Thanks to reader Nathan for sending along this shot of an RKP sticker on his rain bike. Not a bad spot in our opinion. Get your stickers here.
Het Volk, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Ghent-Ghent, pick your name, just don’t call it a semi-classic. Because, while it lacks the reverence of the monuments, the Ronde, the Paris-Roubaix, et. al., it does take on a special significance merely for opening the Belgian “road” season. By tradition it’s a semi, but in my heart it’s a real classic.
I place road in quotes above, because these cobbled races really sort of mark a transitional state somewhere between ‘cross and the road proper. Yes, there are roads involved. Road bikes are used, but success in these races goes beyond being able to ride a bicycle fast over a paved surface. They are part road race, part bull ride.
And so it begins.
This race has been on since 1945 and only failed to go off three times, all weather-related cancellations, which, in Belgium, is like saying they called it off because there were four horsemen galloping up the Koppenburg. This European winter has been pretty harsh, but we’ll likely get a race in this weekend anyway. I’ve seen that a number of the riders have been spinning around Spain and Italy to top off their training. I wonder what it will be like to step off the plane in Belgium and feel the weather and contemplate the saddle thrashing brutality of race day.
Rather predictably (and mercifully) this week’s Group Ride asks you to pick a winner. Keep in mind that Belgians almost always win this race. In 63 runnings, only nine have been taken by non-Belgian riders, though, in recent years Pippo Pozzato and Thor Hushovd have both claimed the honors.
There are too many potential winners for me to list them all here, which is exciting and saves me a bit of typing. I will ask that in naming your projected winner you give something of your rationale. “He has the best hair,” or “Because he really kicks ass,” are both acceptable, but I’m sure you can do better.
You get extra points (redeemable for blenders or luggage) for naming a winner of the women’s race. You win the day if you can name both in Flemish.
Image courtesy John Pierce, Photosport International
A new season means new kit. Depending on a few factors such as when you finalize sponsors, when your race season starts and how proficient your team’s leadership is at herding cats to get the order in, and of course, how long your clothing company really takes to get the clothing made, you may be receiving your new uniform anywhere from January to April.
Often times, I can barely remember what I ordered, how many bibs, jerseys—did I order a new vest this year—clothing orders vary when, unlike the PROs, you pay your own way.
The arrival of a new kit is one of those events like Christmas or seeing the UPS driver—the anticipation can leave you salivating like a dog who has just heard the can opener. No matter who the manufacturer is, when I tear the bag open on each piece there is a smell that emerges, part men’s department, part fabric softener, that excites my brain the way movie previews did when I was 12.
No matter what hour of the day it is and whether I’ve ridden that day or now, I have to try on my new duds. It always starts the same way: I tell myself I’m not going to try it all on, that I’ll just check out the gloves or arm warmers (don’t ask why), but soon enough, I’m in the bedroom undressing so I can see how everything fits.
And whether I’m alone or not, the very next move is mugging for the mirror. I check the fit of the bibs, the drape of the jersey over my shoulders, its length, the length of the arm warmers, the color matching of the colored Lycra to the sublimated Lycra. I even check how low the jersey falls over the butt panel.
I confess: I don’t preen this much when wearing my tuxedo.
Naturally, I can’t wear the kit out on a ride too soon. Whether I’m headed for a recovery ride on my own or out to join the biggest of the local group rides, I’m decked out in the full ensemble. And it is upon exiting my driveway that I’m reminded of something I forget each and every blasted year. New bibs are slippery on a saddle. Sitting on the saddle in new bibs is like trying to run barefoot on an ice rink.
That may be the key to my favorite part of new clothing. I’m happiest when the look is still new enough to be fresh in the peloton, but the bibs have enough wear to stay put in the saddle, which is to say when my new clothing isn’t brand new, but almost new.
Cycling provides all the big lessons in life: humility, pride, greed, discipline, grappling with ego, and learning what your will is and when to apply it and how to apply it.
It has been said often, to the point of being cliché that if anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Perhaps it is also worthy to consider it this way, when we take on a commitment, it merits doing with all your will and all the might that lies within. For the most part I believe we do this. For example, when we look at commitments to profession, we consider the obligations involved. When we look at having children and a family, we regard the time it will take and weigh within the balance its value. When we look at little things like what we eat, we take into account fine details. However, all too often and interestingly, this same truth does not necessarily hold true for cycling, something held so near and dear to us.
One reason I believe we become removed from a true consideration of the discipline of cycling is partly due to something inherent to the bike itself, we generally start when we are children. When I started cycling more than 30 years ago, I thought so very little about it. It seemed so natural to ride. I knew nothing else; after all, I was just 8 years old at the time. It was love at first ride—and every—ride. Then as I grew up, I thought no more about it. It was my freedom and it gave me a sense of the world around me. Everything about the bike was given to me, so expense meant nothing. But, just a few years later this would all change.
As a college freshman, now riding a Peugeot which I hand picked, I then bought a few items at a time, being constrained by the budget of a college freshman. Then a new wife, new family, and the price I could afford at this time meant pursuing good deals, slightly used items and basement deals on the side that fueled my infatuation. And the fact remains that I never really considered the cost of my pursuit nor the sacrifice of being a cyclist. I bought only based on the cost, and only cheap. My clothing at the time was to be abhorred, my shoes were disgusting, my helmet simply atrocious. I had no sense of style not to mention dedication to the sport, and admittedly, most of my riding compatriots were the same. But this one thing was true, we sometimes would witness an occasional rider who rode among us that instantly drew some respect; simply by the gear he chose, it stated without hesitation that he was a cyclist. They were committed cyclists and we would joke amongst ourselves and ask ‘how much that must have run him?’
Then I bought my first Giordana bib shorts, and instantly recognized that there really was something different about them. After my first century in them, and no ‘monkey butt’, I swore I was never going back. Then my first Assos jersey, then my first good helmet and similarly my experience was equally impressive of the simplicity for which it flawlessly performed the task it was designed for. I then stepped up a level w/the grouppo, moving from downtube shifting to an STi grouppo, which seemed like a leap of faith. Despite my hesitations, I was impressed with the new grouppo’s function. I regretted not getting it sooner. Each time then that I donned that jersey, each time I threw a leg over the bike and slipped through the gears I was reminded why I bought the ‘better’ quality item.
One would think I would have matured by this time, and that this experience would bring about an appreciation for the discipline of cycling for which I admired. But it did not. I was still yet at a neophyte’s level. I still had no sense of sacrifice. For me, the sport was like a girl I had once dated—and liked—but never would fully commit to. I was holding back for some reason. I truly believe we appreciate a little more those items in our lives that we sacrifice for and entirely commit to. Each time we use those items, we remember their value to us. And because for years I would scout out ‘good deals’ and would only bargain for goodies, I lacked an appreciation for the true value of something I held dearly. Cycling was the girlfriend waiting for me to grow up.
Then just a couple of years ago, I had a total mindset change. This was prompted after something I took notice of, and it hit me with the subtlety of a gorilla wielding sledge-hammer across my forehead. I commute nearly every day and as you know, gas a couple of years ago was very expensive. The price of gas was nearly $4 per gallon. Commuting by bike was becoming quite popular as a very economic way to go back and forth to work, and because of that ‘cost savings’ I saved perhaps a few hundred dollars that summer, no doubt. Nearly everyday as I conducted business, people would say ‘boy, you sure must save a lot riding by bike’. I responded affirmatively, that indeed it did. Then it hit me, is that why I ride? Am I a cyclist to only save money? Is that the purpose of cycling? I ride all the time and nearly everyday, but commuting simply brought this out for me, should it even save me money?
Then I started thinking, and I started to ask myself very fundamental questions. Have I counted the cost of my discipleship to cycling? Do I sacrifice? Do I return to cycling the respect it deserves or is it a cheap date I am on? I asked myself, have I truly counted what must be forfeited for the love of my life, or have I only calculated in the arbitrary value of dollars what a price tag reads? I found this to hold a critical difference. I was then logically led to ask what I would do if cycling asked of me far more to ride than even driving a car, what if it was 10 times as expensive? Would I still be a cyclist?
Well, answering in the affirmative, I then had to make a change in my attitude and my entire frame of mind. I had to stop dealing with cycling like I had in the past and I had to throw out my cheap date attitude. I started truly pouring myself out when it was about the bike, thus recognizing the true value it holds in my life. I stopped looking at the price of everything I bought and I began simply working to the ends of obtaining what I need to cycle. I buy the best I can because my girl deserves it.
There are lots of designs out there that claim to offer compliance. You’ve done some research on the subject, haven’t you? Do any of those swept seatstay designs really off any sort of suspension effect?
I may be one of the only people on the planet that feels this way but I think road bike suspension is the Holy Grail of road bike design. I’ve done years of work on this and was awarded a patent for the Serotta DKS design. It’s patent number 6,109,637 and was awarded on August 29, 2000. It’s fun to look up and you can easily Google it.
Road bicycles are the only high-speed device raced in the world that I can think of that doesn’t employ some sort of device to improve traction. Everything from skis to cars to skateboards all employ suspension to great effect. Please note that I didn’t list comfort as being the primary reason for suspension even though one could make a very good argument for how added comfort will reduce rider fatigue and make them more competitive in longer events. I see road bike suspension as being a means to keep the rear tire pressed against the road with the most constant force possible, full stop. I think the rear wheel travel need be no more than 10mm max and that as little as 5mm can be extremely effective.
A traditional road bike has near perfect front suspension in the form of a cantilevered beam. The fork is allowed to flex a lot. Just clamp your front brake on firmly and rock the bike back and forth and watch how much the fork moves. Even super stiff forks move a good bit and this acts as a form of trailing arm suspension. The front wheel encounters a bump and slows as it tries to go over the bump yet the rider’s mass keeps the whole thing moving. The fork flexes rearward (and in the case of a properly designed curved blade fork compresses vertically) and then it rolls over the bump with very little interruption of the rider’s momentum or with the tire’s contact with the road.
The rear wheel is another matter entirely. With a traditional double diamond road frame the rear end of the frame forms a triangle and this triangle cannot move or at least cannot move in any meaningful way. So when the rear wheel encounters the same bump that the front wheel just sailed over it loads up the frame and that in turn loads up the rider and the rider then bounces off the saddle. This little bump redirected the entire mass and momentum of the bike and rider upward for just a moment and that has two effects. The first one is that there is a loss of forward momentum or speed and this obviously slows the rider down. Not a lot but we are constantly hitting small bumps in the road that do this and the cumulative effect is large. The second thing it does is lessen the pressure of the rear tire on the road. In many cases it loses contact altogether. Either way traction is compromised. If you are just rolling straight down the road without a need to turn or brake or accelerate traction is not a real issue. The rider doesn’t need the to use the full limit of the traction of the tire. But if the rider is cornering, braking, or accelerating then it’s a different matter. We’ve all gone around a fast downhill corner and had the bike all loaded up with the force of the turn and then hit a bump mid-turn and had to do some serious correcting to keep it all in line and on the road. Similarly we’ve all been sprinting at our limit for a townline sign at our local Tuesday night World Championships and had the rear wheel skip and bounce causing us to back off and/or correct to hold our line.
Well it takes very little rear wheel suspension travel to minimize or even completely eliminate the issue and I’ve spent more time working on this issue than I care to admit. The amount of time I’ve spent lying on the road with my face pressed against the cold hard ground so that I could see the rear wheel of the racers going by bounce is embarrassing. But that said it’s a real eye opener when you do this. There is daylight under the rear wheel all the time. The front is stuck like glue and the rear spends a surprising amount of time skipping and bouncing along.
Tell us about your involvement in the Serotta DKS suspension system.
Way back in the day when I was the R&D department at Serotta, Ben was very cool and gave me lots of leeway to work on what I wanted to work on. I’d seen some of the bikes like Ritcheys and Litespeeds with a long graceful bend in the seat stays and wondered if it could be a benefit. Ben and I were walking around the Interbike show one year and every other bike had this same curved stay and they all claimed it made the bike more comfortable. I didn’t give a damn about the comfort thing at all but I did care about the traction issue. Standing outside the hotel that night I suddenly had an idea of how to do it better.
So we went back to New York and I was excited to work on the idea. It turns out I was the only one that was excited but Ben let me do my thing as long as other stuff didn’t slide too much. So the first thing I did was to make a frame like everyone else was doing (simple long radius curve from end to end) and put it on my testing table and load it up (like the rider was hitting a bump) to see where and how much it moved. Most of the current designs had no more wheel movement than a traditional straight stayed frame, or less than 1 mm. So I started playing with different radii and duration of bends and while I could do better than what was being offered it still wasn’t worth the trouble in my opinion. I knew something else needed to be done to free up some movement. At the same time I was worried about fatigue issues where the stay attached to the seat tube and the dropouts. It was then that I flashed on the idea of putting a pivot at the bottom of the stay where is attaches to the dropout and then have most of the bend of the stay low so that most of the flex would take place there and not where the stay was welded to the seat tube. This not only took care of the fatigue issue but also allowed the stay to compress more allowing more rear wheel travel.
A this point I built a frame that had bolt on seat stays so I could make any configuration of stay I wanted and lab and road test them. Some stuff worked pretty well and some stuff really sucked. I ended up with the “J” curve design and it worked very well but I was concerned with it having too much travel and with it being bouncy. The stay was now acting as a spring but it had no damper to control its movement.
The next task was to figure out a way to damp the movement. What I originally wanted was rebound damping only and it proved very difficult to do in a simple and super light way. I then realized that if I gave it compression damping that it would have nearly the same effect because it would just interrupt the bouncing cycle. It was at this point that I developed the “strap on” which was a stainless steel strap with some special silicone made by GE to be an ‘ultra damper’, bonded to it. It was then bolted to the stay and acted as both a travel limiter and a damper. I ended up picking three different hardness’s to give more or less travel based on rider preference and/or weight. The funny thing was that I gave this damper part the nickname “strap-on” knowing it’s other meaning and we used the term inhouse and snickered about it the way boys do…… especially when one of the girls from the office would come out and ask if we had a strap-on or how a strap-on worked. Good fun. At some point the product was released and I couldn’t believe that the Serotta catalog listed that part as a “strap-on.” Somehow it got through editing.
In the end I think the design was successful. I wanted to continue to develop and refine it but at some point one needs to draw a line in the sand and call it good and sell some of the things. The design allowed for about 12mm of rear wheel travel for most riders, which I now think, was more than we needed. But it was a good first step and I would have liked to make the design more race oriented, more aero and lighter. But I had worked on the design for about 14 months and other stuff needed to be done so I moved on. I left Serotta shortly thereafter to move to Montana and to be in the big mountains and in the snow.
Serotta continued to produce and sell the bike for a few years after I left but it was never a big seller. I think that the sales and marketing folks there didn’t like the time it took to explain what it did and how it did it when they could just push the normal offerings and make the same money. The DKS (Dave Kirk Suspension) now has a cult following of sorts and I get a few emails a week about it with questions about how it works and about finding a used one somewhere. They seem to command a hefty price on eBay at this point. I think over the years I’ve had all of the big three bike companies contact me as ask about the design. One engineer even pretended to be a customer interested in buying one when in reality they were looking for a way around the patent. I think the Specialized Zerts inserts deal is a good example of the design being tweaked and using different materials to get around the patent. I’ve never ridden one but hear some folks like them.
Do you ever build with it today?
No I don’t. Even though I am listed as the inventor on the patent Serotta is the holder of the patent and it is their design. Some have told me they think this is unfair and I firmly disagree. Ben Serotta gave me a place to work and paid me well to develop the idea in the first place and without his backing it would have never been more than a napkin sketch in a bar at a tradeshow. He paid for it and he owns it. It was Ben that decided it should be called the DKS. I only found out it was named after me when the decals showed up and I was given one. I was honored then as I still am. Ben is a good man and treated me very well.
When I started my company I knew I’d revisit the idea at some point but also knew that there were changes I wanted to make if I could. The fact that I chose to work only in steel also required a major design change since the original DKS was titanium. I knew I wanted it to be firmer and to have less travel. I knew I wanted it to be less complex and cheaper to make and I knew I wanted it to look cooler. It was then that I developed the “Terraplane” design (Terraplane meaning “flies over the land”). I experimented with different tubing, bend radii as well and bend duration and then did a lot of road miles on prototypes to get the final design nailed down. Most riders will see 5mm or less of wheel movement with a Terraplane and one can’t not feel the difference from a straight stayed bike while climbing or sprinting. It takes a sudden and large load to get the wheel to move and the rider cannot move that fast so it will not react to rider movement. So there is no mushy or ‘MTB on the road’ feeling that some expect. The Terraplane just gives a more hunkered down and calm feeling than a traditional bike. Some folks will get their new Terraplane and ride it for a few weeks and then get back on the bike they rode before and only then feel the marked difference in cornering and descending. It can be a real eye opener for some.
I’ve extremely proud of the Terraplane and how it performs. Some love the look of it and some hate it and I know I can’t please everyone that way but I’ve never put someone on a Terraplane and had them not like the performance.
In your view, what are the pros, cons and challenges with regard to the development of suspension for road bikes? Do you think it would help that much?
I think that there are large gains to be had with a proper road bike suspension for the reasons I’ve listed above. I think the down side could be complexity and cost if the design isn’t properly elegant. There were some suspension road bikes years ago that were really short travel versions of MTB designs and they sucked for road racing use. It has just too much travel, weight and complexity to work as it should for the road.
I think the big thing that will prevent a good design from being adopted by the masses, and therefore be used in the pro race ranks, is that the marketplace is just too traditional. I think the marketplace pats itself on the back a bit too much for how innovative and forward thinking it is when in reality it hates anything truly new. A change in material from steel to aluminum to titanium to carbon to whatever is just fine but to do something truly different and better has historically not been rewarded in the performance road bike market. Look at all the crap being thrown at the new Shimano electric stuff. It work and works well and my hat is off to them for even going there but it’s not like it’s gotten a very warm reception. I’ll bet if they stick by their guns the marketplace will adapt and we will see the other two major players scrambling to catch up and we’ll see little kids riding around our neighborhoods pushing buttons to shift.
It’s going to take a bit of letting go of the traditional fashion of this industry to allow it to make any real jumps forward. Hell there are still interweb forums full of people arguing about which is better – sloping top tubes vs, horizontal tube tubes. It’s all fashion and that is just the way it works. I am for the most part OK with that but it can be frustrating at times. What did that Billy Crystal character on SNL say years ago? “It’s better to look good than it is to feel good”?
Thanks for the opportunity to address some of this stuff and thanks for reading.
The RKP store opens today with our first stickers. If you’re anything like us, you’ve had a serious sticker jones ever since you were a kid. The RKP stickers come in three flavors: large, small and incognito. These should help scratch that old itch and look a little more stylish than those weatherbeaten USCF stickers. Get your set here or visit the “Store” link at the top of the home page.
RKP: Where are you based?
DK: I work from my home shop in Bozeman Montana. Bozeman is a small university and ski town of about 30,000 people located in southwest Montana about 90 miles north of Yellowstone Park. Bozeman is in a valley surrounded by mountains on every side and it’s the ‘big city’ in the area. When you leave town you have really left town and you can ride for miles and see no one at all. I like my solitude and I love Bozeman.
RKP: Is that where you grew up?
DK: No. I grew up in a wonderful small town in central New York State – Rome NY. The riding in the area is world class and for the most part no one knows about it. Every other road is called “farm to market’ road and they are all 1½ lanes wide and just meander through the countryside and farmland up and over 20% super steep climbs……… It’s like Belgium but with out cobbles and I speak the language. I lived in Rome until a few days after high school graduation and then a good friend and I took a road trip to Florida to meet girls. I ended up moving to Florida and went to school half-heartedly but raced BMX with gusto. The southeast was the place to be in the early 80’s for BMX.
RKP: What’s the riding like there (where you live now)?
DK: The riding around Bozeman is much different from Rome where I grew up. Instead of short uber-steep climbs Bozeman has very long alpine type climbs that go up to about 8000’. It’s easy to find climbs of 10 miles or more and it takes a much different mindset. You certainly don’t just stand up and hammer over them. Many of the roads here leave town and get narrow and rough and then turn to dirt. These are my favorite roads to ride. I like the feeling of being way out there and away from everything and slogging over the rough loose surface. I could do that all day. I ride alone most of the time. No wonder why I guess.
RKP: How long have you been building?
DK: I started working as a full time professional framebuilder in 1989 at Serotta in Saratoga Springs, NY. With the exception of one summer working as a water well driller and a few winters working as a snowboard school supervisor it’s all I’ve done since 1989.
RKP: How did you get your start?
DK: I was living in Rome NY and working at a bike shop in the area called “Dick Sonne’s Ski, Hike and Bike” when I got a call from a guy at Serotta. They knew of me through my racing and wrenching and needed more warm bodies in the building. I went and interviewed and Serotta at that time was in a barn with the paint booth being in the chicken coop. It wasn’t very impressive but I really wanted to work there. They offered me a job as a mechanic and I took it. About a week before I was to start I got a call from the same guy and he told me there was going to be a delay and could I start in two weeks. Sure, no problem. Two weeks turned into 6, which turned into 12, and I finally gave up. I started working at a small bike shop close to my home called Schuss Ski and Bike and about 2 years after that first call from Serotta I got another call. This time it was Ben Serotta himself and he told me he had just found out how I was treated first time around and apologized. He then told me they were looking for help in the frame shop and asked if I wanted to interview. The night before the interview I was out riding in the woods and stumbled on a bee’s nest and my hands were badly stung. They got so huge that I could barely drive. I went to the interview and kept my hands out of sight and it was all going well. I was then asked to go into the shop and use a few tools to they could judge my hand skills. I flopped my hands onto the desk and told them I didn’t think I could do that today. Everyone moved back a steep when they saw my freakish hands. They ended up offering me the job anyway and I started work as a framebuilder on October 2nd, 1989.
RKP: Is building your day job? If not, what else do you do?
DK: I am a full time professional framebuilder and it is all I do.
RKP: Have you held other positions in the industry?
DK: I started working as a kid in bike retail and as a mechanic. I’ve raced professional BMX and mountain bike and some road. I worked at Serotta for 10 years and ended up being the one man R&D department and was responsible for all new products, the tooling to produce them, as well and personally building the bulk of the bikes to be used by the professional teams Serotta sponsored at the time. I then moved to Montana and worked with Carl Strong as general shop help and he and I eventually formed a production company to produce Strong Frames as well and all the steel Ibis’. I then struck out on my own and formed Kirk Frameworks in June of 2003.
RKP: Do you ever work in a material other than steel?
DK: Over the past 21 years I’ve worked with most every popular frame material (and a few not so popular) but I now work exclusively in steel. I like working with and riding steel better than any other material. It speaks to me in everyway.
RKP: Who makes the tubing and lugs you like to use?
DK: I work with mostly Reynolds tubes but also use a bit of True Temper. The good folks at Reynolds make proprietary tubes just for me and they are vital to my getting the ride just the way I think it should be. For lugs I like Sachs and Llewellyn. I’m just introducing some dropouts of my own design and have plans in the works to expand my offerings. My job at Serotta was product design intensive and I missed the challenge. That combined with being unsatisfied by the parts available to the professional builder I decided I needed to design and make my own.
RKP: Tell us about the jig you use.
DK: I use Anvil frame and fork jigs. All my other tooling (bending, braze-ons, lug holders, etc.) I’ve designed and made myself. I love designing and making tools. It’s a lost art.
RKP: What sort of cutting and shaping of lugs do you like to perform? Does it vary from bike to bike or are there stylistic elements people can find running through all your bikes?
DK: I favor simple, purposeful and straightforward designs. While I like and admire frilly and baroque designs they aren’t what I like to do. My bikes are all a bit different but there is a common theme to the look. While I offer lugged bikes I also offer and love building fillet brazed bikes. I think the beauty of a properly proportioned fillet joint has few rivals.
RKP: When fitting a customer for a bike, how do you usually work? How often is it in person?
DK: Being in the middle of nowhere I get only about 3 people a year visiting for fittings. I welcome all to visit but understand that isn’t very often possible. I design the bike based on the customer’s body dimensions, and how the bike is to be used. I double check the design by getting the contact points of their current bikes as well as feedback on how they feel these bikes fit, ride and handle. I will sometimes ask for photos of the rider on the bike just to see how they tend to hold themselves. All of this info, along with the answers to an extensive questionnaire I send out, gives me a very full image of the rider and their needs.
RKP: Let’s talk about geometry: Would you say your all your bikes have a consistent ride that is your signature, or do you vary your geometry based on the customer’s preferences and needs?
DK: Some of both. I think all of my bikes ride like a ‘Kirk’ regardless of what the intended end use is. They all have that same Kirk DNA. I feel the most important thing is to be sure that the bike will fit and handle well considering how and where it is to be used. From there the numbers are picked to give a certain ride in those conditions. I like my bikes to have enough stability to give confidence and at the same time have a lot of ‘snap’ and jump’ to give the bike spring and life. This is done by not only getting the geometry right but also picking the proper tubes for the rider.
I feel very strongly about forks and every Kirk frame goes out the door with it’s made to match Kirk fork. I do not offer off the shelf forks. Each one is designed and built to match the frame’s geometry and the desired ride qualities. It’s next to impossible to get the handling and alignment just right when ½ of the design was done by someone else who knows nothing about the needs to the rider. The frame and fork need to be designed together to work properly together and to give the proper handling and ride.
RKP: Who does your paint?
DK: The one and only Joe Bell paints everything I build.
RKP: How long is the wait for new customers?
As of January 2010 my wait is about 11 months from receipt of deposit to delivery.
RKP: What’s your pricing like?
DK: I offer two different levels of build. My standard lugged frameset sells for $2900 and a fillet brazed frameset is $3000. I also offer the JK Series names after my father John Kirk. They differ from my standard frames in that they use a bespoke blend of lightweight tubes (953, S3 and special tubes Reynolds makes for the JK series). I offer the JK Special road frameset for $3600 and the JK Cross frameset for $3700. All these prices include a single color Joe Bell Signature paint job. If the client wants more elaborate paint that is done at an upcharge.
RKP: What keeps the work fresh for you, gets you up in the morning (or out in the evening) and excited to build?
DK: I work a pretty standard work schedule and I do my best to never work too late or start too early and I never ever work weekends. I do my best work when I am fresh and rested and wanting more. This is hard to do sometimes because I really like the work itself. I love going over the tube bin and selecting the tubes to be used in a given bike and laying them all out for inspection and letting the process happen. It’s this process that keeps me excited and motivated. I’ve built thousands of bikes over the past 21 years and it’s always been the process that motivates me.
RKP: You’re part of the Framebuilder’s Collective. What was the motivation to get involved in an association devoted to what can be a pretty solitary craft?
DK: Can you say “herding cats?” I am one of the eight founding members of TFC and I originally became interested in forming a group after spending so many hours in the shop talking with Carl Strong. We were frustrated by the lack of resources for the new builder and by seeing so many talented and skilled builders hang their shingle, build some very nice bikes and then go out of business because they didn’t know how the whole business thing worked. And at the same time we saw plenty of other hobby builders hang their shingle when they were not at all ready to build bikes for paying customers. There is just no professional standard for building or business practices in this industry and each bad business transaction a customer has, and every poorly constructed handbuilt frame out there reflects poorly on the whole group of us professional builders. We want to do what we can to promote professional building and business practices and to further promote the image of the handbuilt frame.
RKP: What’s your life away from building like? Are you racing or do you have outside interests?
DK: I love to be outside and moving quickly. I ride my bike as much as possible in the mountains surrounding Bozeman, I snowboard and cross country ski and I race autocross. The autocross (also known as SCCA Solo) gives me that competitive rush I seem to need in a big way. I’m proud to say that I‘m two time state champion racing a Birkin S3 in the modified class and this year I’ll be moving into a 2005 Lotus Elise and trying to up my game. I like the process of learning to set up and drive the car at it’s limits. It’s always the process. I also love spending time with my wife Karin hanging out in the greenhouse or the garden, watching the plants grow. There’s not much better in life than getting back from a dirt road ride, cracking open a good dark beer and hanging out in the garden watching our four cats play and chase each other around. A good thing in every way.
Images pilfered liberally from Kirk Frameowrks
No bad guy? No bad guy? Are you guys kidding me? With no bad guy, there’s no good guy. If everyone’s a good guy, then no one is. They’re just guys. Who wants to watch a bunch of guys riding bikes? BO-RING!
I liked what Big Mikey said:
This isn’t about legal law, as both parties worked out a compromise due to the fact that GS was going to lose BW to Sky due to the (lack of) enforceability of the contract per European contract law (imagine that), this is about perception and behavior. And while Vaughters was mostly restrained, Wiggins let slip some less than exemplary behavior/comments. A very nice touch given that Garmin worked hard to support his fourth place in the TdF. They gave him the shot to focus on the tour, and he repays it by acting like an entitled brat.
If we combine what Padraig and SingleSpeedJarv had to offer, about Wiggins being unhappy at Garmin even before Sky came into the picture, then we can, to some extent, let Brailsford off the hook, though I can promise you Andrei Tchmil will NOT be letting Brailsford off the hook (for poaching Ben Swift, a Katusha rider until Brailsford turned his head). Not Tchmil’s style to forgive and forget. You can just go ahead and assume that Katusha won’t be taking any turns on the front of the peloton if Sky will benefit in anyway.
So Wiggins wanted out of the contract that suited him pretty well less than a year previously? OK. He doesn’t like the Garmin way. Sometimes things don’t work out. Sky came along at the right time with a boatload of cash to emancipate him from the servitude that all but put him on the Tour de France podium. Fortuitous, not just for Wor Bradley, but also for Jonathan Vaughters who ended up having a tantrum-throwing prima donna taken off his hands and replaced with a fat check.
All is possibly well that ends well, except that, in order to extricate himself from what was, to him, an untenable situation, young Mr. Wiggins felt it necessary to disparage Garmin in the press. There were several allusions to the team not preparing its riders properly for racing success. There was the infamous ‘I need to be at Manchester United, and currently I’m at Wigan,” line, which, for those not steeped in British football culture, basically means “Garmin is bush league, and Sky are pros,” an odd assertion to make about a team that had, at that point, not yet raced a bike in anger.
So this scribe’s personal take (in case it wasn’t obvious) is that, though all parties seem to have made out alright in the end (even though I’d bet the above-pictured Vaughters would have preferred to show up in France this summer with TWO GC threats rather than just one), Brad Wiggins acted like a first class ass hat throughout the affair.
Rather than effecting his transfer with discretion, class and bonhomie, he alienated his team manager, teammates and probably some fans, by turning a private business deal into a public spectacle. If he wins the Tour for Sky this summer, then we’ll probably all just salute his hard-headed competitiveness and forget that he acted like a jerk. If he fails to podium, then we’ll all shake our heads at yet another ego-case crashing and burning on the fumes of his own ambition. If he fails to podium and Christian Vande Velde does make it onto the hallowed steps, well, I can’t wait to see what the French press writes about that.
I’m really not sure how we’ve come this far without hashing and rehashing the Bradley Wiggins transfer until we were all sick to death of it. And so, without further ado, let’s make some hash!
What I want to know is: Who is the bad guy?
As you may well know, Bradley Wiggins had a big 2009, converting himself from track legend to Tour de France contender just by putting down the lager and coming into the season a few kilos lighter. After his surprise fourth place in France, there were rumblings and grumblings and rumors that he would move to the brand new Team Sky, under the tutelage of his British Cycling mentor Dave Brailsford. Of course, he had a contract with Jonathan Vaughters at Garmin, and most of the fall was spent determining whether having a contract meant anything in the grand scheme of things.
By now, we know that Vaughters let Wiggins go, reaping some unnamed bounty in “transfer fee” from Sky. Vaughters, while mostly keeping his powder dry, refused to get too snipey about the whole thing, but let it be known that he was “disappointed” to lose his rider. If there were other, more bitter comments, I missed them.
Wiggins, who made no secret of his desire to leave Garmin and let slip with some not-very-nice comments about the holders of his contract, got what he wanted, and so did Brailsford, who also got into some not-so-nice with Team Katusha’s Andrei Tchmil, over the transfer of Ben Swift.
The whole thing revolves around what contracts are worth, how riders should conduct themselves, whether cycling should be prone to the same transfer sagas that rule the football (soccer) world and whether, to modify a phrase, “money makes right.”
The question I put to you this week is: Who is the bad guy and why?
D) None of the above
E) Lance Armstrong
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
So Joe Papp is back in the news. This time it’s for a guilty plea in connection with selling doping products. Specifically, he plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy to sell EPO and HGH over the Internet.
As much as I’d like to ignore this and hope he fades into forgettable obscurity, I don’t think that will happen just yet. And because RKP has written so much about doping, we are rather obliged to give this more of a once-over than two Tweets about the subject.
Papp netted more than $80,000 between September 2006 to September 2007 selling these drugs. That’s a tidy income, especially for what I suspect wasn’t a lot of work. After all, he didn’t have any of the traditional marketing costs associated with a sales enterprise, so people found him, 187 of them, to be precise.
The income isn’t the issue. It’s the time period. It was during this same time period that USADA trotted him out as a star witness at the Floyd Landis hearing. His purpose? To testify on the remarkable recovery that one can enjoy when using synthetic testosterone. That Travis Tygart (then counsel, now CEO) of USADA didn’t vet Papp more thoroughly is deeply troubling.
Papp disputed VeloNews’ contention that he testified against Landis. He told them, “The matter for which I publicly acknowledged my guilt today in Pittsburgh had nothing to do with my appearance at the Landis hearing. I didn’t testify against Floyd Landis in that hearing,” Papp noted. “My testimony was about my own personal experiences with the drug testosterone and how it is generally perceived within the peloton. That was it. I told the story of how testosterone works and can help you as a cyclist by enhancing recovery.”
Papp’s point splits hairs. Semantically, he may be correct, but he was an instrument in the process of convicting Landis. The problem I have with this is that he was presented as a reformed doper, someone who would be candid as a result of his changed ways. Candor is an important part of establishing credibility, and Papp presented himself as someone for whom performance enhancing drugs were strictly past tense. We have learned that was not the case.
So what should Papp’s sentence be? He could be banned for life from cycling, and that ought to happen; he shouldn’t be allowed to coach or advise other cyclists given his recent industry. He also stands to serve as much as five years in federal prison when he is sentenced on June 25. Hopefully, that June date gives him enough time for him to finish his graduate degree at Chatham University, where he is a student, and (we hope) not focusing on exercise physiology. No one should be forced to starve and Papp needs a good way to reinvent himself in order to stay away from the racing end of the sport.