Category Archives: My First Bike

My First Bike: Nate Zukas

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My First Bike explores the origins of professional frame builders by going back to the start and looking at the first bike they built. Today’s My First Bike features Nate Zukas of Augusta, Georgia’s Zukas Cycles.

Give me the short rundown of your first frame: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.

I built my first frame March 2011 in my workshop at home. I used a kit from Nova Cycle Supply that had lugs, BB shell and Dedacciai tubing. I pretty much copied the geometry from the Giant Bowery frame I was riding except I lowered the BB height about 3cm and shortening the top tube 2cm. I bought a pre-built steel fork but added a disc brake tab and internally routed the brake cable through the fork leg. I still use the bike on group rides, century rides and for exploring new dirt roads. I still get a warm feeling when I swing a leg over it knowing this was my first one!

Why did you choose to build a fixed gear for your first one?

At the time I was riding a fixed gear a lot and found it to be a useful training tool. Since it was the style of bike I was putting in the miles on, I figured that would be the best was to test my work. Being a single speed also made it easy to build with no derailleurs or cable routing to deal with or a rear brake!

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What attracted you to frame building and how did you learn the craft?

Fortunately working with my hands and learning a new craft is easy for me. For years I did a lot of custom paintwork on my bikes and other people’s frames. Also I was into turning old Hondas into café racers. Between the two I learned a lot about working with metal, finishing, and fabrication. A friend of mine suggested I should use these skills and build my own frame. So after many nights of reading builders’ sites and blogs and studying their flickr accounts, I started practicing brazing joints.

At first I thought, “I don’t know about this!”  But once I learned about proper torch settings and heat control, I was flowing brass and silver through my practice joints with ease and not burning off the flux! After acquiring a frame jig, I felt I was ready and turned out my first frame. I learned a lot during the whole process but I think my in-depth studying and practice made it a great experience. I have to thank the many other builders out there who take the time to show their craft with pictures. This is one of the reasons I take and post many pictures of my process and hope that someone may learn from it as well.

Did you go into it planning to make frame building a career, or did that come later?

After I built my first frame, one of my riding buddies immediately asked me to build him one. I told him I would after I built my cross frame. The cross frame was completed in time for the GA Cyclocross Series. At the first race, a shop owner flagged me down and asked who the builder was. After revealing that I was the builder and explaining the seat mast, internal cable routing, and tubing choices, he asked for my contact information. About a week later he gave me an order to build him and a buddy of his road frames just like my cross frame. Now with three orders in queue it was time to make this real with insurance, etc.  My queue tends to be 3-4 frames, which is a nice balance with my full-time work. If business were really to take off, making Zukas Cycles full-time would be a dream come true!

What career would you want to have if you weren’t working as a frame builder?

That’s easy, my current gig as a bike mechanic! I have been wrenching professionally full time since 1991 at the same shop, Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse. I have established myself as the go-to guy in this area when other shops say it can’t be fixed or they can’t figure it out. For frame building, being a bike mechanic keeps me in tune with the latest parts, geometry, trends, and in general I have a hands-on to what works and does not in an industry with rapidly changing technology.

My First Bike: Jim Kish

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Jim couldn’t find any photos of his first frame, so here’s a recent frankencross build.

My First Bike explores the life and work 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 Jim Kish of Kish Fabrication.

Give me the short rundown of your first frame: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.

I moved from Vermont to Talent, Oregon in 1991 in order to be close to United Bicycle Institute. I was looking for an alternative to my current career being a tour leader and mechanic and I had heard that UBI had recently started teaching frame building in addition to mechanics. I was sold. I signed up for every class I could afford and one of those was a brazed and lugged steel frame class.

I chose to rip off a bike design I loved at the time, from the Ibis Mt Trials, which was a great trail bike with a 24″ rear wheel and 26″ front. It was not the most lug-friendly design, lots of weird angles, but I managed to make it happen with the help and patience of Ron Sutphin and the rest of the UBI staff.

I couldn’t tell you what tubing was used–that was a long time ago–I’d guess True Temper AVR given the vintage. I rode the trails around Ashland, OR nearly every day then and that bike served me well for a couple years until I replaced it with a titanium version I built.

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My First Bike: Joshua Bryant

My First Bike explores the life and work 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 Joshua Bryant of Cycles J Bryant.

Give me the short rundown of your first frame: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.

I built my first bike in the basement of my apartment in the winter of 2007.  I had recently gotten back from a honeymoon bike touring around central Europe. Towards the end of the trip, my Kogswell P/R was stolen. I set out to build a bike that was similar, but lighter in weight than that bike. I had a rather dimly lit basement and spent any free time I had mitering tubes, prepping material, brazing, etc.  It was made from somewhat light gauge Nova tubing, 8-5-8, and was spec’d to house 650x36b. It sported a front rack and a wired headlight. I rode that bike on many of my first brevets, a couple flèches, some gravel exploration and a few overnight camping trips. It was modeled after the great French Constructeurs, but teaching myself, I didn’t execute a few of the finer details I was going for as well as I had hoped. I had a lot of miles on the bike thinking of how to properly execute my vision and my next bike turned out much closer to what I was looking for. I rode this first bike for about 3 years until I set out on a 300k training ride, preparing for the Cascade 1200 several years ago. I ended up wrecking the bike pretty bad. Luckily, the only real damage to the bike was the front wheel exploded. The bike is still rideable and fairly true even, but it’s hanging in my basement for now.

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My First Bike: Todd Ingermanson

My First Bike explores the life and work 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 Todd Ingermanson of Black Cat Bicycles. 

Give me the short rundown of your first frame: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.

This isn’t my very first frame. It is the second or third. I don’t remember exactly. The first one was an attempt at an exact copy of a custom bike that I already owned to see if I could even pull off what I wanted without the variables of my own “design” thrown in. This one is the first bike that I ever designed. It was 10 years ago, right as the 29er thing was getting going and I really wanted one.

There weren’t many folks building them and those who were, were pretty tight lipped about geometry and angles. This one, like the others before it, was just an experiment. This one was to see what geometry I wanted before I built the bike I wanted.  An experienced frame builder friend, John Cutter, had given me a curved seat tube from Schwinn Paramount tandem stock and I didn’t want to blow it.

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My First Bike: Yoshi Nishikawa

My First Bike explores the life and work 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 Yoshi Nishikawa, a production welder for Seven Cycles who recently launched his own company, Kualis Cycles.

Give me the short rundown of your first frame: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.

These two frames were almost built at the same time. One of them is for a C1 racer on the Rapha Japan team. The other one is also for a C1 racer.

I had an order from the customer directly through my blog and website. The customer wanted a bike which made him win in a cross race.

When I design a bike, when I decide what tubes to use for the customer, after checking the customer’s information, I always imagine a frame in my head before it is built. Maybe this way is from my past experience as an architect. I make a little story between the customer and a bike.

I follow all the processes from touching a tube, to adjusting the alignment by feel after welding. I imagine clearly about the tubing character and the stiffness, softness …

This bike was also built through the process for only this customer.  I design and build each bike with each character. Every bike is different even though I use the same tubing.

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