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Old 03-21-2013, 09:10 AM
William's Avatar
William William is offline
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Red mon D WA
Posts: 27,782
44 Bike Co.

Foresta Frames has been at the front of the Paceline for a while now but its time for Craig to peel off and let Lyndeborough, New Hampshire based builder Kristofer Henry of 44 Bike Co. come to the front to take a pull. WARNING: Be sure to hold on tight because Kris is going to take us for an adventure off the main road to experience some gravel grinding and trail riding...

First I'd like to thank William and the rest of the community for offering me this chance to tell my story, share my passion and appreciation for bicycles. This has been a lifes path for me of events and stacked skills. My first job as a kid was a "job". From day one I knew that work had to be play and play had to be work. We only get one shot at this whole thing so I don't want to count the hours in the day when I get to go home. I need it to be fully integrated with my day and who I am. So from a builders perspective, this is who I am and what I need to do in order for me to be balanced not only with work and play but also with life itself. There's something special about building something from scratch, solving problems and providing a client a solution that brings them that much closer to their own path. I hope that through 44 Bikes, I not only can help cyclists envision their ultimate bicycle but also to help them get that much closer to the perfect line.

Kris was kind enough to answer a list of questions for us that are a mix of standards and member a few off-the-wall thrown into the mix. Our hope was to convey the builders love of their craft, hard details, and offer a few questions that bring out a bit of the human element that that helps them create the works that we love. Kris is also a member of the forum so if you have additional questions you would like to ask him about his craft, fire away.

Q&A with 44 Bike Co.

How / why did you decide to become a frame builder?

How I became a frame builder is more of a life's path which takes many turns, steps forward and back again. Why I became a frame builder is very simple: It's who I am. Pretty much every molecule that makes Kris Henry has frame builder stamped on it. It's naturally taken some time to fully realize and accept that. So I'd say it's not just skin deep but it's in my blood. That first bicycle ride as a kid pretty much set the hook as it does with many kids. Down the block and back again to suiting up today and heading to the trail head or points not yet explored. It's the ride that I'm after and the adventure that follows. I find it's as much exercise as a resetting of the internal clocks for me. It's the same when I open the door to the shop and roll up my sleeves. I find the same immersion out on the trail that I do in the shop. So the two work in a symbiotic fashion where each one feeds the other. It's a constant push and pull. I'm often finding myself right back where I was as a kid playing with legos before dinner: "Time to eat Kris" and I'm yelling back "Just a few more seconds." My work day follows that direction a lot where I find myself trying to squeeze just a bit more out of each and every weld, each file stroke, exploring possibilities, honing my own procedure and process. It's never ending. So this ties back into how I became a framebuilder: a constant path of progression, stacking skill sets on top of each other, gathering knowledge, refining existing talents and pushing new ones all with the goal of making a bicycle. That's the key in the "how" of it all: Creating that foundation of fundamentals. Seeking knowledge and perfecting those skills required is very much a large component of "why". The simple answer though is: "Because I have to." I've worked so hard to be able to build, that now that I can, and have the ability to do so, I can't not build.

What influences your artistic sense in your designs?

My background starts in precious metals as first being a Goldsmith and Silversmith. So that naturally lends itself to being someone who's constantly sweating details and considering everything. Jewelry is very much something that you wear as adornment. So in a way, you're enhancing your appearance. A custom bicycle draws a parallel in this way: When done well, it's much like you're wearing that bicycle. It's an extension of you and that's my job as a builder. To build and enhance your own ride.

I'm also trained as an Industrial Designer and have had a lot of both Product and Graphic Design experience working for and also running my own design consultancy for over 10 years. Form as it relates to function, considerations of positive and negative space, visual weight, human factors as well as how the rider interacts or "fits" to the object. All of these factors are being weighed from that first conversation to cutting tubes to welding the frame. I'm very much attempting to seek visual balance with functional performance. To me, form and function do not follow one another (I know that's contrary to what many say). For me and for my design dialogue I have with the build, they both start at the same starting line, slowly move forward and it's the designers job and opportunity to work with both of them in tandem so you're considering both simultaneously. Naturally one begins to take precedence depending on what the parameters and restrictions of the project are but for me, I like to work with both of them and consider both at the same time so I'm achieving that visual and functional harmony. So I wouldn't say I'm necessarily attempting to attain perfection, but rather balance. And to me, that speaks volumes more to root of that design.

What is your method to determine fit?

Fit has a bit of that "black magic" in it where there's no real set formula to plug numbers in and then go to work. What I do is first start with a conversation with the rider first. What kind of terrain are you riding, what's your style of riding, what doesn't feel right, what works for you, etc. From that conversation/s, I then take measurements off a known bicycle that the client is currently riding and also take measurements from their physical self as well. I may even have them take pictures of themselves poised on their bike. If they are working with a bicycle fit expert, I'll also evaluate those numbers as well. All of this is funneled into their drawing where I begin to decide where and how I want them to be placed between the wheels so I can maximize their comfort and balance the bikes handling. This is what I call getting the rider "in" the bike. I want the bike to be an extension of the rider, so they can fully experience the trail or road and the bicycle becomes the tool to enhance their experience.

Do you consider yourself a power tool, or hand and file builder?

Each craftsman has their own methodology. Having the right tools can help that. They're not necessary in many cases naturally. I do have many very specific pieces of tooling that I've built for certain operations to take some of the element of the "work of risk" out of it. And that is not to say that I'm relying on the tools for accuracy or for them to do the job for me. Like anything, you have to know how to use them and that gets back to the earlier comment regarding a foundation of fundamentals. Understanding the tools you use, what they like to do and what they don't is very important. Like my bikes, the tools I use are an extension of me working and many are work and time savers. I suppose i'd say I'm a little of both.

What is it that keeps you passionate and focused?

I work by myself all day long. That has its set of challenges naturally. By nature, I am a pretty motivated and focused individual. I'm pretty excited to start my day when I wake up. Honestly, I do have days when that magic isn't there and I'm fighting the material or work. That's when accidents happen or mistakes are made. And mistakes are an opportunity for learning or discovery too. But most times, this is when I put down the torch and suit up for a ride even if it's only for a short spin up and down my road sometimes. It's good to take a step back and breath every once in a while. To gain perspective and free up your mind a bit. To say I live and breath this stuff is an understatement. It's always on my mind. But I love all things design and of course I have a bunch of blogs, sites and magazines etc. that I check up on each and every day. Living where we do with access to the great outdoors certainly keeps me motivated and refreshed. I do seek out inspiration through the library of congress, my own personal clipping file, we go to Brimfield Antique Show almost each season to check out all the junk and what the dealers are digging up. Machinery, machine graphics, graphic design, product design, architecture, bobbers, technical packs. I feed my head with all this and much more daily.

How many times have you burned yourself?

Enough to have a high resistance to intense heat.

What's your favorite beer?

That's a tough call... So many good choices these days from all the micro brewery's. There was a brewer right down the road from us "Pentachuck Brewing Co" which is now defunct. They had this one called "The Chief" which was hands down one of the best beers I've ever had. We were on their growler list so we could just come in, fill up our growler and enjoy. Porters and Stout's tickle my fancy. Ale's seem to be also a recent theme but the darker ones naturally. The less light I can see through it the better. My grandfather used to tell a story from when he was a just out of WWII and he and some friends were going through the ceremony for (I believe) the knights of Columbus? But during the ceremony there were stations where someone would ask a question, and you needed to answer with a certain line. One of his buddies had a bad ankle and just wanted to get through it as fast as he could. So when he knelt in front of one of the stations, the question was "What do you seek?" His response was simply "Beer!". The guy whispered to him "No, you seek light, the answer is light." of which my Grandfather's buddy then came back with "Light. Dark. long as it's beer!" He loved telling that story.

My brother-in-law's been brewing his own beer of late and is actually quite good at it. So I'm a bit spoiled in that sense when we go over and visit. He always has something amazing on tap. But the short list in no particular order would be Yards Brewing Extra Special Ale, Smutty Nose Robust Porter, Ommegang Abbey Ale, Sierra Nevada Porter, Victory Brewing Storm King Imperial Stout, Unibroue Maudite and Paulaner Hefeweizen.

Heard any cool music lately?

Daily. I tend to seek out the greaser, rockabilly, punk rock and hardcore days of yore. Blues has always been a mainstay on the player along with classic early rock and roll. The simple tunes and chord progressions. If it's recorded in the garage even better. The less produced it is the more my ears perk up. My wife has quite the record collection of 12" LP's and 7"'s. I enjoy them sometimes each day while working in the studio. If I was forced to listen to only one band for the rest of my life I think it would have to be Wild Billy Childish's early bands "Thee Mighty Caesars". That's got it all for me: garage-y, early blues and rock and roll influenced, kind of out of tune, dirty, greasy beats with a growling guitar. Anything he puts together in all the many iterations (Milkshakes, Caesars, Headcoats, et all) are badass.

How did you meet your spouse or significant other?

I met Lynn through a mutual friend actually. We all attended the same design school but at different times and ironically were all part of the same group of friends over time (perhaps all kindred spirits finally locating each other?). I met her at a birthday party where we found each other standing next to one another observing everyone and just started to talk and laugh together. I distinctively remember coming home thinking: I don't know who that girl was but I need to spend more time with her. Then I recalled that I did all the talking and she kept asking me questions so I didn't get to know her much at first. Clever girl... She's my sweetheart and my best friend. She just let's me be myself. I feel very lucky to have met her and to have her in my life.

What's there to do for fun in your town?

New England is composed of a lot of small towns in this part with tight knit communities. My wife Lynn and I moved to NH more for a way of life decision coming from Providence RI. We both weren't really city people but enjoyed it while we lived there. But we chose this area for its vast natural surroundings, quietness, off the beaten path but not in the middle of nowhere close to everything scenario. Basically if you don't like to be outside and feel inconvenienced then Lyndeborough NH isn't for you. But we do have over 50 miles of singletrack, get lots of snow in the winter for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and of course fat biking and enjoy all 4 seasons including bug season and mud season. So in a way the template is here, but you gotta make your own fun. Convenience is just a stones throw away.

Do you put ketchup on your _Hot Dog_?

What the heck? Mustard all the way kids!

What type of bicycle is requested the most for you to build? Road,
cross, track, fixed...?

I'd say my specialty is 29" mountain bikes. I do get a lot of requests for Cross Bikes too. But if I were to say what my expertise is it would be: Anything with knobs that touches dirt. But I enjoy building it all from road to cross to mountain and touring rigs to singlespeeds. If it's got two wheels is ok by me.

Who would you want to build a bike for you?

Another tough one! It's been such a personal progression and lifes path to build myself the ultimate hardtail mountain bike. I've always been someone who takes something and makes it their own in some way adding those personal touches. Thinking on this I'd have a list: Titanium Cross: Tyler and crew at Firefly. Titanium Mtn: Toss up of Sean at Vertigo or Steve Potts. Steel Classic Tig welded Mtn. Hardtail: Toss up between Ted Wojcik and Erik at Alliance. Steel lugged road: Richard Sachs ATMO. Fillet Brazed Mtn: Tom Ritchey just because it would be amazing to ride one made by one of the forefathers of Mountain Biking.

What is it about your approach to building/designing bikes makes you
unique, or separates you from the other builders out there?

I'd have to say it's my background as a goldsmith and silversmith, former shoe designer and Industrial Design background. All of those play off of one another which help to inform my decisions and design sensibilities. From one perspective, details and adornment bubble to the surface. How treatments are applied, doing a lot with a little, etc. But contrast that with the pure functional aspects of industrial design and pit that against the rigors of aesthetic, balance and attention to both positive and negative space and I'd say that's what really make me different than most. In addition to all this anything you see with the 44 logo beside it has been created by myself. To a fault. I designed the logo, the website, the bikes, the branding, catalogs, the execution of it all. Everything comes from a single source. That's special I think and is in line with what makes a 44. The other thing is I'm a rider first and a fan of all the other builders. It's been a bit surreal for me to have crossed some divide and meet a lot of the builders and put a name to an actual face. So in a way I am my own client.

How long is your wait list?

If you got on the build list today, I'd be able to start your frame the mid to late May 2013.

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Last edited by William; 03-04-2017 at 02:42 PM.
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