Meech Custom Bicycles has had a strong pull at the front of the Paceline for a while now but its time for him to pull off and let one of the Paceline veterans come up...Montana based Dave Kirk of Kirk Frameworks. So, this week at the front of the Paceline: Kirk Frameworks
How / why did you decide to become a frame builder?
When I was a boy I started riding and racing BMX and in pretty short order I started modifying existing parts and making my own. Through this process I realized I liked the designing and making of new and better parts nearly as much as I did using them. Itís a different type of challenge to analyze what you have and figure out a way to make it better. At some point I came to the realization that there were folks out there who built frames and got paid to do it and I realized that I wanted to be one of those people. I had no idea how to make it happen but I knew where I wanted to end up. I now can see in retrospect that whenever I came to a fork in the road I took the path that lead toward framebuilding. In time I ended up here. Itís a good place to be and I feel fortunate to be able to do what I enjoy for a living.
What influences the artistic side of your designs?
I grew up in a household and family filled with artists. Painters, sculptors, metal workers, mechanicsÖÖ.etc. Everyone was creative and expression of your creativity was nearly demanded. I was encouraged to draw and paint and sculpt and to make what I wanted instead of buying it. This gave me the feeling that I could make anything and at some point, after Iíd made lots of stuff (skateboards, bike parts, snowboards etcÖÖ..), I saw that I could not only make things function a certain way but also look a certain way. I was then, as I am now, attracted to simple, clean and elegant designs. I like the lines to be long and non-fussy and dare I say elegant. Growing up in a house with lots of exotic cars around (my father was a race car mechanic) I took my cues from classic Jaguars and Lotusí and I still do. Sports cars have always been the ultimate canvas to express the mix of form and function and I like to steal as much as I can from them.
What is your method to determine fit?
I take a multi faceted approach. I have the client fill out a body measurement sheet that gives me a very good idea of how they are built and proportioned. I also have the client fill out a diverse questionnaire that gives me a good insight into how and where they ride and finally I get numbers from their current bike so I can see how they are used to sitting on the bike Ė this way if their feedback says they need something say longer, and their body numbers support the idea, I know longer than what. Itís a system Iíve honed over the years and itís worked very well for me.
What is it that keeps you passionate and focused?
I live to solve mechanical and structural problems and to do my best to make things work better. Seeing as nothing is ever perfect I have a continuous list of things to puzzle over and work on.
How many times have you burned yourself?
Iíve been pretty lucky and have never had a serious burn. Lots of little stuff like having a ball of molten brass blow out of a seat stay and drop into the top of my shoe and do its best to burn itself down and through my foot. I burned my fingertips trying to brush the 2000į molten metal out of my shoe. I got teased pretty good by my coworkers that had watched the whole wild flailing dance. One day, back in my Serotta days, I was staying late and helping my good friend Dave Wages build a bike for himself and my then long hair dropped down and the flame hit it and I had a pretty good hair fire going. Hair burns a blue-green if you didnít know and crackles like a grass fire. I ended up with a bit of a Ďnohawkí with my hair burned right down to the scalp in the middle while still being long everywhere else. Not a good lookÖ..or smell for that matter.
What's your favorite beer?
I like porters and stouts. My favorite must be Anchor Steam Porter with Pigs Ass Porter being a close second.
Heard any cool music lately?
Yep Ė every time I put a Tom waits CD in I think itís the coolest thing ever. Iím also a huge Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson fan. Mix in a bit of old school punk and life is good.
How did you meet your spouse or significant other?
I was living in Saratoga Springs, NY, working at Serotta and out riding with my best ever riding buddy David O. and getting ready for the annual Skidmore mountain bike race. We were out flying around and came across a beautiful girl named Karin. It turned out that she was the president of the Skidmore cycling club and was organizing the race. I got that funny feeling and knew that I needed to win that race to do my best to impress her. Stupid I know but I poured everything into it and won. I got a date with Karin not that long after and weíve been together ever since. I won that race 4 years in a row just to make sure. Iím not sure if she was impressed the way I hoped she might be but weíve been married for a long time now Ė Iím a lucky man.
What's there to do for fun in your town?
The road riding is good. The mountain biking is very good, the skiing/snowboarding is world class and there is a very good autocross scene. I never want for something fun to do.
Do you put ketchup on your hotdog?
That would be a waste of good ketchup Ė Iím not a fan of hot dogs and doubt Iíve eaten one in the last 30 years or more.
Who would you want to build a bike for you?
There are two builders I would put my money on the block for Ė a full suspension Sir Alex Moulton road bike and a Crumpton carbon road bike. Both seem to be the perfect representation of what they are.
What is it about your approach to building/designing bikes makes you unique, or separates you from the other builders out there?
I think I bring a unique blend of skills and experience to the business. I started in cycling as a racer and have raced on the road regionally and mountain bike and BMX on a national level. This racing background taught me how bikes are used and abused on the race circuit. Iíve had the opportunity to research into what makes a bike ride and handle the way it should and the design experience to design tubing and parts toward that end. Iíve had the opportunity to build bikes for some of the best American racers ever when I built bikes for the Coors Light Team and I got invaluable feedback that shows up in my designs and builds even today. I have a wide range of fabrication and design experience that allows me to pursue different ideas in different ways and some of these ideas can be seen in my bikes today. Combine the above with the fact that Iíve probably built as many, or more, bikes over the years as anyone in the business today Ė thousands in total Ė and the owners can rest assured that the bikes are well designed, well built and safe.
How long is your wait list?
Iíve been running at about a year from deposit to delivery for years now. No matter how hard I work it seems to stay the same. I have you all to thank for that. So thank you for keeping me busy and out of trouble.
How long have you been building frames.
I started working as a full time builder in 1989 and with only a few short exceptions (supervising a snowboard school and drilling water wells) itís all Iíve done since.
Do you have a favorite part of the building process?
I build frames in two stages Ė I build the front triangle first and get it all done before I add the rear end to it. Itís the adding of the rear that brings it all together for me and completes the picture I had in my minds eye the whole time. The front triangle alone is just some pipes hooked together but when you attach the rear end it becomes a bike. I love that part.
The only thing that rivals the addition of the rear end is pulling the freshly painted frameset out of the box when it come home from Joe Bellís and seeing how the entire design comes together. Good stuff.
What is the most unusual / unique bicycle you've ever built?
This is a tough one Ė I suppose the prize would need to go the bikes I built for Alexi Grewal when I was working at Serotta and building the Coors Light team bikes. They were wholly unique and unusual Softride bikes with very unusual geometry to deal with a back injury he suffered in a car crash.
What is your favorite non-cycling obsession?
I race autocross like my life depends on it. I love the combination of timing, feel, and mechanical preparation needed to do well. A perfect autocross run requires that you think and react faster than one can imagine and when it all comes together itís art. I won my 3rd state championship this year and it never gets old. I race again this weekend and Iím already excited for it even though itís just Tuesday.
Poe-tay-toe or Pah-tah-toe?
Many thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer our questions!
PS: In case you missed it, the previous Builder Spotlight can be found here...
Last edited by William; 09-14-2012 at 08:32 AM.