Tell us about the jig you use.
Anvil Super Master, it rocks. I begged Don Ferris to make it for me because he had recently discontinued the model. Thankfully he was kind enough to do so. I’ve also had a Henry James, Arctos and Bicycle Machinery Hydra over the years. What sort of cutting and shaping of lugs do you like to perform? Does it vary from bike to bike or are there stylistic elements people can find running through all your bikes?
My bikes are all business. I want them to be pretty and I want the shape of the bike to be balanced but I don’t go for much in the way of adornment. I prefer to focus on fit, feel, geometry and performance.When fitting a customer for a bike, how do you usually work? How often is it in person?
This is an area that I’ve really spent a lot of time on. I’ve developed a process I’m very proud of and that works very, very well. I do 99% of my fits over the phone. Fit is as much about the riders experiences and application as it is about their body proportions. A good conversation goes a lot farther than a three hour session on a fit bike although accurate body measurement and contact points from existing bikes are a critical part of my process.Let’s talk about geometry: Would you say 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?
I only build bikes I believe in. I do have elements I favor and steer my customer to those characteristics, but the frames I build are as varied as the people that buy them. It’s my job to understand the customer’s goals and priorities and apply my expertise and experience to design what basically already exists in their imagination. In some cases I may help my customer establish priorities and work through them and in other cases the customer is an experienced rider who already knows what works for them. Who does your paint?
Historically I’ve used Spectrum Powder Works exclusively. Spectrum is known for being able to do things with powder that previously could only be done with liquid paint. But recently we’ve started offering liquid paints as a no charge option and have noticed that most road bikes owners are going that direction. While the liquid doesn’t offer the durability that powder does, the colors and overall finish quality are a little nicer and liquid is plenty tough enough for most road bikes.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?
I only build bikes I believe in. I do have elements I favor and steer my customer to those characteristics, but the frames I build are as varied as the people that buy them. It’s my job to understand the customer’s goals and priorities and apply my expertise and experience to design a frame that will meet them. In some cases I may help my customer establish priorities and work through them and in other cases the customer is an experienced rider who already knows what works for them.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?
I think of the geometry as a whole. I don’t believe that you can look at any one element of a frame independently. Every aspect of a frame works with every other. So when thinking about frame design I start with the riders position and the weight distribution and work into the frame from there. What I find is that the frame design will sort of present itself as I move through the process.Bottom line: What are your bikes supposed to ride like?
When it comes to the feel of the bike, I like a nice balance of responsiveness and compliance. I think that it’s important for a bike to feel smooth to go fast and I believe a lot of rack bikes these days are overbuilt. Also, I love fast technical descending, so when talking about road bikes, I favor bikes that handle extremely well at high speeds. I focus on creating a frame that feels confidence inspiring when you are going down a mountain road at 50+mph, or around turns that you have to brake into. I build bikes that hold their line, respond to input and most importantly have enough weight on the front tires that you can turn them in and know they’ll stick. How long is the wait for new customers?
Typically about 5 months although certain times of the year it can be more.What’s your pricing like?
Steel frame only starts at $1800, titanium frame only $3000 and carbon frame, fork, headset and BB bearings is $4800.What keeps the work fresh for you, gets you up in the morning (or out in the evening) and excited to build?
I don’t really know, I just like to do it and don’t think too much about it. I think I may have been born to build frames, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. As long as I continue to improve and grow as a builder I’m sure I’ll maintain my passion for it. I also like to explore new stuff and continually expand my repertoire. It’s been fun to learn carbon because it’s something new to learn and try to master and I always enjoy working with the latest generation in super steels that seem to come along every now and then.You're part of the Framebuilder's Collective. What was the motivation to get involved in an association devoted to what can be a pretty solitary craft?
Actually it’s the fact that framebuilding is a solitary craft that got me involved. The conversation has been going on for a long time but nobody was doing anything about it. When Richard (Sachs) suggested we actually try to create something I was immediately on board. I see it as an opportunity to strengthen the trade which I think is especially important during this time of massive popularity.
Currently there is no clear path to becoming a professional framebuilder. Unfortunately that means most who attempt won’t have the advantages that many other professions offer their new members. The TFC was designed to help define that path and facilitate it. It’s important to everyone in the trade that framebuilders as a group behave professionally, ethically and produce a good product and satisfied customers. It is also important that the craft itself continues to develop. If most new builders are out of business in the first five years or less we’ll slowly lose the true masters that have 30, 40 years or more of experience and with that the bar will drop. It’s my hope that the TFC will be able to help builders build successful careers lasting many decades and with it the time at the bench needed to become a true master keeping the craft alive and well.What’s your life away from building like? Are you racing or do you have outside interests?
I have outside interest but they all lead back to Framebuilding. I ride and while I haven’t raced in recent years I plan to again. I also do a lot of motorcycle riding (woods riding mostly) which has really given me a lot of insight to frame design. The exaggerated weight transfer that occurs on motorcycles sheds a lot of light on frame design and balance. I’ve also raced cars, karts and done a little motorcycle road racing over the years. I really like to race…anything. I also like to do woodworking, making furniture and I have a historic house that gets a lot of my time. No matter what I do, it always seems to revolve around tires or making things. Strong Frames Inc.
701 E Mendenhall
Bozeman MT 59715