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Thread: Townsend Cycles

  1. #1
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    Default Townsend Cycles

    I wasnít too sure what I could possibly say that would interest others when Richard asked me to consider getting Smoked Out but itís been a great way for me to reach back to many of the great times Iíve had being a ďbike tragicĒ

    Iím not too far off from having 40 years in the sport & am actually have more enthusiasm for cycling now than ever before. I came to cycling via the British club scene that was well established with the senior members bringing the young ones to the sport properly. They helped with proper fit, gearing & most had bikes & parts to help us get going. Our club did all the typical things of the time. During the winter we had weekly roller races with a set of 4 connected to a clock. We also had the typical club run with everyone limited to a 66Ē fixed gear & mudguards mandatory. I remember lots of 100 milers, we called them tons, in the rain with our capes that stretched over the handlebars. The racing was also seasonal with spring low/med gear or 2up time trials. We had many club races so could actually cycle to 4-5 races a weak during the summer.

    The fall brought on hill climbs & cross. None of us could afford cross specific stuff so we were quite resourceful modifying road bikes & old soccer boots were the best we could do for shoes. I still have my old cross bike with the braze ons put on in shop class. It even has a single rear brake stop going through the seatpin, just like Albert Zweifel.

    It was working on frames & parts that sparked my interest in framebuilding. My mates & I would travel to London & the local builders to have frames made or resprayed. We typically needed to keep our frames multiple seasons & would have them painted during the winter when everyone was on their hack bikes. I had a friend tell me of an opening at Witcombís & skipped school for a visit. Unfortunately with so many folks coming from the US for almost nothing it became apparent I couldnít live on whatever wage they could offer. Not long after that my parents moved to the US & I tagged along after not having any luck finding work. I raced for a couple years but it was difficult with so much travel to races & so much training compared to just racing more often. I did spend a couple years away from cycling but came back when triathlons and then mountain biking came to popularity. I also started modifying/repairing frames again on the side.

    A few years ago I happened to come across a picture of a JP Weigle bike using some new lugs from Kirk Pacenti. That was about the most beautiful bike I had seen in a long time and the thought of building bikes was once again stuck in my mind. I still think of Kirkís Artisan lug as one of the most important new products of the last 10 years. I was having a conversation with a friend about what I was going to do for work because I was losing my job due to a reorganization. I told him I had always wanted to build bikes & was already starting to get the parts necessary to build a frame. He actually told me that if I ever decided to sell bikes that he wanted to be the first customer. He waited two years but did eventually get the bike.

    Even though I havenít built many bikes yet, I feel progression with each one and am proud they are being ridden and even raced hard. Doubtful Iíll be completely satisfied with any that I build but thatís the ultimate goal.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Welcome to S.O. It's good to read your history and motivations. I hope you have fun with this experience and hope that we see you in Texas this winter.

    Dave
    D. Kirk
    Kirk Frameworks Co.
    www.kirkframeworks.com


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Gregory,

    Was the friend of yours who waited two years to buy a bike from you your first sale and if so do you feel grateful or an amount of debt for his trust and patronage? If not, do you have these or any unique feelings for the person who was?

    I loved reading about your club experiences over the pond! Congers up classic images of Bogart or James Dean. -Chris

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Thank You Dave,
    I just finished reading your smoked out & was hoping for a moment to respond but I'll have to do it here. One thing I greatly appreciate is when you talked with me about where I wanted to go with frame building. It got me thinking that small is OK & I'm quite comfortable with being a local sort that builds a few frames & does the occasional repair when I have time.

    I have already put aside the time to travel to Texas so with a little luck will get a chance to see everyone again.

    BTW,
    I see you have an interest in a certain auto marque so can add this little bit of useless info.
    Lotus was local to us in Hethel near Norwich & they allowed us to use their test track for racing once or twice a year. I remember one race being stopped mid way through so a plane could land on return from the Continent. One of the provisions for our use was Colin Chapman may need it at any time & we would have to wait for the all clear. That was about as close as I got to ever meeting him.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Brick Top View Post
    Thank You Dave,
    I just finished reading your smoked out & was hoping for a moment to respond but I'll have to do it here. One thing I greatly appreciate is when you talked with me about where I wanted to go with frame building. It got me thinking that small is OK & I'm quite comfortable with being a local sort that builds a few frames & does the occasional repair when I have time.

    I have already put aside the time to travel to Texas so with a little luck will get a chance to see everyone again.

    BTW,
    I see you have an interest in a certain auto marque so can add this little bit of useless info.
    Lotus was local to us in Hethel near Norwich & they allowed us to use their test track for racing once or twice a year. I remember one race being stopped mid way through so a plane could land on return from the Continent. One of the provisions for our use was Colin Chapman may need it at any time & we would have to wait for the all clear. That was about as close as I got to ever meeting him.
    Hey there,

    I moved this to my S.O. to keep yours on track.

    dave
    Last edited by Dave Kirk; 10-25-2010 at 01:48 PM.
    D. Kirk
    Kirk Frameworks Co.
    www.kirkframeworks.com


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    This just supports my claim that there are many, many top notch local builders! Your bikes look very classic yet modern - great balance & sensibility. Just a couple questions - Are you full time at the bench or do you have other job persuits? I see you were in So-Cal during the "golden era" of MTB's - do you build any/many? If I visited your shop today, what would you be building? Thanks for the contributions - 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

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Thank You Chris,
    I truly appreciate the time spent with the clubs. There was so much experience, it didn't take long for new riders to feel right at home on a well fitting bike many times put together from second hand parts, that looking back were actually quite nice & seem to command high prices now. What I learned then holds true today, especially regarding fit & gearing.


    Was the friend of yours who waited two years to buy a bike from you your first sale and if so do you feel grateful or an amount of debt for his trust and patronage?
    Yes, he was my first customer & I am most grateful for his patronage. Looking back now,I feel I would have liked to have a few more frames under my belt but it's still good to see it on the road. The owner is on the list for another frame and would also be my first repeat client.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Hey Greg, welcome to this side of the internet!

    As I read it you are mostly self taught- is that correct? Is there much local interaction between builders in your neck of the woods?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Hi Steve,
    Thank you for the note & comments, I greatly appreciate it.

    Are you full time at the bench or do you have other job persuits?
    I see you were in So-Cal during the "golden era" of MTB's - do you build any/many?
    I'm part time right now & have to schedule build time between day job, family & occasionally riding my bike. If the planets align then there's the hope that this will be my second career when I get the boot.

    I guess I had luck timing my move to SoCal. The MTBs then were fully rigid & the local builders were Yeti, Curtlo and Land Shark. The place to shop was the Bike Beat in Orange and there was a never ending of new,improved and more expensive series of new parts. Then when suspension started rearing it's head there was always something new on the trails. Many of the companies would test their stuff and we could also see the things that were being reviewed for articles in the magazines. It gave us a chance to see and sometimes ride product that either was never going to be available or would be changed by the time it hit the shelves. We also started riding at night when a guy in Pasadena started making some decent lights. It was a blast to ride the same trails we rode during the day but somehow they felt completely different. It was also a great way to get above the city traffic & look at all the hustle & bustle below.
    Riding in the rough SoCal terrain on fully rigid bikes also took a toll on my body. I ended up messing up my back enough to require surgery and got a glimpse of the chronic pain many deal with daily. I know I'm not alone with thinking you must be one of the toughest nuts on the planet to have kept hold after your accident and everything you're able to do today.


    If I visited your shop today, what would you be building?
    I'm working on a rando style bike with rack/lights right now. The client requested a last minute change to go with disk brakes that put us behind but it's back on track now. I was hoping we'd have hydraulic disks for road bikes by know but no one is talking so we'll make due with cables.
    The other thing is I have an order for some quill stems that I'm putting together. One is going on a 50's era Claude Butler and it will have lug profiles to match.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Thanks Eric,
    Not sure what to think of it right now but as they say, now I'm committed.
    As I read it you are mostly self taught- is that correct?

    Is there much local interaction between builders in your neck of the woods?
    I guess I'm mostly using what I've picked up along the way. Much of what I saw in the old frame shops doesn't really apply with the materials used today . It doesn't take long with modern tubing to figure out it's not quite the same. I keep a buckled down tube as a reminder of what happens when you try to straighten a frame with the heat treated stuff.
    I've also spent a bit of time on car restoration/rodding and having friend with tooling or that just make stuff is a great place to pick up things.

    You know there, are about a half dozen frame builders in the LA area but they're a bit spread out. I don't know of anyone building full time anywhere close. I've had a few over to my place & have offered an invitation to the others.It would be nice to have some sort of get together once in a while to compare notes and learn from each other.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Brick Top View Post
    Hi Steve,


    The place to shop was the Bike Beat in Orange ............ I know I'm not alone with thinking you must be one of the toughest nuts on the planet to have kept hold after your accident and everything you're able to do today.
    1: then you must know Jeff Holt, Steve boehmke, and maybe Johnny Thess! 2: Thanks! not an easy row to hoe, but I'm not alone. we all have our burdens. - 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

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Jeff was the man at Bike Beat, I recall running into Steve Boehmke & Johnny Thess over the years but they wouldn't know me from a hole in the ground.Somewhere I have my Bike Beat Revolution built by Randy Ellison. I'll try to get a photo.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Since there's a bit of a lull this morning, I thought I'd use the opportunity to elaborate (ramble) a bit.

    Like Steve mentioned, I strive to have a classic yet modern appearance. I also try whenever possible to work out with the client so the bike looks somehow complete with all components working out functionally & aesthetically. It's difficult to describe but as they say, I know it when I see it. The component manufacturers have made it difficult with no top of the line silver gruppos and the branding, at least in my mind, has gotten a bit out of hand. I have resorted to stripping the paint or anodizing of some parts & either polishing or re anodizing for the correct subtle effect. Fortunately we have companies that are seeing the gap & are specializing in attractive yet modern components. Velo Orange is a great example of a company filling a niche the majors are missing. Now if only Sram would make the Rival in silver again.

    Many of the bikes I've built do have stainless lugs or paint colors similar to classic cars & motorcycles. I would like to see them still looking good 20 or more years from now, not dated because a hip color was chosen today. Some of the non standard things like headsets & bottom brackets are also disconcerting. I wouldn’t want a frame to become unusable because a proprietary system has become obsolete & unavailable. It may be a good way to sell new bikes but seems wasteful to have put so much effort into something only to have it rendered unusable.

    I also need to mention the relationship with JB as being an essential part of making this work for me. I feel pretty fortunate to live so close to some of the best painters around. Although I have painted frames before, I decided early on that I didn’t want to dedicate the time and effort it would take to paint what I had in mind. The laws regarding painting in So Cal were also a factor but not the primary concern.

    Delivering frames to JB has many advantages for me and the clients. We discuss the colors we have in mind and he’s great with suggestions and other options we may not have thought of. He already paints for some of the best known frame builders around and although we try to be unique with our choices it can be difficult.

    I had one frame that he painted that as luck would have it was the same color & same contrasting color as one of Dave Kirk’s that he also displayed at Portland a couple years ago. It didn’t help that both frames also had Dazza’s lugs and the same hooded dropouts and even had the same Sram Red gruppos. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

    One of the things I also get with JB is an honest assessment of the workmanship and it can be hard when he sees something he doesn’t like or tells me I need to do something better next time. The flip side is that JB & his staff have seen it all and are complimentary when they see touches they like. He knows I’m my own worst critic and understands I’m seeking out that feedback and consider it part of what I get with one of his paint jobs.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Ok...... inquiring minds need to know......... what does "Brick Top" mean?

    dave
    D. Kirk
    Kirk Frameworks Co.
    www.kirkframeworks.com


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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Brick Top View Post
    Jeff was the man at Bike Beat
    Maybe we met at a piggyback show at the doll hut, huh?!? Jeff is great - once Wayne Stetina gave Him & I the Shimano credit card in Moab on Halloween......that ended up going to 11. - 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

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Maybe we met at a piggyback show at the doll hut
    The doll hut Eh? You must have some stories to tell. I hear they're back but I'm pretty far removed from the old punk days. Still have lots of vinyl though, that will have to suffice.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Kirk View Post
    Ok...... inquiring minds need to know......... what does "Brick Top" mean?

    dave
    Can I change that?

    It comes from the Guy Ritchie movie Snatch, not exactly high brow but there are lots of memorable quotes.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Being a new builder, how do you pick your customers and do you take anyone who happens to come into your shop? Have you had any interactions with potential customers that just did not feel right?

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Maxwell Ostrom View Post
    Being a new builder, how do you pick your customers and do you take anyone who happens to come into your shop? Have you had any interactions with potential customers that just did not feel right?
    Hi Kevin,
    Thank you for taking the time.

    It's a pretty easy mistake to want to please everyone coming in and requesting a frame. Many inquiries involve fit issues and while I'm happy to work with someone having difficulty, most can't wait for me to make something for them and typically get sorted out from one of the companies that can deliver sooner.

    Some requests come in with a list of specific items that may not make sense and it can be a challenge to convince the person that's not the best way to go. If it means they keep shopping then that's the best choice for them and for me. I've ridden bikes with all kinds of strange configurations and don't want to start making what I feel doesn't fit properly and handles poorly. Once we have the basics down we can start to talk about some of the aesthetics like lugs & dropout options.

    There have been occasions where I've just had to tell the person that I'm not the best choice for them. If it's something like building a type bike that I don't specialize in then I'll forward their information to someone more familiar with their needs.

    There may be others that what they're requesting just makes no sense & you have to give up. On those I won't recommend them to another builder because chances are they've already made the rounds before calling me. It has led me to a basic list of things I won't do with the hope it will save some time for everyone concerned.

    1: anything carbon on a steel frame, If you want a carbon frame get one. I've recommended customers to contact the three carbon builders who I believe make great frames & cost about the same as one of the mass produced ones. I would build around a carbon fork if it works with the geometry of the frame but so far everyone's happy with my forks.
    2:silly geometry. Been on enough bad handling bikes to have an idea how I want my bikes to handle & don't want the rider to feel beat up after a ride or not feel in control on a mountain descent.
    3:Anything I feel is unsafe or just questionable in nature. Those requests never fail to surprise and sometimes scare me.

    The hope with qualifying what I'm building for folks will make their riding more comfortable/safer and have me building frames longer.
    Cheers,
    Greg

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Townsend Cycles

    Gregory,

    Thank you for the response.

    Do find that most of your customers come to you by way of a recomendation from previous customers or have you become large enough to draw people in who happen to be looking for a custom bicycle?

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