Sunday, February 9, 2014

You want it when ?

This is the story of my first frame and fork, where this all started more or less. In the spring of 1978 I was working in a bicycle shop in Santa Cruz , California. This particular shop was the creation of one Roger Wellington Sands, a former Lockheed employee who decided that his life as an engineer no longer suited him. He decided to liquidate some of his personal holdings and build a bicycle shop from the ground up that would import the finest frames and accessories from all over the world - making them available to the small college town he ( and I) called home. I was very lucky to get hired to this shop and really felt that I was being groomed to manage the whole mess when called upon.

As luck would have it, the owners son was a frame builder and he had lots of hard to find tubes and bits for frame building. I and my fellow shop employees had an interest in building our own frames , largely spurred on by all the wonderful examples hanging in the shop. The three of us, Jeff Dodge, Brent Harris and myself got lugs and tubes and started filing away , hoping to create some great bikes in the near future. My goal was to build a track frame and fork-ignorantly I thought that it would be the least amount of work as there would be no cable stops, shifter bosses, water bottle bosses, etc. Of course I spent untold hours making cutouts on the lugs and fork crown-completely obliterating any chance of finishing the project in a timely fashion. I was very lucky to have met Ross Shafer at this time who lent me the use of his shop and some really great advice.

I toiled away for about six weeks on weekends and after work and in June of 1978 I had completed and even painted my first frame and fork. Ross had told me to first do a drawing of my project before starting-of course being impulsive and A.D.D. I skipped that part and relied on my inexperienced eyeball and some basic measuring tools to get the job done. The result was not quite what I had in mind but it was rideable and I did ride it quite a bit for the next couple of years. Since There were a couple of geometry errors in the rear triangle of the frame I resolved to someday fix it.

In 1994 in my own shop after a particularly difficult day I had the need to smash something-don't ask me where this urge comes from......maybe creating stuff all the time can cause an urge to try to balance out the creation with some destruction. I looked around my shop and saw my first frame hanging from a hook, neglected and unused for the past 14 years. I knew that it needed a new rear triangle so I took it down and beat the crap out of it with a large hammer, being careful not to hurt the front triangle-upon which I would eventually graft on new stays and make the bike ride like it should have in 1978. After the dust settled I hung the frame back up.

It was now 2010 and I was to be exhibiting at the NAHBS and thought that the 16 years since I had pounded the crap out of frame # 1 had been a sufficient sleep......I resolved to finish what I had started in 1994 and repair the frame. I looked through my tubes and found some identical Reynolds 531 stays and Bob Brown was kind enough to sell me some original Campagnolo rear track dropouts for a reasonable price. The repair took only a few hours and for the first time since I had built the thing I took a really critical look and my first effort. When I had finished it in 1978 I was very proud of what I had done. Looking at in in 2010 with all the paint removed and with a much more experienced eye, I beheld a true piece of shit. That said, I knew that ater all these years I had to polish this turd and get it rolling again or the show. The simple repair I thought would cure all the ills of my first impulsive effort at building a frame turned out to not be so simple. After really looking in depth at what I had built I fully knew that whatever I did to fix it would not make it into what I had originally inteded to build-it was just too screwed up for that.

At this juncture I determined that I had to make it ride again , not change any of the original look and most of all......keep some of the fuck-ups and the general theme of ignorance that are emblematic of my first frame. I was able to do this in admirable fashion, compete with almost cutting the chainstays too short so that the rear tire needed to be deflated to get the rear wheel out of the frame-keeping the tradition alive. After the final alignment I sent the frame off to get a nice candy apple red powdercoat-not the original color but a really nice one.

Once the frame and fork were back in my shop I took some old parts and some old-looking new parts and built up the bike fixed gear with no brake-just like in June of 1978 but something was different this time.....I got on the bike and rode it around the building where my shop is located. I rode it to lunch and back......I rode it home-even as off-spec as this frame was it had a very nice quality of ride....something that I had not expected. I knew that I had made an improvement when I did the rebuild of the rear triangle but I was convinced that the bike would still ride poorly. Amazingly, this was not the case-it rolled along well and steered pleasingly-I guess that it wasn't too far gone after all. This experience of building this frame and 32 years later re-visiting it with a new life made me feel more positive about what could be done with a torch, some files, some sandpaper and a good portion of ignorance. I also feel pretty good about what I have learned since that summer of 1978.