Lauren Trout of Saila Bicycles. Photo from Saila Bicycles’ Facebook.
There’s something appropriate about a relatively unknown frame builder working under the name Saila (that’s alias spelled backwards). But though she’s not a household name, Lauren Trout’s got nearly a decade of experience under her belt building some of the world’s nicest titanium bikes. Those years rival or surpass plenty of big name builders with even bigger “personal brands.” Trout learned to wield a torch after getting hired as an entry-level finisher at Seven Cycles. She worked her way up to the production welding department where she spent years honing her skills building thousands of bikes. Last year she left Boston for Austin, Texas and went full time with her one-woman shop, Saila Bicycles. I spoke to Trout about her experience at Seven, striking out on her own, her long history as a bike messenger, the faddish explosion of custom companies, and much more.
Posted in Bike Industry, Frame Builders, Interviews, Messengers
Tagged austin cycling, austin texas frame builder, bike messengers, custom bicycles, lauren trout, new england frame builders, saila bicycles, seven cycles, women frame builders
ANT Bike’s Mike Flanigan with a Boston Roadster. Photo via ANT Bike flickr.
New England is a stronghold of American custom frame builders. Portland, OR may have more of them, but New Englanders have been at it longer. The U.S. custom frame building business traces its roots to the 1970s when Richard Sachs, Peter Weigle, and Ben Serotta learned the craft at Whitcomb Cycles in London. Of course, companies such as Schwinn and Huffy had been manufacturing bicycles in the U.S. for decades, but Sachs, Weigle and Serotta were among the first to bring the tailor-made style of bicycle building to the States. When they returned to New England in 1972, Weigle and Sachs started the short-lived Whitcomb USA. Serotta started Serotta Cycles. The three laid the foundation for many generations of builders to come in the region.
Flash forward to the late 80s, Fat City Cycles was in full swing and a young Mike Flanigan rolled into Boston from Texas and talked his way into a job in the paint department. Over his five years there he became a master painter and found the time to teach himself TIG welding. When Fat City was sold in the mid-90s, Flanigan and a few other Fat City refugees started Independent Fabrication. In the early 2000s, dissatisfied with the direction of his company, he left and launched his one-man, city and cargo bike-focused shop, Alternative Needs Transportation (ANT). Between Fat City, Independent Fabrication, and ANT, Flanigan has played an important role in shaping the modern frame building landscape. He also played a part in bringing city bikes to the American mainstream. I spoke to Flanigan about his deep history in the frame building world, Fat City’s major influence, the value and significant of custom bikes, and his recent closure of ANT bikes.
Posted in Bike Industry, Frame Builders, History, Interviews
Tagged alternative needs transportation, ant bikes, ben serotta, boston frame builders, chris chance, custom frame builders, fat city cycles, geekhouse bikes, iglehart, independent fabrication, mike flanigan, new england frame builders, peter weigle, richard sachs, seven cycles, whitcomb cycles
The Builder – Max Kullaway from Loaded Pictures on Vimeo.
Max Kullaway’s history in frame building run deep. He got his start in New England welding for Merlin then Seven. He later moved to Seattle where he started his own company 333 Fabrications and builds for Hampsten and Davidson. For more, check out the interview Max did with The Bicycle Story back in 2012. In this neat short film from Loaded Pictures, Max talks about his frame building philosophies, his love for bikes and making things by hand, and more.
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.
I love finding new blogs, especially when they’re already well established and I can spend hours sifting through the archives. This morning I came across Yoshi Nishikawa’s Builder’s Life and spent more time browsing than I’m sure my bosses would care to know. Yoshi left his job as a frame builder at Japan’s Level bikes several years ago and started work as a Ti and steel welder for Seven Cycles in Boston.
Yoshi’s blog mostly centers around the work he does at Seven. The picture-heavy posts feature a lot of detail shots of his amazingly clean welds as well as other interesting shots from around the factory, of complete bikes, and occasionally from his personal life.
His writing is sparse. Each post contains just a few sentences (in both English and Japanese); enough essential details to give the reader an idea of what they’re looking at. But, the pictures alone provide a fascinating glimpse into the life and work of a high-end bike builder.