Photo by Tim O'Donnell

Photo by Tim O’Donnell

Until last year’s NAHBS, I could say with complete certainty that I’d never had a bike move me to tears. That streak ended when I stepped into the Shamrock Cycles booth at the show. My friend Tim handed me a cold beer, walked me over to the Paper Airplane bike and told me its story. The bike, which was designed to be ridden with full fenders, but race-able without, was dripping in all the sweet little details and considerations that you know to look for in a Tim O’Donnell bike. It was purchased by a guy and built for a woman he met at a cyclocross race and was covered in 585 hand-painted paper airplanes, one for each day between their meeting and their wedding. I started weeping right there in the booth, pleading, “Tim, what are you doing to me?!”

But as exceptional as that bike is in terms of craftsmanship and execution, it isn’t exceptional within the context of the work that Tim does. And that’s what I adore about him as a builder and as a person. Tim’s work is obsessive, but never for the sake of being obsessive, it’s always to make himself better for the next thing…

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BIKERUMOR: When did you build your first bike?

TIM: I built my first bike in 2004. I restore old British motorcycles as well.

BIKERUMOR: Yeah? What kind?

Photo by Tim O'Donnell

Photo by Tim O’Donnell

TIM: Well, I’ve got a ‘71 Norton Commando right now and a ‘64 Triumph, but I’ve had a bunch of others. I’m doing a motorcycle show next weekend down in Cincinnati called Garage Brewed. It’s an invite only show – you submit a portfolio. They take 50 best bikes and they asked me to bring three of my bikes. And I’m like, “Hey, I got room for two in the trailer.” So I’m taking the Triton and the Norton. Anyway, back to your question.

Photo by Tim O'Donnell

Photo by Tim O’Donnell

I’d been doing brazing and metalwork ‘cause a lot of those old frames are all brazed. Back in the 50’s and 60’s they weren’t TIGed, and most of those things over the course of their lives had been wrecked or god knows what. There was always a fair amount of framework that needed to be done, so that was my introduction a few years prior to working with a torch. I had been racing bikes since I was 17 years old, so I said, “You know, I want to build my own bike.” And so this would have been again, 2004. I don’t know where that maps out in terms of the handmade custom cyclist boom.

BIKERUMOR: You were right at the cusp of the new wave there.

TIM: I think the wave hadn’t broken, but it was certainly growing at that time. So I built my first bike and I still have it today. It’s as crooked as holy hell, but I keep it in the basement. What else am I going to do with it? If nothing else, it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come.

Every now and then, I’ll build a bike just for me, the best I can do, and keep it. Sort of hang it on a hook. It becomes a barometer of where I am in that point in time. It becomes my skills cast in amber for that time period.

BIKERUMOR: Is there a regular interval for this ritual?

TIM: I’ll get an idea that I want to try and I don’t have anybody in the queue that wants that. Maybe I’ve got a little time and I’ll do it. So there’s really no rhyme or reason. But it ends up being every three or so years. So I’ve got all these bikes that I’ve built- again, it takes my skills and casts them in amber. And then I know, all right, I can look back at a bike I built three years ago, five years ago, ten years ago, whatever, and where am I today versus then. Am I improving? Have I plateaued? Is it time for me to push the envelope somewhere else? It’s easier to do that than send a bunch of bikes out into the world that customers have bought and then try to remember what they looked like.

BIKERUMOR: What kind of bike was your first and why did you build it?

TIM: I built it because I wanted to see if I could build it- for no reason other than that. Back in 2004, at least here in the Midwest, the idea of riding a fixed gear bike hadn’t been co-opted by a culture. We’ve got the velodrome right down the road, and it’s a great winter bike to workout dead spots in the pedal stroke. So there were very valid reasons for riding a fixie.

BIKERUMOR: But they weren’t fashion reasons. They were practical reasons.

TIM: They weren’t fashion reasons. It was: this helps me from pedaling in squares in hour four of a race. That’s all. So I built a fixed gear. There was also a logical part of it that, you know, this doesn’t require me then to add a bunch of braze ons and blah blah blah, so it was a little bit more of an approachable construction. And it was something that I wanted. So I built a lugged fixed gear bike. And a lot of guys, that’s all they do still, right? Ten, fifteen years later, that’s it. They hit their stride and they haven’t really moved on. And I salute them for that, but my heart wasn’t in track racing.

BIKERUMOR: Did you ever track race?

TIM: Yeah I have, but not – it was very very infrequent. And the thing is that I almost feel guilty saying that out loud because I’m one of a handful of people around here in the country that have a velodrome. I can ride my bike to the velodrome. Very few people can say that. I mean, by simple virtue of having one in the neighborhood, I should be a huge track racer. And it’s just – and let’s face it, going out there and getting my ever loving ass kicked, it doesn’t endear you to come out again.

BIKERUMOR: Well you’ve got Marian University right there with their whiz kids. So did you just jump into frame building cold? You didn’t train under anybody?

Photo by Tim O'Donnell

Photo by Tim O’Donnell

TIM: Yeah.

BIKERUMOR: Just got some tubes and went for it, huh?

TIM: Just got some tubes and went for it. That’s exactly right. And again, it wasn’t like in 2004 there were a huge numbers of mentorships, particularly here in Indianapolis, right? So if you wanted to do it, it was up to you. And again, going back to the motorcycle thing, if I’ve got an old Norton Commando, a 45 year old motorcycle, and something’s not right with it, it’s up to me. I can’t take it down to the Norton dealership and get it worked on. It’s you or it doesn’t happen.

When I went into frame building, it was kind of the same. Either I can do this on my own, or I can’t. I did a lot of the normal stuff and relied upon the internet to get some questions answered, and quite frankly that’s when I first met Richard [Sachs]. Richard to his credit, one of the reasons why I’ll really never run afoul of Richard, is he was unbelievably helpful when I was just some idiot kid. Again, I wasn’t making frames to sell, right? I was just making frames because I wanted something to do.
Even before I built a frame, I would just take a shitload of old practice lugs, and actually Peter Weigel sent me a huge box of lugs, I just practiced brazing lugs and cutting them open and looking to see how I did. Then I was kind of building frames and giving them away to friends. All my friends riding bikes that I had built because, what the hell else am I going to do with these things after I build them? Then somewhere along the line, someone asked me if I would build them a frame for money. And I was, “Well, I never really thought about it, but I’ll give it a whirl.” But I thought, if I’m going to do it, I need to make sure I do this right. Not just for my safety, but for the safety of the person who is buying the bike from me. So I got insured and built a bike, and then that became another bike.

Photo by Tim O'Donnell

Photo by Tim O’Donnell

When I wasn’t paying attention, Anna, I had a business going. That’s, that’s kind of how Shamrock cycles began.

BIKERUMOR: When did it become a real business?

TIM: Late 2007?

BIKERUMOR: That’s pretty fast.

TIM: Yeah, well, not really. If you think about it, it’s somebody who already had torch brazing skills, and the time between starting a business and when I first started brazing was three years and a shit load of oxygen and acetylene and silver and practice lugs and practice frames to make sure I had my chops down. What bothers me, and NAHBS has sort of been the culprit in a lot of this, someone builds two fucking frames and next thing you know they have a website and a cool logo and a head badge. To the observer on the outside, oftentimes they can’t draw distinction between those people and the people who truly know what they’re doing.

My biggest complaint about NAHBS, and I’ve even shared this with Don [Walker], is the new builders that are coming into NAHBS, they are trying to make a splash. And they are building these kind of overwrought, I’ll call them, Bicycle Shaped Objects, right? And they’re doing it to get attention to get noticed, but it’s not – I don’t know if it’s necessarily one, something that’s built all that well or two, if it’s built in a way that can sustain a business. If you’re doing all these things and you’ve got between paint and materials, you’ve got $1550 and fifty hours in a bike, and you’re selling it for $2500, show me how the math works. So what ends up happening is another revenue source, be it another job, a spouse, a trust fund – subsidizes the frame building world. But what happens is that it makes it then very difficult for those people who are full time lifers in the frame building world to increase pricing to a living wage and to truly distinguish themselves through profound skill.

Photo by Tim O'Donnell

Photo by Tim O’Donnell

BIKERUMOR: Absolutely.

TIM: I got very tangential on that and I apologize.

BIKERUMOR: You don’t think I hear this?

TIM: Look, say what you will about Richard, that fucking dude can build a frame. And not only can he build a frame, but he can do it in a way and charge a price for it where he makes good money at it. And how in god’s name can you begrudge the guy for that?

BIKERUMOR: You can’t. So when did you start charging people for bikes?

TIM: That was 2007 when I first started charging for bikes.

BIKERUMOR: You set yourself up pretty intelligently before you were any kind of business. Let alone full time. What were you doing for a day job before then? Because motorcycles aren’t a cheap habit, you know.

TIM: What I did then and what I still do – I keep my finger in it because it’s a passion of mine – it’s completely contrary to frame building. I work for not for profit organizations to put together socially responsible investment portfolios. So you’ll have a private foundation, a community foundation that wants to have some kind of social component to how they have their money invested. They parachute me in, I kind of give them the lay of the land, the pro and the con, why you might want to consider, why you might not, and kind of give them the education, and I move on. And so yeah, that’s – look, when I went to Miami [University of Ohio], History and Political Science were my undergrads so I didn’t have any discernible skills when I graduated. This was 1994, that compared to where it is today, that was ages ago. That was before the fucking internet. So you could sort of go to a job fair and wherever you land is where you land. And I got a job working in finance and I liked it, I enjoyed it, and turned out I was halfway decent at it.

BIKERUMOR: So you’re doing that in Indy and motorcycles, not a cheap hobby, but awesome.

TIM: I love motorcycles. I actually enjoy working on them more than I like riding them. I know that sounds perverted, but I had a couple of race bikes, I used to race bikes down at Putnam – motorcycle racing – I don’t anymore. Well, Carl Strong raced in WERA for years.

BIKERUMOR: No shit!

TIM: Yeah. Carl was a badass. And if I’m not mistaken, Carl raced in two-stroke era for WERA. But yeah, Carl knows motorcycles. And what most people don’t know about Carl and me, and you can print this, is Carl and I have been lovers for years. He’s so gentle. I don’t know if Loretta knows. But yeah, we’ve been lovers for years. Every time I go to Bozeman, it’s really quite romantic.

BIKERUMOR: That’s very special. Thank you so much for sharing, Tim. You still do this non-profit investment thing. Is it a real job?

TIM: No no – it’s on an as-needed basis. I really don’t try to have these two worlds cross all that frequently. Here’s the thing, the people who are contemplating buying a bike from me can see it as a reason to not because, oh well, he’s not full time or whatever. I am full time! I have another way that I spend my time. But it looks like a lack of commitment. And the same perception can be made for those who – he’s also doing these things on the side. I try to keep the amount of discussion typically when those conversations come up, I’ll deflect them and try to bring it back to the audience to which I’m speaking. But it’s not anything I’m ashamed of.

BIKERUMOR: I’ve seen your LinkedIn profile for your passion job. It was very confusing to me.

TIM: I look so prim and proper in that picture.

BIKERUMOR: You look so clean!

TIM: I make no apologies for it. I help not for profit organizations invest in a way that from a social perspective I think is important. It’s not like I’ve got an ax handle and I’m clubbing baby seals. I’m helping not for profits make money in the right way, in the correct manner, so they can do really good work for the community. Absolutely. Any way I can help out I will.

Photo by Tim O'Donnell

Photo by Tim O’Donnell

BIKERUMOR: I hate the idea that you can’t have a hobby outside of bike building. Like it has to be your full-time job and your hobby and all your passion and the way that you recreate. To other people, to people outside of the context, being that single-minded would be considered unhealthy.

TIM: Well, you know, a lot of it is people say “I want to buy a bike from an artist who is slaving for his craft-”

Shamrock Cycles NAHBS 2015 polish HT

BIKERUMOR: You do slave though! That polished stainless fillet brazed thing you did last year, that was insane!

TIM: I was really proud of that one. I’m proud of all of my bikes, but I was really proud of that one.

BIKERUMOR: You were a psychopath with that one. And then you painted it!

TIM: Yeah. Not all, not all. Painted the head tube. I wanted some color on the bike, and honestly the reason why I painted the front of that bike is the guy wanted a carbon fiber fork. Fine, no problem, but there’s no way I’m not gonna paint the fork. If I had the fork painted, I wanted some paint on the front of the bike as well, try to make it look like a complete package. That’s why I painted the front of the bike.

BIKERUMOR: Fine. Okay. How many bikes do you build a year? What’s your volume?

TIM: I build between 20 and 30 bikes a year.

Shamrock NAHBS

Photo by Tim O’Donnell

BIKERUMOR: That’s not bad.

TIM: No, it’s not. A couple of years ago, I was building more. To be perfectly honest, Anna, my quality of life took a nosedive. I couldn’t ride. I’d get phone calls and texts from all of my friends. “Hey, we’re doing a ride.” “I can’t ride, I gotta build. I can’t have dinner and a drink with my wife because I’m building. I can’t train, so I’m ridiculously out of fucking shape and I’m a punchline at a cross race. I’m so focused on the destination that I’m not paying attention to the journey.”

I always tell my customer – “Don’t focus just one the finish line, focus on the journey.” So the process and the experience of having a bike built for you, you can’t get that by going and buying a mass produced bike. It’s one of the biggest values for why you would order a bike. It’s for the journey. I was ignoring my own advice. So I raised prices, I extended build queue, and became a bit more selective of the jobs I was taking on. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

BIKERUMOR: I feel like that should be the litmus test for anyone who bikes. When you have a job that doesn’t let you bike, you need to kinda reevaluate your situation.

TIM: But I mean, how many folks do you know that are in the cycling industry that never get to ride?

BIKERUMOR: A ton. It’s the saddest thing about the industry. Especially for people who own bike shops. You open a bike shop because you love bikes but you never get to ride. Back from the tangent – these motorcycles, you’re not the only builder who plays with them. What were you doing with them?

TIM: I was taking old beater motorcycles and turning them into cafe racers. In 2004, that was an original thing to do in the Midwest. Now, everybody and their goddamned brother is snapping up Honda CB350s and turning them into cafe racers. Oh well. I digress. There are very good parallels between the two skill sets. It’s precision work. It’s metalwork. It’s problem-solving. It has a lot of the same skill sets.

BIKERUMOR: What are those parallels?

TIM: Again, I also do a lot of woodworking. All of the furniture in the house I’ve built. I’ve been doing woodworking since I was a teenager. And that – I don’t think that translates quite as well. Wood moves differently than metal.

BIKERUMOR: It moves – period.

TIM: Yeah, the idea of working with metal and understanding when you have a torch on a piece of steel, hearing what it’s telling you. Then also taking on the profound amount of responsibility that you’re building something that if you do it wrong, can kill someone. And I don’t mean to get dark and serious, but you build a chair and the chair breaks, “Oh fuck, my chair is broken.” You do something wrong and now, a motorcycle at full cry and top gear, crashes – the stakes are much higher. That was the biggest transition I think, moving from woodworking to metalworking. I’m not building a sculpture. I’m building a motorcycle here. If I don’t do it right, people get hurt. So taking on that level of responsibility and that level of seriousness on the motorcycle side translated remarkably well to the bicycle side.

BIKERUMOR: And aesthetics.

TIM: Absolutely, and again, the aesthetics fit. I like clean. I’m not an overwrought kind of guy. Look, we can stretch our legs with paint and all those things, but I’m not one to go over the top with a whole lot of braze on geegaws just for the sake of doing that.

shamrock bikes nahbs (41)

BIKERUMOR: Wait a minute, wait a minute… this is coming from the guy with the shamrock water bottle boss reinforcements.

TIM: Hey, but they serve a very real – preventing water bottle bosses from pulling out because someone over tightened them. How many times have you seen crack propagation from an unreinforced water bottle boss hole? So I can either use a diamond stiffener that everybody else uses from Nova, or I’ve got access to a buddy that owns a machine shop and I can say “make me up 300 ¾” shamrocks.”

BIKERUMOR: AND you’ve got some fancy dropouts. AND you make some pretty seriously fancy racks. Overwrought, huh? Hey, I understand everything on your bikes, I just have to make fun of you a little bit. Everything on your bikes is practical, they serve a purpose… however… Let’s be real, the list of builders that you can consistently go to to see a solid work of art, a pretty fancy metal bike, it’s a short list. I think Erik Noren lives on the extreme side of the pool from you, but I feel like you’re in the same pool.

Shamrock NAHBS

Photo by Tim O’Donnell

TIM: We’re two very different variations of the same person.

BIKERUMOR: You really are. Only he doesn’t play with motorcycles. It’s Dodge trucks.

TIM: Again, variations of the same thing. That’s a fair point. And maybe I need to just rule number one, know thyself. Maybe the idea is, alright, I tricked myself into thinking that if I do it, it’s not overwrought but if someone else does it, it is.

BIKERUMOR: Spending a week hand-polishing a headtube that you’re going to paint is a little overwrought.

TIM: But I charged for it, right? I made money on it. Maybe I like to go, “I dance that fine line between form and function.” No! Maybe I fucking don’t.

BIKERUMOR: I mean, you’ve got very very practical designs, but they’re always pretty. There always a little something extra.

TIM: Hey, man, aesthetics count. Fine! You’re now officially my therapist. You’ve given me a breakthrough on who I am.

BIKERUMOR: I’m just holding up a mirror.

TIM: Damn you for throwing my words back at me!

Shamrock Cycles Lugged Cross Bike Front Brake Cable Routing

BIKERUMOR: In terms of how you’re actually building bikes, what has changed about how you approach bikes from your first bike to now? You’re on twelve years of this.

TIM: Boy, that’s a good question, Anna, because my sense of what a bike should be hasn’t changed. I think that what I’ve been able to do, kind of going back to the idea that every now and then I’ll build a bike as a tally stick as far as where I am in my skillset. The loading factor of what I do on a bike, either intricacy of a lug, how crisp the shoreline is, how straight a bike is, how quickly and efficiently I can build a bike – I push those to a point where I am still in my comfort zone, but my comfort zone is eternally expanding. I’m going to take the same bike that I’ve built, but I’m going to make it better. Maybe it’s making it better in ways that only I recognize or see or understand, but I’m doing it. I’ve never built a perfect bike, I hope I never do. I don’t want to be the greyhound that caught the rabbit. I want to constantly be striving for – I mean, look, if I said you know what? The best bike I ever built was three years ago, then fuck it, I’m going to barber school.

BIKERUMOR: You’d be such a good barber, though!

TIM: Me with a pair of clippers… but seriously, think about that. I have now admitted to myself that I’ve peaked. It is the frame building equivalent to the kid whose life peaks at 18 years old when he’s a running back in high school and now he’s sitting on a bar stool talking about when he was 18.

BIKERUMOR: Wow, that’s way heavier than where I thought you were going with that. 

TIM: It’s dark. But – and perhaps it takes the darkness to extreme, but my point is that how can I sleep at night knowing that I’ve already built the best bike I’m ever going to build? Every frame I build, there’s always a period somewhere in the process where I found some time for self-flagellation. If I had only done X differently, this would be a better bike. So next bike, I’m fucking doing X, whatever X is.

BIKERUMOR: Do you have an example of X? What’s X on your most recent bike?

TIM: I’ve been spending a lot of time making simple adjustments to shorelines on lugs. For the most part – but I don’t mean, like, Brian Baylis over-the-top super carved. I’m talking about spending that extra, it might only be, ten minutes a lug, but that extra amount of time to make sure that the raw shorelines are exactly the way I want them so that when I pull silver to that shoreline, and I pull the torch away, I don’t have to do anything to it. Again, it’s not like I’ve had this major breakthrough or I’m doing something really big and unique and different. If you want that, talk to Drew over at Engin cause what he’s doing with his dropouts is amazing. That’s not really what I’m after. What I’m after is better execution of a, comparatively speaking, simple bike.

If you think about it in terms of diving or gymnastics, which I don’t know a fucking thing about aside from watching the Olympics, you can go for a simple dive and do it really well, or you can go for big air and do something really really hard. It is the exceptional few that can do both of those. And those that can do both are the ones that you see on the Wheaties boxes. That path that I’ve chosen is better execution on a simpler theme. Sometimes I regret that. Sometimes I feel, well, am I stagnating? But again, I can go back to where I am I today on these frames versus where I was five years ago. And have I improved? And have I improved enough that I’m comfortable with my lot in life. If I’m not, fucking fix it now. You know, I’ve sort of been doing a lot more fillet brazing. I was always a better lug brazer than I was a fillet brazer.

BIKERUMOR: So you start fillet brazing. Of course you do.

TIM: I keep deflecting here, but take Mike Zanconato. Zanc was known for building really nice lugged frames. And now Zanc TIGs aluminum and he’s starting to TIG ti. Take Drew. Drew went all in on custom dropouts and titanium. Drew and Zanc are the two examples I come up with that are always pushing the envelope. Look at Carl. You want steel? No problem. You want ti? No problem. He can offer a lot of things that I can’t. But what I can do, though, is I can offer what I do at my absolute level best. You sign on for that as a customer and like that idea, because a lot of it is you selling yourself. I’m selling the journey. I’m selling the experience. I’m selling the amount of input that you have on your bike. And thankfully I don’t need to convince 1000 people of this a year. I need to convince 30. And I’ve been able to do that. So, I like what I do. I like what I make. I have enough people that agree with me, keeps me happy, keeps them happy.

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BIKERUMOR: Have you started keeping a timeline of all these changes and adjustments?

TIM: I do in the context of the bikes that I’ve built, but it’s not like I say “dear diary.” I don’t do that. Maybe I should, right? In the moment, they never seem significant. It’s not like, “Oh! Lightbulb idea! I must go create.” No, it’s an evolution of the same thing.

BIKERUMOR: So you can walk up to a bike and tell where you were on that bike?

TIM: That’s absolutely right. I can usually date where I was at a skill level based on the bike. Yeah.

BIKERUMOR: Cool. I love it. I have to ask if you want to talk about what you’re bringing to the show, but you don’t. You don’t even show your customers what you’re doing.

TIM: That’s exactly right. Of course the customer knows what they are getting.

BIKERUMOR: I hope so!

TIM: I don’t allow them to see the bike until the show. If you’re 80% of the way done with a bike, the bars aren’t wrapped and the seat’s not on it and whatever, and then you show the complete bike at the show completely done, it loses some of the pop. You’ve already sort of seen 75% of the cat, only 25% is still in the bag. I like the idea of having someone seeing the bike for the first time in person, as often as I can do it. To the point where I will tell people that if I’m putting a bike in the show that’s yours, I’ll buy your pass, come to the show, I’ll take care of you.

BIKERUMOR: That’s beautiful.

TIM: I love having people see the bike for the first time in person while I’m there.

BIKERUMOR: On a pedestal where everyone else ogles it for a weekend. I can’t think of anything better.

TIM: I’m bringing four bikes, three are customer bikes. One is not, largely because I pestered the ever-loving dogshit of everyone I knew at SRAM for getting a set of the eTap, and they, to their credit, finally said “look, if we sell you a set, will you stop fucking calling us?” So then I had an eTap gruppo, but all the bikes in the queue, none of them were spec’d for what could be used as eTap.

BIKERUMOR: So papa’s getting a new bike, huh?

TIM: Eh, I don’t want it.

BIKERUMOR: (laughing)

TIM: … I don’t NEED it. I’ve got more bikes than I’ve got sense to begin with.

BIKERUMOR: You know how many people would turn themselves inside out and light themselves on fire for eTap right now?

TIM: Look, no self-immolation needed! Write a check and it’s yours! I built the bike basically on spec, largely because there’s no way, after pestering as much as I did the guys at SRAM, there’s no way I couldn’t take that bike to NAHBS. So I built a road bike, and then – you remember the paper airplane bike I built last year?

BIKERUMOR: Oh, the one you made me cry like a baby with last year? Oh THAT one? You know I do, Tim.

TIM: Sorry about that.

BIKERUMOR: No you’re not. You brought it up on purpose.

TIM: My point on this is, Anna, the woman that painted it, Kate Oberreich, she’s painting this one as well. She’s kinda got this new design, and it doesn’t have the sentimental part because it’s a spec bike.

BIKERUMOR: Will it be as labor intensive?

TIM: If not more. But I told her, you need to err on the side of austerity on this. Don’t go so over the fucking top that it gets muddled. My idea is: the best selling feature of eTap is how clean the bike is. Don’t fuck that up with paint.

But again, and the bike’s a little bit more masculine in its design in that the base color is going to be a grayish blue. And Kate has this new design- it’s kind of like an outline of twigs with no leaves, I guess is the only way I can describe it. But she’s going to go – all of it gets hand drawn and everything. And after she’s done with it, the logo and a couple little accent pieces in terms of paint will be whatever color she used. I don’t know if she’s going to use white or silver or gray, but I don’t want to introduce a third color to it. Whatever third color she uses is going to be the color of the logo. I have a cross bike, lugged steel frame and fork cross bike with Campy Record on it. Then a disc cross bike with SRAM CX1. And then, actually, a track bike. I had an order for a track bike.

BIKERUMOR: For your home track?

TIM: Yeah. I’m excited because in my mind I’m thinking, if I can make inroads into the velodrome without working too terribly hard at it… that’s frame and fork. I used a Nitto track bar that I had stripped of the chrome of course. And then made a bar, stem combo that’s going to be painted as well. The hardest part of that was – I built the frame and fork first, put all the components on it and everything and put the bars on it, then gave the bike to the guy that was riding it, because I said “you need to tell me exactly, bar angle, position, everything- because this is getting brazed up, there is no adjustment on this.” So he took the bike and rode it on the rollers for the weekend and tweaked the bars and got everything exactly where he wanted it. I took all the measurements and built the bar/stem combo.

So yeah, I’m only taking four bikes. Though typically take only four bikes.

BIKERUMOR: So my last question for everyone: what do you tell the kid who wants to be you when he grows up, to do what you do… what advice do you give him?

TIM: Don’t be a Cincinnati Reds fan. They’ll break your heart every time. Pick a winner. Don’t commit to a team that’s just going to kick you in the nuts every year. That’s number one. (editor’s note: I can vouch for this statement – Zach)

I don’t know if I would give any advice to a younger me except, don’t do anything differently. Because it is awesome being me – I don’t mean that in a self-congratulatory like I’m so fucking special. I mean, I have an awesome life and to be able to recognize that in the moment is crucial. You don’t ever want to look back and go: it was really great back in, whatever, I wish I would have slowed down and paid attention. That’s always the advice that someone who is older will give someone who is younger. What I’ve done my whole life is, if something’s passionate for me I see where it takes me. Don’t worry so much and obsess about the road less traveled. Just take the road that feels right. And if that’s the road most traveled, fuck it, just do it. And make the decision, be happy with the decision, and then don’t look back. Don’t live with regret. I’ve done that my whole life. I’ll be honest, it’s really worked for me. I don’t know if I would recommend it to everyone, but it’s worked for me.

LugOfTheIrish.com

16 comments

  1. Mike A on

    Fenders should always come with a bike, Especially a nice bike. Taking them off should be the option, not buying them. I understand if you’re from dry lands it’s not as compelling, but it’s better to have them than to not.

    Race day bike obviously excluded.

    Reply
    • Kernel Flickitov on

      “Fenders should always come with a bike, Especially a nice bike. Taking them off should be the option, not buying them.”

      That comment is so off the deep end I’ll just leave it to your imagination what I really think about it.

      Reply
        • Kernel Flickitov on

          If said bike comes with Planet Bike fenders but SKS is an overall better fit for the bike and the rider, that’s a waste of time, material, and resources for the bike mfg and the consumer. There are very few bikes on the market designed for fenders that actually come with them. T6 Standard Rando for example comes with metal fenders, well I don’t want metal, I want plastic simply for the noise reduction. How about a Century ride on soggy Irish dirt roads with metal fenders? Too loud, sounds like somebody is shooting at you with a BB gun for hours! There’s a really good reason why by-in-large fenders are an aftermarket option determined by the customer; ….. choice.

          Reply
  2. Bill on

    Love the bikes, but too much snobby framebuilder attitude.

    One paragraph he talks about how he hates these people trying to break into the scene building things in an unprofitable way for a show, and in the other talks about his prior life in finance keeping him going while he got his business built.

    And “Bike Shaped Object”. There’s nothing more arrogant than that phrase. I’m so sick of hearing it. Guess what, lots of people have built frames for lots of years, that lasted through lots of hard riding. There’s an art to making things beautiful, strong, light, etc.. but don’t say it’s not a bike just because it doesn’t meet the cool kid’s club standards. When you pay small custom builder prices you are paying for ART, not some magical mechanical machine that no one else can make. I built a steel lugged frame in my unheated garage and it was a ton of fun to do it, and I rode it nearly every day for three years before I got hit riding home from work on it and it was demolished (like any bike would have been). I do carbon repair, occasional rough machining, and none of these things take more than what I consider “general man skills” to do safely and well with a little bit of research and experimentation. So yes, differentiate yourself by your paint jobs, attention to weld details, etc, but stop, please, just stop, acting like a bicycle frame is something so amazingly complicated that it takes a magical level of experience and skill (which by the way can’t apparently be taught) to create.

    Of course, nothing saying cycling like looking down on other people’s sh*t.

    Reply
    • ShamrockCycles on

      Hi Bill. The intent wasn’t to insult or come off as “snobby” at all. And apologies if you or others picked up that. My main concern is I want to see some of these remarkably talented framebuilders survive as a business. There is no doubt these guys and gals can build a frame. But if they don’t have a road map on how they can parlay this into a going concern then the ability to build a beautiful frame gets squandered. And I never used other sources of income subsidize framebuilding in the early years. The business grew, it supported itself, maintained profitability and remained separate concerns in every aspect.

      This will be my 8th NAHBS so clearly I am a fan and the new builders are an important part of that. I didn’t mean to insult them or you. Come to NAHBS. Let me buy you a beer. You will quickly discover that I am, at the most, 40% asshole. The remaining 60% is a halfway decent fella.

      Reply
    • ABW on

      Are you trolling, or do you really believe that you and your man skills produced a frame that’s of the same quality as something from a guy like Richard Sachs, who has produced thousands of frames? To be clear, I also don’t buy into the mysticism of framebuilding, but if you believe that fabrication of any kind doesn’t improve with experience is absurd (not to mention ignorant and arrogant).

      Reply
      • Bill on

        No, I’m saying that it’s arrogant to consider anything but the most perfectly produced bicycle a bicycle. There’s art and closeness to perfection that takes skill and time, and crap made in a garage, but they both produce bicycles, that can ride very well with a little attention to detail. This “only the best or it’s not even worth the metal it’s made of” attitude is the thing I have a problem with.

        Reply
        • Kernel Flickitov on

          Tim has a very valid concern about artists posing as frame builders at NAHBS. You’re assuming that every show entrant there is a master craftsman and the only difference is the paint when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know of a few regulars there that don’t have the welding skills and metallurgical awareness to be considered one of the best and they are applauded for their aesthetic merit alone. Some very well known ones at that. That’s very wrong and Tim is absolutely right on the money with that statement. The only arrogance I read on this page is your absurd proclamation of DIY man skills in your unheated garage is somehow on par with veteran frame builders minus the paint.

          Reply
          • Bill on

            You’ve missed my point entirely. I did in no way say my skills were “on par” just that I take offense to the term “Bicycle shaped object” that frame builders love to throw around. Bicycles have been made for a century by amateurs, and to say they aren’t show quality is one thing, but to write them off as not even bicycles is flippant elitism.

            Reply
        • ABW on

          “I don’t know if it’s necessarily one, something that’s built all that well or two, if it’s built in a way that can sustain a business. If you’re doing all these things and you’ve got between paint and materials, you’ve got $1550 and fifty hours in a bike, and you’re selling it for $2500, show me how the math works. So what ends up happening is another revenue source, be it another job, a spouse, a trust fund – subsidizes the frame building world. But what happens is that it makes it then very difficult for those people who are full time lifers in the frame building world to increase pricing to a living wage and to truly distinguish themselves through profound skill.”

          I’ll concede that his latter point is kind of BS, and as you said, he subsidizes his own framebuilding with a “day job.” It’s not his concern if the other guy makes enough money on a frame to sustain a business. BUT, his first point is a valid concern. To an unsuspecting customer, it’s possible to pass off a substandard frame by cloaking it in a nice paint job, or even by doing something more intensive like putting intricate lugs on it. Knowing how to push a file and having the time to do it does not a framebuilder make. Brazing and welding are skills that are difficult to master – maybe they came easy to you, but nobody who knows anything about fabrication would accept that somebody with two frames worth of experience is making a frame that performs as well as somebody with two hundred frames worth of experience. Now put the same price tag on each of those frames, and it becomes at least misleading, and at worst downright dishonest. This is how I interpreted his gripe.

          Reply
  3. Tim O'Donnell on

    I’m actually really enjoying watching this debate. The only item I would challenge is the statement that I subsidized frambuding with another job. Frame building from day one was either self-sufficient or it wasn’t going to happen. If I am losing money building bikes it’s called a hobby. And an expensive one at that. The only other item I might challenge is that I am snobbish. I think I’m a pretty nice and approachable fella. Ask either of my friends and they will both tell you that I’m an OK guy in small doses.

    Lastly, if any of you are going to be at NAHBS please make it a point to stop by and say hi and have a beer with me. That’s all I ask.

    Reply
  4. Jason on

    I totally agree with Tim
    “Then also taking on the profound amount of responsibility that you’re building something that if you do it wrong, can kill someone.”

    I request that next year’s road to NAHBS focus a bit more on information related to testing for safety. I really wonder how many builders have had their frames ISO tested.

    Reply

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