Thanks to Mike and Craig for getting the ball rolling with this, and to Richard for scheming up new ways to entertain. My name is Matt Cardinal, I am one of two owners of Signal Cycles the other is Nate Meschke. Nate is in Columbia hanging out in a hammock right now, so I’m going to start the conversation and let him join in when he gets back (or gets good internet service).
Before I started Signal, I had done some dropout replacements and basic braze-ons in my (at that time) 15 year career as a bike mechanic, but never really considered putting a bike together. During the summer of 2005 I got an opportunity to work for Sacha White assembling bikes, and was blown away and inspired by the experience of sharing shop time with him. I guess that is what pushed me over that little ledge of deciding, “I want to build a bike.” I built my first bike in my garage in the fall of 2005 it was hideous. I made Nate buy a tube set and the two of us helped each other build a few more bikes for ourselves. It was a lot of fun, and I started having friends asking about me building them a bike. I mosly said no, I wasn’t planning on starting a bike company at that point. The enjoyment I had building was all that I needed.
This is where I tell you that we have no formal training as bike builders, and you all pick up your jaws and shake your heads in disbelief. As Craig mentioned in his thread “I’m and internet framebuilder.” I had a Paterek manual that I found almost useful, and help from a few friends that had built bikes, most notable is Brett Flemming the owner of Efficient Velo Tools. Brett helped us set up the shop with a jig and better hand tools. But the most exciting and diverse source of knowledge came from documenting that other builders had posted online. The online research helped clear up some of the gray areas from the Paterek manual.
After Nate and I had been building for about two years, we found out that NAHBS was going to be in Portland in 2008. The fact that NAHBS was going to be in our back yard was too good an opportunity to pass up. I got funding from the shop we work at, the Bike Gallery and convinced Nate to be my partner in it. Looking back I suppose it was brash thinking I could pull this thing together. Somehow we were in the right place at the right time and were included in the book “Handmade Bicycles a passionate Pursuit” along with many heroes of ours. We made 20 bikes our first year.
Last year after the Bike Gallery still wasn’t seeing a way to make money selling our bikes, they decided to offer the company to Nate and I. So Nate and I have owned Signal since June of 2009.
I guess that’s as good a place to start as any. I know that a lot of successful builders started by just building a bike, whereas others got started by sitting at a bench and brazing hundreds of dropouts, then hundreds of brazeons. We’ve had insurance since day zero, none of our bikes have broken, and we’ve made a lot of people bikes that they love and are proud of. There have been growing pains and learning moments, but I feel that we are making good progress. I hope that the quality of the work we are doing can speak for itself. I know that Nate and I still have a long road ahead of us, and that makes me very excited. I really feel fortunate to be involved in this conversation. Thanks for reading.