My First Bike explores the origins of professional frame builders by going back to the start and looking at the first bike they ever built. Today’s My First Bike features Eric Estlund, the man behind Springfield, OR’s Winter Bicycles.
Give me the short rundown of your first frame: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.
The first bike I built was a grass track fame built under the eye of Ron and Gary at United Bicycle Institute. It is made from Kaisei tubing with Paragon drops and one of Andy Newland’s wishbone rear castings. The fork crown is a Long Shen unit I still use. Nothing terribly notable about the design—I wanted to build something fairly simple the first round to learn about the process without getting bogged down in the minutia. I appropriately guessed I would have my hands and head full. Once I left UBI this was also the first frame I personally powder coated and has the first stem I built independently.
Why did you choose to build a grass track frame first?
At the time, I was an outdoor experiential education teacher at a private school in Utah. I was slated to teach a cross skills course, and I thought a grass track frame would be a fun way to mix it up. As I mentioned, I also wanted to concentrate on the process of building bikes at UBI, and I thought going for the “most simple” design would allow me more time to work on the hand skills.
How did you learn to be a frame builder?
UBI was a great foundation and I highly recommend frame classes as an intro. They quickly give you a proven method to build a bike and set you on a proper path of self-education. In my particular case that meant looking for an opportunity to accelerate my learning curve. My wife and I decided to move to Eugene, OR and by the end of the first week I found myself working as a full time brazer on Bike Friday’s custom line. For two years I pushed brass with them; about 11 miles and 380 lbs of the stuff over the surface of roughly 3000 bikes. Nothing teaches you to build bikes like building bikes. For the first year, I built bikes as a hobby after hours. By the end of the second year, Winter was taking up more and more of my time—enough that I decided to pursue it full bore.
Did you go into it planning to make frame building a career, or did that come later?
When I went to UBI originally I knew I would build frames afterward, but was unsure if it would be a hobby or a business. Even then, I didn’t assume it would be my main gig. I had been in the bike industry for a while and I knew frame builders that had come and gone. I was attempting to keep my pipe dreams in check, but I also did not think I would be bitten quite so hard. Moving west sealed the deal for me and it’s been a passion (and a bit of an obsession) ever since … and I wouldn’t have it any other way.