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Thread: L'Ecu Bicycles

  1. #1
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    Default L'Ecu Bicycles

    Hi Gang,

    First off- a big thanks to Richard for extending the opportunity to get Smoked Out. With any luck, this will result in less paranoia than the last time.

    My story begins in the wilderness of Idaho's panhandle- at that time, real whacko territory. There is a whole lot of expository info I won't get into, but the salient bits are these: I grew up in a log house that my mother designed and drafted (she was a curriculum director at the time,) and my father built (he was a linesman for a telephone company.) I watched that house being built around me and saw first-hand the term “sweat equity” in practice. It was ingrained at a very young age that if you can't pay someone to do something, you better learn how to do it yourself- because it won't get done otherwise.

    Learning to ride a bike on frost-heaved dirt roads led to a bump I can still feel on the back of my head. It also made it clear (in an age before Google maps) how much is out there to see, and I got hooked very early by the “where's that road go?” bug. When I hit high-school and came out of my AD&D cocoon it turned out my good friend's father was the COO of Outland VPP (we were living in Bellingham at this point.) My friends introduced me to Jim Sullivan (he of Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, um, fame) and I took up learning the fine art of keeping myself from viciously endo-ing every time I descended while riding a Softride stem. Mountain biking in Bellingham was one of those “didn't realize how good I had it” kind of things- you see, Portland does not have mountain biking. People can debate that, but at that point I had three or four extremely diverse trail networks within riding distance of my house, these days it's an hour and a half, plus, to get anywhere worth the time. I kind of spoiled myself to anything beyond riding from your house, and I think that's one of the major drivers of my shift to road riding.

    I went to college in the charming little hamlet of Ashland, OR in the navel of the Rogue Valley. What a place to live for four years- tops. Were I there as a frame-builder, I might have been able to stay longer but no- I was there... as a thespian. I am the proud owner of a specialized degree in theatrical stage management, which in the context of Ashland puts you directly into a tight little echo chamber that some (many) never escape. It is quite easy to ride the “big fish, small pond” mentality if you're plugged into THE OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL. Ashland does have a massive amount of gorgeous road riding however, four or five climbs within a 10 mile radius of literally at least 15 miles in length. When you're a 19 year old kid, hopped up on Lance's latest duel with Jan and a brand new Litespeed Tuscany (worked my ass off to afford that bike, then pumped the tires to 120 because I liked the edgy ride it imparted....) you go hell-for-leather up every climb you can find. I would often take my night riding setup and ride up Mt. Ashland in the dark, “dancing on the pedals” all the way- I'm sure. I became quite good at going up and down mountain passes, and learned how to counter-steer from one of the older guys I'd ride with (he was probably riding a shock-your-eyes Landshark, many do down there.) The amount of descending I did while I lived there probably informs a lot of my personal preference in geometry and handling, and explains why my “stock geometry” charts look more like classic Euro than Industrial Park crit.

    Fast forward several years, I've been living in Portland OR and stage managing my way into something like a career when I have an epiphany: this is not what I want to do with my life. As it turns out, professional stage management is more spreadsheets and stop watches than artistic engagement- basically it was my job to facilitate other people's artistic decisions, and keep my mouth shut. I clearly needed a change, and after much thinking decided I wanted to be in the bicycle industry, as it was the one throughline for all my other adventures since long ago. So what's an enterprising young bike enthusiast do in the internet age? Find a frame building class? Nope! Find a supplier of Taiwanese carbon frames and slap a name on them! Yes, my first attempt at building a legitimate brand was open mold (but hard to source) frames. Well, as it turns out, it's fairly difficult to convince people that your frame is better than a Cannon/Spec/Trek AND it's not very satisfying in the “actually creating something” dept. After a year of banging my head against the wall I made a “business pivot” and went about figuring out this whole custom carbon thing.

    So, a few notes about L'Ecu- the brand:

    -Ecu means “crown” or “coin” in french, it's also a heraldic symbol like a coat-of-arms. Taking all that together and putting it on a bike means the frames are the “coin of the realm,” or what you pay with- in this case, you pay with the effort you put into riding.

    -My grandmother is French, so the name is in homage to her.

    -I don't generally go in for florid paint-jobs, I like letting the material (carbon) speak for itself, and what better way than ghosted logos under clearcoat? Not to say that if a client asked I wouldn't go all Landshark on it, but my personal aesthetic trends towards black and simple.

    -I love working with carbon, it's an amazing material and I truly enjoy manipulating it like a tailor- I guess my theatrical background wasn't a complete wash, eh? This next year I've got access to a VMC so I'll hopefully be collaborating with Bre Rue (Ruegamer Bikes) on some new projects that involve molds.

    So, hopefully I'll be seeing a bunch of you at NAHBS, looking forward to communicating with all of you, and I truly look forward to seeing what everybody has been working on- this place is a fantastic source of inspiration for me on a daily basis. Thanks again for the opportunity!
    ______________________________________________
    Devin Zoller
    L'Ecu Bicycles
    No. 1 choice of inner SE industrial Portland's discerning velophiles.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    Warm welcome to VSalon Devin. I'm going to enjoy getting to know you.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    Bre Rue eh? she back in the game? lightweight project?

    anyways..... welcome
    Real World persona : Andy Corso

  4. #4
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    Hi Fellas,

    nice to meet both of you. Yeah, I'm less interested in lightweight as an end to be chased, more interested in some of the structural changes that result in lower weight- more moulded parts, optimizing tube layups, that kind of thing.

    I actually just weighed one of my frames for the first time the other day- with the integrated and non adjustable seat mast it was 910 grams,11284764165_1a01fd1ba3_c.jpg

    so I'm happy with that. Paint will add a few grams, but that's not a bad starting point. Now if I can lose a few grams here and there without turning it into a whippet, I'll happily do it.
    ______________________________________________
    Devin Zoller
    L'Ecu Bicycles
    No. 1 choice of inner SE industrial Portland's discerning velophiles.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    For the record, an écu is not the coat of arms itself but the name of those medieval shield with an ogival bottom end that were painted or engraved with said coat of arms. The coat of arms themselves are named blason or armoiries in french.
    --
    T h o m a s

  6. #6
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    Quickly, to the trademark office! Wellllllll, not so fast, according to my French grandmother- and here's where we get into splitting branding hairs.

    -écusson literally translates into English as 'escutcheon,' but I don't want to name my company after the little plate you use to finish a plumbing stub-out, even though it also means coat of arms. So, what to do?

    -shortening écusson to écu gives you 'shield,' 'crown' and 'coin,' some also referring to the coat-of-arms as a simplified 'écu.' Well, now we've got something to work with!

    -What is the best? The crown, or pinnacle. What protects and gives you solace when the going gets rough? Your shield. How do you pay for your efforts on the bike? With the coin-of-the-realm.

    Does it play a little fast and loose with the literalness? Yes, of course- but this is a word meant to evoke a feeling and imagery, but in an understated, French manner.
    ______________________________________________
    Devin Zoller
    L'Ecu Bicycles
    No. 1 choice of inner SE industrial Portland's discerning velophiles.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    How many bikes have you made & sold so far?
    What's a good yearly output for you in carbon?
    - Garro.
    Steve Garro, Coconino Cycles.
    Frames & Bicycles built to measure and Custom wheels
    Hecho en Flagstaff, Arizona desde 2003
    www.coconinocycles.com
    www.coconinocycles.blogspot.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    First, Thanks for sharing.
    Second, I like stem handlebar combo. Was that for your personal use or is it out there being used?
    And third, What is going on with all of those zip ties!! Was it to hold the tube that houses the seat guts until it cured?
    Thanks! NATE

  9. #9
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    Hi Steve and Nate,

    thanks for the questions, both of you. I'll take 'em one at a time:

    -I'm on frame number 5 right now, and that dovetails nicely with the answer to the next question: how many can I do in a year?

    -At my current throughput I could do a frame a week (maybe a day extra for the various cure cycles, but I'm just shooting my bow during those and therefore don't count them.) I'm constantly looking at how to do a given process better (#1,) and faster (#2.) Probably the biggest time saver is cutting out the majority of sanding, and that's just finding the materials that give the best result straight "out of the bag." I'm a big fan of trying new materials (oh, there are a lot of different materials that go into a carbon bike and the cure process) to see if they're better/faster. One nice thing about being a small company is that material suppliers are almost always willing to give a sample of enough product to do a real test without shelling out real money, which, when you're talking about aerospace grade x,y,z can be pretty pricey. Anyway, given my current process and comfort with the materials, I'd say a frame a week is a realistic number.

    -Sharing, I'm a big fan. And I'm a sponge of all the different techniques and information you guys and gals share as well- I may never build a Ti bike but I love to know the process.

    -The barstem will be going on my bike, as I have yet to figure out a good method for customers to determine bar angle for me to merge the two. How do builders on here who make custom barstems ensure they're building them to their customer's desired angle? Rody? Would you be mad if I called them Carbon-Loves? (I won't.) One complicating factor in that is my unwillingness to use their current bar and stem, I only use a new bar and stem- that feels like a liability I don't want to take on.

    -Ah, the zipties
    11259644914_d09bf9fe2b_c.jpg
    Yes- all those (and I carefully used an Exacto to lift their ratchet-arms so I could re-use them, I hate throwing out zipties) were to hold the little Ti tube nice and tightly while the epoxy bonded it to the seatmast. With the saddle in place I could make sure it was shooting straight, just adjusting tension on the zips to pull it a little left, a little right. Also- if anybody else is thinking of doing one of those non-adjustable seatmasts, a few tips: use the saddle that's going on that bike! Those things are all over the place and since you can't adjust it slightly left/right like a post, you have to make sure the same seat is going to be used.

    I tacked the frame together and then coped for the mast-head, which lets you fine tune placement and angle. I've seen it done the opposite way (with the mast head set, and adjusting it based on the bb cope) which seems nerve wracking.

    Okay, thanks again for the questions!
    ______________________________________________
    Devin Zoller
    L'Ecu Bicycles
    No. 1 choice of inner SE industrial Portland's discerning velophiles.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    [QUOTE=
    -Ah, the zipties
    11259644914_d09bf9fe2b_c.jpg
    Yes- all those (and I carefully used an Exacto to lift their ratchet-arms so I could re-use them, I hate throwing out zipties) QUOTE]

    Nice to hear that they are recycled. As off lately I stopped using thinner nitrile (disposable) gloves in the paint room and started using thicker chemical resistant longer length gloves that I can use over and over. Kinda like the ones used for cleaning the house but are thicker than regular nitrile gloves. Less expensive and less stuff for the landfill.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    Nate,

    How funny, me too! I hate looking at the pile of garbage that's created for each frame, so I've been steadily whittling down everything that can't be recycled and looking for longer lasting alternatives (gloves are a great example- I've had really good luck with Ravens when I need extreme tactile sense, but when I can get away with heavier stuff I always try to go that route.) The next step is making a reusable vacuum bag and cutting out that consumable. Even though I use a lot of carbon tube scrap for joint samples and little projects there's still a growing pile that's basically garbage- there is no local carbon fiber recycler and the thought of shipping scrap to be recycled is laughable.

    The way I look at it- a well built bike can be ridden for many years, so that small pile of garbage offsets the larger piles of garbage from someone buying multiple bikes. That said, it always feels good to reduce my (ha, ha) carbon footprint.
    ______________________________________________
    Devin Zoller
    L'Ecu Bicycles
    No. 1 choice of inner SE industrial Portland's discerning velophiles.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: L'Ecu Bicycles

    Oh wow, it looks like driving across the whole freaking country does take a few days! I've got a bunch of other stuff to add to this, I'll get on it when I'm back home tomorrow. Keep holding your collective breaths, but as a quick note, I'm definitely going to NAHBS and definitely bringing some good Portland coffee. See (some of) you there!

    More tomorrow.
    ______________________________________________
    Devin Zoller
    L'Ecu Bicycles
    No. 1 choice of inner SE industrial Portland's discerning velophiles.

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