How did I get here?

One of the most frequent questions that I'm asked is why I decided to become a bicycle framebuilder. The answer, really, is simple: I've always wanted to be one. I've always been attracted to bicycles, and when I started paying my rent as a bicycle mechanic in Seattle in the late-80s I was really in training to become a builder. I thought that being a builder was the zenith of wrenching and knew that I needed to be a pro-level mechanic before I could even think about being a builder. Boy, was I misguided.

Years later I was speaking with one of Seattle's best-respected framebuilders, who told me that all the years I had spent as a mechanic were really unnecessary to become a builder. He told me that having a strong wrenching background was great in the long run, but that a person who wanted to build should just jump into the deep end, and start building or working for another builder. After this discussion I was a bit disheartened and disillusioned, and I resolved to never work in a shop again.

The next job I had in the industry was working for the manufacturer Bike Friday for almost two years. I learned much more about building bikes in that time than in all my prior years as a mechanic, and in the end I knew that becoming a builder was possible. At the same moment, however, I had to switch gears and take a higher paying job as an accountant so that my wife could finish graduate school.

Three years as an accountant taught me about money and business; when I applied my new knowledge to framebuilding I was dismayed. When I looked at the financial rewards of becoming a framebuilder I was saddened at the prospects. I started talking to other builders again and asking some relevant business questions. Most of the replies were pretty grim, and boiled down to needing some serious financial and emotional support for the first five years.

I resolved to just build for a hobby and find other work in the bike industry. At this time my wife and I were living in Ghent, Belgium for a year and I was considering what I might do when I returned to the United States. After a few months of looking at job options back home my wife asked, "What do you really want to do?" I told her I wanted to build bicycles. She then told me she wanted me to try and do it. She didn't care if we had to eat Top Ramen in the dark for a few years to do it, she wanted me to try. This was the kind of support I needed to jump into the fray.