Tell us about the jig you use.
I currently use Anvil’s Journeyman jig. I like that jig so much I bought a second one and it’s just sits in storage. It’s pretty darn accurate, so what you pull out of the jig is straight. There’s no setting carbon once the epoxy is cured.
The fixture I made my steel bikes on was one I built. It features a 3/4-inch-thick cast aluminum plate with lots and lots of machining. I used to think that if I built a steel frame again, I’d use that because it’s what I used in the past, but I don’t think so anymore. I can set up custom geometry in the Anvil in two minutes or less and on my jig it would take 45 minutes to an hour.
If I did steel, I’d love to use the Anvil. Lots of room to get the torch in there.
When fitting a customer for a bike, how do you usually work? How often is it in person?
It’s not in person all that often. If someone’s in Texas I’ll usually see them. I ship bikes all over the world. I’m happy and willing to have someone visit, but usually there’s phone and e-mail.
Fit and bike design are two different things. Fitting is how someone sits. Bike design is about where someone sits. I work from contact points.
Really, I don’t really try to put people in one kind of fit. I try to work with them on reaching their existing fit. What really works is taking their numbers and creating that bike. I like to provide room for movement, so as their flexibility increases for instance, so that the bike can evolve with them. Everybody’s a little different.
Who does your paint?
John Ethridge is his name. He’s actually just outside of town here. His company is called Airdale paint. His company is new, but he’s not new to bikes. John and I worked corporate day jobs at the same company so we have great history.
He got laid off from his day job and I joked that he should learn how to pain so that I could have someone I trusted paint my bikes and that would free me up to build more bikes. Two years after not finding a job, he came to me and said he wanted to learn to paint.
I trained him in my paint booth. We did that this past summer. I showed him what I knew. He built a shop on his property out in the country. I’m totally stoked to have a guy to work with me like that. You’ll probably see more from him in the next year or two.
John is a few years older than me. He painted guitars for a local guitar shop here. A couple of weeks ago a customer came to pick up his bike and commented on how great the pain was. He said, “The last time I saw a finish this good was when I picked up my Collings guitar back in ’92. As it turns out, John finished that guitar.
Let’s talk about geometry: Would you say your all your bikes have a consistent ride that is your signature, or do you vary your geometry based on the customer’s preferences and needs?
They would call them all-arounder feel. I call them intuitive and comfortable. That’s what I try to do with every bike. My customer comes to me for what I do. I don’t do specialty. They are all basically road bikes. I’ve had people ask for a crit bike. I don’t do that. I’m pretty uptight about what I’ll build someone. I’d rather have someone say that son of a bitch wouldn’t build the bike I wanted, rather than that son of a bitch built my bike and it rides like crap.
I really care about how the bike rides and I want to get things like weight distribution right. Enve has four fork rakes and I use ‘em all.
I’m getting a big kick out of teeny tiny bikes for teeny tiny women. It’s because my bikes have real wheelbases, real front centers and great weight distribution.
When designing a frame for a customer, once you know the ride characteristics the rider is looking for, do you conceive of the geometry as a whole or is there a particular dimension you look to as a starting point?
It’a all very visual. I work with Bike CAD; I’ll open a template for whatever kind of bike I’m making and I’ll locate the saddle and the handlebars. Ninety-five percent of the time I work with the same BB drop. They are almost always at 75[mm]. Those other core measurements are set. Handlebar, saddle and BB. We locate the wheels and try to preserve what we consider front-center for good front-end geometry.
My big concerns are weight distribution and having that front wheel respond correctly. The reality is everything doesn’t have to be to the millimeter. We have room to work with.
Bottom line: What are your bikes supposed to ride like?
You know, kinda neutral and intuitive. Those are the best words I can apply to it. That’s the bike you enjoy riding. You don’t have to think about it.
How long is the wait for new customers?
We’re about 7-8 months right now.
What’s your pricing like?
As of February 1, it’s $5300 and up. The current SL and Corsa M models, and if you’re coming to NAHBS you’ll see a new model that doesn’t even have a name yet. It’ll be well above the $5300 mark. I’m doing something I’ve wanted to do for a while.
Tell us about this new bike.
The new no-name bike without a price [laughs]. It will have internal brake cable routing, with a tube running all the way through. I’ve looked at every way to do that and the best way is the way they did it in the old steel bikes, with a tube all the way through. It’s gonna be 20g heavier, plus cable housing. Twin tapered seat stays. Tapered really fat at the top. It’ll have an ISP—integrated seat post. If it’s been out for five years and growing it’s not a fad, right? I’ve had enough requests for it, it’ll be in this bike. People can opt out if they want. It’ll also be Di2 internal cable routing throughout. For the first year a Di2-exclusive bike. Customers are going to tell me whether or not I can get away with that.
What keeps the work fresh for you, gets you up in the morning (or out in the evening) and excited to build?
Riding my bike. And lots of espresso. If I couldn’t spend a fair amount of time on the bikes I build, I wouldn’t do them.
What’s your life away from building like? What sort of outside interests do you have?
I like travel. I’ve been to a number of more obscure places, out of the way places. I like food and I like wine. My most recent trip was to Slovenia. Incredible, beautiful. It was 95 percent Alpine. While you guys were at Interbike, I was on vacation. I’ve been a fair amount of places in Europe, South America, South Africa, China. I’m interested in the Balkans, maybe Turkey. Maybe India. I have not been to India yet.
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