Builder's Spotlight: Squid Bikes
Nao from Tomii Cycles has been at the front of the Paceline for a while but its time for Nao to peel off and let Sacramento, California based designer & painter Emily Kachorek of Squid bikes to come to the front and take a pull. So, this week keep your eyes open and watch Emily's wheel...
Q & A with Squid Bikes:
How / why did you decide to become a frame builder/Designer?
I decided to start Squid Bikes a little over two years ago with a few co-conspirators for a whole bunch of reasons, both solid and others fairly questionable. We want to be very clear however that we are not frame builders. Our frames are manufactured by hand in small batches by Sherwood Gibson and his crew at Ventana. The vision for the company is all ours, but we rely on Sherwood’s nearly 30 years of experience making bikes to make that vision real.
What influences the artistic side of your designs?
Our company has been most influenced in both aesthetics and spirit by skateboard companies. Graphics and design is the most obvious place where we draw influence from that industry and culture. There is something about their approach which appeals to us however, in a way that is more substantial and much more difficult to explain in a few words. We see our bicycles as primarily means to cheat modern life, to creatively apply the bicycle as a tool which allows us to re-experience our environment in ways that would be impossible without bikes. Skate culture and the companies that have grown out of that culture seems to have a lot more place for viewing the activity this way. Plus their is a certain juvenile rebellion which runs through the sport that we have also never grown out of.
What is your method to determine fit?
One of our partners, Zach Heath, is a professor of Exercise Science for his day job, and specializes in optimizing bicycle fits among many other areas of expertise. So to make the answer brief, we leave it to him. Our frames are built in 6 stock sizes, slightly compact, and with 1.5cm increases in top tube length between sizes. Certainly doesn’t fit everyone but we can get most people on a bike that will work great for them.
What is it that keeps you passionate and focused?
Creativity has become the main driving motivation behind my work with Squid. And not strictly creativity in the finger painting kind of way (although I get some of that in). The more sustaining creativity that I am thinking of involves engagement with my partners on a truly unknown path towards a goal which also is fairly uncertain. The metaphor we like to use is that each project we take on is like building part of a bridge in a direction that we believe we should go in, but with no idea what is on the other side of the bridge. Increasingly I’ve come to appreciate this as the reason that this process has all been so interesting thus far.
Can you tell us about your first bike? What did you love (or love to hate) about it?
My first “real bike” was a Specialized Allez, Aluminum with down tube shifters. It wasn’t a great bicycle in any way, but it saw me through my first road races, a touring trip down the coast of Australia, served as canvas for one of my first rattlecan paint jobs, and was my daily commuter for years when I was working in Environmental consulting and then grad school. My favorite thing about that bike has to be its ability for reinvention, to be forced into different tasks in a workable manner despite not being particularly well suited for anything described above.
How many times have you burned yourself?
None! But I have painted myself more times than I could count.
What's your favorite beer?
Bike Dog Brewery is our local favorite in Sacramento, I usually opt for their Saison. Also if I’m buying bottles or cans I always go for a Firestone Walker 805.
Heard any cool music lately?
Mike Watt! It’s been a little while, but we saw him at Grinduro last fall and the experience is still fresh in my mind. He opened the show by saying “I’m going to do a really f***ed up thing for you tonight” as a way of apologizing for his set ahead of time. He then ripped a single 45 minute long song and then was done.
How did you meet your spouse or significant other?
Cycling, of course! We knew each other through collegiate cycling, but only loosely as we were on opposite ends of California for undergrad. We started dating after I had graduated from college and he had dropped out to race bikes full time. He later when back and did a bunch more college, and meanwhile I stopped working a straight job to race bikes full time. Now we both do some of everything.
What's there to do for fun in your town?
Sacramento is blessed by being built along a river that flood with some regularity. This has left a 35ish mile long playground in between the levees running from downtown out to the foothills. Even though it is in the city, this parkway helps you forget that you are surrounded by it. We are pretty much on it every day, riding bikes, swimming when its hot, stopping for beers when its really hot. Sometimes we see river otters, usually we see partying flotillas of rafters. It’s pretty decent.
Do you put ketchup on your _Hot Dog_?
What type of bicycle is requested the most for you to build? Road,
cross, track, fixed…?
We only do cross bikes currently. That is our current racing and riding obsession, and is the world that we know best. We probably have the most inquiries about Road bikes, which are most definitely in the works BTW.
Who would you want to build a bike for you?
Steve Rex. His bikes are stunning, and we have the deepest respect for how he has been able to support our community over the years.
What is it about your approach to building/designing bikes makes you
unique, or separates you from the other builders out there?
We introduced the Rattlecan model frame almost on a lark when we started the company, where we ship you a bare aluminum frame and you get some spray paint and have at it. We thought the idea would probably be ignored, maybe ridiculed, but it has become the only way that we sell frames. Turns out that there are a lot of people who appreciate having some small personal input into their bike, even accepting that finishing a bike in this manner will have flaws.
Through your growth and progression as a frame builder, can you share a high point, and a low point that you feel helped shape who you are as a builder today?
The highest point for us so far was when our bikes were raced at CX world championships last year by Anthony Clark. We have worked with him as an athlete since the company launched, and have developed a really exceptionally close relationship with him. Our hope is to keep working with him as long as his career lasts, but I don’t know if there will ever be a moment quite like that first drop into the big show in Europe last winter! The low points so far have been pretty mundane. Late nights with a long to do list that we are weeks behind on and some decals got messed up kind of stuff. We’ve been fortunate to not have any major bumps.
In any line of work, there is always something in the process that people feel they really excel at. What is that part of the process for you?
I believe our strength as a company is our creative process. We have gotten very comfortable with one another, and comfortable discarding dozens (hundreds?) of design ideas before settling on a final plan.
How long is your wait list?
Since we work on a batch system, we do our best to have frames available at all times. Not surprisingly however as these are still handmade bikes, the availability isn’t 100%. We are about to have our 3rd batch delivered, and for the first time we offered a pre-order which did account for about half the batch.
How long have you been building/Designing frames.
We have had Squid since 2014. Sherwood has been making frames since 1988.
Is there any type of bike, or request that you would decline to build?
Right now pretty much everything except aluminum CX!
What does the future hold for Squid Bikes, where do you see the business in 5 years? Any top secret innovations on the horizon?
We are growing rapidly each year, but our overall goals are still quite modest in terms of sales and financial success. We are very focused on adding to the culture, and hopefully developing a niche where we can continue to be part of this for years to come.
Do you have a favorite part of the building process?
Rattlecanning! Initially I was a little reluctant to paint my own race bikes, but now its all I can think about sometimes.
What is the most unusual / unique bicycle you've ever built?
My most recent frame was literally painted to match a dream that I had one night. A few days and a little cut vinyl later and I was making it exist in the world.
What is your favorite non-cycling obsession?
Probably my Boxer Dogs. I’ve got two energetic and good natured dogs that keep me company every day, and make sure that I always have something to laugh at.
Many thanks to Emily for taking the time to answer our questions! Please feel free to ask her any questions that pop up while admiring her work.
PS: In case you missed it, the previous Builder's Spotlight can be found here...
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Last edited by William; 03-08-2017 at 02:44 PM.