Today’s RACE TO NAHBS! interview is with highly regarded framebuilder Carl Strong of Bozeman, Montana’s Strong Frames.

BR: Are your plans for NAHBS a secret, or can you tell us a little bit about what you’re showing?

CS: They aren’t a  secret at all. I’m not one to build theme bikes or anything weird or out of the norm for the show. I like to build examples of what I sell. I’ll have a steel road bike, titanium cyclocross bike and carbon road bike with me. They are all examples of bikes customers buy from me and the parts are what we sell as well. We hope the bikes reflect exactly what I am as a builder and what Loretta and I do every day.

BR: What about the booth, anything extra-special-crazy in the booth department?

CS: Nothing crazy but we will have a new booth exhibit. We’re keeping it simple and understated but we are bring a new booth. In the past we’ve displayed in
front of an “EZ Up” tent backdrop which is better than nothing but left a lot of room for improvement. This year we’ve built a structure that incorporates frame displays as well as branding and lighting. It was design and built specifically for this show and we think it’s really going to be nice.

BR: What do you see as the hot trend at NAHBS this year?

CS: I’m not sure. I see a lot of exhibitors so the numbers look to be up. There are also a lot of new builder tables and for the first time brands that don’t build their own frames will be exhibiting.  It will be interesting to see what trends emerge but I won’t know much until I’m in the building.

BR:  What is the lamest frame building trend ever?

CS: Crazy concept show bikes that don’t reflect the work of the builder. Also something that makes me crazy is that anyone that has built a frame seems to feel they need to go into business. I don’t know why people can’t just do it for fun or a hobby but there are dozens of builders with a handful  of frames under their belt that have hung out a shingle. It’s takes hundreds of frame before a builder even has enough experience to evaluate her/his own work and it’s an insult to the builders who’ve put in the time when someone who doesn’t even know what they don’t know wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and compete.

BR: What is the most challenging or horrible thing you’ve had to do as a frame builder.

CS: Probably the most challenging this I had to do was stick with Framebuilding. There were a lot of times over the years that my frustration level was so high I could hardly stand it. Many years of not making money and some streaks of just plain bad luck. The one thing I’ve done right is persevere. If I had one piece of advice for newcomers it’s don’t ever give up. No matter what, if you stick with it, you’ll eventually figure it out, as long as you never give up.

BR: What is your favorite type of bike to build?

CS: I don’t have a favorite. I like to build then all. Because I build with steel, titanium and carbon I’m always doing something different and it keeps things interesting.

BR: As a frame builder is there anything you absolutely will not to? Like a not-without-a-gun-to-my-head type thing?
CS: Lots! I think it would be easier to list what I’d do. There are a lot of people looking for all sorts of weird combos of features. I like to build Road, Cross and Hardtail MTBs. Outside of that I’m not really interested. No tandems, track, fixies, or hardcore touring frames. I leave that stuff up to the builders that know that stuff.

BR: Sum up your entire bicycle building philosophy in one word or less. Kidding. How about three words?

CS: Practical, effective  performance

BR: If you weren’t building bikes, what would you be doing?

CS: I’m not sure but it scares me to think about. I don’t have any other skills. Bikes have been the center of my world sense I can remember. If I wasn’t building them I’d  probably be doing something related to them.

BR: This one is important. Of the people showing at NAHBS, who is the last frame builder you would ever want to fight? Like physically

CS: I’m 6′ 155 pounds. I’m so skinny I wear arm warmers for leg warmers and socks for arm warmers. I can’t fight my way out of a wet paper bag as they say. I’ll have to say all framebuilders scare the hell out of me.

BR: Who is your bike-building idol? Who do you look up to?

CS: I have a lot of bike building idols. I look up to different builders for different reasons. The one thing they all have in common is that they have been building a lot longer than I have.

For more information, check out Strong Frames’ web site or Carl Strong’s BLOG.

3 COMMENTS

  1. “Also something that makes me crazy is that anyone that has built a frame seems to feel they need to go into business. I don’t know why people can’t just do it for fun or a hobby but there are dozens of builders with a handful of frames under their belt that have hung out a shingle. It’s takes hundreds of frame before a builder even has enough experience to evaluate her/his own work and it’s an insult to the builders who’ve put in the time when someone who doesn’t even know what they don’t know wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and compete.”

    I have a few qualms with this statement. First of all it’s quite an expensive “hobby” to get into. I’ve known a few guys who build frames in their garage periodically, but it’s not easy. There’s a lot to invest just to get started. And from what I understand tubing suppliers won’t sell to you unless you’re insured and have a business license (but I could be wrong on this). And for a hobby, to build “hundreds of frame[s]” is asking a lot. Where are all these frames gonna go? If you’re investing that kind of money you gotta get some return, you can only pawn frames on so many friends. But I agree that builders should apprentice for at least a few years before going on their own.

  2. “But I agree that builders should apprentice for at least a few years before going on their own.”

    I believe that’s what he means

  3. i completely understand where Carl is coming from. i’ve seen many an experienced framebuilder charge $1600 for a standard frame who has been building frames for 10 years, and then have a new guy who has been building for just a year ask for the same price for a frame. it’s an insult to the experienced builders to ask for the same price when their expertise is very different.

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