For today's installment we have Tom Oswald.
Employing only the use of hand tools (no lathes, no milling machines) in the construction of his frames, Tom creates quietly. Oswald crafts frames that are refined and understated while working out of his Mansfield, Pennsylvania shop. These words are his...
1. How old are you?
2. Where were you born?
3. What's your earliest memory of a bicycle or something bicycle related?
I don't know for sure if it's the earliest, but my favorite is when I was about 4, going to the grocery store with my mom. I guess a bicycle parked in front of the store caught my eye, because I remember my mom asking me what I thought about that bike. I said I didn't like it. It had all these weird wires sprouting from it, and strangely bent handlebars. Somehow it spooked me. Of course now I recognize that it was simply the ubiquitous 10-speed, but at that time it was completely foreign to me. I didn't understand it, and immediately rejected it. I've grown quite a bit since then.
4. What was your first cycle?
A banana seat bike, yellow. Columbia, I think.
5. How about first "high-end" cycle?
Ross Super Gran Tour XV, 1981, probably a lot like that bike I saw outside the grocery store nine years earlier.
6. Did (does) your family (parents, siblings, etc) ride also?
7. Did you like to tinker with bikes back then?
8. Did you ever work in a Bike Shop... if so, where/how long?
Yes. Rainbow Cycles, Tallahassee, FL - 4 years. Cycles de ORO, Greensboro, NC - 5 years.
9. Have you ever done any organized racing?
10. How about cyclo-touring?
Yes, a bit.
11. What job(s) did you have before frame building and also-do you have any other job currently besides frame building?
Previously: lawn mower, chicken strangler, record store clerk, busboy, musician, dishwasher, maintenance man, bike shop guy. Currently: bike shop owner/operator
12. When did you start building?
13. Who would you say is your greatest influence in designing & frame building?
I adopt ideas for small details from others, no one builder in particular. Sometimes things come from the customer. But the overall concept, the big picture, comes from inside me.
14. Did you apprentice... if so, with who?
It was not an apprenticeship in any sense of the word, but I learned the basics of framebuilding from Dale Brown, of Cycles de ORO, Classic Rendezvous, and Cirque du Cyclisme fame. Thank you, Dale.
15. What's your idea of the "perfect cycle" regardless if you built it or not?
Perfection is what we're all chasing. Be highly suspicious of anyone who trys to tell you they've achieved it.
16. Shooting a guess... how many frames would you say you've built?
17. Any cycles out there that you secretly wished, "Darn, I wish I'd built that!"?
18. Your idea of the perfect client?
Patient and not pushy.
19. What defines a nightmare client in your experience?
The fellow who fancies himself an expert.
20. Any words of advice to up & coming frame builders?
Learn to like peanut butter sandwiches.
21. What do you find most funny or peculiar (in a kind way-not brutal) about the cycle-buying public... what don't they get or aren't they seeing?
I am sometimes tickled by the ways people work so hard to justify their purchasing decisions. They like to convince themselves that they have to have this new product because it is going to make them faster, or more comfortable, or whatever. Why not just buy it because you like it?
22. What do you think of mass-produced bikes (without naming names)?
They serve their purpose.
23. What cycle don't you have anymore that you wished you did?
That Ross Super Gran Tour XV.
24. What cycle do you currently ride most, even if it wasn't built by you?
Oswald road bike.
25. When did you last ride your bike and for how far?
Yesterday, 47 miles.
26. What's your idea of the perfect ride?
Friends and tailwinds.
27. Could you ever see yourself being Car Free... just using mass-transportation and your bike to get around?
Did it for many years. Still do it often.
28. Why do you think so many folks have romanticized bicycles & bicycling?
Because they're wonderful.
29. Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life?
Not really much time for anything else these days, but music is a very distant second to bikes.
30. If you could say one thing to Lance Armstrong what would it be?
31. In a pinch... McDonalds or Burger King?
I don't care - I'll use the pisser in whichever one I don't have to cross traffic to get to. But to actually purchase food to put into my body, to become a part of me? No thanks, I'll go hungry until a more viable option comes along.
32. What kind of shampoo did you last use?
Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Soap.
33. Favorite libation: wine, beer or fire water?
34. Even though there seems to be a real tradition to it-what do you think of folks who spend more time setting up their cycle with just the right color saddle, bar tape, bags, hoods, etc than actually riding or at least commenting on the ride?
People tinker with stuff like that because they enjoy it. And if people are enjoying themselves with bicycles, then it's nothing but a good thing.
35. Did you go to college... if so, what was your major?
Yes, music. Dropped out once I found my true calling - bikes.
36. Your favorite music while working (if any)?
I thrive on eclecticism. Playing right now: Howlin' Wolf - Smokestack Lightnin'
37. If you had it to do all over again... would you be building cycles?
38. What's your favorite lunch food during a work day in the shop?
7 bean and barley soup with cornbread from the 1890's General Store.
39. When it's all said & done-what kind of legacy will you hope to have left behind?
Some beautiful bikes that are cherished for a lifetime, then are forgotten and slowly decay, corrode, crumble and disintegrate.
40. How can folks get in touch with you to order a custom cycle?