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Thread: Maxwell Cycles

  1. #1
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    Default Maxwell Cycles

    My name is Kevin Ostrom and I have been using Maxwell Cycles to brand a few of my frames. I am most definitely a hobby builder, but would eventually like to build frames for profit. I am not an industry cat - I have never worked in a bicycle shop and I have not had the opportunity to work for any frame builders. Through the old FF, and now VS, I have had the opportunity to learn a great many things from everyone here (thank you very much!!). I would not be at the place I am now without everyone’s help.

    In 2007, I decided to pay up and take a UBI frame building course, with the hopes of this jump starting my frame building career. The course was extremely helpful, but after completion it became clear to me that this was just the beginning. Looking back I cannot believe how trouble free that first build was. I took my time, asked a great many questions, watched the skilled demonstrations, and left Oregon with a nice frame and fork. The instructors were mildly impressed – they recommended against an attempt to build a fillet brazed frame and build up a fork. The instructors were concerned that there would not be enough time to develop sufficient skills in 11 days. But the planets aligned and I managed to complete my project. The next 4 years have been spent trying to replicate that first frame building experience. As it turns out, it is easy to perform miracles when an experience person is there guiding you towards success!

    That first frame served me very well, but only for a short time. It only survived 3 years and ~15,000 miles before it had to be retired. I attempted a repair, but after seeing a thread on VS about a similar problem that resulted in a catastrophic failure of a head tube, the decision was made to just start over. The two major flaws were poor technique and a thin head tube which resulted in an oval head tube.

    To date 4 frames have been completed in my own space – 3 road bikes and one cyclocross. My wife rides one of the road bikes, a friend from work rides another and the last two I ride (a single speed 29er and a cyclocross). I am working on my new road bike and hope to have it completed in the next few weeks, but with my crazy work schedule and trying to keep the home life going, it will probably take longer.

    The next 5 years will be spent working on my fabrication skills, building a brand, and striving to build a perfect bicycle. It will be a hard but rewarding journey – having fun will be a happy byproduct.

    Kevin Maxwell Ostrom

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Maxwell Cycles

    Kevin, do find the time between builds as helpful (time to steep about the process and techniques prior to moving on) or do you find that's it's more like starting from scratch if too much time has passed since your last build? Thanks!-Chris

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Maxwell Cycles

    Hi Kevin,

    Since I also don't come from an industry background I can really relate having to learn EVERYTHING from scratch.

    What happened to that first frame that made you retire it and what did you learn or change for the other 4? It seems you focus on road frames. Do you plan on doing MTB or touring bikes (or any other type) in the future? How do you work out fit?

    hope this isn't too much for a second reply.
    Cheers
    Kevin

    PolyTube Cycles

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Maxwell Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Dornbox View Post
    Kevin, do find the time between builds as helpful (time to steep about the process and techniques prior to moving on) or do you find that's it's more like starting from scratch if too much time has passed since your last build? Thanks!-Chris
    Chris,

    Thank you for the question. When I started, everything was difficult and gaps between builds resulted in large setbacks. Even now gaps in building result in loss of skill - I have found it necessary to keep a pile of tubing in the shop for practice (once a week). I still have that feeling of starting from scratch with every build, but my ability to recognize when things are going badly has greatly improved. It has not been until this past year that time away from building has allowed me to reflect on my process (what went well and what did not). With my build queue such as it is, it will be a long time before everything becomes fluid.

    KMO

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Maxwell Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by datas_brother View Post
    Hi Kevin,

    Since I also don't come from an industry background I can really relate having to learn EVERYTHING from scratch.

    What happened to that first frame that made you retire it and what did you learn or change for the other 4? It seems you focus on road frames. Do you plan on doing MTB or touring bikes (or any other type) in the future? How do you work out fit?

    hope this isn't too much for a second reply.
    Kevin,
    The first frame I built used a very thin head tube and when I brazed in the down tube, the head tube ovalized. I thought that I could correct this by squeezing the head tube and checking with a caliper until it was "round". What I did not take into consideration was the area just out of reach of the caliper tips. This area was still not round which resulted in the reamer taking out too much material.

    That first bike did not handle fast descents well - it always had a heavy feel to the steering, even though it had 50mm of trail and a high bottom bracket. I just learned to ride around it until about two years later when the lower head bearing failed. I pulled the head set out and the lower race just fell apart and the race could be pulled out by hand. I figured out what had happened and decided to squeeze it back into "round" again and braze a ring to strengthen the head tube. I was very happy, the bike did not steer heavy, and it was a joy to descend on but the good times only lasted for 1 year. The head tube began to fail again and I was lucky in that it only resulted in a destroyed bearing. Just after the second failure, one of the forum members posted a picture of a failed head tube - it looked like the bearing just pushed its way out the back side of the head tube. I was just very lucky that mine did not fail in the same way.

    I now use a head tube that is 37mm x 1.6mm (instead of the 36mm x 1.1mm) and I make sure that my miters are very tight. I also think that better heat control - both the distribution and amount - has helped keep the amount of distortion to a minimum. For that first build I was very concerned about weight - so much so that out of ignorance I built with materials that were outside of my skills and outside of their intended use.

    I have been focused on road bikes, it is what I can consistently build and test. I have some very nice off road areas to ride, but my dirt skills are not what they used to be and I have not put much thought into how I want an MTB bike to ride. I currently ride a bontrager circa 1994. I was fortunate to get mine pre - trek and have enjoyed riding that bike ever since. That was my first experience with steel and it was amazing the difference from aluminum. I will be building a new MTB for me to ride - there is a NOS Marzocchi Bomber fork sitting at the shop waiting for a frame. I will be working out a commuter for myself, but I have not quite figured out what it needs to do.

    I have a thing for cargo bikes, and have been doodling in my sketch book. I do not have any solid plans for this one, but I may have to build one for hauling all my junk around.

    For fit, I have to read articles, talk to people who actually fit others to bikes for a living and try the ideas out on myself. My wife had a bike that was too responsive; she did not like how quickly it would decide to change direction. She also did not like the feeling of being "perched" on top of the bike. I built a bike that had a bit more bottom bracket drop, a longer head tube, a bit more trail, and increased the wheelbase slightly. She has been happy, but she did not have very high expectations to begin with. The second person I built for was much easier - he is in very good physical shape, rides his bicycles all the time and knew that he wanted something that was responsive, but could ride all day in. I took all of his measurement, checked out his current bicycles - asking lots of questions about what he liked about each one and tried to put all of that information into a bike that he would enjoy riding.

    I guess that I take in as much information as I can from the person I am working with and attempt to put that into a bicycle.

    KMO

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Maxwell Cycles

    Hey Kevin, welcome to Smoked Out. I like to read about other guys who are still figuring things out, cause it makes me feel like I'm not the only one;) Your work is looking pretty nice, but the picture of the praying mantis beats everything on your Flickr site. That El Camino is a close second.
    Tell us more about that frame with the curved tube connecting the seat tube and seatstay brace, with the cable hangar cut into it. That looks pretty neat.
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
    Summoner of Crickets
    http://edozbicycles.wordpress.com/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/edozbicycles/
    In Before the Lock

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Maxwell Cycles

    Eric, Thank you for the compliment. The praying manits was pretty cool. I was just sitting at the fire pit, eating lunch and I look down to see the Mantis hunting. I was impressed that it stayed there long enough for me to get a picture!

    Shortly after taking that picture I ran into the owner while camping on Cobb Mountain. He was out playing in the dirt driving the stink out of that truck - it was cool to see.

    The green bike with the curved tube connecting the seat tube and seatstay brace is my first volley into a CX bike. I had only built one other bike with cantis and it was very small so the only place to place the cable stop was on the side of the seat post. This bike had many possibilities - I could have put a small post off one of the seat stays or off of the cross brace, but I thought it would look cool to have a curved brace. I did not like the idea of an unsupported end (although it would have been fine) so I extended the curve into the back of the seat tube. It is different, but I do am not really happy with the detail, I think next time I will try a smaller diameter tube.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Maxwell Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Maxwell Ostrom View Post
    ...The next 5 years will be spent working on my fabrication skills, building a brand, and striving to build a perfect bicycle. It will be a hard but rewarding journey – having fun will be a happy byproduct.

    Kevin Maxwell Ostrom
    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for stepping up to be Smoked Out. My question is along the lines of some of the discussion in the Foresta thread and threads by some of the other news guys in the field. How will will know when you are ready to build frames for profit?
     

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Maxwell Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by John M View Post
    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for stepping up to be Smoked Out. My question is along the lines of some of the discussion in the Foresta thread and threads by some of the other news guys in the field. How will will know when you are ready to build frames for profit?
    John,

    Thank you for the question, and sorry for not replying earlier - life has a funny way of creating distractions!

    I really do not know how to tell when I will be ready to offer my frames to the general public. I want to rush in, get my insurance, launch a website, and begin taking in orders - but there is a part of me that is terrified of these things. It sounds crazy, but there is so much that I do not know about building frames that every frame leaving my jig is followed with a bit of anxiety. How will it ride? How long will this one last? Will it fall apart on it's first ride? The 100th? The 10,000? I guess that when my personal axiety over these things subsides - that will be the time to begin offering frames for sale.

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