Saturday, May 2, 2009

Negative re-enforcement

We as framebuilders and bike-frame information junkies are very fortunate to not be living in the '70's . Times were quite a bit different back then and the huge exchange of information, misinformation, opinions, and just plain b.s. about framebuilding that we see today on the internet was not the case back in the day. In the '70's I would say that two types of builders existed in my town: # 1, just a humble guy who was building frames , probably in a borrowed garage hoping to someday make it his livelyhood. # 2, a guy who actually had his own garage and was maybe a bit more smug because of this and also because of the fact he had actually sold a few frames and had more on order. When I got the idea to build myself a frame I had the good fortune of meeting two guys who had built some frames, Dean Hovey ( my bike shop bosses son-in-law) and Ross Shafer, just a guy who happened to come by the shop asking to consign a frame and possibly get a few weeks of work, which he did. Dean Hovey provided the shop crew with a bunch of materials for cheap so that we could pursue our beginnings as bike builders and Ross let me use his shop and gave me guidence on how to construct my first frame. Early on, Ross and I decided to go check in on the town's actual framebuilder-a guy who's bikes I had seen on the club rides and who had a reputation for building good racing bikes. When we found this builders garage, he was in it filing on a lug, doing his signature cutout for some customer. This builder was happy to talk to us, perhaps thinking that we might be potential customers. Things changed in an instant when I said that I was planning my first frame and that Ross himself had already completed about eight frames and was working on a couple more for customers. Immediately, the builder got a frown on his face and told us that he had much work to do and urged us to be on our way. Fine......he was busy, no doubt. Yes, he came upon his framebuilding knowhow the hard way, maybe. Yeah, we were just punks who he didn't owe anything to and could do without-after all, we could become the competition if he helped us.......or maybe, this guy was just an asshole who thought that his regal position as a builder in a garage with a few orders made him some sort of diety to be revered.....don't dare waste his time ! -He's a cherished and valued asset to his community !....nooooooooo, he's a prick who can build a nice frame. This is how I feel on the issue of exchanging framebuilding information. I am fine telling anyone anything about what i have learned on the subject of building frames. As far as I am concerned, if there is someone who can take this info and based on thier drive and talent can do a better job than I, so be it. This new person deserves to have his or her chance....conversely, if I am slacking in my job, having a new face come along and show me some inspiration is a good thing. What we have today is a whole worldwide information exchange going on between builders, hobbyists and the's something that really was not possible in the '70's, at least not when some of the builders were like the guy that Ross and I visited back then. One thing though, Ross and I did come away from that meeting with some clear inspiration-either one or both of us were determined to build more and better bikes than that smug guy in the garage . Only a couple of years later I got the chance to repair one of mr. smug's frames that had been crashed and needed a whole new front triangle. When I pulled it apart I noticed some voids inside the lugs that had no silver and black, burnt flux here and there. Here I was, just the punk kid finding less than stellar workmanship in a frame from the self-proclamed 'Master". I wound up repairing the frame, even re-creating the signature cutout in the downtube lug. When I asked the builder to sell me replacement decals , he wouldn't sell them to me stating that the bike was no longer original. Pretty much, this is what I expected, asshole to the end. The builder eventually moved out of town, got a job in a different field and has done very little building since the mid '80's. Ross went on to create Salsa, a very successful buisness and I, well i got to keep building long enough to experience the "Age of enlightenment " , or at least, the age of less assholes. What this post really speaks to is that the two builders I spoke of in the beginning are really # 1, an actual builder # 2 , a poser in the form of a builder who wants the supposed trappings of the field ( what a joke...) and is probably more than a little insecure of his precarious perch constructed primarily of bullshit. I don't know about you, but I do not miss the '70's.


  1. Funny how the assholes can be the guys to give you just enough push though!

  2. It has been 3 days and no new posts - what's UP

  3. No replies since 2009? I just reached you blog searching for some random thoughts concerning "Hovey" frames. I traded in my perfect Schwinn Paramound track bike for a forest green Hovey and build a bike that I have been riding and lugging around ever since. I think 1976 and the the bike has been ridden all around the west coast and eventually being painted gray (the paint was never the high spot of this bike). My kid recently moved out and without asking took my "Hovey" with him. He commutes on it daily! He has excited young riders in Seattle stop him and like me when I was riding it, ask him where he got it. The first thing you have to do is spell the name of the builder, because coming from the birthplace of "Huffy", that is what they all assume you are talking about. Anyway, even young afficiandos know a classic bike when they see it. Being loaded with Phil Wood components doesn't hurt either.