’t make much money and couldn’t afford to buy me a new bike – so he built one for me. Using parts pulled from junk bikes he built me up a road bike with 20” wheels, drop handlebars and 3 speeds. He painted it British Racing Green and put my name on the chainguard in chrome letters. To me it was every bit as cool as the Aston Martin parked in the driveway on Saturday morning because he made it for me, with his own hands. This was my introduction to the idea that things like bikes and cars didn’t just pop out of a molds but were made by people using their knowledge, skill, and experience. I then understood that there were passionate craftsman hidden away in their shops building the things that we use and I knew that I wanted to become one of those craftsmen.

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    Once a year, Davis Phinney, leader of the Coors Light professional cycling team, would come to the Serotta factory for a few days to boost the morale, get his hands dirty, go for a ride with the shop guys and visit the birthplace of his bikes.

    The rides were a ‘no one gets dropped’ type of ride and they were a good time to hang out on the bike and talk. We were heading back to the factory at a casual 15 mph when one of our builders, Richard, started taunting Davis. Richard called him names and told him that he didn’t think that Davis could stay on his wheel. Richard then sprinted up the road ahead of the group and Davis just smiled and laughed. After Richard got a good 200 meters up the road Davis asked, “Should I reel him in?” We were approaching a corner that I knew was full of gravel and sand but before I could give a warning Davis flew out of the group and up the road. I’ve ridden with some very strong riders but I’ve never seen anyone accelerate that quickly before and he was going an easy 35 mph when he passed Richard and dove into that dirty corner. I thought for sure he’d go down in the gravel and imagined the huge road rash he’d have. Yet Davis counter-steered into the corner, laid the bike way over and two wheel drifted through the corner in complete control – gravel spitting out from under the tires. The look on Richard’s face was priceless.

    This was remarkable in two ways. The most obvious was that Davis had no trouble at all carving around the corner with so much junk in the road. He never backed off or stopped charging – he just railed it. The second was he did it on a bike I designed and built for him. Prior to racing Serottas he raced on ‘crit’ bikes with silly steep angles with short front-centers. While racing in Europe Davis realized that a solid stage race bike was the bike of choice for both long and short events and we built him stage race bikes from then on. I can’t tell you how cool it was to see my work put to that cornering test. It was rewarding to know that he trusted the bike so much. I’ll never forget that.

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    Shortly after I started Kirk Frameworks I started working on what would become the ‘Terraplane’ seatstay option. I’d worked on this kind of thing before when I designed the Serotta Hors Categorie and wanted to build on my previous work. While the Serotta-DKS worked well, I felt it had too much – too much stuff, too much weight, and too much travel. I wanted a more elegant and simple design that would keep the rear wheel firmly planted at all times.

    I worked on many designs and settled on a simple ‘S’ curve to the seat stays. I took Kirk frame #1, my personal bike, cut the seat stays off it and set it up so I could try different stays on that same bike. It took a long time to get the radius and duration of the bends right to give the desired spring rate and a lot of steel went into the recycling bin. After testing many stays on the same frame it looked like hell. It had burnt yellow paint, a rear wheel travel indicator brazed onto it and it looked like a school science project gone wrong. But I’d arrived at the final design and it rode wonderfully – stiff and responsive when out of the saddle yet calm and stuck to the ground in corners and when going downhill. Ripping around corners it had that same hunkered down feeling the DKS had but without any feeling of softness. I loved it.

    And then I started doubting myself. I’d cleaned the bike up and emailed photos of it to friends, family and a few customers along with an explanation of how it worked and waited for the positive feedback to come flowing in. It didn’t. Most feedback was negative and centered on how much they disliked the looks of the bike. I was pretty bummed. Even my mom said it looked ‘nice’ and you know what that means.

    I kept riding the one and only prototype and despite the negative feedback from others I loved the way it rode. I then thought of a Henry Ford quote from the time he invented the automobile. He said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” With that in mind I decided to offer the Terraplane to see what would happen. The feedback online, before anyone had ridden one, was much the same as from my focus group – that thing is ugly and no one needs it. I even had ‘experts’ tell me that it doesn’t work. They’d never ridden one and didn’t know much about it, yet they knew it didn’t work. Alrighty then. But I kept it on the price list and over the next few months a few open-minded riders ordered them. Once I got them out there the owners started reporting back how they have never been able to corner so fast before – or they had never felt so confident descending. The customers were confirming what I already knew - that the Terraplane worked. In time other customers took a chance and they too liked the Terraplane. At this point, 6 years later, about 50% of my customers chose the Terraplane seat stay option.

    The Terraplane lesson was invaluable. It taught me that if I have a good idea and can back it up, I should get it out there and let the market decide if I was right. If I’d listened to the initially discouraging feedback I’d never have gotten the idea out there to let it prove its worth. It feels good to have done that. Ask any owner how they feel about their Terraplane and I’ll bet they’re glad I stuck with the idea.

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    The above are three of the many formative events that helped point me down my chosen path. I thank you for your time and look forward to answering your questions. As my literary hero Spaulding Gray once said – “I don’t promise answers, but I do promise responses.” Thanks so much to Richard and Josh for making this Smoked deal possible.

    Dave
    Last edited by e-RICHIE; 06-02-2010 at 10:33 AM. Reason: boldface added
    D. Kirk
    Kirk Frameworks Co.
    www.kirkframeworks.com


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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    So Dave, I've always considered you one of the more clever people I've ever known. What I mean by that is you are able to do a lot with a little and you seem to be able to create some of the most simple yet effective designs. Looking back over the years you've designed the DKS system, the Terraplane, you have just completed a beautiful new dropout design. Is there anything that you have designed that really sticks out as your masterpiece to date?
    Carl Strong
    Strong Frames Inc.
    www.strongframes.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl S View Post
    So Dave, I've always considered you one of the more clever people I've ever known. What I mean by that is you are able to do a lot with a little and you seem to be able to create some of the most simple yet effective designs. Looking back over the years you've designed the DKS system, the Terraplane, you have just completed a beautiful new dropout design. Is there anything that you have designed that really sticks out as your masterpiece to date?
    Thanks for the note and the kind words.

    My work over the years has taken place in 3 different areas - product, tooling and testing and I have things in each of those areas that I'm especially proud of. Most of the product and testing work has been seen by very few people but I'm no less proud of them.

    During my time at Serotta I did a massive amount of testing and had to develop my own fixtures to to that testing. I did ultimate strength and fatigue testing on everything from stems to forks to complete frames. There was one testing rig for carbon forks that I liked very much. We had concerns about the adhesives used to bond the dropouts into the fork blades when subjected to high heat like in the back of a car parked in the sun. So I made what was in effect a toaster oven that could be placed over the fork testing bed that allowed me to bring the temperature up to 150° F while doing fatigue tests. The concern was that someone would pull the bike out of the back of their black station wagon and jump on it and ride away. The testing revealed that we did indeed need to change the adhesive we used and the simple oven showed us that. It was pretty cool.

    When I started Kirk Frameworks I had very little money and did not want to barrow a dime to launch the business so I could not afford to buy a frame jig. So I worked a bit backward to solve the problem. Instead of making a jig that would hold the tubes I made an infinitely adjustable front triangle that I could set to the needed specs and then, using V blocks and C clamps, build a temporary jig around the adjustable around that front end. I would then remove the dummy triangle and put the actual tubes in place and voila! - I had a bike. I think the dummy front triangle was the most accurate thing I've ever used and it cost about $50. It was very slow to set up but I had lots of time so it worked well. I think I built the first 100ish frames on that non-jig. In the interest of speeding things up I eventually bought an Anvil but I keep the original just in case.

    I think the product I'm most proud of is the soon to be released rear dropouts - the Triple F. While working for Serotta I designed their original 3D dropout and while it worked very well it's not what I really wanted to do. I wanted to do something similar to the Triple F but we couldn't afford the tooling at the time. The 3D required the builder to miter the stays to a specific angle where it met the stay and while that works fine I wanted the stays to be able to just be square cut and then brazed/welded to the drops. The new Triple F allows for that so prep and finish time is very low. The dropouts are stupid light and strong and are designed so that a rag wrapped around your finger fits into every nook and cranny for easy cleaning. It is also a 'straight line' design - meaning that the chainstay centerline points directly at axle center. This means that, unlike a hooded Breeze style drop, the angle the chainstay leaves the BB shell is true making the socked on a lugged BB fit at they should. No more cranking it in the socket to get it all to fit. "Triple F" stands for 'form follows function' and I see the design as being as small and simple as a dropout could be - no logos or bling - no advertisements - just simple solid dropouts that will hold the wheel solidly for the next 50 years. I like them very much.

    Thanks for asking.

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


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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Dave:

    And to the other side of Carl's question; what good ideas, or seemingly good ideas have not panned out. Have there been earlier dropout concepts that turned out to be a bust? What about early Terraplane stay bends/designs, slopers, tube shapes. Have you found that over the years, you can anticipate what will work (and not work) better? ie. is there now less time and energy wasted going through development before figuring out an effective development?

    Thanks for your (always) thoughtful writing and building.
    Tom Kellogg
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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kellogg View Post
    Dave:

    And to the other side of Carl's question; what good ideas, or seemingly good ideas have not panned out. Have there been earlier dropout concepts that turned out to be a bust? What about early Terraplane stay bends/designs, slopers, tube shapes. Have you found that over the years, you can anticipate what will work (and not work) better? ie. is there now less time and energy wasted going through development before figuring out an effective development?

    Thanks for your (always) thoughtful writing and building.

    Hey Tom,

    Thanks for the questions.

    Over the years a good number designs have ended up in the recycling bin but over time I find that I spend less time going down the wrong path and end now usually end up in a good place. When designing the original Serotta DKS there were some wild ideas that went nowhere - but each of the failed ideas make the route and direction in front of you all the more clear. I find I generate a huge number of ideas and then through process of elimination get rid of all the weak ideas and hone in on the best ones. Having done this for so long now I do feel that I have a strong feeling right out of the box of what will work and what won't and that saves a huge amount of time and energy.

    The Triple F dropout is pretty much exactly what I had in my mind's eye and the hard part is translating that image into hard numbers and cutting paths. It's easy to lose the essence of the design during this translation and I work very hard to see that that doesn't happen.

    On the Terraplane the design challenge was twofold - the first was figuring out what radius and duration of bend would give the spring rate and quality that I wanted and the other was figuring out how to take a double tapered, .5 mm wall heat treated tube and bend it into the desired shape. can you say 'beer can?' The first part was pretty simple - the second, not so much.

    My design inspiration and hero is Colin Chapman of Lotus. His work has guided me and taught me that if you come to a fork in the road during the design process always take the path that is the most simple. It's easy to make something complicated and hard to make something simple. The other thing Chapman's work has taught me is that one should always design things to perform as many duties as possible. If one part can do two things you end up with a more simple and elegant solution and one that will stand the test of time. In fact when I work on a given design I will often get to the point where I think I'm done and then I walk away from it for a few days and then when I come back to it I sit down and start removing anything that doesn't need to be there. Design for me can often be a reductive process.

    Thanks again,

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


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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Dave,

    How has your approach to building frames changed from the Serotta days. In other words, the Serotta's were clean but devoid of a lot of craft while your bikes are about cleanliness AND craft. How has that transition felt? In a related question, how do you know when a frame is done and ready to go in a box to JB?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Goodrich View Post
    Dave,

    How has your approach to building frames changed from the Serotta days. In other words, the Serotta's were clean but devoid of a lot of craft while your bikes are about cleanliness AND craft. How has that transition felt? In a related question, how do you know when a frame is done and ready to go in a box to JB?
    Yo Curt,

    Good to hear from you. Good questions both.

    I want to answer in a round-a-bout way. I studied martial arts for a good number of years when I was younger and as I got better and better at it, and attained higher rankings, I went from thinking I knew a lot to thinking that I was just starting to learn. When I got my black belt I was told that this was the beginning and that now I knew enough to learn and grow and develop my own version of the art. When I started the martial arts I thought of black belt as the end - a destination - but when I got there I realized it was really the beginning of the journey.

    Framebuilding has been similar to me. While at Serotta I designed and built thousands of bikes and because the numbers were so large they, by necessity, were less about craft and more about production. Don't get me wrong, I see nothing at all wrong with this and they were very nice bikes but the focus was on making a well built, straight bike that wouldn't have problems down the road and getting it into the UPS truck ASAP. Through my experience there I went through all the phases of thinking I was the shit and then by the end of my time there I realized that all those bikes and years were the foundation for being able to learn what I wanted to learn and build from there. I then knew enough to know what it was I didn't know, and I could set out on a quest for the answers.

    The answer for me has been a progression and still very much is. I continue to develop my hand and design skills and to give my own flavor to my work. Now that I have the bike version of the black belt around my waist I'm all the more open to learn and develop my own deal and as you so nicely noticed it involves more craft while maintaining simplicity. The pressure of time that was ever-present at Serotta has been lifted and I never feel in a hurry now and never feel rushed. I can take my time without a production manager stopping by to ask when the work would go into paint and when I could start the next one.

    This transition has, for the most part, been very good. There were moments in the first year or two of the Frameworks that I didn't know who I was and what I should be building.......... and while the bikes I built then were safe and sound some of them I wouldn't repeat just because I've learned to avoid certain things. Those moments where you feel that confusion about who you are and what the hell you should be doing were unsettling at best. But they were few and far between and almost completely behind me now. No doubt I will have that feeling again at some point but it's been a long time now since I've had it.

    How do I know when a bike is done and ready to send to JB? I have a pattern that has developed that I follow pretty tightly. When I think the bike is finished it goes on a hook and spends the night there. The next day I open the order file one more time and go through it to double check that it has what it is supposed to have. Then I pull the frameset off the hook and put it in the vice and going over it one more time. When there is nothing else that can be removed or needs to be added it's done and goes into the box. I find I need a bit of distance on the work and that is why it hangs overnight - that way the next day I see it more as it would be seen by others and I can be more objective. I need to have that feeling that "my work here is done" and then off it goes and I can empty my cup in readiness for the next one.

    Thanks,

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


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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Dave,
    Are you able to recall specific frames that stand out to you as the "best" work you've done, or do they all have a different enough character so that you can't compare them to each other?
     

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    Quote Originally Posted by mschol17 View Post
    Dave,
    Are you able to recall specific frames that stand out to you as the "best" work you've done, or do they all have a different enough character so that you can't compare them to each other?
    It would be difficult to single bikes out over time that were my best work - it's always about the next one coming and not the last one that went into the box.

    There are a few that in retrospect I recall fondly for different reasons. The first frame I built from start to finish for myself. The first customer Kirk. The first pro team bike. The first bike for my stepfather Jim. But these are more memorable to me not because of how straight or clean they were but for purely emotional reasons.

    There were also a few bikes that stick out in my mind as being especially challenging and that I'm proud of. The wack-job softride bikes for Alexi Grewal stick out. They were super time consuming to build and required lots of funny fixturing and set ups.

    It may sound cliche but I always hope the next bike I build is the best one and more often than not it is.

    Thanks much.

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


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    Dave,

    Great stuff, I'm really enjoying learning more about you and your process.

    You've mentioned Colin Chapman as an influence (hero) and I'm wondering what other influences you may have outside of the cycling universe. Knowing that you like cars in general and auto-crossing I'm wondering if there are other ideas, thoughts, tenants that roll around in your subconscious (or conscious) that have been gleamed from auto racing that makes its way into your bikes?

    I understand 'form follows function' and Keeping it Simple. What else?

    Thanks,

    Conor

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    Dave, as your first customer for both a bike and then later a TerraPlane, I have to say even what, 6 years later, I thoroughly enjoy and greatly admire your handiwork, creativity and artistry. Every time a new Kirk is shown here or over there, I look at it more than just casually. Great stuff! Keep it coming. Sorry if this sounds like a puff piece 'cause it is, you're one of the all-time good guys.
     

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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Wonderful work Dave, I especially liked the raw frame you had at Richmond (as did everyone else).

    Did you do any kind of building before Serotta, and how did you end up there? Also, tell us a little about your first years at Serotta.
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
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    Quote Originally Posted by conorb View Post
    Dave,

    Great stuff, I'm really enjoying learning more about you and your process.

    You've mentioned Colin Chapman as an influence (hero) and I'm wondering what other influences you may have outside of the cycling universe. Knowing that you like cars in general and auto-crossing I'm wondering if there are other ideas, thoughts, tenants that roll around in your subconscious (or conscious) that have been gleamed from auto racing that makes its way into your bikes?

    I understand 'form follows function' and Keeping it Simple. What else?

    Thanks,

    Conor

    Hey Conor,

    Thanks for the question. Most of the designers that I put on a pedestal come from the automotive world.......... not so much IMO because cars are so cool but because for the past 100 years that's where the money has been. Colin Chapman is at the top of the list but there is also a guy named William Stout who was an engineer and designer in the 30's. He was multi talented and worked with everything from cars to airplanes to children's toys and was over the top clever. He developed a car called the Stout Scarab in the 30's that was basically a super aerodynamic minivan with suspension that made the car lean to the inside during hard cornering. That guy was a few years ahead of his time.

    There is another person most will have heard of and that is Sir Alex Moulton. Moulton is best known for designing the rubber cone suspension for the original Mini but he also crosses over into the bike world with his bike designs. If it wasn't for the UCI most every racer would be riding a Moulton or something like it. Rarely does a bike make you faster but his do. If you ever get a chance to ride one don't miss it. I have a super short list of bikes that I would part with my own money for and a Moulton is top of the list.

    Another design hero of mine is a local guy named Boone Lennon. Boone is the guy who invented the aero bar and was LeMond's aero coach. Seeing what Boone does with cardboard and glue is crazy. He makes aerodynamic things for his bike out of cardboard (waterproof once you paint it!) that make him so slippery you just can't get a draft off him. He's in his mid 50's and can get down into a tuck behind the foil and ride you off his wheel every time. he also designs stuff for the ski biz and is an architect. Very smart man.

    I do have some ideas that nag at me and ask to be addressed and when I have the time and money I try to develop them and check them off the list. The Triple F is one of those ideas. I have more but tend to keep those cards close to my chest............. if for no other reason so that I won't be embarrassed by a silly idea. But some will make it to the harsh light of the real world and I look forward to that.

    "What else?" you ask. It must be 20 years ago now that I was frustrated by the demands made on us at Serotta - they wanted more bikes of a higher quality from fewer people and in a rather heated meeting blurted out "you can't mass produce art!" I stand by those words.

    Thanks again,

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


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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Thompson View Post
    Dave, as your first customer for both a bike and then later a TerraPlane, I have to say even what, 6 years later, I thoroughly enjoy and greatly admire your handiwork, creativity and artistry. Every time a new Kirk is shown here or over there, I look at it more than just casually. Great stuff! Keep it coming. Sorry if this sounds like a puff piece 'cause it is, you're one of the all-time good guys.
    Mr. Thompson was my first Kirk customer and I will tell a funny story about that..... at least I think it's funny.

    Dave and I were talking on the phone a good bit about my building a bike for him and it felt like the deal was about sealed and I was super excited to have my first sale. Dave then asked me if he would get serial # 1. I thought he was concerned that I hadn't built many bikes and that he didn't want #1 and have me learning to build with his bike. So I told him "no, don't worry, you won't get number 1" - but I misunderstood. He really wanted to be the first Kirk customer and wanted his bike to say #1 on it. We had our own little "who's on first moment" back then. We went around like this for some time before I got it. He got the third Kirk. Mine was first and Karin's was second.

    For any of you other builders who get a call from Dave - do what I did and invite him to come spend the night and he will bring good food and wine you you will have a very good time indeed.

    Thanks for being number 1 dave.


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


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    Quote Originally Posted by edoz View Post
    Wonderful work Dave, I especially liked the raw frame you had at Richmond (as did everyone else).

    Did you do any kind of building before Serotta, and how did you end up there? Also, tell us a little about your first years at Serotta.
    Yo Edoz-mon,

    Before Serotta I'd done a bunch of handwork, some sculpture and making my own wood/glass/carbon skateboards but no framebuilding.

    This story has been told many times and I won't bore you with all or many of the details. I did blog about this a good while back and it has all the news that's fit to print and then some. Here's a link to that blog post - http://www.kirkframeworks.com/blog/?p=54

    The short of it is that I was a racer and shop guy who was well known in the NY state area and word of mouth about me spread and one day I got a call out of the blue from Mr. Ben Serotta asking if I might want to come to work for him as a wheelbuilder and mechanic. I thought it was a crank call from a friend and was pretty rude for a short bit until I realized it was actually Ben on the other end of the line. Ben and I talked, there was an interview and I got the job. The shop was in an old barn behind Ben's house and it has a grass track around it - very cool.

    I started talking with Ben's right hand man, a crook named Rory. Rory told me at the last minute, after I'd quit my other job, that I wouldn't be able to start right away but it would only be a few weeks. A few weeks truned into a few months and I let it go and was able to keep my job at the shop where I worked.

    About 2 years later I got another call from Ben Serotta. This time he apologized for how I'd been treated 2 years before. It turns out the shyster Rory told Ben I skipped on the job but he found out I'd been dumped. Anyway......... they were looking for help in the frameshop this time so I started the process again without high hopes of it going anywhere after the first time. But I was wrong and I got the job in 1989 and stayed there for 10 years.

    The first few years at Serotta are all a blur. It was fast paced and loud and rowdy. The place was filled with lots or raw young men who needed to make a buck and most weren't involved with the sport at all. There were lots of smokes hanging from lips in that shop. I stood at a bench and did finish work for god knows how long..... until my fingers bled. The bikes were all lugged/fillet mix and so many passed through your hands on any given day you had to get good at it or leave. It seemed that every guy had his own boom box and they would just play shit stupid loud to try to 'win' the music war. Lots of Journey vs. Styx crap going on. No one wanted to hear my Ramones or Tom Waits! Go figure. In time I was a bit pushy and worked my way up the ladder. But those first years were fun and hard.

    I'm glad I went through that time but don't care to repeat it. I made $6.75/hr and lived in a one room apartment and ate countless frozen burritos. But I was happy to be learning something new every day and to see my skills develop over time and have those things pan out for me and allow me to do a different job there and make enough to not eat frozen burritos.

    I hope this is what you were looking for. Let me know if you'd like to know anything else or would like me to bore you with specific stories.

    Thanks,

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


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Hi Dave, thanks for posting - your insight is invaluable.

    Earlier you mentioned that when you struck out on your own, you didn't have a jig, not wanting to borrow to start your business - I assume you also didn't have any heavy equipment like a mill or lathe. How do you think this affected your products or business model? If you had to do it all over again, would you do it the same way?

    -steve
    steve cortez

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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Are you able to recall specific frames that stand out to you as the "best" work you've done?

    Well, I presumed you were going to say my bike.

    This thread has had Carl Strong, Tom Kellogg and Curt Goodrich, so I clearly don't belong.

    But from a customer perspective, I clearly had unfathomable good luck to simply stumble into finding Dave and ordering a terraplane, which I just finished riding (to the store and back . . . the kids had drunk all the milk again). However, having ridden the terraplane for about a year and not being overly dumb, I did the logical thing: I ordered a second one.

    But a couple thoughts or questions:

    1. I think the brazing and mitering and alligning skills are justifiably celebrated. But I think a somewhat underacknowledged skill is the fitting and design. The brazing could be perfect, but if the bike does not fit the customer (who, in your case, you are unlikely to meet in person), it is not a good day. I think this is reflected in the separation of roles at some quite good building teams, where one person does the fitting and design and someone else does the brazing or welding. So the question -- where did you learn the fitting and design, and has that evolved over the years?

    2. Other question. Just curious: how many bikes do you aim to build a year?
     

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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Quote Originally Posted by zetroc View Post
    Hi Dave, thanks for posting - your insight is invaluable.

    Earlier you mentioned that when you struck out on your own, you didn't have a jig, not wanting to borrow to start your business - I assume you also didn't have any heavy equipment like a mill or lathe. How do you think this affected your products or business model? If you had to do it all over again, would you do it the same way?

    -steve
    Hey Steve,

    You are right....... I did not have a mill or a lathe then nor do I now. I have 5 power tools - belt/disc sander, 2 dynafiles, a hand drill, and a drill press.

    When I started the company I was able to use my good friend Carl Strong's machines to make some basic tooling I still use today. I used Carl's tool to make alignment tools that bolt to my plate and for the rear end and fork fixtures I used at the time and without the free use of his machines it would have been difficult or expensive. I owe Carl big time for that.

    As far as the business model and products - I very much enjoy working with my hands to bend and shape and cut things and I will say, at the risk of sounding like an ass, I'm pretty good at it. I've spent years working mills and lathes and like doing that kind of work but it isn't required at all to build the type of machines I want to build and sell. This to me is the key. If I wanted to build large quantities of bikes or if I wanted to get into suspension MTB's I'd need machines to be able to do that at a profit. But since I have no urge to head in that direction it makes no sense for me to tool up for it. So, in my mind, my tooling and product range and biz model are all tied together with the product being the driving factor and at the center. The way I build and sell is all based on the product I enjoy making and using. I sometimes wish I had a lathe or mill for my own personal use for making car parts but if it doesn't add to the bottom line I don't own it.

    If I had to do it all over again? Good question. I have to think about this for a minute............................................ .................................................. ........................................... OK. I think if I were to start my biz today, knowing what I know now I would do pretty much the same thing. I would have invested more time/money into my website than we did at the beginning but I don't think I would change the tooling/product mix/biz model at all. It seems just right to me. I now have a few extra dollars at hand and could make the changes if I wanted or needed to but it's never seemed necessary for me to enable a better product or a higher profit.

    At the risk of sounding overly cold and clinical - if it doesn't add to the bottom line I don't do it. I need to turn a profit so that I can continue this for the rest of my life and without profit none of it would be possible. I don't sell bikes that I can't make a profit on, I don't build or sell accessories that I can't make a profit on I don't buy tools that won't pay for themselves and in the end it all needs to go toward the bottom line. IMO my bikes are worth more than I charge for them and I make a profit at the same time. It's a win-win deal if you ask me.

    Is that what you were asking?

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


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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Yep. Thanks!

    Steve
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    Default Re: Kirk Frameworks

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric007 View Post
    Well, I presumed you were going to say my bike.

    This thread has had Carl Strong, Tom Kellogg and Curt Goodrich, so I clearly don't belong.

    But from a customer perspective, I clearly had unfathomable good luck to simply stumble into finding Dave and ordering a terraplane, which I just finished riding (to the store and back . . . the kids had drunk all the milk again). However, having ridden the terraplane for about a year and not being overly dumb, I did the logical thing: I ordered a second one.

    But a couple thoughts or questions:

    1. I think the brazing and mitering and alligning skills are justifiably celebrated. But I think a somewhat underacknowledged skill is the fitting and design. The brazing could be perfect, but if the bike does not fit the customer (who, in your case, you are unlikely to meet in person), it is not a good day. I think this is reflected in the separation of roles at some quite good building teams, where one person does the fitting and design and someone else does the brazing or welding. So the question -- where did you learn the fitting and design, and has that evolved over the years?

    2. Other question. Just curious: how many bikes do you aim to build a year?


    Hey Mr. Eric,

    You belong here as much or more than those builder guys so please feel at home. Those guys are friends so they don't count! :)

    1) You are right. A bike made from a nice set of tubes brazed into clean lugs covered with nice paint but that fits poorly is not worth much. Fitting the body and the intended use of the bike is much more important and all the other stuff is gravy. But people naturally focus on the other stuff because it's pretty and shiny and makes us feel good when we look at it. But if it doesn't fit........

    I started learning fit back in my retail ( 1980's) days when I did fittings for the shop where I worked. I also worked with the race team I was a member of, as well as others, doing informal fittings to help out friends. My time at Serotta working with and designing two versions of their Size-cycle gave me another perspective. One other vital thing I learned is how to be an effective listener. People will tell you most everything you need to know - you just need to open your mind, drop the preconceived notions of what a cool looking fit looks like and the design will form.

    2) When I was working at Serotta as the custom guy I built 3 frames a week, start to finish, by myself. So with this in mind I figured I'd be able to build at least one a week now. It hasn't worked out that way in the long run. I underestimated the amount of time I would spend doing all the office stuff (emails, phone calls, accounting, boxing, shipping, driving to the bank or staples or fed ex..........) so in the end I do less than one a week. I try to shoot for 40 framesets a year and I aim to build up at least 1/2 of those into complete bikes. If the snow sucks I get more done. If it's deep and fluffy all bets are off.

    I hope that helps.

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


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