Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jeff's race bike out the door

Jeff was very uncommital with a decision on paint for his bike; he wanted some blue, nothing ostentacious, but with a cool factor. Hmmm, what to do? As this is a season race bike, I wanted to do a hybrid paint job of powder and liquid to give some durability as well as some visual "pop".
I decided to do a clear powder over the frame to show off the raw fabrication and then use Midnight metallic blue panels so that it gave a complimentary color that was vivid in the sun.'s a shot of the cleared frame...
I then taped off some rough panel parameters and dry sanded the area to be painted. These then got blown off with compressed air, wiped with surface prep chemicals, then retaped with detail mask.
Then the rest of the frame is masked off to keep it fresh and clean...
Multiple layers of color are layed down, allowing for about a 10 minute flash between coats. I try to keep the paint thickness near the mask thin to facilitate feathering it into the powder base. Oh, here's a cameo from the unicrown fork that I built for the project.

Color on, laying on the sanded layers or clear...
Jeff showed up at 2000 hours and we started the build. We took it easy, enjoyed the evening, and finished up at 2330 with a test ride. As always, pics on the computer totally suck at conveying the finished product...this has to be one of my favorite finishes in a while; subtle and understated but darn cool.

Jeff will be racing the Ohio Endurance series, OMBC, and Groovy Series this season. Look for him and this bike on the podium.
PS...I've spent 5 hours doing email the last two days and have about 60 messages left, I'll be getting the rest done tonight. Thanks for hanging in there.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jeff and Roger's frames...finished by Friday?

I've been busting it hard this week to get two frames done before the end of Friday; Jeff's sponsored race bike and Roger's Groovy Series drawing frame from the 08 season. Pushing through with a time line has kept me mindful of the amount of time that is really involved in a build.

There's been a few threads floating around of late speaking to how quickly a "professional" builder should be able to turn out a frame; some as quick as 4 hours, others do a frame a day, some take longer. I guess my panties get in a bit of a bunch when I read info like this, because it all comes back to the apples to apples argument, allow me to expound upon this a bit.

As a fabricator, I was trained in an environment that focused on controlling the entire process from initial customer communication to finished delivery in house. Quality, consistency, and a full understanding of fabrication elements were dogmatically pursued and mastery was strived for. This approach allows for constant personal development and skills mastery to prosper, challenging each member of the shop to grow. To do this, it takes time, and a lot of it.

Typically, I spend between 40-44 hours on a build. This amount of time is inclusive of contact with the customer (phone, email, face to face), design work, material acquisition/ordering, material preparation, fabrication inclusive of machining, tig welding, brass brazing, and silver brazing in each frame, post frame fab finish of alignment checks/tapping/reaming/facing, paint preparation, paint, and final packaging/shipping. Throw in elaborate custom paint (some requests taking as long as 22 hours) or additional fabrication requests and the time expense can really balloon.

Although a large investment in time is made, it is necessary to bring to fruition the desires/wants/needs of the customer through a frame that is as unique as the individual ordering it.

So, when you hear of folks pushing out a frame a day or shorter, you need to ask just what does that time include. At the short end of the scale is 4 hours. Wow, that is freaking fast, but I also know that this time is predicated on pre-sized builds, in a small manufacturing scale, where dedicated machines pre-set for mitering are utilized and the frames are all tig construction. The focus is on efficiency of fabrication in ONE aspect of the process. Begin to factor in all the other aspects that go into the eventual finished product and that claimed build time will grow exponentially. Calculation of Cost of Goods Sold must be inclusive of the entire process, in both money and time.

Ok, so anyhoo, mini rant over, let's get on with the builds...

I got right to work finishing Jeff's race bike for the season, here's some pics.

a busy mill is a happy mill...

cutting in the seat stay miter...

checking the fit, nice and tight baby. Got the new sink in place and read to weld.

Throwing down a tight bead on the inside of the stay...

Flashing forward, the rear end is in place, braze on's all happy, and ready for paint prep...

Jeff's bike is going to be a hybrid finish, as it is a season race bike, it will have a clear powder base to show off the fabrication with midnight blue metallic panels and white pin stripes, should be very cool.

I also welded up a quick bar that will be painted in the same manner...

A close up of the welding...

With Jeff's frame and bar cooling post powder, I got started on Roger's frame. This one is going to be a bit of a departure from my norm, as I'm going to go kinda old schooly/retro on some aspects of this one. I decided to do something fun with it and use a seat tube sleeve, fillet braze the rear seat stay connection, while running it as a 29er with bendy stays. This is also going to be a design challenge, as the necessary handlebar height / fork allowance requires the top tube to be top'd out on the head tube, making welding in this area tight.

Setting up the fixture...

tacking on the seat post...

a shot of the head tube/top tube intersect...close proximity but no undercutting of the edge, that's tough heat control...

Welding up the dropouts/chainstays, the ends will be silver filled and then scallop cut.

tight miters are a happy place to be :)
A rear axels view of the seat stays...Finally, I wanted to shoot you a pic of First Flights latest unknown frame ala Breezer Style that will have some work done to it and then painted in a rockin 80's color. Should be fun.



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back from Arizona and into the madness...

Hey guys,

I'm Back! The trip to AZ to ride was a good one on many levels.

As I'm immersed in a lot of work, I'm gonna hit the highlights for ya this morning and then give you some shop postings tonight.

We arrived last Sunday after a quick trip in the I had not really slept for the two days prior, I grabbed my share of the bulkhead wall and quickly slipped into dreamland for the duration. Upon hitting the jetway, the stark reality of where I was hit me square in the face with warm breezes and sunlight; I put the down jacket away for the balance of the trip :)

Each year, we try to hit an area of the state we've not played in yet, with the wise intention of taking a rest day in the midst of the week to recharge. Each year, we totally blow the plan. This year, we rode some new stuff, but faced with beautiful weather and much enthusiasm since I had not ridden since October, the rest day died a quick death. Seven days in AZ, 9 rides completed...boy was I hurting!

Here's a run down of what we hit and some random thoughts on each area...

Sunday - Desert Classic Trail in Phoenix...a perfect trail to knock the dust off of some tired winter legs, this rolling fast trail is a hoot to ride. As an out and back, it offers carving turns, rocky washes, a few loose climbs, but is overall a pretty mellow introduction to desert riding.

Monday - National Trail in Phoenix...the polar opposite of it's neighbor, the National trail is a technical riders dream. Rocky/chunky trail, steep drops that pucker your tushy, and ridgeline scenery thrown in make this a trip favorite every year.

Tuesday - Arizona Trail from Kentucky Camp, south of Tucson...a true wilderness ride through lowland hilly grasslands with scrub oak canyons, this trail while not very difficult, was a knock out for location. The only sounds were those of my hard breathing and various birds, as this section of the 800 plus mile trail is considered an air island for southern birds moving north.

Wednesday - Star Pass in Tucson...we met up with a friend of mine, Jeff Francone, and rode Star Pass trail. This is a killer ride, that follows a ridge out over a mountain, drops down a rocky, loose decent, rides the back side of another mountain, climbs through a pass and finishes out a sandy tire sucking wash...whoo! The cacti population was immense, with large stands on the southern aspects of the mountain sides looming over us in their own foreboding way as they protected their territory.

Wednesday - Sweetwater Trails in Tucson...although we baked on Star Pass, we just could not resist the recommendation from Bruce and Dane at Fair Wheel Bikes to check out this new trail system. The Sweetwater Trails are an absolute hoot to ride. Think of your favorite rollercoaster and then imagine doing it on a bike and you've got an idea of what this system is about. An island of fun starting to be hemmed in by residential construction, it is fairly easy to navigate as long as you keep taking the next trail to the right...miss one and it is a Groundhog Day experience. We did, and rode 2/3 of the trail before starting it all over again. No worries though, as it did not diminish the smiles.

Thursday, ready for a day off? Nope. - Fantasy Island in Tucson...we hooked up with Emily Francone and rode this "premier" trail in the area. A fairly flat trail system with a modicum of technical challenge, this trail is really about having fun. Cool little collections of theme trash along side the trail mix with fast flowing single track and evil little prickly pear inches off of the corners that desire nothing more than to embed themselves into your wilting flesh. Overall, 18 miles of leg spinning fun...a nice break from the harder riding of the week.

Thursday evening - Mt. Lemmon and Miligrossa trail... second ride of the day, we drove up to Mt. Lemmon and did a combination ride; rode up the mountain for a fair bit then jumped on a down hill single track to scare ourselves a bit, pump out the arms, and gnash the teeth. No two ways about it...I was WAY thrashed by the end of the day.

Friday - 50 year trail and the chutes, Tucson...another area recommended by the locals, the standout of this system was the chutes, a bob sled like system of trails that although barely a shoulders width across, are fast, swoopy, and killer fun. Ride down the chute, scare yourself a bit, then climb back up and pick another one. The 50 year trail and Middle Gate are both recommended in their own right for challenging single track. Too bad we were too burned to really enjoy them to the max.

Saturday - Black Canyon Trail, Rock Springs...this was my favorite of the trip, too bad we chose to explore it last. This system was designed for "non-motorized recreational use" and is unbelievably awesome. Riding south from the Black Canyon trail head, this 10" wide single track traverses numerous ridges barely clinging to the edge, plunges down into the canyon for river crossings, then switchbacks it's way back over the mountains again. Excellent viewing, long continuous climbs, ripping fast descents, and a wilderness experience are the hallmarks of this experience.

Sunday - parking deck crit, Phoenix...although we had to fly home, I could not resist one last ride before boxing up the bikes, so we ran a quick criterium up, down, and around the parking deck. Too much fun.

A week in the 90's has made me a cold weather wussy, as the highs here at home are only hitting 50 if we are lucky. Got out last night for a spin around Vultures Knob and felt really good. Although the last week contained more riding than I'll do for the rest of the year, it was fun to get out and recharge the body and mind.

I'll be answering the 200 emails that are sitting in my inbox tonight, so thanks for your patience. Pics of Jeff's and Roger's Bigwheel fabrication are in the plans for y'all.



Monday, March 16, 2009

In the land of sun...

Wow, where to begin...

Each year I take a little trip out to Arizona to re-charge my soul, take in some single track, and visit some friends. Leading up to this years departure was a bit torturous and comical at the same time.

I knew I had lots to get done in the shop before I could leave as well as a commitment to Em to take her to an out of town volleyball tourney, so I buckled down mentally and got to it. Here's how it shook out...

Friday was a 16 hour day in the shop, ending around 2300 hours, where I worked on Jeff and Rogers frames for the upcoming Groovy race series, which begins at the end of the month. I got the front triangles all done up and began on the rear ends before I ran out of time. Went home for a bit to have some nourishment, grab a few hours in the sack, then back at it.

Got to the shop at 0400 Saturday and started working on Ti Luvs for the next month. Neil at Rohloff is due a shipment of Ti bars, which I had hoped I would get out before the show, so I was under some pressure to get those out to him asap. I worked til 0645 then ran home to pick up Em for her volleyball tourney. Spent the day at Hiram College watching the girls have ups and downs as they played some very good teams. Their teamwork improved as the day wore on and they finished with a final win and we headed home, arriving back at 2000 hours. Big breath, then back to the shop.

I had to leave for the airport at 0400 Sunday morning, so I had to work efficiently. Burned on through the night and got the Ti Luvs done, packed and ready to ship for Neil and a few others. Ran home and packed at 0200...I had made a list, so I thought I was good to go. I tried to grab an hour of sleep, but you know how that goes...afraid you are not going to wake up, always looking at the clock, etc... so not much rest going on.

When I busted arse out of the house at 0345 to head to the airport, I thought..."man, I'm doing good, I'll be right on time." It was only once I arrived that I realized I did not grab my backpack with all my clothes and personal items in was still sitting in the hall where I left it so I would not forget it...Ughh!

Really though, who needs clothes on a bike trip? So, although I planned to pack minimally for the trip, this is a bit more minimal than even I like. Got the bike and riding equipment though, that's a high spot!

The rest of the trip in was pretty low key. I got to ride the Desert Classic trail yesterday, very nice flowy trail that begs you to go faster than safe at times :)

Gonna hit the National trail today. Hoping to hook up with Chris B. from Texas, who drove in with two of his Groovys for a little time away as well.

I'll be out of the shop til next Sunday, so I'll catch up on email when I return.



Thursday, March 12, 2009

WW2 650b Bomber needs a home...

NAHBS was a lot of fun this year. One of the best parts was having people groove on all the customer bikes...says a lot for the personalities of those the bikes belong to.

One bike I took does not have a home though...I did the bomber bike to showcase the Carbon Drive system and to have a painted to match White Brothers fork for my boys at MRP. It turned out really cool and deserves a life better than sitting around the shop. I've had a few folks interested, but as no one has stepped up, so it goes on the block.

The bike is decked out with wheels, a seat and all that cool stuff that makes a bike fun to own ;)
I'll let the rest of the pics speak for themselves and save the specs for the end...

Here's what she's got...
Groovy 650b frame with SS coupler for passing the belt, custom EBB, internal brake routing
White Brothers Magic 650b 100mm fork, painted to match
Steel Luv Handles painted to match
Thomson Elite stem and seat post
Brooks Swift titanium saddle
Brooks leather ring grips
Magura Marta SL discs
Chris King Headset, bottom bracket, and disc hubs
Stans 355 tubeless rims
Pacenti Neo-moto up front, Quasi moto in rear
Salsa Stainless quick release skewers
Deore XT crankset
Carbon drive chainwheel, cog, and carbon belt...2:1 ratio
Crank Brothers Candy pedals
The frame and bars come with a lifetime warranty.
Email me if you are interested...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Wednesday in March...

Hey folks,

Long day today so this post will be a bit short and sweet.

I've been needing a new piece of tooling for a while and have not made time to build was the day. I needed a new heat sink to be placed into the seat tube to control the structural shape during welding. Without it, the junction of the top tube and seatstays can pull the tube into an oval, resulting in an internal dimension that requires a lot of reaming to open back up. This little guy falls into the work smarter, not harder category.

Once I have a bit of time, I'll put all the fabrication pics together into a short video so y'all can see how to build one. Total cost about 2 hours and 20 bucks.

A batch of Ti from Titanium Joe landed for the April Luv Handle order, so I started parting it up into the required sizes.

As the rough lengths are around 20+ feet, they are normally cut to 48" lengths for shipping. I was gathering (and paying for) quite a bucket of cut offs, so Joe was able to adjust the cut length so I am not wasting as much material and money. Here's the difference a little adjustment of the chop saw can 2 bucks an inch, it adds up.
I also roughed in Roger's front triangle so it will be ready for welding next day.
The real story today is below. Cubby, our aussie, was scheduled to have his manhood snipped today. My son was disapointed that Cubby had never had a chance to get his schwerve on. Well, last fall we were riding at Vultures Knob in the evenings and taking Cubby along to run the trail with us. As we would be getting ready, he'd run over to Tims house and check out Sierra, Tim's blue heeler. We didn't think much of it until this week when we ran out to the knob for the first time this season. Cubs ran up to Tim's house as usual, and when I went to get him to hit the trail, there he sat in the grass, surrounded by five puppies that look astonishingly just like him.
The kids could not resist, so we brought one of his offspring home with us.
Meet Frankie, our newest trail dog. So, happy ending. Cubs got his groove on, brought his son home with us, and got snipped today.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spring team bikes underway...

March...the harbinger of spring and important because I've got less than 20 days to get the sponsored bikes done before the beginning of the season.

Each year, I offer up sponsored bikes, custom fit to each rider, to use for the season to spread the Groovy love. At the end of the season, the guys can turn the bike back in, where they become demos, or keep it for what it costs me.

Here are some blurry phone shots of Jeff's frame coming together...gonna be a 29er single speed that he will be racing in the endurance series this season. 100 miles on a single speed; I'm glad there are some hardcore guys out there, cause it sure as heck ain't me anymore ;)

I'll knock out Roger's front triangle tomorrow and then onto the rear triangles.
Tomorrow night, I'll be posting up some stuff for sale that needs culled due to some spring cleaning, check back y'all.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ride On opens it's doors...

The big city of Woo has a shop again.

Best of luck to Bill and Jackie as they begin a new career and business, I'm confident they will be successful in bringing two wheeled joy to the folks in town.

Here's the Ride on family (l to r) Jake, Jackie, Bill, Brian, and Hoss

The inside of the shop is tidy, well designed, and quite inviting.
Good to have folks with a desire to share the love of cycling at the helm.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mike W's Yo changeroo...

Mike has been pretty patient as he has not only waited a long time to find a Yo in his size, but also for me to make the changes he would like.

Here we have a Serrota built Yo that is getting a modern face lift; disc tab and brace added, canti's removed, new cable routing, and a Team Violet paint finish.

Mike should be glad he paid upfront on this, cause had I known what a pain in the arse this job was going to be I'd have given him a price that would have scared the notion right out of him ;)

The big issue is that the bullet stay treatment with the tab dropouts leave adding a disc tab a challenging job. You see, since the stay is pushed to the outermost position and the tab inserted in the inside, the position leaves the disc tab half hanging in the air with nothing to attach to. I ended up machining a custom tab that follows the shape of the stay/cone, dropout and over the rack eyelet to insure 100% support.

Next up I broke out the 4 inch grinder with cut off disc and CAREFULLY began to cut away at the canti bosses...don't try this at home kids. One slip and you'll be through the thin stays and your day will spiral towards suicidal thoughts. The stays cleaned up pretty well, the left stay will need a touch of silver for an undercut area from canti welding.
Buzzing off the cable stops...
Unlike a lot of builders, I just can't stand it when folks slam a straight piece of tubing in for a disc brake. The frame has all kinds of sexy curves that should be complimented with the brace so that the whole thing flows and looks original. So I bent up some .75" tubing and hit the hard angle miter so that the bend matches that of the chainstays.
All the Fats have sealed tubes which mean that I need to vent them prior to welding on the brace to prevent gas blowback from increased pressure inside the structure due to heat. When originally made, a small hole is left until all the welding is completed and then closed with a bit of silver. I'm putting some vent holes inside the brace so that they will not be seen but still be protected.
When you work by yourself, it helps to have a few extra hands...toe straps are great!

And the brace all welded in.

This will not get paint until later in the month when I have Rick's Shock-a-billy ready to spray at the same time. Team Violet is a pain to mix so I want to be as efficient as I can with my time and effort.
See y'all tomorrow,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Work for March...

Reality bumped me in the head today as I looked at what I needed to accomplish this month.

Here's what needs done;

- Mike W's Yo change up...disc tab/brace, cable guides and Team Violet paint
- Mike NYC's Fat paint and decals
- Michaels the seat tube and new powder for frame and fork
- Todd's Yo... new paint
- Kevin's custom bullmoose bar
- Begin fab on LD stems
- Jeff's sponsored frame for the 09 season
- Roger's Groovy Series drawing frame
- Mike S Lemond...repaint
- monthly Luv handle orders

I'd be set if not for my annual Arizona trip slam dunked right in the middle of the month...30 pounds heavy and haven't been on a bike since November... should make for a heck of a month.

Gonna finish Mike's fabrication and start on Kevins bar tomorrow.



Another Groovy sighting in an unlikely place...

A big shout out to Eric at Winter Bikes for finding this one...

While shopping for his new truck cap, the ARE catalogue had two photos of one of the Groovy Bikes at Vultures Knob with their Z series truck cap.

Check out the web page and let it roll through the flash pictures (about 10 of them) and you'll catch a shot of Zach and his Bigwheel.

or check out the pic here...
Off to work on Mike Wilks Yo disc brake project today.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ti Luvs are out of here...

I hit the shop early this morning to finish fabbing up the Ti Luvs for February and buddy, let me tell ya, it's cold out there!

I cranked the heat in the shop so that I could work without wearing my puffy down coat...I'd hate to burn a hole in that, it'd smell like burnt goose feathers for sure :)

Titanium...a fun metal to work with, but it can be equally frustrating. Ti is very intolerant of less than perfect technique and will quickly render your expensive tubing worthless if you do not pay due homage to it's preferences.

I start off by dusting down the ceilings, sweeping up the floor, vacuuming the shop and finally, wiping down all the surfaces, specifically the weld table and associated equipment. Yep, I really do all that before I begin, as a spiffy clean environment is important for high quality welds in Ti.

Next up, the weld table gets loaded up with the necessary equipment... vice, purge fitting for the bars, stainless brush used only on Ti, kevlar gloves, aluminum foil for dam creation, and a cup of acetone for final degrease/cleaning before welding.
All the parts have been previously degreased, washed, scotchbrighted, washed again, and then dipped in acetone. As Ti not only likes a clean environment, it also needs an oxygen free environment for welding, inside and out. Here I have a purge fitting in the end of the grip section filling up with argon. The hole will allow the argon to flow into the center section for attachment.
With every part ready, I begin by tacking the pieces together. I keep the tacks small and fuse without filler, so that when I run a bead over them, they disappear and do not disturb the puddle size.
and a tack on the outside edge...note the lack of color, showing good internal/external argon coverage...
Once both grip sections are tacked on, it's time to start running beads. I took some macro shots so that you can see whats going on. You want the filler to make a smooth valley transition between the two pieces, insuring that you are not drawing too much material from either piece, undercutting your foundation.
The bars are much more tricky to weld than they look at first glance, as you make seamless transitions from valleys to lap edges, requiring varying amounts of filler to keep the bead the same size and shape.
Jamming them out, the table is starting to fill with work.Christi spent some time in the shop, getting the boxes ready, packing up finished bars, and sending them on the way. Oh, I'm stocked back up on shirts in four colors, 20 bucks shipped to your door in the US, so if anyone needs one, drop me an email.
I also got some coverage in Velo News at the show. Although there are quite a few errors in the article, they did a nice job of showing some of the bikes in the gallery pics. Check it out...