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Old 11-27-2012, 10:48 PM
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Argonaut Cycles

Geekhouse Bikes has been at the front of the Paceline for a while now but its time for him to pull off and let Portland based builder Ben Farver take a pull. So, this week at the front of the Paceline: Argonaut Cycles


Quote:
Argonaut is truly custom carbon, born and bred in the Pacific Northwest. We use carbon not because itís pretty, not because it makes a good story, but because it makes the best bicycles. We are driven by a singular purpose: To take your unique performance requirements and transform them into something real.
Argonaut is no stranger to steel. We were baptized in fire and flux. Ben Farver started out making steel bikes for reasons of style and beauty. Steel is and will always be the benchmark by which we judge ride quality. But just like an origami schooner will disintegrate in a storm, there are limits to what steel can offer. Dress it up in the finest accoutrement: Itís still just a series of tubes. But just as steel canít exist without carbon, you canít make carbon feel truly alive without knowing steel. We know where we came from. More importantly, we know where weíre going.
Argonaut carbon bicycles are made entirely in the United States, and for that matter entirely in the Pacific Northwest. There are 30 years of industry leading composite experience behind its construction, driven by a true passion for the sport of cycling. We make the best bicycles because we want to ride the best bicycles.

If you could examine the inside of every piece of your Argonaut you would see the same sculpted surfaces that distinguished our handcrafted steel frames. We are of the philosophy that if youíre going to go to all the trouble of making something, you might as well make it perfect.
We take as much pride in the refinement of the Argonaut frameís design as we do its performance. Just because you can mold carbon in the shape of a spaceship, it doesnít mean you should. The Argonaut frame is an exercise in restraint. Inspired by our original steel frames, we let form follow function.

http://argonautcycles.com/index.php

Argonaut Cycles Video

Ben was kind enough to answer a list of questions for us that are a mix of standards and member contributions...plus 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. Ben is also a member of the forum so if you have additional questions you would like to ask him about his craft, please do so.


Q&A with Ben Farver:

How / why did you decide to become a frame builder?*
I grew up cycling and working in bike shops. After I got out of college I got into sculptural welding. I loved it because I love to work with my hands and it was a great creative outlet. I thought, how could I make a job out of this??? With my background in cycling, framebuilding was a great fit.


What influences the artistic side of your designs?
minimalist, modern architecture and classic bicycle design. I try to let form follow function wherever possible. To me, a fillet brazed steel road bike is perfect. Simple, elegant, timeless.

When I decided to switch to carbon I didnít want to just mimic what a steel bike looks like. Just because you can mold carbon to look like a spaceship it doesnít mean you should. I wanted my carbon frames to show intention in their design, while keeping them rooted in classic bicycle design. The tubing sizes are all determined by how each tube needs to perform. For instance with the downtube needed to have a center diameter of 45mm. Smaller and it would be too heavy or not stiff enough, bigger and it would be too stiff or not strong enough.

I then added some shape and contour to the frame to make it look more cohesive as apposed to just an assemblage of different parts.


What is your method to determine fit?
Whenever possible I bring customers here to Portland to meet with Michael Sylvester at Bicycle Fitting services. Iíve worked with him for years and he does an amazing job. Iím an expert in bicycle frame design and fabrication, not sports physiology. If a customer canít come to Portland Iíll help them find a fitter in their area who I think will do a good job.


What is it that keeps you passionate and focused?
Riding! I try to ride as much as I possibly can. It keeps my head clear and connected to the bikes Iím making. Riding bikes is my passion, making them is my job. I race CAT3 road, Single Speed and A (very middle of the pack) Cross, and last summer did the Breckenridge 100 and Mohican 100 MTB races.


When working with steel you run the risk of burns. What are the dangers of working with carbon?
With carbon, itís really important to control the dust created by cutting and sanding it. I do all of that work on a big downdraft table. The ends of the tubes can be really sharp, and you can also get carbon splinterís which really suck. Beyond that, itís pretty mellow. Definitely safer overall than working with metal.


What's your favorite beer?
Anything from Mikkeller. Their Hardcore IPA is amazing.
Boneyardís IPA is my favorite beer on tap lately, and Oskar Blues Daveís Pale Ale is my go to at the grocery store.


Heard any cool music lately?
A friend turned me on to Sun Kill Moonís album of Modest Mouse coverís recently and Iím really into that. The Dr. Dog station on Pandora is pretty cool, and Black Sabbath is my go to when I need to get crackiní!


How did you meet your spouse or significant other?
We met in Breckenridge, CO., where we were both taking a break from college to snowboard and goof off. We both then moved to San Diego, where we married, and moved north to Oregon to live closer to her family.


What's there to do for fun in your town?
Portland is a great city. Itís relatively small and pretty cheap. We used to see more music before the kiddo arrived. Now we mostly go out to eat. Portland has amazing restaurants, and most of the good ones are really reasonable. Here, if youíre paying a lot for your meal youíre probably not eating the best food the city has to offer.


Do you put ketchup on your*Frankfurter/Wiener?
mustard only, yo!


Who would you want to build a bike for you?*
Oh man! There are so many custom bikes that I would love to own. Lately Iíve been pining over this short wheelbase 29er that my buddy Sean Cheney (Vertigo Cycles) makes. I love Fireflyís Ti cross bike. A Retrotec 650B MTB would be sick. A Signal winter road bike with clearance for fenders and 32ís to run as a rain and gravel bike. A Baum Ti road bike. A Cielo stainless road bikeÖ. You can never have enough bikes!


What is it about your approach to building/designing bikes makes you unique, or separates you from the other builders out there?
I feel like I really know how a bike should handle, and more importantly, how a customer wants their bike to handle. Iíve had the privilege of working with a lot of really great clients, and one thing I have gotten good at is figuring out exactly how a customer wants to experience their bike. Iím good at understanding how customers like to ride, and making a bike based on that instead of how I think they should ride, or how they wish they could ride.
I understand ride quality, and really strive to make exceptional bikes in this regard. My primary motivation is to have someone get on one of my bikes and say,ĒHoly !@#$%!Ē If the bike doesnít do that, then whatís the point?
In terms of aesthetics, Iím also good at looking at the bike as a whole cohesive unit instead of just a frame and bunch of parts. Everything should make sense when you look at complete bike. The the size of the tubes of the frame, the geometry, the components, the amount of head tube and number of spacers under the stem Ė all of these things need to be considered to make a successful custom bicycle.


How long is your wait list?
Iím about three months out, which is a little longer than Iíd like to be. Iíd like to maintain a 6-8 week lead-time, which Iím comfortable I can get back to over the next month. Iíve been out of the shop lately doing a lot of sales and promotional stuff.


How long have you been building frames.
I started out building TIG welded steel bikes in 2007, then made lugged and fillet until about 2 years ago, and now make only custom carbon.


Do you have a favorite part of the building process?
With steel, it used to be mitering. I love working on the mill and cutting metal because itís such a precise process, which feeds my Type A-ness. With carbon, I really like the bonding process right before I put the frame in the oven. It always takes about the same amount of time, and for some reason I find it very calming.


What is the most unusual / unique bicycle you've ever built?
I built this tricycle for my nephew. The front end articulates on this giant skateboard truck, mounted upside down on the rear kick plate.




What is your favorite non-cycling obsession?
Iím a little embarrassed that I donít really have one at the moment. My life has been so cycling and kid focused over the last couple of years that there hasnít really been time for one. Beer and coffee, sure, but those arenít too unique in this circle. I am getting more into photography lately. Not my own, just admiring other peopleís work. Iíve had the opportunity lately to work with a couple guys whose pictures are really amazing. They remind me that thereís a huge difference between a well taken photograph and the random oneís I take with a point and shoot.


Toe-may-toe or Toe-mah-toe?
Toe-may-toe, Ah-loo-minum, and ĎMerica!


Many thanks to Ben for taking the time to answer our questions! Please feel free to post up any questions that you would like to ask.

William


PS: In case you missed it, the previous Builder Spotlight can be found here...


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Last edited by William; 12-08-2012 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:50 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:51 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:51 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:52 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:53 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:53 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:54 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:55 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:55 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:56 PM
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:57 PM
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:14 AM
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Ben, welcome and thank you for sharing your passion with us.

You mentioned starting frame building working in steel, starting with TIG and then adding lugged and fillet brazed bikes to your skill set. What spurred you to move to carbon fiber?

Also, just have to say, that custom tricycle is awesome!!







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Old 11-28-2012, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by William View Post
Ben, welcome and thank you for sharing your passion with us.

You mentioned starting frame building working in steel, starting with TIG and then adding lugged and fillet brazed bikes to your skill set. What spurred you to move to carbon fiber?

Also, just have to say, that custom tricycle is awesome!!
William
William - first off, thank you so much for the opportunity to participate in a Builder Spotlight.

Two equally pressing realities caused me to hang up my torch and get into composites. The custom steel business model is tough and nearly impossible to scale. At the same time, I found myself catering more to the performance side of the market, and felt I'd reached the limitation of what steel can do.

On the business side, the custom steel niche is really saturated. There must have been something in the water around 2007, because all of sudden so many of us hung a shingle and started making custom steel frames. I'm really proud of the steel bikes I've made, but ultimately under the paint, they're the same bikes that any other competent steel builder makes. We all use the same tubes, the same brass, the same gas fluxer, etc. I'm not a very good salesman, and I found myself having to do a lot of hand waving when talking to customers about my bikes and why they were better. I would talk about things like the quality of my miters and fillets, but really, those are things that should be expected. It's like saying, "my frame won't break!" and expecting that to be a selling point.

I wanted to make a bike that was different and new to the industry, and whose every aspect I could argue the value.

On the performance side, you can't deny the aptitude of carbon to make an amazing bicycle. It's so light and so strong, but at the same time flexes and if used properly retains all the positive attributes of steel.

In short, I wanted to make a better bicycle unique to my brand. I wanted to put the value of the frame in the engineering of the parts, as apposed to the assembly, so that I could profitably scale production.
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Old 11-28-2012, 11:41 AM
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Ben, no problem. I appreciate your joining us here.

While I've got you , I wonder if you talk to us about how you layup the Carbon fiber and join the tubes? Differences in woven fiber vs. uni-directional?





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