Carl “Snarl” Schlemowitz, the reformed young punk from Park Slope with a heart of gold, has been busy up at the Vicious World Headquarters in New Paltz, NY. Aside from secret projects in the works, his main public emphasis in recent years has been on education through his Metal Guru frame building school, one with alumni including this year’s Philly Bike Expo exhibitors Oddity and Vlad Cycles. Through the school, Carl, along with other highly esteemed talent such as Stephen Bilenky, instruct everything from welding and brazing to painting frames to making head badges.
Fortunately for show attendees, Carl will be exhibiting examples of his own work under the Vicious Cycles brand, one that has been producing thrilling framesets for over two decades. His bikes’ New England flavor is certainly worth experiencing in the flesh.
In this builder on builder interview, Carl is interviewed by Alex Clauss of Portus.
ALEX: What do you think about the electrification (shifting, motors, forks and shocks) of bicycles in general?
CARL: Electronic shifting has no interest to me personally, but I do accommodate my customers’ requests to provide wire routing for it on a frame.
As far as drives, I am curious about pedal assist drives rather than full blown motors. I have ridden one briefly, but not on any single track. I have heard good comments about the Magura eLECT shock forks but I have not had the chance to try one yet.
ALEX: Why did you choose the word ‘Vicious’ as your brand name?
CARL: Cycling is such an individual and exhilarating way to escape from the many vicissitudes of life, the name ‘Vicious Cycles’ captures that experience in a visceral way for me.
Riding over rough terrain can be tough and ‘Vicious Cycles’ definitely sounds like it would bite back.
ALEX: Beer or wine? MTB or road? Campy, Shimano or SRAM?
CARL: Beer is good, Tequila is better.
I favor riding mountain bikes.
I prefer the ergonomic feel and function of Shimano, this is an opinion about riding bicycles; it is not any sort of endorsement of their controversial business practices.
ALEX: Which one is your favorite tube set?
CARL: Any tube set using the 18MCDV6 heat treated raw material.
ALEX: Do or did you have employees and if so how many?
CARL: I currently have 3 employees, Jane, Jesse and Zach.
ALEX: You started your business 22 years ago if I’m not wrong with the numbers. How much time did you need to feel comfortable with making frames and start selling them?
CARL: I built my first frame in 1988 and didn’t start Vicious Cycles until 1994, so from day one of starting the business I felt I had enough of a grasp of the process to sell my frames.
ALEX: If you should create a complete bike according to German tradition – How would it look like?
CARL: I don’t know anything about German tradition, so I can’t comment on that.
I am very much inspired by the American system of manufacturing developed in the mid-1800s at the Robbins and Lawrence Armory in Windsor, VT which was then utilized by the newly born bicycle manufacturing industry of the late 1800s. Many of the principles of manufacturing established back then are still applicable today.
As far as how that inspiration relates to the visual aspects of my bikes I would say they have a subdued structural look.
ALEX: Imagine your workshop is burning down and you only have time to save two or three tools. Which and why? (Hopefully never ever this happens to you!)
CARL: Oddly worded question but I get the point. Although I have a very well equipped shop, and I also strongly believe that if a tool can help you better accomplish a task then it should be utilized, I don’t find myself favoring one particular tool over another. That said tools are not a substitute for knowledge and skill.
ALEX: If you agree to me, we all learn by failure and humans aren’t perfect. What was the biggest mistake you did on a frame you made?
CARL: In the very early days of 29” wheeled frames I shipped a frame to a customer that had the bridges welded in the locations to fit a 26” wheel. What a humiliating experience that was.
ALEX: Any final advice from you to me as a wise man with almost seven times more experience I have right now?
CARL: My advice is to try your best to learn something every day you come in to work.
Stay tuned for tomorrow when Carl interviews Chris Bishop from Bishop Bikes.