Ahearne Cycles

Process

Spring Projects, 2013

City Bike, News, ProcessJulie

We’re pushing the tail end of spring, and it’s starting to feel a lot like summer. I've been busy with a lot of unique projects. A lot of bikes with a lot of racks. Meaning big, elaborate racks. Quite a few of them are integrated into the frame, meaning they're brazed on, and are a part of the bike. I love that sort of devotion.  

Double Seat StaysLillian's Mid-tailI’ve just finished another mid-tail that is on its way to the powder coater. The last mid-tail I built was for a very tall man, and this one is for a shorter woman, so the design is similar, but the proportions have changed. This bike is scheduled to go on a year-long world tour

I am most of the way through a crazy commuter with a 24” front wheel and a 28” rear, very similar in design to the bike I built for the Oregon Manifest a couple of years back. It has a basket that bolts to the head tube, and a couple of different places for frame bags to be mounted. It’s one of the coolest and most generally useful bikes that I think I’ve ever built. Maybe I say that only because it’s the one I’m working on right now, which always seems to be my favorite bike. All-round Bad Ass Commuter

Also this spring I made my first attempt at double seat stays, which came out looking bad ass, if I do say so myself. These are on a single speed cross bike with disc brakes that should be coming back from the powder coater in a week or so. 

Another bike I want to mention is a step-through commuter bike with the rear basket integrated into the frame. So many tubes, and it came out to be such a gorgeous bike. I’ll post a full photo run of the finished bike soon. 

 Here are photo highlights from some of the projects I’ve mentioned here. 

Enjoy!

Emre Stainless Steel Road Bike

Process, RoadJulie2 Comments

Stainless Steel BicycleEmre's bike is a full stainless steel lugged road bike. The geometry is more upright and relaxed than a racing bike, meant to be comfortable on longer rides. The frame design is pretty straight-forward. There is clearance for 28c tires and fenders, and the bike has a very minimal rear rack. Custom panniers are currently in the works from Philosophy Bags in Camas, Washington. 

Shiny Head Lug

One noteable thing about the bike is that I used the Pacenti Artisan lugset, which is now a piece of history. I'd had these lugs sitting around for a couple of years, and they are no longer being made. 

Shiny Seat LugI don't have much more to say about the bike. Understatement of the year is that there was a lot to polish. The finished product is pretty amazing. I think the photos speak way more than words can. I've included quite a few photos of the build process as well. Particularly of the steps involved in the down tube logo. The logo is laser cut stainless steel, brazed on and polished, then masked and the panel was etched, then re-polished. Quite a few steps, and pretty interesting I think. All the photos of the finished bike are by Arthur Smid.

Head Badge Design Process

News, ProcessJulie

 
Head Tube Badge
The new head tube badge has received quite a bit of attention. A lot of people want to know how it was made, who made it, what the process was. The artist, Karl Edwards, put together a really thorough and thoughtful post, detailing the proceedure. It's a good read, and an interesting story, if you care to check it out.

I'm very grateful for all the time and energy Karl put into the design.

Here is a link to Karl's version of the process of making the head tube badge. 

Enjoy!

 

NAHBS 2012 Preview

News, ProcessJulie2 Comments

I've been pretty quiet over the past several weeks. It's been a busy time trying to get everything together for this years' North American Handmade Bike Show. The show is scheduled to take place in Sacramento, California from the 2nd through the 4th of March. If you can make it, definitely go.  

Here are some random photos of projects I've been working on for the show. I'll try and post more pictures soon. Enjoy!

The Business of Building Bicycles

News, ProcessJulie2 Comments

Building BicyclesThis past week I finished up teaching a class at UBI. It was a great group, and everyone took home a frame that they’d built. They all seemed pretty happy at the end. Happy and tired. 

Usually on the last day of class we have a discussion about frame finishing and paint, equipment to buy if they want to keep building, lingering questions about the next step to take to set themselves up to build another bicycle frame on their own.  If people have questions about the business of frame building I do my best to answer them. 

“How do you make a business building bicycles?” That’s not an easy question, and there is a large range of possible answers based on the temperament of the builder, and what sort of business they want to have. 

The craft of building bikes holds an image of one person in their shop, using the skills they’ve acquired over the years to hand make each unique frame. It’s a practice and an art, and each finished frame has the unique signature of the builder who constructed it. But this is only one way to do it.

Other business models work toward higher production, which limits the capacities for uniqueness in each bike, but allows the builder to focus on a particular style and repeat it, refining the design process and the efficiency of manufacturing. A different set of skills, it allows a builder to take what they feel to be a “good” bike design and offer it to more people. 

But to a new builder, how do you even wrap your head around all this? How can you consider building bicycles as a business when really, you hardly know enough to build a frame from start to finish? All you really know is that it’s hard work, there are about a million steps to it, and at least that many tricks along the way. Planning Your Bicycle

You probably need to consider the business side of things at the beginning for one main reason, which is that it takes a fairly substantial initial investment to build a bicycle frame. This investment is in time; it will take you months and years to learn the skills needed to build a great bike. And, you'll invest money in the equipment you're going to use. Most people who come to frame building don’t have a bottomless bank account from which to purchase a frame and fork fixture, a vice, files, torch, grinders, a mill, lathe, and the million and one other tools that will assist you in making a bike. What tooling you'll want and need is wide open for interpretation, and is another discussion entirely. 

So, what's your plan? Are you investing in tools in the hope that down the road you’ll learn the craft and be able to make the money back? Or, are you saving your pennies and buying the equipment you can afford, knowing that eventually you’ll have accumulated what you need to build another bike, and you just want to have fun with it, build for yourself, for family and friends?

It’s good to have some ideas going into it. It’s also good to be adaptable. Learning to build bikes and making money at it takes a lot of time. Anyone can learn the craft, but not everyone is going to make money doing it. Nor is everyone is going to enjoy the hours spent alone in a shop working. 

Another thing to consider: Like any activity that you may love, are you still going to love it when you’re trying to put a price tag on it and sell it to others? Are you still going to love it when you're totally immersed, sort of suffocating in poverty and it looks like there's no way out? I bet if you were to talk to a lot of established builders out there you'd be able to get them to admit that there is some element of ass-stubborn masochism that has kept them doing it for as long as they have. There is love, surely, but there is also something else. Something darker. 

Maybe I’ll talk more about the business of building bikes later. But this past Friday, the last day of class, I saw people thinking about their future and all the great plans that were formulating. I didn’t feel like there was enough time to go into an answer in-depth. 

Frame Building ToolProbably the one, most important thing that I’ve learned about the business of bike building over the years is not so much the process of building bikes. That’s important, obviously, but that’s also the fun part, and so is easier to learn. The hardest part for me was learning the business itself. 

You have to learn the numbers and how to use them in your favor. How to keep doing it and not starve. How to keep doing it in a way that is sane, sustainable, in a way that isn’t going to grind you into a blubbering pulp on your shop floor. 

If you don’t know anything about business, it’s a really good idea to take a business class. Learn something about how to run a business, how to look at your business and see it for what it is. There is a lot of potential for fantasy, the most fatal of which could be: “I just need to work harder, longer hours, I need to make more bikes!” When you’re in the thick of it, there may be truth to this, but there may also be a whole lot of other things to think about, and if your business has a bunch of holes in it, like a colander, it’s never going to stay a-float. 

Happy New Frame BuildersI’m not trying to dissuade people from trying to build bikes for a living, I’m just saying, go into it with as many tools as you can get your hands on. I currently spend approximately half of my working hours making bikes. The other half is all about the business. The tools I need for that are knowledge. Knowledge about all the hidden costs of doing business; knowledge about marketing and shipping and the website and paint costs and branding and consumables and avoiding the millions of pit-falls along the way. Being realistic about what you have, what you need, and what you want, is probably going to be the best way to approach it. Knowledge is key. 

Alright, enough said. Happy Monday. And best of luck to all you newly aspiring bicycle frame builders.