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Thread: Shamrock Cycles

  1. #1
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    Default Shamrock Cycles

    Well, I guess it's my turn at the plate. My name is Tim O'Donnell and I am Shamrock Cycles. Many of the builders you have read about, and will soon read about in the coming weeks and months, are single man operations. I am no different. I build em all and paint em as well. Some of these builders found themselves working in a shop building because they had a passion for building and chose that path. Richard is a perfect example. Other builders, like Zank, discovered building a bit more organically. Life was headed in a different direction and events or serendipity intervened and they ended up leaned over a bench with file in hand. I am one of the latter.

    My father worked construction for 38 years. He worked his entire life outdoors in mud and shitty conditions because that was the only thing he knew. He accepted that and he busted his ass to be the best he could. The old man taught me carpentry, brazing, welding, etc. I started building furniture in college. Largely out of necessity. I had no money but an apartment with nothing to put in it. While nothing terribly impressive at the time, I took a staggering amount of pride knowing that I had created something. I continued to build furniture, and my skills and abilities slowly grew. To this day I still build furniture and virtually every piece of furniture in my house came from my hands. Once my wife put her foot down that our house could hold no more furniture I started restoring old motorcycles. I knew jack shit about what went into restoring a motorcycle. In 2000 I bought a basket case 1966 Triumph Bonneville and set about bringing it back to life. I enjoyed the process and ended up restoring a few others. The process re-introduced me to metal work, painting, and torch brazing (something I hadn't done since high school).

    At some point around 2002 I had moment of clarity. I was still riding and racing bikes, I had mechanical skills, I had torches and bottles out in the shop . . . it was the time to try and build a bike. I built a lugged frame for myself, which I still have and ride. I continued to build frames and continued to do things the right way and strive to improve. Flash forward to now and building frames is what I do. I am supremely fucking proud of what I do. I look forward to my day and I sleep like a baby at night knowing I am exactly where I want to be in my station in life. I don't want to be all things to all people. The bikes I build are bikes that I would want to ride and those folks that agree with me will find me.
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    i'm one of those who agree with ya tim (you knew that), but i'm no bike buyer any more, i have to build my owns...

    kudos to your off-road involvement man. the roadies often don't know/understand/care that we have to work for our trails. ('tis not effb-ing, but i know it's a part of you).

    now for the richie-esque q: what's the part of your day or building process, or even client relationship (from initial contact to shipped) that presents a thorn or maybe just a roughness needing polish in your operation?

    cheers!






  3. #3
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Tim,

    Do you have any one bike in particular that you made that in your mind stands out as "the best" you have ever built? Or is that yet to come?

    On a racing note, what is your favorite type of race?

    DW

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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Thanks Wade. My heart is in mountain biking. When I trashed my knee playing baseball my freshman year in college I started mountain biking as rehab. That was 1991. I had a man crush on John Tomac. I fell in love with mountain biking and I haven't played a day of baseball since. I have been involved on the advocacy side for about a decade now and it is an important part of who I am and what I do.

    To your question. The customer part I actually look forward to. The interaction between client and builder is crucially important. I try and stress the journey of having a custom bike built. A high level of communication and discussions with the client helps them invest more than money into the frame. They are part of the process.

    One of the issues I still struggle with is being polite, yet short, with folks that don't want to actually buy a bike. They just want to talk about bikes. I enjoy speaking with them but it is also a massive time sink. I need to figure out how to politely end a phone call or an endless stream of emails asking about everything under the sun without ever really committing to a deposit.
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Slapshot View Post
    Tim,

    Do you have any one bike in particular that you made that in your mind stands out as "the best" you have ever built? Or is that yet to come?

    On a racing note, what is your favorite type of race?

    DW
    Don, ideally the best bike is the next one. I never want to feel I have "peaked". I don't want to be the greyhound that caught the hare. I keep chasing it.

    That said, the white 650b road bike I built last year stands out as one of the better looking "complete packages". I also really like how the orange CX bike I had on display at NAHBS Indy turned out.

    I race just about every type of discipline except track. I always wanted to since the velodrome is four miles from where I sit but I just haven't done it yet. My favorite type of race is 24 hour mountain bike racing. The race is incredibly hard as an individual but you are part of a team. Part of something bigger than just you. I like that feeling. Plus the vibe is unbeatable. Everyone is going through the same pain as you. You feel like you are part of a tribe. Empathy runs high even when spirits run low. (3:00 AM in the rain with a busted derailleur). It is the most positive, encouraging, painful, exhilarating racing I have ever done.
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by hmbatrail View Post
    I need to figure out how to politely end a phone call or an endless stream of emails asking about everything under the sun without ever really committing to a deposit.
    easy- 1-900-tim-talk!
     

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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Tim,

    Good to learn of how you got here.

    Can you tell us more of how you promote your business? any marketing plan?

    Cheers,
    Renold
    Renold Yip
    YiPsan Bicycles

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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by YiPsan View Post
    Tim,

    Good to learn of how you got here.

    Can you tell us more of how you promote your business? any marketing plan?

    Cheers,
    Renold
    Renold,
    By and large I rely on word of mouth. I also have the website, which gets decent traffic. Lastly, I help sponsor the local cyclocross series as well as sponsor a cyclocross and mtb team. Beyond those avenues I don't really do much.

    I plan on doing some print advertising in 2010 and that will be the first time I have done that.
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Tim, nice to hear from you! It looks like you've done a great job of getting through those first tough years. Now that you've gotten established, how do you see your shop/business changing? Is it time for a deep breath and to hunker down, or are there any plans for growing in a new way, material, process, design, or business?

    As a total newb I visited you for some help and was overwhelmed by how generous and encouraging you were. Your attitude has helped me keep chugging along, thank you!
    Craig
     

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    "your next is your best.." the way it otta be ...
    beautiful craftsmanship and luv yo logo ...

    all the best,

    ronnie
     

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Ryan View Post
    Tim, nice to hear from you! It looks like you've done a great job of getting through those first tough years. Now that you've gotten established, how do you see your shop/business changing? Is it time for a deep breath and to hunker down, or are there any plans for growing in a new way, material, process, design, or business?

    As a total newb I visited you for some help and was overwhelmed by how generous and encouraging you were. Your attitude has helped me keep chugging along, thank you!
    Craig
    Craig,
    I was completely unprepared for the pop in business after last year's NAHBS. I don't think I see the physical shop changing much. I built a decent size shop off the alley so my commute is measured in paces and not miles. Plus, it is paid for. Besides, if I got a bigger shop I would immediately fill it with more stuff that I may very well not need.

    I sometimes toy around with expanding my repertoire but I always come back to the same conclusion: I like steel so I will stay with what I like. As I said before, I don't want to be all things to all people.

    It was great having you down in the shop by the way. You need to come down sometime soon and we can go for a ride.
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Hey Tim,

    Sorry for the recycled question, but I like getting each builder’s take on their own work.
    First Question: We all know, or have some idea what makes your work similar to other made to measure/custom frames/bicycles, ie. Quality materials, tester joinery methods, attention to detail, and the delicate balance of producing a frame that is both esthetically pleasing and functional, but what makes your bike different?

    I think that it goes without saying that each of the builders in the “smoked out” thread create superior work, so without comparing yourself directly to another builder(s), what is it about your frames/bicycles that draws (or will draw) in clients?

    Second Question: You’ve often mentioned that you set out to build bikes and are like Sean Connery. I love the best 007 as much as the next guy, but what does this have to do with building made to measure bikes?

    Thanks
    Andy
    "I think I know what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers."

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Andy,
    In many ways I am not different than many of the builders, nor am I trying to be. I build the best bike I can, every time. What I turn out I am proud of and people seem to like it. In that way, I am just like many that came before me and many that will come after me. It is good company to be in. That said, I do a few small unique things on my frame that seem to resonate with people (the shamrock bottle stiffeners, the head badge, etc) but I am not trying to build something so off the wall. The bicycle design was mastered a century ago and it is a little too presumptuous of me to think that I can make some sort of ground breaking change.

    What I do is make sure my customers are appreciated. I make sure that I provide them all the contact and special service to make sure they NEVER regret sending me a deposit.

    The Sean Connery thing. Yeah, it came to me as I was speaking with someone and it seemed to fit what I am trying to do. I want to build a bike that always looks good. I want to build a bike that looked contemporary 30 years ago and will look contemporary 30 years from now. Something that has understated elegance and looks better through the years.

    Your first question and your second question are sort of related. If I want to build a bike that fits my aesthetic goal of looking contemporary regardless of era then I am unable (and unwilling) to truly deviate from the traditional look of the bicycle.

    I don't want to give you the impression that I don't experiment and try new things. I do all the time, but they aren't simply to change the look of the bike. If there is an improvement in strength, ride quality, etc. I will give it a go. But other than that . . .
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    now that you are doing the paint, do you "get into" that process as well, or is it simply a necessary part of the process at this point?

    paint reminds me of golf. double bogey the 8th hole and ruin the whole front nine.






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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    how did you go from wood to metal? Granted a person that is good with their hands can be good at anything they set their mind to but Working with wood and metal are rather different. I for instance won't build anything out of wood unless I really need to, It's just not framilure to me.
     

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by WadePatton View Post
    now that you are doing the paint, do you "get into" that process as well, or is it simply a necessary part of the process at this point?

    paint reminds me of golf. double bogey the 8th hole and ruin the whole front nine.
    Wade, excellent analogy. I really enjoy the paint process but it can be awfully frustrating at times. Often, by the time you discover an error it is too late. Being able to tell myself, "put the gun down, get out of the booth, wait until the paint is dry and then fix the problem and start over." That is really hard to do. It gets even harder if you continue to try and fix the problem "on the fly". But accepting that I just burned a couple hours of work and have nothing to show for it is frustrating as hell. Luckily those types of situations are getting less and less common.
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by abbeyQ View Post
    how did you go from wood to metal? Granted a person that is good with their hands can be good at anything they set their mind to but Working with wood and metal are rather different. I for instance won't build anything out of wood unless I really need to, It's just not framilure to me.
    Like most things it happened out of necessity. When I started working on old motorcycles and converting them over to cafe bikes it often required metal work and brazing work to get that to happen. It connected the dots between woodworking and cycling. It was what got me thinking about building a frame. I had always been a cyclist so it seemed a natural progression to try my hand at framebuilding.

    I am awfully glad I made that decision.
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by hmbatrail View Post

    One of the issues I still struggle with is being polite, yet short, with folks that don't want to actually buy a bike. They just want to talk about bikes. I enjoy speaking with them but it is also a massive time sink. I need to figure out how to politely end a phone call or an endless stream of emails asking about everything under the sun without ever really committing to a deposit.
    Ask for a deposit! I give people three E-mails tops. as soon as you start talking specifics you are, in effect, designing the bike.........your brain is your most important asset you have - charge people to use it. It's not rude - " I can build what you want no problem. the cost is...............tenitive delivery date would be..............to continue further in this discussion i must recieve a deposit sent to:................. as we are entering a client/builder relationship. your stuff looks awesome. you are one of the guys I root for {and you are still 1st in line for spring cleaning sales} just keep doing what you are doing. carry on. To close with a question: where do you see 650B going in the off-road world? - 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

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    I love your work, the bikes you had in Richmond were amazing.
    You do lugs and fillets both very well. Do you have preferred joinery method, and does/did one come easier than the other?
    I also think its awesome how you call your off white "Irish Suntan"
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
    Summoner of Crickets
    http://edozbicycles.wordpress.com/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/edozbicycles/
    In Before the Lock

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Shamrock Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by steve garro View Post
    Ask for a deposit! I give people three E-mails tops. as soon as you start talking specifics you are, in effect, designing the bike.........your brain is your most important asset you have - charge people to use it. It's not rude - " I can build what you want no problem. the cost is...............tenitive delivery date would be..............to continue further in this discussion i must recieve a deposit sent to:................. as we are entering a client/builder relationship. your stuff looks awesome. you are one of the guys I root for {and you are still 1st in line for spring cleaning sales} just keep doing what you are doing. carry on. To close with a question: where do you see 650B going in the off-road world? - Garro.
    Steve,
    I knew I could count on you to be the voice of reason. Actually, I was thinking of you as I typed my response. Super friendly, knowledgeable, but doesn't suffer fools gladly. That tightrope is sometimes tough to walk.

    I think you and I are in agreement on the idea of 650b. I think there is significant advantage of 650b over 26" Especially for shorter inseam folks. The gripes I often hear about 650b is the lack of parts but I disagree. Tires are easily found with plenty of excellent all-rounder options available from Schwalbe, Panaracer, Kenda, Pacenti, et al. Wheels are no problem as well. Pre-builts from Sun and American Classic as well as plenty of rims if you want to build your own. Forks really are where people complain the most but a 29er fork works just fine. If you want a 650b specific fork I use both a Whits Brothers Fluid and a Magic and love them.

    Can the market support a third wheel option in the mtb market? Only time will tell but the benefits are there and the more people try 650b the more that others will agree.
    Tim O'Donnell- Shamrock Cycles
    www.lugoftheirish.com

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