Monday, December 30, 2013

Goodbye 2013...

Welding up the final parts for the year, glad to have these wrapped up because Nahbs prep begins...


The result...solidified puddles of steel and rainbow color as a new cycling tool/toy is born...


Knocking out a titanium bar for local KSD racer, Corrianne K...will be coated in Orange with blue splatter Cerakote to match her Santa Cruz hardtail...


A titanium seat post with a brushed finish, polished graphics, and hardware finished with Graphite Black ceramic...


Finally, we had a rare sunny day with a high in the 50's, so the kids and I ran off to a local cliff to do some climbing.  It was nice to get out and enjoy the outdoors.  Seriously, the grey clouds and dismal weather of Ohio get me down this time of year, so it was nice to have a dose of sun and fun to revive the spirit.

Friday, December 27, 2013

As the year winds down...

the pace keeps up in the shop as I try to finish up the last of this years orders.  Seems like every time I think I'm done, I let folks twist my arm into fitting in just "one little thing".  Fortunately, I'm at the end of those little lapses, so I can pick back up and get on track.  Always plenty to do...

I've been working with Andy at Rehm Corporation for the cnc work on the Hot Rods and am hoping that the final parts for the steel will be done in January for final inspection.  If all looks good, I'll be set for about 50 sets of cranks each year...been a long road thus far trying to get a consistent supplier, so I am hopeful this relationship will be successful.


Emily from Tucson wanted a ti bar with a little funky flair, so she decided to go with a Zombie green and black splatter ceramic with bare ti graphics...good choice.


A ti Luv Handle and Disco Stick headed to Paul in Columbus...nice to have a local sporting some Groovy equipment.


Tasty rich...a 3D Violet over black painted bar headed to Singapore...


And finally, best wishes to our Groovy readers this holiday season, may your time be filled with family time and dreams of singletrack :)


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The other side of the business...

is all about cultivating grassroots racing and giving back to the community.  An interview with James of Quickdirt.com...

The full interview and Jame's website can be found here... Quickdirt


Picking up mid-stream...


In the meantime, check out my entire interview with Rody.  It’s packed full of tons of great information about the history and motivation of the 331 Racing guys.  331 isn’t just about racing.  It’s also about building communities and helping Ohio’s youth to discover healthy lifestyles through cycling.  The more you learn about 331, the more you want them to succeed.
The 331 Racing guys are Jason Reinhart, Kevin Daum & Rody Walter in the back row with Dustin Clouse & Mike Cologna in the front.
The 331 Racing guys are Jason Reinhardt, Kevin Daum & Rody Walter in the back row with Dustin Clouse & Mike Colonna in the front.
James Knott: Can you give me a little background on 331 and your previous race experience?
331 Racing is comprised of five primary members, all steeped in a background of bicycle racing.  Sharing a combined 75 years of racing experience, ranging from Leadville to RAAM, we now focus our efforts in growing family oriented cycling events and enriching grassroots racing in our region.

James: When you started 331 racing there were already several race series in Ohio, what inspired you to start another race series? 
Rody: 331 was born of necessity.  A number of years ago, the property known as Vulture’s Knob, one of the few privately owned but publicly accessed mountain bike venues in our country, was in danger of being lost to our cycling community.  Up for sale and slated for development, our small group of advocates came together to save this resource and begin to provide a plan for protecting the property for open recreational access for our lifetime.  Noble gestures, however, still take money.  In devising a plan to achieve success, we were determined to focus our efforts in a direction that would benefit others and grow the sport of mountain biking.  An opportunity existed to improve the quality of the race experience for participants, focus on developing more family oriented events, and return 100% of all proceeds back to the sport we love.  We have been successful beyond our expectations; final paperwork is being completed as I type that will secure Vulture’s Knob’s future access for all outdoor recreation, a summer youth cycling skills development clinic series is in it’s fourth year, the Ohio Interscholastic Racing League, a state wide high school mountain bike series, just completed it’s first season, over 100 mountain bikes have been given away to impoverished children through our donations to Bikes for Kids, over $20,000 in monetary donations have returned to local trail crews at each venue we visited to support their trail development efforts, and our lobbying efforts have assisted IMBA grants and the opening of a new trail system at Hardy Road in Akron, transitioning an old landfill into a municipally supported mountain bike park.  None of this would have been possible if our local racing community had not embraced our vision and supported us with their dollars…our success belongs to you.
Kid's Halloween Race - 331 Racing
Kid’s Halloween Race – 331 Racing

Do you see the other races as competition?
Certainly with multiple promoters vying for participant dollars, competition inherently exists, even if promoter motivation and goals differ.  The benefit to the cycling community, however, has been extremely positive; it is without refute that the promoters in Ohio have stepped up their game, increasing the professionalism of events, resulting in a higher level of customer service and experience.
The Ohio Power Series trophy for 2012
The Ohio Power Series trophy for 2012.

How many people are involved in organizing these races and how much work goes into each one?
Folks have no idea how much effort goes into developing a quality race series before the first tires even roll to the start line.  The amount of time and effort invested is staggering.  Without a passion for the sport, a desire to see it grow, and a need to give back to the community, the personal effort could not be summoned.  Kevin Daum has been the primary administrator, shouldering the burden since inception, while the rest of us contribute where we can to the organizational model.  The magic, however, happens on race day.  We have been blessed with like-minded folks who want to contribute to our vision, sacrificing their time willingly to see it come to fruition.  From family and friends who help with registration and setup to safety crews willing to attain the necessary medical training just to insure the protection of their fellow riders, we have been blessed.

Is this your day job? Is running a race series a profitable activity?
Financial Officer, Engineer, Firefighter, and Small Business owner are just some of the titles we share alongside the separate responsibilities of operating 331 Racing, a venture that has no wage earning employees.  The monetary proceeds gained have allowed financial support for multiple charitable projects to be successful, so yes, there is money in being a promoter.  Last season, 331 Racing put on a total of 19 races, turning down an additional 26 requests from regional clubs and venues wanting us to bring a race to them. Like any product, you must create a market, meet customer needs, and personalize your product to find success.
Ohio Interscholastic Racing League for 2013
331 Racing started the Ohio Interscholastic Racing League which is sanctioned by USA Cycling.

What is your favorite 331 race? Which is the most challenging? Which had the best attendance?
It would be fair to say that each of us has his own favorite race or venue.  My favorite would be the Vulture’s Knob Octoberfest race weekend.  Gathering our racing family together for a weekend of xc, youth races, community dinner, and live music with a bon fire that can be seen for miles is something special to experience.  Sitting around the tents sharing stories in the crisp autumn air before crawling into a warm sleeping bag is the perfect way to end the season.  In no other cycling event have I experienced the friendship and camaraderie present each year at this event, it’s not to be missed.
From a promoter’s perspective, the most challenging event is Manatoc weekend.  Organizing and executing a weekend of manufacturers demos, youth racing, the opening OIRL race [Ohio Interscholastic Racing League], and a huge XC event is quite stressful and labor intensive.  Hosting 2000 cyclists over two days can tire even the most passionate volunteers.
331 Racing announces that they need 200 riders to attend the Oktoberfest Finale at Vulture's Knob.
331 Racing announces that they need 200 riders to attend the Oktoberfest Finale at Vulture’s Knob.

On October 8th, you posted this to Facebook:
All year we’ve been chasing the magical number of 200 racers and have come within a hair of reaching that goal. So we put this challenge out to you. 331’s involvement next season depends on your participation. If we have 200 racers for our final XC race on Sunday you can count on us to continue this same level of effort for 2014…if we fall short, we’ll be satisfied with our achievements thus far and will be scaling back to focus the extra time on the new high school league and other opportunities.
Did you hit your goal of 200 racers? Was the 331 Race Series dangerously close to coming to an end or was this just a publicity stunt to get racers to promote the event?
Given that the boys at 331 Racing are involved in so many charitable projects, priorities must be determined so areas to invest our time can be identified and focused upon.  We’ve had great success in achieving our goals thus far, however, it’s nice to have positive affirmation from your customer base that the personal time sacrificed is valued…thus the challenge.  We did not meet the participation goal set for the final cross country race, disappointing, but a clear statement from the community.


Bikes 4 Kids - 331 Racing helps needy kids enjoy new bikes.
Bikes 4 Kids: 331 Racing helps needy kids enjoy new bikes.

What changes can we expect to see in 2014 from 331?
In 2014 you will see a reorganization of priorities.  A preliminary race schedule of 6 races has been structured, allowing us to focus on creating unique top tier events that are “must do” races for participants.  Additional resources are being added to the youth development and OIRL series to continue to grow the future of our sport.  Time and monetary support will increase in collaborative efforts with IMBA for the creation and development of new venues and separately, the designation of “IMBA EPIC” status for some existing systems, to encourage economic support from visiting cyclists.   331 Racing will continue to be a leader in our state and region, passionately advocating for mountain biking, sharing our enthusiasm and love of the sport…I hope you’ll join us in 2014.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

State of the Union...

Seems like the profession of custom bicycle fabrication opens it's self up to a diverse group of individuals who choose to pursue this career for differing motivations.  For such a small niche, it gets it's inordinate share of folks who are passionate about being a "framebuilder" and have decided that THIS is the path they will walk on.  The problem is, so many want to run down the path before even looking to see where it leads.  A quick romp through the forums or a day at NAHBS will provide you with a number of these "professionals" who will shower you with fancy business cards and tee's before they've ever fabricated their first frame on their own.  It is this phenomenon that spurred a thread on Velocipede Salon, found here...

Click here!

I threw down some of my own thoughts, which can be found below.  They are of no significance to anyone but me, but since I'm paying for the Google Storage for this blog content, I thought I would preserve this moment of clarity to reference later when I can't remember what the hell I'm doing...

First post added...
Never understood the perspective of many sitting on the edges of the industry that frame building is all marshmallows and pink unicorns...

Earning a living from bicycle fabrication is just plain work.

This profession is undervalued and professionals attempting to earn a living wage have to compete with those willing to "learn" their way in, who charge less due to the starving artist sacrifice syndrome.

Success as a professional is inversely proportional to fabrication time...have a thoughtful business plan, learn customer relations/human dynamics, practice solid accounting principals, know that you are the product and represent accordingly, then produce the highest level of fabrication possible while continuing to strive for better efficiency.

Random thoughts...thanks for the impetus.
 
Second Post added...
Frame builders who fabricate for a living are fighting an uphill battle in respect to how our work is perceived by the whole of society. As builders, we perceive the bicycle as a multi-form tool that satisfies many client needs; function, recreation/performance, aesthetics, and personal/emotional expectations. It is, however, a vehicle for transportation and must be crafted with all the care and precision that is required for the safety of it's operator. The assumption of this risk is placed squarely upon the shoulders of the fabricator, requiring experience and maturity from those that choose this career.

Those who are embedded in the cycling profession, whether wrenching in a shop, selling inventory, or crafting product, recognize and value the form. However, society as a whole still sees the bicycle as a toy. When I commented that I believe the profession of fabricating bicycles is undervalued, I am looking through those eyes.

Folks accept that highly skilled trades executed by professionals demand a certain level of monetary compensation. Plumbers, Electricians, auto mechanics, etc, have hourly shop/job rates that reflect the value of the work they do. Demographically these rates vary, but in my region it is not uncommon to see an hourly cost of $80-$150 per hour for these skilled trades. It is necessary work provided by a skilled tradesman.

Conversely, many frame builders have a difficult time requesting the fair monetary compensation that their level of skill deserves. It is not until they have solidified their place in the market, suffered through many storms that build experience, and learn to operate a business efficiently that many exhibit the confidence to set a living wage without feeling the necessity to justify it. Sustainability/Longevity is the measure of success.

It saddens me to see so many promising builders start up, only to leave a few short years later because of a lack of small business tools and market awareness. This cyclic renewal of participants is present in every trade, however, it certainly feels like we have a greater turnover, perhaps because the community is smaller.
Many entering this profession do so because they feel passionately about it, but have not invested the appropriate care and time in creating a sustainable business model and cultivating a market for their work. In order to keep the flame alive, many will scrape by in an attempt to keep following their passion...thus the starving artist. These practitioners ultimately fail, often leaving behind economic upheaval in the customer base, tarnishing the niche as a whole.

The trades mentioned earlier mandate education, experience, and certification before allowing one to venture out and begin a business, stacking the deck in favor of the new entrepreneur. I often feel that we create an ill defined path to success...we have limited educational opportunities, mentoring is done impersonally through 1's and 0's, and very little information queried and shared centers around small business tools vs. what torch/cutter/etc do you use.

Is it the responsibility of established fabricators to develop those who wish to learn? Morally, I believe an effort should be made. Many have accepted this moral responsibility and have contributed, "setting the table" for others to achieve the beginning steps to success. It is the responsibility of those accepting such information to wait until they are well prepared to hang out a shingle and become a "professional". If not, our niche as a whole will never achieve the level of professional value it deserves.
 

Friday, December 6, 2013

That aint bike type stuff!

Yep, one of the truths of having a shop full of tool makey things is that all kinds of folks find you with bleeding heart stories wanting special projects that they just can't get done anywhere else.  I've had the opportunity to to build nuclear waste paddles, medical equipment used in an emergency clinic, and even made connection links for prosthetics.  This week I added a few more...

I do not profess to be any kind of engine mechanic, but I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express so felt confident in making these diesel engine valve covers...


They are all aluminum and are built to Cummins specs with a modification for a taller header stack.

I also fab'd up a lid for my ultrasonic cleaner to keep contaminents out and to prevent excess evaporation of the lquid.  I ran my first ti parts through it last night with a specially formulated detergent for cleaning ti and am quite pleased with the result.  This will up the quality of my work another notch...unseen by the customer, but known to me, so that's what counts.


While I wait for final build info for Roger's Cruiser, I began working on a ti coupled 650b belt drive Rohloff bike (that's a mouth full), starting with the bar portion of an integrated bar/stem...


 
Kalten checkin in and sent me this pic of "NO Shave November" down at school...pretty scrappy  :)
 

I also brought home a special project for he and I to work on over his Christmas break, a 1989 Elvira and the Party Monsters pinball.  This machine has been home use only since 1991, and had not been cleaned in all those years.  After a quick wipe down, she's already looking pretty hot, but we have lots to do to get her back into fighting shape...

 
WHAT, WHAT, WHAT????? 
 
If you've not heard, the Groovy Open house is tomorrow, Saturday December 7th from 2:00pm to 4:00pm, please feel free to stop by and check out what goes on in the process of fabricating custom bicycles.  Hope y'all can make it.

cheers,

rody