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Old 08-07-2019, 12:48 PM
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Builder Spotlight: No.22 Bicycle Co.

Vitas from Wittson Custom Cycles has been at the front of the Paceline for a while but its time for him to peel off and let the team (Bryce, Mike, Scott, Frank, Sam, Bryar, Josh, Owais, and Patrick) at New York based No.22 Bicycle Company come to the front and take a pull. So, this week keep your eyes open and watch their wheel...


Quote:
... Our mantra is:*Contemporary Performance. Artisan Precision. So, we'll be digging into the latest innovations in component and frame design as we always do to see what makes sense on our bikes. We always seek improvements in our production techniques, even if the most marginal of gains...

Our point of departure is frame material: we fell in love with the ride of titanium and named our company after it. We then took to the task of sweating details of fit and finish. Our frames are based on carefully considered geometries and tubing profiles. We use the highest grades of titanium tubing available, build our frames in our own production facility in the United States with our veteran craftsmen, and confidently back them with our ten year warranty. We carry this meticulous approach through to our clean-lined and contemporary finishes that showcase the beauty of raw and anodized titanium.
https://22bicycles.com


The guys were kind enough to take a moment and 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.





Q&A with the team at No.22


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

I should start this out by noting that we operate as a team in almost every aspect of our business, so I will try to formulate my answers in a holistic manner. Every bike that goes out the door has been touched by multiple craftsmen as it works through the production process.

To the question, I would say we came to this from life-long passion for bikes and turning a dire situation into an opportunity.*

For some background, I came into road cycling in my late teens and was pretty passionate about it up until starting my Master of Architecture program which left me with little to no time to sleep, let alone ride. Mike Smith, my partner in No. 22, got his start ripping on mountain bikes as a kid, picking-up part time work in bike shops to support his habit. He ventured pretty heavily into road biking as well before undertaking a joint JD/MBA degree. Fast forward to 2012 when school's out and Mike and I both dove back into cycling and had been riding together for a couple years in Toronto, Canada. Mike was about to set on a ride from the coast-to-coast of Canada and needed a bike for it. I suggested titanium as I had recently been reacquainted with the material having had a track frame built up for my daily commuter. We used the overseas fabricator that built my bike for his and he hit the road for 3 months. When he got back he proclaimed that, "we have to do something with this material" and No. 22 Bicycle Company Inc. (named after the periodic # of Ti) was born.

Our first year saw us doing a test of concept, designing some basic frames made by the same overseas fabricator to see if we had any interest. That went well enough for us to take it to the next step, designing the bikes that would become the flagship/signature models of the brand, the Great Divide road frame and Little Wing track frame. These were contracted to Lynskey in TN with pretty solid results. When it came time to step up the quality again in late 2013, Saratoga Frameworks, the latest iteration of the former Serotta factory, had just made an announcement that they were open to contract frame building. Ben was out of the picture at this time and the business was owned by private equity company. Fortunately, the key artisans from the Serotta team were still involved: Scott Hock, head frame designer who'd been working in the bike industry since age 16, Frank*Cenchitz, head welder who had seen thousands of bikes pass through his hands, and Bryar Sesselman, who excels at extremely skillful machine and metal working, as well as finishing work. They agreed to build us two prototypes which Mike and I drove down to inspect in person and meet the team. The bikes exceeded our expectations by a wide margin and we really hit it off with the guys mentioned above. So, the next step was putting down a deposit on a full run of bikes, only for the factory be shuttered shortly afterwards (really). For a time, we were out our money and the guys were out of jobs.*

In a huge stroke of luck, we were able to get most of the deposit money back given the method we used to pay it, but the bigger issue remained; how are we going to get bikes of this quality from this team? The answer staring us in the face was to open our own production facility and hire the crew, with no previous plan to do so. We purchased what equipment was still of use from the Serotta collection and started hunting for the rest of it and a building to house it all. We ended up in an old knitting mill in Johnstown, NY, about 45 minutes away from the former Serotta space in Saratoga Springs. We found a bunch of Bridgeport mills in NJ and scooped those up, with the smaller pieces coming together in the next weeks/months. By the end of summer, 2014, we were starting to ship bikes.

We're still in the same space, having taken over the neighboring bay with an expanded amount of equipment, almost one thousand bikes out the door, a nice amount of hardware from the NAHBS exhibitions we've participated in, and most importantly, a larger team: Sam Dries, our second welder, Josh Mock, another former Serotta employee in finishing, and an intern from the local trade school, Owais Husain.

Oh - and we’re happy to announce that Patrick Gillham has just joined us. Patrick worked with the guys at Serotta, and continued on in the industry afterwards. His most recent appointment was a two year tenure as production manager at Speedvagen. We’re extremely excited about having him join the team!


What influences the artistic side of your designs?

The majority of the design work falls on my lap, given my background. I would say it is most influenced by my architecture career having learned how to focus on the gestalt of the bike: how all the separate pieces, some made by us, others by component manufacturers, come together as a whole.*

We keep our aesthetic pretty minimal, allowing the natural beauty of titanium and its unique anodizing capability to shine through. Our logo and graphics package were helped in development by Andrew Di Rosa, a graphic designer and cyclist based in Toronto. In the last iteration, we developed a unique language for each model that reflects the discipline of that particular bike.


What is your method to determine fit?*

We have developed a collection of eight models which each represent our philosophy of how a bike built for each discipline should ride. All of these models are offered in stock sizes from 48cm to 60cm. If a client requires customization, we work with their fit points to place them on one of these models, without compromising the philosophy/intended ride characteristics of the bike. We don't put bikes out in the world as 'one off' geometry approaches that we haven't thoroughly vetted.


What is it that keeps you passionate and focused?*

I would say we're most motivated by continuously honing our product. With bike design, you can really examine and spend time with and on (riding) the product to see what sings and what could be made to sing even louder. Over the years we've made an increasing number of the parts on our bikes uniquely No. 22. Examples include our custom take on the Syntace X-12 dropout, our cast titanium seat mast topper that adorns our ISP bikes, our tapered head tube design made specifically for us by Paragon, and now our own line of carbon forks that allow us to get the tire clearance we're after while maintaining the performance oriented mission of our frame geometries.


Can you tell us about your first bike? What did you love*
(or love to hate) about it?*


My first bike was a Lemond*Alpe d'Huez.*I loved the first experiences of a riding what was a contemporary bike for the time, and hated the ride quality of the aluminum frame. I was able to buy a riding buddy's used Litespeed shortly after, which sparked my love affair with Ti.


How many times have you burned yourself or get carbon*
splinters?


I would have to defer to the guys at the shop for that one, and I can almost certainly say they'd answer "too many to count" or similar. I get calluses and carpal tunnel from typing and drawing all day: is that as “legit”?


What's your favorite beer or wine?

We all love beer. There are some amazing craft breweries popping up in our area such as Stump City Brewery which plays host to our factory CX team very often... I'm starting to wonder if they're just in it for the beer. There's actually a brewery in the old Serotta facility as well. Frank always has a Guinness close by, Mike and I partake in many of the new craft breweries that have been opening at a rapid number in Canada (he in Toronto, I in Calgary). I'm on a sour kick, namely those offered by local favorite, The Dandy Brewing Company.


Heard any cool music lately?

Frank is still actively playing in punk bands and takes in a lot of shows in Albany. There's always music playing at the shop which tends to lean to punk, metal, and rock. We just had two great festivals here in Calgary, Sled Island and the Folk Fest. My standouts from those events were Cass McCombs and Cedric Burnside.


How did you meet your spouse or significant other?

Scott and Mike are the only ones hitched at this time. Scott and his wife, Erin, met in 1999 and have been married since 2004. They have two children Soria and Asher; Asher is already starting to race bikes and join his dad on the MTB trails. Mike met his wife Shannon at the University of Toronto Outdoors Club eight years ago, and they have been married for three years. They have a two year old girl, Morgan, who hitches a lift to daycare everyday on her parents Tern cargo bike.


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

In Johnstown, the guys ride a lot. Being in the Hudson river valley offers some amazing riding for both road and MTB. I'm not sure Mike has time for fun right now given his family obligations, but they do get out to the family cottages as much as possible and ride when they can. I've recently moved back to my hometown of Calgary, AB where we're near the Rockies, so lots of biking, catching up with friends and family, and venturing back into skiing.


Do you put mustard or ketchup on your _Hot Dog_?

I say mustard. I won't ask everyone else as I don't want to create an irreconcilable rift amongst the team.


What person or people in your life has influenced you the most on your path as a builder?

I don't know if there's just one. We've all had our mentors whether within the industry (the crew coming-up under the guidance and tutelage of Ben Serotta, Dave Kirk, etc.) - as well as those that have guided and influenced us in our lives in general. I would say that we're collectively influenced by the talent we see at NAHBS every year. We try to make a point of giving everyone from our team in attendance a chance to walk the floor and soak it all in. Whether it be observing the incredible skill of builders and finishers, or seeing how others are attempted to push the materials they work with in forward thinking ways.


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

We were really surprised by the interest in our track bike, the Little Wing. We didn't think there would be too much of a market for Ti track bikes, but we were proven wrong. As of the last couple seasons, it has definitely been our gravel bikes, the Drifter and Drifter X.


Who would you want to build a bike for you?

Toss-up between Chris Bishop, Rob English, and Dave Kirk. Maybe they could be convinced to work together? The English Bishop, and Dave could be the 'ghost' fabricator.


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

I think what I touched on earlier: our desire to keep honing our product and overseeing the production of as many elements on our bike as possible. With every revision to our models, there's fewer off-the-shelf items. That is, strip our bikes of any graphic identifiers and they would always be unmistakably a No. 22.*


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?

I'm sure the whole team would agree that the 2019 NAHBS show was a high point. Taking Best in Show, Best in Show Campagnolo, Best Silca Incorporated Build, and ribbons for Best Finish, Best Tig Weld, and Best Road Bike blew us all away. Funny enough, the finishing of that bike came down to the wire and had to be somewhat compromised - it was really keeping me up the nights before the show. Having not seen it in person, I was panicked into considering having it stripped in the eleventh hour - sure glad I didn't give into the anxiety!

Low point? There are times when keeping up with demand is tough to handle. These bikes aren't easy to make, especially at the tolerances and standards we hold ourselves to. We saw a pretty big increase in demand over the last two seasons and we work as hard as we can to keep up. Unfortunately it’s just not an option to double our production staff when demand doubles: there just aren't Ti welders with 20+ years of experience standing on the corner looking for work. That said, we've made some pretty significant breakthroughs in our production efficiency and are currently putting out more bikes a week than ever before.*


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?*

My strengths would be in design and sleuthing-out material and parts suppliers. Mike has a great technical sensibility and is a sound decision maker. Scott is incredibly skilled at custom bike design and one hell of a mechanic. Frank's welds are some of the best in the game, Sam is catching-up to Frank at a pace we're very proud of. Bryar is a machine of a machinist—ask him to do just about anything from tube manipulation to anodizing and he'll figure it out and nail it. Josh has really come into his own in the finishing department.*Patrick doubled the production output during his tenure at Speedvagen, really excited to see what he can do to improve our efficiency.


How long is your wait list?

Approximately 12 weeks. We're always seeking to find efficiencies in production without compromising quality to get that time down.


How long have you been building frames.*

When we add up the collective experience amongst the team, we're over 80 years; wow...funny to look at it like that.

Bryar - 14 years
Bryce - 7 years
Frank - 22 years
Josh - 4 years
Mike - 7 years
Patrick - 10 years
Owais - 1 year
Sam - 4 years
Scott - 14 years


Is there any type of bike, or request that you would decline to build?

As noted earlier, we only build bikes that we can confidently know how they will ride. We respectfully decline customers who give us a drawing and say "build me this".


What does the future hold for No. 22 bicycles, where do you see the business in 5 years? Any top secret innovations on the horizon?*

Our mantra is:*Contemporary Performance. Artisan Precision. So, we'll be digging into the latest innovations in component and frame design as we always do to see what makes sense on our bikes. We always seek improvements in our production techniques, even if the most marginal of gains. As of concrete explorations, we're taking a look at fully integrated cockpit routing, hydroforming, and finish options such as Cerakote... all of these things are still in their preliminary stages, so please don't ask for a Cerakoted frame with fully integrated cockpit and a hydroformed tube set just yet .


Do you have a favorite part of the building process?

I'm a fan of seeing the whole product come together - it's not a bike until it's fully built.


What is the most unusual / unique bicycle you've ever*
built?

We don't venture into the realm of novelty or eccentricity. The Aurora road disc bike that we built for NAHBS likely had the most unique features we're ever included, from our own fork design, custom titanium fenders, and a finish composed of anodizing with multi-layers of gloss and matte paint.*


What is your favorite non-cycling obsession?*

I have a pretty obsessive personality: right now my attention is split between Hi-Fi stereo equipment, vintage Rickenbacker bass guitars, and contemporary furniture design.



Many thanks to Bryce and the Team for taking the time to answer our questions! Please feel free to ask any questions that pop up while admiring No.22's work. They can answer any questions you might have.

William


PS: In case you missed it, the previous Builder's Spotlight can be found here...
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Old 10-18-2019, 03:18 PM
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