I’m going to skip past the “why I got into Framebuilding”. I think it’s enough to say it was for the passion. I’ve raced since I can remember, wrenched since Jr. High, built things all my life and it was just what I was “suppose” to do. Frankly I’m not sure I even decided to get into Framebuilding, I think Framebuilding just got into me and I’m along for the ride. So with that said I thought I’d focus on what Framebuilding has taught me about myself. Fortunately for me, it taught me something that I didn’t know at the time and may never have learned otherwise.
Like most people starting a business I’d been taught from an early age that “bigger is better”. The lessons were fed to me directly and indirectly by pop culture, my jobs, school and everywhere else in my life. So when I finally did start to build for money, it was pretty natural for me to want to grow my business. There seems to be some assumed business model that any ambitious framebuilder follows. We’re not taught it or told to do it, we just do it. I suppose it’s because we make a bunch of assumptions about all the companies we see around us. That model is to start small, promote, develop production, stock material, build a distribution network and scale. We all do it to one extent or another. How many shop pictures have you seen with 10 front triangles hanging above the bench, or boxes and boxes of tubes on the wall, or custom builders selling through retailers? I’m ambitious so I needed to put that energy somewhere and growth was the obvious place.
In the early years of my professional Framebuilding career I had enough success growing my business that I slowly migrated from the bench to the desk. It started with a partner, than an employee and soon a couple employees and after a while over 10 employees. Loretta and I notice that as our company grew I had to pay more attention to the phone, interviews, evaluations, training, etc. and I missed being just a Framebuilder. In all fairness had we been wildly successful and making tons of money I may never have looked back. But the actuality of it was that we were always just scraping by.
After the birth of his first child, my partner Tony just didn’t seem to love the business anymore. We all talked, he left, and it was amicable. That’s when we took a step back and looked at what we had built. It was really the first time we took a good hard look. What we saw was a business that we didn’t want. Loretta has always been a great supporter and been there for me “taking one for the team” but once that can of worms was opened she let me know she had no love for the business either. Thanks to her I finally figured it out. I didn’t want any of the things we had worked so hard to get and I had been heading down the wrong road for quite some time.
Loretta and I like to joke we could have both paid for a Masters in Business for what it cost us to learn. While I enjoy business, value what I’ve learned and take my business very seriously where I’d rather be is at a bench not a desk and my ambition is for my craft in general and material in particular. So now Loretta runs the show and I focus on clients and building their frames.
All us builders tend to find an area of the craft that turns our crank. For some it’s brazing or carving lugs, for others it may be fit, paint or integrating the perfect rack and lighting system. For me it’s material application. I’m best known for TIG and build with steel, titanium, aluminum and carbon. In a pinch I can build a lugged or fillet frame although I prefer to leave that up to the pros. I like clean simple designs with no adornment. I view the bike as a tool and focus on performance bikes. I like to tune the fit and geometry but most off all, like fitting the material to the rider and optimizing material attributes and the processes that provide them.
I’m in this to build frames. To cut and burn my fingers, go to work clean and come home dirty. I like the smell and sound of the welder and I love the smell of new tires. Nothing beats pulling a newly assembled bike off the stand and checking out its shape and the way it sits on the ground. I love building frames and I feel lucky every day that Framebuilding found me.