Saturday, February 9, 2019

State of mind

last year a very significant frame builder and good friend sold off all the tools and inventory of his shop. This marks possibly the end of one of the more notable careers in the world of American bicycle frame building. While a lot of people will be sad at the closing of this shop, I'm pretty sure that the man inside the shop is very ready to let it all go. Bruce Gordon is nearing 70 years old and has spent more than 40 years in the business-he's probably built about 3,000 frames and has had numerous awards at shows. There is a lot of admiration for what he has done over the years and it is well deserved. Building at Bruce's level is something that most builders never get near-not in terms of longevity, attention to detail or commitment to a very, almost unreasonably high  standard.
This road that Bruce took in his career is no guarantee of financial rewards and in the last decade the fashion of bicycles has changed. Even though what Bruce builds is a solid lasting design and a bike that will last perhaps more than a lifetime, the current consumer does not appear to value those aspects of reliability and dependability as much as in times past. This means that the frame jig in the above photo will not see use in Bruce's shop again. It is priced at $ 2,700 and will no doubt find its way into someone else's shop.

 In the shop there are what many career frame builders posses- boxes of materials , lugs, tubes, fittings....some bought new years ago-some bought from other builders who never wound up using the materials before they decided to stop building. You can see materials that are at times half a century old that never found their way into completed frames. I have some of these bits myself and I wonder if I'll ever get the time to use even some of these old parts , many of which I have had for decades.

 Bruce was ambitious and bought big on many materials and there was a time when the demand for his touring bikes justified the accumulation of inventory for hundreds of frames. Now there are boxes of tubes and proprietory dropouts that may or may not find use in the coming years. Ideally, it would have been better if someone bought the entire shop and brand in order to continue building Bruce's bikes and using the materials on hand. This person never materialized and all contained in Bruce's shop have been sold, given away or disposed of. While Bruce will continue selling his tires and other parts from his house after the shop is vacated, the bikes future is uncertain.
 This is the most likely scenario for frame builders-at the end of one's career, the brand that was built up from a life time of manual work will likely disappear. The prospect of an apprentice or another builder taking over the brand is almost certain not to happen.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the Nice Comments on the Blog.
    Bruce Gordon