Monday, December 8, 2014

Nahbs 2015 Louisville…why I’m choosing to exhibit

The North American Hand built bicycle show is a concept that teems with potential and opportunity for the small independent frame builder.  Never before has there been a vehicle that affords the prospect of global awareness for hand built brands, creating prospective customers outside the normally regional appeal our industry tends to propagate. 
During its tenure, the show has evolved from a small gathering of fabricators and key suppliers to an assemblage of creative companies, representing a broad view of the cycling industry.  Though some have argued that the show has lost its focus on the hand built bicycle as it has grown, the key platform and interest for the individual fabricator has remained steadfast;
-         
-     - a venue that allows for direct interaction with potential customers, facilitating the start of a business relationship in areas outside the business’s normal geographic reach
-         -  Media exposure that bolsters builder recognition and broadens awareness of hand built bikes
-          - Creates opportunities for builders and their vendors for face to face communication, development of product ideas, streamlining supply options
-         -  Integrates ancillary cycling products into the show, drawing cycling enthusiasts, increases potential reach and exposure for exhibitors.
-          - Provides for an instructional medium within the seminar framework, encouraging mentorship.
-         -  Creates a physical sense of community amongst builders who typically labor in solitude.  

      It is with these benefits foremost in mind that I feel supporting the show by consistent attendance should be a priority in each builders business plan.  Fabricators working at capacity will not realize a Return on Investment for participation that is tangible.  However, their participation does keep the industry in the eye of the customer, provides a vehicle for new builders to find an audience, and invests in the industry that has provided a living wage throughout a career.  The show benefits all who engage in the custom bicycle industry whether they attend or not, is there not a responsibility to give back?

Much debate has transpired within the small hand built community regarding the direction and administration of the show by its Director/Owner, Don Walker.  As a business owner who is engaging in a relationship with Nahbs, I feel it is important to recognize that in this circumstance, I am not only a customer, but have an invested interest in the success and longevity of the show.  To insure it’s opportunities continue to be available to industry members, it is my responsibility to give feedback to create an ever improving environment for positive change.  For Nahbs to evolve as the leading marketing medium for the small fabricator, I would recommend;
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      - A renewed focus on Customer Service to builders that facilitates a sense of ownership/importance of Nahbs in their business plan. 
-          - Affordability – Nahbs needs to establish a financial model that enables attendance for its diverse range of exhibitors as well as to provide a fiscal foundation for future existence.  Tiered pricing that supports the independent fabricator, as they are the focus of the show, facilitates annual attendance due to consistent cost expectations.
-         -  Focus on the hand built fabricator by centralizing their booth spaces to support each other.  Surround the builders by their supply partners, offering consumers a direct visual correlation of the goods that go into the finished product.  Ring the event by ancillary vendors that bring the fun and accessories of every day cycling to the marketing mix.
-          - Professional development – many who attend the show have an interest in someday entering the industry, it should be a goal of this gathering to provide educational awareness and mentorship opportunities.
-        -   Equitable show location choices in top tier cities, throughout the United States, proportionally locating between the coasts and middle so no one has to travel across the country more than 2 years in a row.  Travel and logistics are the largest portion of show participation costs, reduce the financial strain by insuring equality in location choices.
-          - Discontinue the Awards structure…encourage builders to bring product that represents the typical work from their shop and allow the crowds to provide affirmation through their ultimate choice in who they wish to work with.

And as a personal note to Don…the strength of a man’s character is often defined by his ability to let go of past transgressions and accept people as they are, celebrating their strengths and supporting them when they are in need.  You have assumed the mantel of an advocate for the custom bicycle fabricator, and subsequently, a responsibility to lead.  Do so with honesty and respect for those you serve, and they will return it in kind. 

In its short life, Nahbs has been responsible for launching many new careers, fortifying existing business success, and bringing a global awareness and recognition to the hand built industry.  I have been pleased to be part of that success and choose to continue to support the opportunities it presents.

See ya all in Louisville.

rody




Sunday, December 7, 2014

2015 Hot Rod Orders



Here's the skinny on cranks for this year.  I will be offering cranks in steel or titanium, lengths of 170mm - 190mm, with a four arm 104/74 spider or custom chain wheel configuration, for 68-73 width bottom brackets, in graphite black ceramic finish. If other options become available during the year, I will advise of such, but for now, that is where we are at.

There will no longer be any wholesale discounts available. Fewer units mean I need to maintain my margin to keep the lights on and the kid’s college tuition paid. Sorry.

I will be producing cranks three times this year.

As we are taking orders for the entirety of 2015, the spots will fill based on first come, first served, the first months run is already filled with previous orders. To secure a place in line, please send a $50 non-refundable deposit by Paypal to rody@groovycycleworks.com. Please note in the comments box the material (steel or Ti), length desired, and if you need a spider.  Please insure your shipping address is correctly noted on your account. We will acknowledge your order and advise what month the cranks will ship as well as the final amount due when your item is ready. Not sure you want to commit without knowing your production date…drop me an email and we’ll let you know where we are at.

Thanks,

rody

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

2015 Luv Handle orders

It’s time to open the order books for 2015 Luv Handles.  



There are a few changes this season that I’d like to review; first and foremost, I will only be producing Titanium bars from this point forward.  This decision was not easy, as I do value a product range that allows a range of fiscal levels, however, I just cannot physically continue to produce 400+ bars each year.  Moving to titanium only will allow a product that has the best blend of performance and durability, while allowing me to produce fewer units and maintain some balance in my life.

Secondly, there is no longer an upcharge for width changes; 25” to 30” in even inch increments will all be the same price.  As I’m doing fewer units, I can absorb the time it takes to modify the fixtures for individuals width needs.

Third, there will no longer be any wholesale discounts available.  Fewer units mean I need to maintain my margin to keep the lights on and the kid’s college tuition paid.  Sorry.

I will be producing bars bi-monthly.

So, with the preamble out of the way, here’s how to order.

As we are taking orders for the entirety of 2015, the spots will fill based on first come, first served.  To secure a place in line, please send a $50 non-refundable deposit by Paypal to rody@groovycycleworks.com.  Please note in the comments box the width desired, finish (blasted, brushed, ceramic, custom paint), and if a custom shim is needed.  Please insure your shipping address is correctly noted on your account.  We will acknowledge your order and advise what month the bar will ship as well as the final amount due when your item is ready.  Not sure you want to commit without knowing your production date…drop me an email and we’ll let you know where we are at.
Thanks for your patience.

For those of you interested in Hot Rods, I’ll be posting 2015 ordering info here on Friday!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sharpening Tungsten Electrodes

I get quite a few emails from folks asking for tips on the best way to sharpen their tungsten electrodes for TIG welding.

Rest assured, it is not necessary to spend a thousand dollars on a portable tungsten sharpener (a fancy Dremel tool with diamond bit and angled channel) to get consistent results.

A few pointers to keep in mind...

Avoid using sanding belts or stones that are available for general shop use.  These mediums will accumulate debris from other operations and embed that into your tungsten, contaminating your electrode and subsequently your work piece.  Instead, dedicate a diamond grinding wheel specifically for use as an electrode sharpener and use it for nothing else.  If you are patient, you can find deals on these wheels, such as this...  Enco diamond wheel

When sharpening an electrode, the striations left behind affect the ease with which the electrical current will travel down to the work piece, so the more you can keep those striations traveling along the length of the electrode (parallel) the more low current and start control of the arc you will retain.  This is the primary reason it is ill advised to use the side of a grinding wheel with the electrode perpendicular to it's position, as it creates lateral rings that will inhibit the flow of the current.

I try to keep the length of my tips about 2.5 times the diameter of the electrode, forming to a nice sharp tip at the end.  I prefer the sharpened tip to a flat tip due to the tight seams and low profile beads we tend to use in the bicycle industry.

Always wipe down your electrode with a bit of alcohol or acetone before placing it back into the torch to keep your electrical interface as tidy as possible.

Here's a quick video I put up to illustrate the process I use...

cheers,

rody


Monday, October 27, 2014

A look at machine thread tapping...

While working away on Hot Rod parts, I thought I'd shoot a little vid showing the machine tapping part of the process.

Enjoy!

rody

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Welding in today's industry...thoughts and tid bits

I continue to get a lot of inquiries regarding welding technique, varying from the ubiquitous "what are your settings" to "I saw a guy once do...is this right?" Sometimes these discussions occur in forum areas where I try to take a mentor-ship role in developing the knowledge and skills of those just dipping their toes into the trade. Here is a snippet I pulled from one such post that gives some of my perspective on the differing techniques used by professionals today...

This is where I choose to have a differing perspective, and why fabrication has so many paths to the same end.

Multiple elements have an effect on the overall creation of the fused joint that can be controlled by the operator; amperage, filler size, filler feed rate, rate of travel, angle of torch, and cleanliness.

The constants, however, are few: composition of the material, wall thickness of the pieces to be joined, heat dissipation properties of the material.

Joining the two takes an approach that is fine tuned by each operator, however the goal is the same; a cleanly welded joint that is solid through the root, creates a gentle transition between the two pieces without removing base material from the parent metal, and a gentle feathering of the filler on the edges.

Ideally, when welding thin walled bicycle tubing, the arc should be placed into the joint so as to create a keyhole, or an equal melting away from the joint's edges, that is then closed with the filler. As you travel forward, melting the material in front of your cooling puddle, your torch angle, distance from the joint, and rate of travel need to maintain consistency insuring you have full penetration, creating a solid/strong joint.

The master welders became so by learning two attributes; visually watching the changing elements of the keyhole/puddle and physically adjusting to maintain ideal conditions. This means that controlling heat input through the pedal, torch angle and distance, feed rate and travel speed, all becoming individual adjustments that factor into a cohesive whole.

The introduction of "pulsed" welding was intended to reduce overall heat input to the material, reducing HAZ and maintaining molecular stability. However, it was quickly adapted to creating a set of machine adjusted parameters that each operator found to be ideal for specific tasks. This is not to take away from the need to control the aforementioned elements, but it greatly reduced the need for on the fly changes, making it more efficient for the pro operator who is tasked with similar jobs frequently.

I have always been of the school of thought that I analyze the material properties I plan to join, set the machine amperage at the maximum I feel will be necessary for changing conditions (moving from varying wall thicknesses) and then use the pedal and individual physical adjustments to best react to the situation. This places the pedal most often in the middle of the travel range allowing for extended comfort and control, as the heat input can be increased or tapered off easily.

To create settings on the machine that mandates the pedal be "floored" for the majority of the pass takes away the ability to react, leaving only elements that have less effect, such as filler rate, to aid control.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this is wrong, incorrect, or not efficient. Only that it is an adoption of a new philosophy of welding, one that I feel is less controlled by the instincts of the operator.

As a beginner, you need to focus on learning to watch the physical reaction of the base metal and what it means. Examine how it changes with faster travel, more filler, varying torch angle, etc... Only after you achieve an understanding of how YOU affect the material can you then begin to examine settings on a machine that ease the process.

My two cents, for what it's worth.

Photo: I continue to get a lot of inquiries regarding welding technique, varying from the ubiquitous "what are your settings" to "I saw a guy once do...is this right?"  Sometimes these discussions occur in forum areas where I try to take a mentor-ship role in developing the knowledge and skills of those just dipping their toes into the trade.  Here is a snippet I pulled from one such post that gives some of my perspective on the differing techniques used by professionals today...

This is where I choose to have a differing perspective, and why fabrication has so many paths to the same end.

Multiple elements have an effect on the overall creation of the fused joint that can be controlled by the operator; amperage, filler size, filler feed rate, rate of travel, angle of torch, and cleanliness.

The constants, however, are few: composition of the material, wall thickness of the pieces to be joined, heat dissipation properties of the material.

Joining the two takes an approach that is fine tuned by each operator, however the goal is the same; a cleanly welded joint that is solid through the root, creates a gentle transition between the two pieces without removing base material from the parent metal, and a gentle feathering of the filler on the edges. 

Ideally, when welding thin walled bicycle tubing, the arc should be placed into the joint so as to create a keyhole, or an equal melting away from the joint's edges, that is then closed with the filler. As you travel forward, melting the material in front of your cooling puddle, your torch angle, distance from the joint, and rate of travel need to maintain consistency insuring you have full penetration, creating a solid/strong joint. 

The master welders became so by learning two attributes; visually watching the changing elements of the keyhole/puddle and physically adjusting to maintain ideal conditions. This means that controlling heat input through the pedal, torch angle and distance, feed rate and travel speed, all becoming individual adjustments that factor into a cohesive whole.

The introduction of "pulsed" welding was intended to reduce overall heat input to the material, reducing HAZ and maintaining molecular stability. However, it was quickly adapted to creating a set of machine adjusted parameters that each operator found to be ideal for specific tasks. This is not to take away from the need to control the aforementioned elements, but it greatly reduced the need for on the fly changes, making it more efficient for the pro operator who is tasked with similar jobs frequently.

I have always been of the school of thought that I analyze the material properties I plan to join, set the machine amperage at the maximum I feel will be necessary for changing conditions (moving from varying wall thicknesses) and then use the pedal and individual physical adjustments to best react to the situation. This places the pedal most often in the middle of the travel range allowing for extended comfort and control, as the heat input can be increased or tapered off easily.

To create settings on the machine that mandates the pedal be "floored" for the majority of the pass takes away the ability to react, leaving only elements that have less effect, such as filler rate, to aid control.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this is wrong, incorrect, or not efficient. Only that it is an adoption of a new philosophy of welding, one that I feel is less controlled by the instincts of the operator.

As a beginner, you need to focus on learning to watch the physical reaction of the base metal and what it means. Examine how it changes with faster travel, more filler, varying torch angle, etc... Only after you achieve an understanding of how YOU affect the material can you then begin to examine settings on a machine that ease the process.

My two cents, for what it's worth.