For installment #10 of the FBQ we have Mike Flanigan of A.N.T. (Alternative Needs Transportation).
Mike has enjoyed the privilege of being behind 2 successful ventures: first as a co-founder of Independent Fabrication and currently as the founder & sole proprietor of A.N.T. Flanigan builds cycles for folks. Be it your commute to work, work itself, seeing the world or your neighborhood, hauling your groceries, kids or dog... he builds unfussy 2-wheeled machines that get it done, accomplish tasks and then some. Mike would never purport to be attempting to save the world, but it's precisely visionaries like Flanigan and others that may just well do it. With great pleasure-Mike Flanigan in his own words...
1. How old are you?
2. Where were you born?
Fort Worth, Texas.
3. What's your earliest memory of a bicycle or something bicycle related?
My red tricycle.
4. What was your first cycle?
A green Columbia high-rise bike with the chopper-style fork where the fork blades were the handlebars too!
5. How about first "high end" cycle?
A Schwinn Spitfire 5 speed (a 26" fat tire bike with a rear drum brake), if you were asking about my first "handmade road bike etc..." then that would be a Viner.
6. Did (does) your family (parents, siblings, etc) ride also?
My ex-stepfather... I am still in touch with him.
7. Did you like to tinker with bikes back then?
I began to tinker with bikes when I was 9, converting high-rise bikes into BMX bikes.
8. Did you ever work in a bike shop... if so, where/how long?
As soon as I was out of High School I began to assemble bikes at the local Schwinn shop "Bolens Bike World" for a few months, which helped me get a job at the "Wandering Wheel" where I worked for about 4 years. Then I worked part time at "Velosports" for a year (while I was working full time at the local airplane factory).
9. Have you ever done any organized racing?
I did road racing for 4 years and was no good at it, but I had a lot of fun training with my two best friends from childhood. I did a few mountain bike races when I was at Fat City, but I was more into commuting and touring.
10. How about cyclo-touring?
I did a lot of self contained tours around Texas. I rode cross country from Seattle to Boston and since relocating to New England I have done a lot of self contained tours through all the states and up to Quebec. I once rode up from Northern California to Oregon...yes, I like to tour.
11. What job(s) did you have before frame building and also-do you have any other job currently besides frame building?
I have been in the bike business since I was 18, but I did work for two years at General Dynamics. Working at the airplane factory got me inspired to travel and look for a bicycle frame shop to work for. My travels led me to Fat City Cycles in the fall of 1989 (Boston area).
12. When did you start building?
This is a bit of a trick question for me. I started at Fat in Oct. 89 working in the paint department (with Dean Dodson of D&D painting), I learned how to TIG weld and braze at Fat. I tried to move over to the welding department, but I was going to have to take a pay cut...they wanted me to keep painting, because no one wants to do that! Fat sold in Oct. 94 to the holding company that owned Serrota at the time. I was offered a job at the new merger in NY, but I declined. I went on to help start Independent Fabrication in Oct. 94. For the first several years at IF I did all the welding, painting, shipping and a bit of the marketing and sales as well as frame design for the touring and club bikes. As IF developed I moved around to a lot of different positions back and forth to production manager, frame & fork welder, painter (what ever needed to be done at any cost to my personal life, etc...). This is where I learned how to use the mills and lathes starting with fork building. In '01 I moved into a live-in art studio, set up a small shop and started ANT as a part time hobby. I left IF in Dec. '02 and started ANT as a business in Jan. '03.
13. Who would you say is your greatest influence in designing & frame building?
Early on I would say Bruce Gordon and Grant Petersen. While at Velosports I worked with Joe Young who knew Bruce and Grant. I had seen a lot of Bruce’s bikes over the years and liked the clean and understated workmanship in his bikes and I really liked his attitude. We sold Bridgestone and I bought an '87 MB1 (the one with Dirt drops) and used that for my cross-country trip.
14. Did you apprentice... if so, with who?
See question #12.
15. What's your idea of the "perfect cycle" regardless if you built it or not?
The Rivendell “Rambouillet”. I think this is the best value in a bike hands down! (Best value is perfect to me). Ahh… will you still buy a bike from me?
16. Shooting a guess... how many frames would you say you've built?
As ANT I have built about 180, at IF I welded about 1,900 frames and at Fat City I painted about 5,000.
17. Any cycles out there that you secretly wished, "Darn, I wish I'd built that!"?
The Rivendell “Saluki”. It takes “nads” to do what you want to do!
18. Your idea of the perfect client?
The person that is comfortable with themselves and has a good idea of what they want, but does not tell me how to make it.
19. What defines a nightmare client in your experience?
The person that emails me everyday and changes their mind all the time.
20. Any words of advice to up & coming frame builders?
Every tool that you buy or make is worth the time and money.
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?
That people will not invest in a bike that they use for commuting, even though they ride that bike everyday?
22. What do you think of mass-produced bikes (without naming names)?
Work great, great prices, Butt ugly.
23. What cycle don't you have anymore that you wished you did?
I really do not have the space in my life for that… but there was this little European kids bike that I found on the railroad tracks near IF. It was lugged, had 20 x 1 ¼” wheels and a lot of very fine details. It was pretty beat and I used it in a Seven “Donut race” and it was kind of destroyed. I wished I still had that bike.
24. What cycle do you currently ride most, even if it wasn't built by you?
My Light Roadster fixed with the D-Rack.
25. When did you last ride your bike and for how far?
I rode to work two days ago. I ride to work most everyday (about 5 miles one way), but I do not like to ride in weather below 15 degrees.
26. What's your idea of the perfect ride?
When I do not plan it, on a beautiful blue clear day (like when it rained the night before and knocked down all the pollution). I ride to work… check my messages, grab a map and hit the road.
27. Could you ever see yourself being Car Free... just using mass-transportation and your bike to get around?
I have gone in phases most of my life living car free. Usually 3 or so years at a time. I have been driving a lot more since I started ANT and that happened when I started IF too, mostly for business related stuff, etc…
28. Why do you think so many folks have romanticized bicycles & bicycling?
Bicycles are romantic, so it is only natural (didn’t you see “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”?).
29. Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life?
My Girlfriend and her two children, old manufacturing machines and Mill buildings.
30. If you could say one thing to Lance Armstrong what would it be?
I would ask him to help with the “East Coast Greenway Project”.
31. In a pinch... McDonalds or Burger King?
I have paid my dues eating that stuff… so no thanks… I would keep going down the road and find something else.
32. What kind of shampoo did you last use?
I cannot remember the name of it… it is green and we buy it at Whole Foods.
33. Favorite libation: wine, beer or fire water?
Another tricky question… depends on the conditions… a Guinness on tap at Redbones.
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?
Most of the people that I have dealt with that are that fanatical about setting up their bike are also fanatical riders too.
35. Did you go to college... if so, what was your major?
36. Your favorite music while working (if any)?
Another tricky question… I have a variety of music I like. When I was in the city (Somerville & Boston) I mostly listened to local college radio WZBC & WMBR, playing a lot of punk, garage, cocktail, etc. I need to set up an antenna to get those stations at my new space, so I have reverted to my vinyl and I will get into something for awhile and play that a lot… so lately I have been listening to the “Flying Burrito Brothers”.
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?
Peanut Butter and Banana sandwiches.
39. When it's all said & done-what kind of legacy will you hope to have left behind?
That the people that knew me liked hanging out with me and that I made them laugh and maybe taught them how to laugh at life.
40. How can folks get in touch with you to order a custom cycle?