Today's installment takes us to the Big Sky Country of Bozeman, Montana and Carl Strong of Strong Frames.
Carl specializes in steel and titanium custom cycles but also builds in aluminum and carbon. From racing to mountain bikes, 'cross to full blown commuter cycles, Strong has experience with a myriad of materials and styles. Carl Strong, in his own words...
1. How old are you?
2. Where were you born?
3. What's your earliest memory of a bicycle or something bicycle related?
Learning how to ride.
4. What was your first cycle?
I don't know what it was called but my grandparents gave it to me. It was a gold and red thing with training wheels and I loved it.
5. How about first "high-end" cycle?
I guess there are two ways to look at that. One is when I was eight and I got my first BMX race bike, a Dan Gurney Eagle, the second when I was in junior high and my dad gave me one of his old English race frames from his racing career in the 50's. It was an old handmade frame and I don't know who the builder was.
6. Did (does) your family (parents, siblings, etc) ride also?
My dad raced in the 50's otherwise my cousin Michael and I are the only cyclists in the family.
7. Did you like to tinker with bikes back then?
8. Did you ever work in a Bike Shop... if so, where/how long?
Only when I opened my own about three years ago. I hated it. It distracted me from building so I closed it and rented the space to a salon.
9. Have you ever done any organized racing?
Yes, I started racing BMX at eight, road racing at eighteen, MTB at twenty-four. I've also raced cars, motorcycles and karts. I'll race just about anything with tires.
10. How about cyclo-touring?
Just a little, I get bored. I think I'm in it more for the competition.
11. What job(s) did you have before frame building and also-do you have any other job currently besides frame building?
Frame building is how I earn my living, no other job. The last job I had was as a project manager for the implementation of a computer inventory management system in a chain of sporting goods stores.
12. When did you start building?
13. Who would you say is your greatest influence in designing & frame building?
When I first became aware of custom frames, builders like Davidson, Sachs and Erickson were the Kings in my eyes. Later when I decided to do it myself I was really inspired by TIG builders like Scot Nicol of Ibis and Brent Steelman.
14. Did you apprentice... if so, with who?
Not really although when I grew to a certain size I hired builders like Dave Kirk and the lesser known Jason Grove (of El Camino Fab) and learned tons from them.
15. What's your idea of the "perfect cycle" regardless if you built it or not?
One that you wouldn't change a thing on.
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?
A client that understands their priorities and the trade-off's that the laws of physics enforce on reality.
19. What defines a nightmare client in your experience?
One that thinks they know what they want until they get exactly what they asked for and find out it's not what they wanted after all.
20. Any words of advice to up & coming frame builders?
Assuming they already know how to build a frame well, I'd say when you go into business keep your overhead low, your prices high. Don't be surprised if demand builds a lot more slowly than you thought. Don't waste your money on magazine adds and don't fall into the traps of stocking tubes, selling through bike shops or sponsoring racers.
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?
Custom frames are more than size. They are also built with more care than production frames and you can buy a handmade for less then you can get a top-of-the-line you name it.
22. What do you think of mass-produced bikes (without naming names)?
23. What cycle don't you have anymore that you wished you did?
The old race bike my dad gave me when I was in Jr. High.
24. What cycle do you currently ride most, even if it wasn't built by you?
A 29" MTB reject with a BoB trailer.
25. When did you last ride your bike and for how far?
This morning to work about a mile.
26. What's your idea of the perfect ride?
Not too hot, not too cold, not too far but just far enough, but most importantly with good friends.
27. Could you ever see yourself being Car Free... just using mass-transportation and your bike to get around?
Heck ya, I have been off and on for as long as I can remember and I rarely drive now.
28. Why do you think so many folks have romanticized bicycles & bicycling?
Because it's romantic.
29. Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life?
My wife, house and shifter kart racing.
30. If you could say one thing to Lance Armstrong what would it be?
How's it goin?
31. In a pinch... McDonalds or Burger King?
32. What kind of shampoo did you last use?
My wife's, I don't know what it's called.
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?
Whatever makes them happy.
35. Did you go to college... if so, what was your major?
Yes for 10 years before I left temporarily and never returned. I majored over the years in business management, finance, sociology and psychology.
36. Your favorite music while working (if any)?
Anything, even country.
37. If you had it to do all over again... would you be building cycles?
Without a doubt, quitting my "real" job and building frames was the best thing I ever did.
38. What's your favorite lunch food during a work day in the shop?
Bananas, yogurt, cottage cheese and fried chicken.
39. When it's all said & done-what kind of legacy will you hope to have left behind?
Positive net worth.
40. How can folks get in touch with you to order a custom cycle?