44 Blog
April 9, 2014 0

Happy Clients in ATMOville

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The Lovely Deb's 44 "Huntswoman"

So we’ve had a rough winter up here in Nh. Long. Cold. Lot’s of snow followed by freezing rain, sleet, more rain, more snow… then warm weather and then freezing temperatures again, then more snow… It’s been quite the drill. But, typical New England weather: Don’t like the weather? Wait 5 minutes. That’s New England for you. Anyhow, all that snow and freezing temps and the ending of Cross Season set Richard Sachs adrift of picking up his steed I finished earlier this fall. Not a problem, I was happy to ship or hand deliver but it seemed he really wanted to pick up the bike in person and did not mind the wait. So the Lovely D.E.B. was carefully stored all winter awaiting it’s owner’s to pick her up. Well that day came this Monday April 7, 2014. Deb and buddy were in tow. But both Richard and Deb poured over the bike, pointed out the details and were thrilled with the results. That makes me happy.

Deb : Happy Client!

Actually nothing makes me happier than delivering a bicycle in person and watching the clients expression. Kid in a candy store? Christmas morning? You know those days. Same thing and it gets to occur right here at 44HQ when a bike is delivered. The Huntsman, or rather “Huntswoman” as Richard pointed out in this case, is that perfect combination of everything you need in a good, solid modern road bicycle. Build it up, run 28′s or 32′s, we can build it with racks front or rear or both, fenders are good too. 1×10, 2×10, 1×11, 2×11. Retroshift? Internal cable routing? External Cable Routing? Big and stiff? Light and right? Tapered, disc, tire clearance? No problem. Powder or custom paint work by Jay Nutini and Circle A! The list of options is chart topping. But I digress. It’s not every day you have clients at the shop and it’s not every day Richard Sachs stops by to say hello and pick up a bicycle.. Had to get one of the whole family naturally.

Deb · Buddy · Richard

But as the commission was written, Richard and Deb just wanted a “Modern, Steel, Tig Welded road bicycle.” A “Do Everything Bicycle”. The Lovely D.E.B. I think we hit the nail on the head with this one and the results are “just so”. I’d like to thank Richard Sachs for this honor and opportunity to build his wife, Deb, a custom bicycle. They were both wonderful to work with and I’m happy to have had the opportunity. I can’t wait to hear of their adventures together in the coming weeks, months and seasons.

For those interested, here’s the entire build set from start to finish. Enjoy.

April 9, 2014 0

Jon’s 29+ : TNT

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Jon's 29+ : Head Tube Detail

Many moons ago I stumbled upon a fellow rider located in Scotland blogging about his bicycle adventures under the name “drjOn’s Wanderings”. It’s become a staple of mine to see what Jon’s up to half a world away every now and again. It seems as though Jon and I share some similar riding styles and preferences which makes his blog and adventures that much more appealing. Fast forward a little bit of time, and when I started 44 Bikes, I took note that Jon was one of the first to start following along and commenting on my own adventures both on and off the bike as 44 Bikes got rolling. Every now and again, we’d exchange pleasantries online, or comment back and forth about this and that. Fast forward again to a few weeks back and I received an unexpected email: “I was wondering how your wait list is going… The 29+ frame you just finished hit a real chord.” Stoked is an understatement to be getting a chance to build Jon a custom bicycle. His spot came up and I got down to business…

Welding

Turns out Jon has entered the Highland Trail 550. That’s 550 miles of mixed singletrack through Scotland’s toughest terrain all to be done solo as a bike packing race. That’s a serious endeavor. The race has spirit. I also like that it’s a “SOLO” effort. To explain this in clear terms, the website add’s this great disclaimer: “NOTE: A time trial completed with friends, family or media following the ride, effectively acting as a sag-wagon, is not a true self-supported effort.” Now THAT’s my kind of race. More of a personal challenge. You. Your bike. Your gear. The trail that lays ahead. No B.S. No help. It boils down to grit, determination and self reliance.

Backtracking a “wee bit”, it seems Jon was riding and enjoying his Surly Krampus but one of my bikes was the tipping point. Long story short: We made quick work of putting together a spec that would suit Jon’s riding style, his terrain and how he intended to use this bike. 29+, 16.75″ stays (gave him a little extra room for that fine Scottish weather and mud they get..), Matching Custom Unicrown Tapered True Temper steel fork with 2 water bottle mounts at 5/7ish o’clock, Paragon Machine Works hooded slider’s (PM + Shimano Specific), 150mm rear spacing and 83mm bb width. Flat black of course with matching gloss decals. Lucky number “DGM3″. Here’s some before paint shots:

Junction

Head Tube Welds

Bottom Bracket Welds

Back in the Saddle

ISO Disk Tab Weldery

Jon's 29+ Tapered Fork

Before heading off to powder…

Jon's 29+ READY for Powder!

Arriving from powder…

Jon's 29+ Back from Powder

And of course, a few from the studio!

Jon's 29+ : Front

Jon's 29+ : TNT

Jon's 29+ : Rear

Jon's 29+ : Curvy

So Jon’s bike is finished, packed and waiting at the shop door right now to be picked up by Fedex on it’s journey over seas to foreign lands. I can’t wait for Jon to get his frame and fork, finish the build and get out on one of his prep routes or even just take it out on the Scottish back country for a ride and put it through it’s paces. I’m really excited to hear his feedback about the ride I’ve built for him. And looking forward to following along as all the adventures unfold as he pilots his 44 Bikes custom to points beyond the horizon. Made to Shred. That’s Guaranteed.

April 9, 2014 0

Victor’s 29+ Rohloff

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Victor's 29+ Creamy Hotness

I had finished Victor’s 29+ many weeks ago but due to some component delays and compatibility hick-ups, we’re finally seeing the finished product. Seems the Formula brakes I’ve used on previous builds with internal cable routing worked fine. On Victor’s… the line just did not want to go through the routing without hanging up 3″ into the internal routing. I had a previous client double check his lines with a set of calipers and sure enough-there were some thickness variations between my lines and his. Just enough to make it a no go. So we went with a known line that never fails: Shimano XTR Trail brakes were deployed. Not to mention, out of the box, these brakes are just the best money can buy (IMO). So that is why you’re seeing Formula rotor’s instead of Shimano. NOt to mention, we had the good fellow’s at Brakestuff in Germany make us a matching Formula rotor for the Speedhub. (By the way… there is A LOT of metal going on back there!)

The business end of the THANG...

A lot of care and attention to detail went into this build. Jay Nutini at Circle A Cycles was employed to see our vision through to reality for paint. Someone somewhere mentioned the paint reminded them of a ’55 Chevy. Could not agree more. Definitely has a greaser appeal to it. I did not want to do darts in the traditional sense, but give it a bit of a new twist. hence the blocking and softer, subtle “points” used in the scheme. Jay did an awesome job getting the cream and black to hook up nicely. Right from the first project we’ve worked on, we discuss the job, what I’m looking for and I send along a mock up of the paint scheme. But here’s where it gets fun for him: I give him creative license to make adjustments as he see’s fit. I know how this stuff works. Sometimes something “on paper” needs to be adjusted once you roll up your sleeves. Transitions need to be honed, placement of panels/graphics etc. need to be adjusted. If it’s something drastic, he gives me a call and we talk about it. But otherwise, I just say “Jay, you’re the master. Show me what you got. Take some liberties. I trust you, I trust your work and I trust your judgement.” So he gets the ability to work some magic with each of my paint jobs I hand to him. He’s stoked. The work is outstanding. And the clients are thrilled.

Let's get in close

Cream and Black Darts

Victor wanted a bit of a retro look with this build, so we had Drew at Engin build us a tapered, 15mm TA segmented fork which was painted to match. Silver bits along with Thomson Ti Risers bars and Lynskey Titanium seat post also were incorporated to hook up with the silver Rohloff Speedhub and Silver Velocity Dually’s which were hand built to spec by Mike at Lacemine29.

Rohloff-ery

Cream & Black 29+ Trail Slayer...

Paul Components were employed for crank duty with a Phil Wood bottom bracket. Only the best of course. One thing about this build: Being a Rohloff specific build, it had to be 135mm rear spacing. It also had to be 73mm bb width to achieve a specific chainline. If I had my way, I’d build 29+ around a 150 or 155mm rear axle spacing (you’ll read more on that in a later post) and 83mm BB width. This gives us plenty of room to work with for chainstay tuning in terms of length, and sets up the drivetrain just right to get good chainline with that BB width. But, Rohloff as it were, we were locked in with some standards. So some things were stretched a bit, but ultimately, I built a fun and fast bike that’s “just so” for Victor’s riding style.

Here’s some shots from the studio:

Victor's 29+ : Rohloff

Victor's 29+ : Rohloff

Victor's 29+

Drivetrain...

The full build set can be found here for those interested in seeing the entire bike from start to finish. Enjoy.

March 19, 2014 0

44 Bikes XXX NAHBS ’14 : First Impressions

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Talking shop with First Flight Bicycles!

Long time client Jeff at First Flight Bicycles in Statesville, NC swinging by to talk shop…

The dust is settling and I’m back here in the studio and I’m just getting through all the email stacked high and deep from my week away from 44HQ. I would not say I’m overwhelmed by any means, but I can say that the reception of my brand 44 Bikes was overwhelming at my first attendance at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show this past weekend in Charlotte, NC. The people in attendance were warm, welcoming and wonderful to speak with. Charlotte itself seemed or felt like a “newer” city and did not have that feel of a city from the Northeast such as a Boston or Providence where there visually is a lot of history present. Not a bad thing, just an observation that stuck out to me. But for those interested in attending the show on any level (be it exhibitor or just to go and check out the show) here are my first impressions, my financial commitments and my initial thoughts about Nahbs. I’ll follow up in a few months to see what is going on regarding the long term effects that a show of this recognition and 10 year running has and that will begin to reveal the overall impact it can have on both a brand and those who attend just for the pure enjoyment of cycling. I will say this: Universally everyone stated this sentiment over and over again, it was regardless of age, gender, etc. There is SO much talent in these walls right now it’s mind blowing. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that this is a rare occasion, and something extraordinary about the custom bicycle market. I could not agree more with this sentiment. It’s one thing to look at Bike XXX on the internet. A whole other ball of wax to see it in person. It will blow your mind.

So let’s start with the lead up. When Nahbs was announced last year to be in Charlotte, I was pretty excited and registered days after the announcement with a 10×10 booth space. I had a simple setup from the Providence Builders’ Ball that included my stand up “Shingle” or rather a sign with some graphic content and 3 stands that allowed the bikes to be setup and displaying in minutes. Since I drive a Honda Civic… everything needs to fit flat, or roll up or break down and take up little to no space. Quick setup and ease of deployment with one tool necessary were my design restraints. Thus the nature of what I brought to display. I also did not have a good sense for the space that i’d be displaying. I had some ideas on graphic banners and whatnot, but given my first showing at Nahbs, I decided to leave the pop and flash for another occasion, and overtly make it JUST about the bikes. Hence no real “booth” design or graphic display. This also helped to keep the initial investment lower. Social media would do the heavy lifting here and I had an idea of who I’d like to reach out to and help contribute to that heavy lifting. My total expenses for the show, including travel, booth space, booth setup, travel/gas, meals and rooms came to $2126.15. I did not include the price of the 3 bikes in this total as totals for others for bikes are very different. It’s widely published what bikes I brought to the show, and you can get a good idea of that expense if you want to look at each build and make some notes.

The other note I should mention is that I decided to bring bikes from my personal quiver. I thought about some of the bikes I’ve made for clients all over the world and the USA, and I just could not bring myself to ask for the bikes back from stoked clients that had waited months to get them. Not to mention the worry of sending them back to them with a scratch. OR let the Mountain Bike Gods forbid: “I’m sorry but FEDEX can’t find your bike…”. So I brought what I ride. That also added a nice layer of intimacy for conversation: I know my own bikes like the back of my hand and can speak directly to the client or visitor about that setup, what it was built for and how it rides for that intent. I can to a certain degree with my clients builds, but that level of intimacy gets muddled since it’s not a personal bike. And not all of the client bikes i can ride since they’re for someone much shorter than me (I’m 6′ 1″). This kind of proved to be a nice touch with a lot of people as they respected my decision, made for good stories shared and I could point directly to that bikes specific purpose built qualities. So for the sake of conversation, I will not include the price of the bikes as they vary widely depending on the component spec and options, paint/powder choice and from builder to builder, it can vary widely. But it’s widely noted what i brought to the show, so if you really want to, just check out the three bikes and you can pretty much get a number for what that equates to. I brought a 1×10 Huntsman, a SS 29er and my 1×10 Fat bike. All powder. The Shimano bike was commissioned, and was paid if full with no real expense to me other than my time (which I have plenty of even when I’m busy). An added unknown regarding the commission, was that Shimano’s booth was front and center as you walked in the front doors to the convention hall. Mine was in the back, albeit a corner booth so it allowed me to take down one side and open it up to more visuals. If/when I attend again, I’d do some things differently regarding the booth space, but it’s only after having spent time in the space and how all the other exhibitors spaces worked off of each others. It also allowed me to assess placement of the booth itself which is important. I knew that going in, but know I know even more.

Travel Involved: Honestly, a show like this for the size of the business that I have needs to be within driving distance. Charlotte is about at the max for that. Google maps stated is was in the 13 hour range. It was every bit of that and more like 16 hours. Total. Pedal to the metal, with the hammer and the nails in a 2001 Honda Civic with 233,000 miles on it and it’s original clutch. I will most likely not attend next year in Kentucky. That one apparently is in the 15 hour range but if I tack on what it took in reality, it becomes close to 20 hours drive time and I’d have to spend 4 days (2 days out, 2 days back) and that’s almost a week lost just to travel. I do know that I heard many builders’, industry veterans and many of the larger suppliers all ask the same question: Why has this show NOT been in Boston? A lot even said they want it in Boston. And that’s coming from some in California. So a note to Don Walker: Your attendee’s who help make this show a success want Boston. It’s (IMO) the hub of cycling culture and framebuilder history on the east coast. Portland being the west coast version. This show needs to be in Boston at some point. Make it happen. Figure it out. Weather is not an excuse nor is Unions. I drove through snow and ice to get to NC. I know builders who had delays with shipping bikes. I know attendee’s who couldn’t even get down town. The support from the Boston cycling community will be powerful. As that over used saying goes: BOSTON STRONG. Mini rant over.

Getting down to particulars with a gentleman from Shimano...

Getting down to particulars with a fellow from from someone with some pull at Shimano.

Show Impressions: Set up was pretty darn easy. All the event staff and convention staff were super helpful, very kind and good natured. All were willing to help if called upon. Leading up to the show, there were some unknowns and “uncovered” type stuff, but I figured we’d just figure it out when is was time to cross that bridge. The pace of the show was nice as well. 10am start Sat. and Sunday, with Friday having a earlier start at 9am. I must say once I got there, and loaded out thursday night, it was tough to fall asleep not because I was nervous, but because I was so excited to get down to the convention center, roll up my sleeves, and get to work. I saw this as a business trip. Not a vacation. I was there to spread the word, shake hands and do my best to tell the story of 44 Bikes as best as I could. Friday attendance was strong for a friday show when everyone “should” be working. I’d say that Saturday was the busiest, sunday the slowest, and friday was the second busiest. I have not attended this show in the past, so I have no real gauge of how many people attended vs other years. I do know that many established veterans felt like attendance was low. I know many attendee’s just for the show stated that many friends could not get down town on Saturday due to the Parade and Pub Crawl which happened to coincide that Saturday. So many actually gave up attending saturday which is a shame if that is true. But I do know I shook a lot of hands and did a lot of talking. I met a lot of people and easily handed out over 550 business cards and stickers (which also had my business card info on the back). So there did not seem to be a lack of people from my impression.

Must do’s at the show: One thing I really wanted to do was go to a select list of my OEM’s and fellow builders and straight up thank them for all their hard work, providing me with continued support and just saying thank you. I started with Mark of Paragon Machine Works and went around to a handful each day doing the same. It was just really nice to put names to faces I’ve spoken to so many times on the phone, asked questions from and been an admirer of their work for so many years. It’s tremendous to have such a rich history in many of them as well as a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. It was something I just wanted to do and they well deserved my thanks.

Something that blew me away: The sheer number of people who came to the show and came to see me from things they had seen either in the wild or online. I had so many come up and mention specifics that they had seen on line or articles they had been following (like the one from Garage Journal about my shop build out). It was a strong reminder that social media, and the power of the internet as a marketing tool and just as a means of reaching fellow cyclists is not to be overlooked. If done right, it can be an extremely powerful tool that links you directly with your audience. If you back that up with top notch customer service and a true passion for actually speaking to people, it will deliver results. I know on the spot from several I had orders placed and many others stating that I’ll be hearing from them now that they met me. Hardly the result of smoke and mirrors.

Ending thoughts: So I shook a lot of hands and met a lot of amazing people. It was really a huge pat on the back to hear that even many of the veterans had been watching what I have been doing closely. My closing conversation was with a gentleman who came up to me around 4 something o’clock on friday, while I was waiting on a cup of coffee as Lynn was out getting some much needed “pick me ups”. That is coffee and a sandwich. So he simply introduces himself as “Joe”, and we get to talking but I apologize and take a seat of which he sits down next to me. Long story short, halfway through my sandwich and coffee, I start putting together a few tidbits of what he does and it dawns on me that this is Joe Bell of painting fame. “This changes the conversation completely”. This is after he heaped on much unsolicited praise of my work (of which I am very honored Joe even thinks that). I was flattered and it was great to close the weekend speaking with such a nice and humble veteran of the industry. Thanks for the great conversation Joe!

Also on the list of handshakes and glad to have met you’s is Chris and Jason at Bicycle Sport in Charlotte, Rody of Groovy Cycles, Erik of Peacock Groove, Drew of Engin Cycles, Steve Potts of Steve Potts Cycles, Gary Smith of Independent Bicycles, Don Walker, of well, Don Walker Cycles and Nahbs President, Tony at Bread Winner, John Watson of Prolly is Not Probably, Nate of Zukas Cycles, Dave of Ellis Cycles, James at Black Sheep Bikes, Mark and his Lovely Wife of Paragon Machine Works, Paul and Tamie at Paul Components, Don at Anvil Bikes, Yu at Sunrise Cycles, Hank at Henry James, Matt at Seven Cycles, Josh and Matt at NFS, My boys at Industry 9, Jeff, Wes and his son at First Flight Bicycles, Aaron and Sean at Shimano, Marty at Geekhouse, Mike at A.N.T., The Kennedy’s at Nova Cycles, Nick at Crumpton, Jay at Sycip, Chris King: I tried several times but looks like every time I tried, you weren’t there… Am I missing anyone? If I am I do apologize. But it was great to meet you all and it’s nice to be part of the family.

March 11, 2014 0

WILD WILD DELIGHTS

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WILD WILD DELIGHTS by 44 Bikes
WILD WILD DELIGHTS, a photo by 44 Bikes on Flickr.

March 10, 2014 0

Don’t forget that date

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Don't forget that date by 44 Bikes
Don’t forget that date, a photo by 44 Bikes on Flickr.

March 8, 2014 0

44 XXX S_ _ _ _ _O

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44 XXX S_ _ _ _ _O

February 21, 2014 0

Huntsman SS : The Running Game…

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Huntsman SS : Portland Bound

In a previous life, I played some ball. It was that segment of my early life that I really pushed myself physically to the limits, strove to be the best that I could be. All the while just in a small town, on a small team. When I went to college, I decided to leave all that behind and take on a new path. One seeking education, mental enrichment and skill development. Physically I had already proven myself to myself. Artistically, I felt I had a lifetime’s work ahead of me. One thing I carried with me was the Running Game. The one that’s about inches. Slow and steady. Constant work in the hopes to bust out the big play where your skill, determination and sheer effort come to life for split seconds. That’s earned by a constant pounding on the opponent. Digging deep. Not afraid to get dirty. You gotta stay low. You gotta be tough. You gotta get mean. It’s not necessarily the glitzy polished precision that is the Passing Game. But there’s something to the grittiness of the Running Game that’s appealing to my sensibilities because it boils down to Raw Power. But there’s elegance in movement and flow if you know what to look for. If you understand the game and can follow along, you’ll spot just how beautiful it all can be. How simple a great play unfolds.

Rack for Carry'n Stuff

If you’ve been reading, you may be picking up on a theme that’s running tangent to and in tandem with 44 Bikes. That same grittiness, that same digging deep, that same determination of slow, steady, not afraid to get dirty attitude is emerging with 44 Bikes. This latest build headed to the streets of Portland captures and embodies that spirit of simple flow, understated elegance, gritty “not afraid to get dirty” play of positive and negative space. A versatile machine purpose built for the Running Game. I’ll be packing this one up later today for it’s trip West and into the hands of my client. If I could be a fly on the wall for that first commute.

Huntsman SS : Rack & Fenders
Huntsman SS : Portland Bound
Matt's Huntsman SS : Rear
Huntsman SS : Front
Huntsman SS

February 11, 2014 0

Not Spring. Winter

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That Way...

So far this winter we haven’t had a lot of snow. What we have been getting are some pretty brutally cold days. (The Farmers’ Almanac called for a long cold winter…). With that cold we’ve also had erratic weather at best. One minute it’s 0 degree’s out, the next you could wear shorts and it’s sunny. Snow melting… then clouding over, raining heavily only to change over to snowing. Heavily. And back to square one. So conditions have been good then really bad. So getting out for rides on roads has been a challenge to say the least. I do not own a trainer and that complicates things. I’ve been getting a lot of invites for events this spring… Maybe I need to make an investment so I’m not hung out to dry and then some depending on which events I attend. But I have been getting out on the fat bike so not all is lost. Played catch up for the last 2 weeks due to the flu the week previously so riding has been few and far between till this past weekend.

Waitin'

Having that time during the week to stretch the legs and get outside to take a step back to move forward is a good thing. I find myself regrouping and assessing things presently when I’m able to get out. Reflection is key when running a business. Spending time away from the business is also key when running a business.

It’s places like these (image below) where you step off the bike, take a giant step back and just soak it all in. I do this from time to time during rides. I’ll just stop. Lay down the bike and walk back, turn around and take it all in. Sometimes even take a knee. Gives you a sense of time and place and really what matters: Riding bikes. That’s what matters. Spending time with family and loved ones. That’s what really matters.

Through the woods... And over the pond

February 11, 2014 0

Special Build : Di2

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Special build in the works sporting Di2 kit, Shimano hydro brakes and paint by Jay Nutini at Circle A Cycles. Who’s this for? Well… you’ll just have to wait and see. Come to Charlotte, walk the aisles at Nahbs 2014, and see if you can find her. Should be good. That’s your bone for now. As you were…

Something a little different

Di2 Port Hole Drillery

Bottom Bracket Assemble

Back in the Saddle

Weld Wraps on BB Assembly

Welding

Di2 on Blue

Head Tube Welds

Seat Tube Welds

Off to Circle A Cycles for Paint...

It all fits

Di2 Done.  Now off to paint

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