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Thread: Spectrum Cycles

  1. #1
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    Default Spectrum Cycles

    I was hit by a car, rear ended outside Salisbury, England. My Schwinn World Voyager frame was destroyed along with both wheels. It was the summer of ’75 and my younger brother and I were cycle touring together in England and Scotland for six weeks. We had been in southern England for three days when I was hit (my fault). After being released from the hospital with a very raw back, elbows, hands and knees, I had to find another frame and wheel components. My brother, already an experienced racer at 15, had heard of Holdsworth frames. I hopped a train into London, looked up “Holdsworth” in the phone book and took a local train out to East Penge and the Holdsworth shop. I bought a 21” frame set, a pair of rims, spokes and a seat post and returned to the hostel in Salisbury. Dave and I rebuilt the bike the next day and completed the trip a bit more than five weeks later. During that time, I became a cyclist, not a terribly good one, but a permanent one.

    After that summer, I had one more year of undergrad studies with a degree in Sociology waiting the next May. With a degree in sociology, you can teach, go back to school for something else or simply head out in a different direction. What you could not do back then was get a job as a sociologist.

    During that winter of ’75 – ’76, there was an article published in what would become Bicycling Magazine about American frame builders. Until that time, I thought that you had to be either British or Italian to build high end frames. Looking at those little black and white snap shots of American built frames transfixed me. One image in particular just blew me away. It was a shot of the inside of a right, rear dropout on a Jim Redcay frame. It was so beautiful, the lines and curves were just so perfect. I knew I could never do that, but I wanted to try. That winter, I wrote (you know … with postage) letters to about five eastern US builders asking for apprentice positions. I got replies from two; Jim Redcay and Bill Boston. Bill hired me for a five year apprenticeship which began the day after I graduated ... he fired me after a couple of months. My understanding was that; a) I wasn’t earning my keep and, b) I wasn’t progressing at a rate that indicated I might someday earn my keep. I sucked. At least from the perspective of an experienced builder, I sucked.

    After leaving Bill, I visited a couple of other builders. Peter Weigle at Whitcome, USA gave me the best advice. He said that I had learned enough from Bill and about his techniques and designs that working for someone else would require re-learning in some areas. He thought I should just give it a try on my own.

    As it turned out, being forced to leave Bill was good for both of us. He no longer had a millstone around his neck and I could develop on my own. Over the years, I came to understand that I was actually so terrified of messing up at Bill’s that I simply locked up. Once I was on my own, I had more freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. The very steep part of the learning curve at the beginning was the worst of it, at least when it came to the building process. After the first ten frames or so, the curve started to level out, never completely doing so. The other parts of frame building; painting, business, marketing, all have had their own curves and new ones seem to arrive all the time.

    I was very fortunate to have moved to the Lehigh Valley very late in ’76. Since it was not very far from where I grew up and they had a bicycle racing track, I figured that it was as good a place as any to set up a shop. Those first few years racing on the track and training with national team members enabled me to jump start my business. It gave me a leg us not only because I got many of the riders on my frames, but also because they taught me what was right and wrong about the frames I built them. They knew nothing about frame design, but they did know what worked and what didn’t work. Early on, they were my teachers. I had to figure out how to eliminate the characteristics that they didn’t like and how to enhance the ones that they did. Somehow, I was good at doing that; figuring out how to make frames perform in certain ways.

    That ability is one of the reasons why Merlin took me on as a designer back around day-one in Somerville. Working through a mechanical or design problem still gets me excited. Each time I design another custom frame or frame component, I am challenged in a way that brings me back to the sixth grade when I was introduced to geometry and trigonometry. It was so exciting to me back then because I could “see” it, I could visualize it. It made sense. Frame design is the same way for me. I don’t know where that ability came from, but I still value it and love to work with it.

    Our “style” came from my earliest days with Bill Boston and later while spending a lot of time in Jim Redcay’s shop using his paint booth. Both of those guys had developed a very simple, clean, no frills look. When I started building my own frames, I began like many back then using Prugnat long point lugs. You can’t get much plainer looking than they were. My big departure from Jim’s and Bill’s styles was with my seat stays. For some reason, I never liked the “fastback” style they used. I tried a few variations on our current style and settled where we are now about thirty years ago. The actual stay cap is very close to what the old Masi Gran Criteriums used except that we miter them into the seat lug very differently. After using cast lugs for years, we finally gave up on them once we got to the point where over half of our frames required custom angled and dimensioned lugs. Now that we are used to making our own lugs, even standard geometry frames get handmade lugs.

    I have been blessed to have worked with and helped by a large number of talented and generous people in the bicycle business. I keep doing what I do for all the obvious reasons;
    - I love riding and racing.
    - I love the challenges of designing, building and painting.
    - I can never get enough of hearing that we have helped make someone happy, more healthy, etc.
    - I’d get bored if I stopped.

    I wish I had another me to;
    - Do the paperwork.
    - Sand clear coats.
    - Mask lug edges.
    - Mow the lawn.
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Thanks Tom. Good stuff.

    Len
     

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    Thumbs up Spectrum Cycles

    Love the clean look on all Spectrum bicycles and the curved seatstays on the titanium models is the epitome of beauty.
    You're a tremendous resource about forks and that is a critical area of bicycles that is sometimes an afterthought these days.
    Keep doing what you and Jeff are doing bringing great bicycles into this world.
     

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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    You guys have been around a long time, I like how you roll with the times without giving up on building the classic styles that you started with. Between you and your partner, how do you divide up the tasks? Do you each have defined roles, or do you switch off?
    Also, what's your favorite thing out of everything that you guys do?
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
    Summoner of Crickets
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    In Before the Lock

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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by edoz View Post
    You guys have been around a long time, I like how you roll with the times without giving up on building the classic styles that you started with. Between you and your partner, how do you divide up the tasks? Do you each have defined roles, or do you switch off?
    Also, what's your favorite thing out of everything that you guys do?
    For me the favorite thing is delivery. There is nothing like having a client pick up their bike. Last week we had a client come up from DC and pick up her bike. She, her husband and I took a brief spin, about an hour, together. It gave me the opportunity to give her a few tips on the Red group she had chosen since she had previously only used Shimano components. At the end of the ride, her face was priceless, as they say.

    Jeff does almost all of the steel building with the exception of the lug thinning. He will come to me for aesthetic advice sometimes as he is carving lug edges or deciding on exactly where to trim a fork blade after the initial raking. He also does all of the titanium frame prep work just short of painting; alignment checks, satin brush work, etc. He "hangs" the components on complete bike builds. Jeff also does almost all the packing of frames and bikes. Jeff is also in charge of music choice on the ground floor, while I take care of that duty in the paint booth and the office. I roast and brew the coffee, do all design and fitting work, paint, final bike assemblies, bookkeeping, wheel building, tire gluing and worrying. Of course there is more to it than that, but we seem to have fallen into our rolls over time and it is rare that I need to ask him to do some of the work I am used to doing. The balance seems to have worked pretty well.

    Blue Jays - Thanks for that. And by the way everyone ... we don't keep secrets here. If we can be of any help to other builders or aspiring builders, please let us know.

    Finally, I'm going to try to keep up with your questions and comments on this thread, but I can be unavailable for stretches, so please be patient. I am doing two races tomorrow, so don't expect me to be right on it every day.
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Cool- I've been looking forward to this chapter of Smoked Out.
    But Tom, this just feels like part I! Can part II cover how you went from design guy at Merlin to offering the pc finishes that all others are measured by?

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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    This is one I've been waiting for too. Talk about your Ti work! I love the Spectra that I occasionally see and I still want to own one. Do you still see Ti as having a future? I know a lot of this material stuff is trendy and right now Ti is not very trendy. But it has a lot of great characteristics I think. Where do you see that going? How did you get into working with Ti?
     

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chauncey Matthews View Post
    Cool- I've been looking forward to this chapter of Smoked Out.
    But Tom, this just feels like part I! Can part II cover how you went from design guy at Merlin to offering the pc finishes that all others are measured by?
    Part one is right. My essay up top is mostly how I got started and what makes me tick, in part. There are decades more stuff in there. In stead of attempting to take my history step by step (I'm now to far gone over the hill to be able to do that) I'll try to give you an idea of what I go through to take all the steps to get from not so good to better.

    From those early days, '76 - '79 I always assumed that there was nothing I was doing that couldn't be better in some way. At first, those things were usually workmanship type of stuff like soldering and brazing that wasn't as nice as I'd like, paint jobs that had orange peel, alignment issues. I don't remember being as concerned with design issues so much in the first few years. Then I made a big mistake with a customer's frame and I came to realize that I needed to pay more attention to design than I had been. In hindsight, that mistake was an obvious one, but those obvious mistakes have taught me a lot. In this case, it was super short chain stays on an already very short crit. frame for a little guy. He never could get that bike through a bumpy tight corner at race speed. Lesson learned.

    After the first ten years or so, the development of what we do here has usually been with smaller steps. Little changes in technique, a few additional steps in finishing precesses, a new jig or tool. On occasion, there is a pretty big improvement all at once, but that is now unusual. The last pretty big one was about six years ago during the development of the Merlin CR tubeset. I was forced by the engineers at Merlin to really rethink how tubes do what they do in a titanium frame. Since they don't work quite the same in a Ti frame as a steel frame, I needed to take a second look at tube design. Although it worked out quite well, some of the improvements in the way the bikes now work were dumb luck. And dumb luck is where many changes and improvements come from. I'm not trying to be cute here. After enough frames under our belts, there are simply a lot of chances to figure things out. It is a bit like life in that with enough generations, there is bound to be evolution.

    The other important source of improvements are other builders and companies in the bicycle business. I have learned most of what I know about bikes from others. Simple as that. I can't take credit for inventing a lot of stuff. I can take credit for putting our knowledge together in ways that define what we do.

    So the very short response is: "it is never good enough." Everything we do can be better. Jeff and i are still trying to figure out how to make our stuff better. That is the beginning of the process, and progress.
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    How do you possibly make any money charging what you do for steel bikes and tandems when you make your own lugs?
     

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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Interesting comment about how Ti tubes don't work the same as steel tubes in a frame. Would you elaborate on that?

    Jon
     

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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    rode and enjoyed a merlin - your name was on the chain stay. marketing at it's best ....
    very impressed with your workmanship, but most -- your self & statement .... "we learn from other pioneers and peers." we add to, improve and mark our spot..

    can a ti crown and fork be made, or has it been made, attractive aesthetically and fuctional? i guess my perception inability...

    ronnie
     

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saab2000 View Post
    This is one I've been waiting for too. Talk about your Ti work! I love the Spectra that I occasionally see and I still want to own one. Do you still see Ti as having a future? I know a lot of this material stuff is trendy and right now Ti is not very trendy. But it has a lot of great characteristics I think. Where do you see that going? How did you get into working with Ti?
    Thanks for this question, I think. I am a bit conflicted talking about the place of titanium as a frame material. That may sound odd since we sell about the same number of titanium frames as we do steel. The qualities of titanium are not why I am conflicted though. For me, the issue is that I know how good a material titanium can be for building frames, and at the same time it has lost its place as the ideal material in the eyes of most of the cycling public. It is frustrating for me, I'll admit it. When we deliver a new Ti bike to someone who comes to us from a different material, they always seem amazed at how wonderful the material feels and responds and my reaction (under my breath) is: well, yeah, of course. It is almost as though folks have forgotten what it can be like. It seems as though many riders from back in the day when steel was king are coming back to steel for good reason, but few have "remembered" what a good titanium bike was like. Of course in the intervening years, we have figured out ways to make them work even better. So I do get frustrated. Last weekend I was on a four hour easy training ride and a rider from Arizona and I swapped bikes for ten miles or so. His bike was a typical composite bike from a major Pro-Tour bike company. His reaction to my bike in about twenty meters was complete amazement. He too had forgotten what they were like. Like I said, frustrating.

    Where is it going? Well, not away. It is just too good, at least potentially. Not all Ti bikes work well. Many of you will remember the early overly flexible ones. It took quite a while for us and others to figure out how to make Ti work properly. Ever since we developed the CR tubesets about six years ago, we really haven't come up any significant advancements in Ti tubing design. I am still riding and racing on the final prototype for the CR, now in its sixth season. I just don't think I can improve on it at this point. So as long as people "remember" what Ti can do, they will keep coming. To be fair, we do get a number of riders who order from us out of their own frustration with frames that just don't hold up to what racing dishes out. Frames that fail in minor crashes, or major ones for that matter. Those of you who race with me may know of some of my crashes over the years. If my current frame was built with ANY other material, it would not still be with us. I really didn't answer that question, did I?

    How did I get into Titanium? Small world thing. A customer of mine who did some brochures and adds for me knew a guy up in the Boston area who was starting a company that was to build titanium frames. I was looking for a way to branch out into other materials, not liking aluminum as an option. The company in Somerville, Mass came from a mountain bike background (Fat City) and they needed someone who knew road bikes while I needed a source for titanium frames. Perfect. The small world thing is that the guy starting Merlin was someone who I had met at a dude ranch in Wyoming back in the early 60s. His parents and my parents had become very good friends and his Mom remains a friend to my parents today. Gwynn Jones was one of the three founders of Merlin and we originally met at a tiny spot in the middle of Wyoming as kids. Who'd have thought. I have remained Merlin's designer ever since and Merlin still fabricates our titanium frames for us. Its been a long time.
    Last edited by Tom Kellogg; 07-11-2010 at 08:10 PM. Reason: clarity
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by mschol17 View Post
    How do you possibly make any money charging what you do for steel bikes and tandems when you make your own lugs?
    Once you've done a couple hundred frames worth of lugs, you tend to get better at it. The materials that go into making a lug are very inexpensive, just 4130 seamless tubing, and not much of it at that. It is quite a bit of labor, but with practice, it gets somewhat quicker. In addition to being able to make lugs in any sizes and angles, we can make them look the way we want to. For us, that is a pretty big thing. Using lugs from a casting house is convenient, but it is hard to get them to look just like you want them to. So that extra labor is now something we put up with so that we can make the frames look and work the way we want to.

    So, you are suggesting that we raise our prices right before you order yours? Cool. Just let me know when you will be ordering.
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
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    Quote Originally Posted by stackie View Post
    Interesting comment about how Ti tubes don't work the same as steel tubes in a frame. Would you elaborate on that?
    Jon
    Titanium is kind of odd stuff in a lot of ways, but when it comes to designing with it, there are three basic things that require builders to think somewhat differently as they design a frame.

    A) Common alloy Titaniums are only about 62% as stiff as steel so a builder needs to either use heavier gauge tubing or larger diameter tubing to come up with a frame that has roughly similar stiffness properties compared to a steel frame. Would that is was that simple though. Bending stiffness and shear (torsional) stiffness do not have a fixed relationship to each other like they do with steel. For example, 6/4 Ti is a couple percent stiffer in bending than 3/2.5 is but 3/2.5 is stiffer than 6/4 in torsion. Like I said, odd stuff.

    B) Titanium's modulus varies under different stresses a lot more than steel's does as well. What this means in the real world is that even a pretty rigid titanium frame will still have a little bit of flex, or give, before it seems to lock up. This is why so many riders know of titanium's comfortable ride. Those little vibrations aren't absorbed, like they will be with some composite frames, but they just don't bother the rider. In the same way, a well designed Ti frame's BB area will seem to flex a little bit, but then will stiffen up under higher loads. Odd stuff, indeed.

    C) Under torsional loads, steel and titanium tubes distribute stresses almost perfectly evenly, end to end, assuming straight gauge tubing. Bending stresses are a whole different thing though. Because titanium has that little bit of low modulus flex, bending stresses are not concentrated quite as locally as they are with steel. The stresses are spread down the tubes farther than they are with steel. This requires a Ti designer to consider butt lengths and gauges more carefully than a steel designer needs to.

    Helps?
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
    http://kapelmuurindependent.be


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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by ron l edmiston View Post
    rode and enjoyed a merlin - your name was on the chain stay. marketing at it's best ....
    very impressed with your workmanship, but most -- your self & statement .... "we learn from other pioneers and peers." we add to, improve and mark our spot..
    The enjoyment of your Merlin is in some measure how we get paid for our work. Really, if folks didn't tell us that our bikes (and designs) gave them joy, this business would be a lot tougher. I'm glad that you like what we do and what we have become.

    Quote Originally Posted by ron l edmiston View Post
    can a ti crown and fork be made, or has it been made, attractive aesthetically and fuctional? i guess my perception inability...
    In a word; no. Can an attractive Ti fork be made? Sure. Can a functional Ti fork be made? In theory. Can both goals be met in one fork? Nope. Titanium needs space, size to be stiff enough. Forks just don't give you much room to work with. OK?
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
    http://kapelmuurindependent.be


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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    ya know tom, this framebuilder's collective and smoked out is a "perfect 10..."
    i not only enjoy, but my learning curve is in a change mode ...

    ronnie
     

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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by ron l edmiston View Post
    ya know tom, this framebuilder's collective and smoked out is a "perfect 10..."
    i not only enjoy, but my learning curve is in a change mode ...

    ronnie
    Excellent! That's why we're here.
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
    http://kapelmuurindependent.be


    Shortest TFC Member (5'6 3/4") & shrinking

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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Tom, I'd like to know how you met Jeff. Where did your backgrounds collide?
     

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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kellogg View Post

    So, you are suggesting that we raise our prices right before you order yours? Cool. Just let me know when you will be ordering.
    Deal :)
     

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    Default Re: Spectrum Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Ryan View Post
    Tom, I'd like to know how you met Jeff. Where did your backgrounds collide?
    When I went to work for Ross Bicycles in late '79, Jeff had already been working there for a number of years. Just a local guy working on a production line. Although I remember him being a guy at the plant that first year, no special impression was made. He was just a guy in the shop. When I started the 198 line, the first production hand made bikes at Ross, Jeff applied for one of the brazer positions. He had been on the fork repair line handling a torch a bit doing touch-up work. He told me later that after the first few frames that he destroyed, and after almost getting fired, they let him try again. It stuck. When I left Ross in '82, Jim Redcay took over in the Signature department that I had started. He hired Jeff off of the 198 line and into the signature shop after seeing him braze. Eventually, Jim left as well and Jeff took over the Signature shop. Around that time, my assistant, Mike Overcash decided to move back down to Florida and I got way out of control swamped. I called Jeff up at Ross and offered him a job. He had seen the writing on the wall at Ross and jumped ship. Its been 25 years now. K?
    Tom Kellogg
    Rides bikes, makes 'em too.
    Spectrum-Cycles.com
    Butted Ti Road, Reynolds UL, Di2, QuarQ, Conour lite, SP Zero
    Steel Cross, X-7, Crank Bros, Concour Lite, Nemesis, Grifo
    Steel Piste, D-A Piste, PD-7400, Concour lite, Zipp 404
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