New England Family Tree

I recently completed a feature that will run in Issue 6 of peloton magazine about New England. While I could have devoted a good 2000 words to all the great racers who cut their teeth there or on all the cycling writers who came from the region—there was a time when most bike magazine editors either hailed from or lived in Vermont or Massachusetts—I focused on the bike companies based there.

It had been a while since I’d visited the subject, more than 10 years if the truth is told, and as I dug down I realized there was more going on than I realized. It became so complicated that I decided to create a little family tree to remind me the begat, begat, begat sequence of the companies.

Some, like Pedro’s and Parlee didn’t have their genesis in other companies. Others, such as Serotta and 333Fab aren’t New England companies, but their relationship to the patriarch of the industry couldn’t be denied. This family tree isn’t particularly scientific, and certainly not to scale, but it speaks to what I most like about the region.

My time there left a mark. To the degree that I’ve got any entrepreneurial spirit, I think it was incubated while working for a number of small companies. From Richard Fries’ Ride Magazine to an upstart Apple retailer, I saw people go out on their own time and again. For me, it rubbed off from just being around them. There are those figures who cultivate that individuality; Rob Vandermark seems to be doing a lot of that at Seven Cycles, whether intentionally or not.

Part of the story this doesn’t tell, though, is the way that Richard Sachs has mentored dozens of new builders. Some of it has been indirect, as through his prolific writing about his brand and the craft of building. Some has been direct, in the form of offering concrete advice to up-and-comers.

The tragedy in this story is the demise of Fat City Cycles; it was Chris Chance who really began the scene from which all this grew.

There have been plenty of rounds of musical chairs. Parlee and Pedro’s have even picked up people who have done stints at other area bike companies. In that regard, the bike biz in New England is different from we see in California, where bigger players dominate and after a few years in the biz you stop being surprised to see an old friend in a jersey. And maybe that’s the difference, those smaller companies give employees a real window into what entrepreneurship is.

 

 

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24 comments

  1. gob

    What about Rhygin, and Ted Wojick? SRP? Rafe Schlanger’s Spinergy and Topolino wheels? Even Cannondale? Seems like there’s got to be more than that…

  2. Jeff B

    Imagine if you mapped the musical chairs web of this, Padraig.

    You could draw the Matt Bracken line from Merlin to IF to Pedro’s. Also from Serotta to Parlee for Jared.

    Shoot, imagine what would happen if you threw MavicUSA (based in Haverhill, MA, five minutes from Pedro’s hq) in there. Chaos!

    Also, Sketchy is another brand born from the Merlin-Seven lineage from Mike Salvatore.
    Chris Igleheart also would be a worthy addition from the Fat City line.

    Imagine then, if you put in someone like Tom Stevens or Lyle Fulkerson. Or did this same thing with racers as a whole.

    My head is spinning!

  3. SteveP

    Tony Stanton (Hot Tubes) trained Tony Maietta, and Chris Bull (Circle A Cycles). I’m not sure where Stanton originated from.

    Geekhouse apprenticed with Ant Bike Mike.

    Serrotta gives us Kirk Frameworks (not N.England)


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I do mention the studios that Seven has spawned in the feature, but I didn’t count them in this lineage because they aren’t actually bike companies. There’s another, Velosmith Bicycle Studio in suburban Chicago, owned by another Seven alum and a good friend of Zac’s.

      There were a few names I wasn’t able to work in to the piece and I’ve lost a bit of sleep over it. Toby is an old friend but I plain ran out of room. I counted Geekhouse as an offshoot of Seven despite the apprenticeship with A.N.T. because he’s done some work for Rob. Peter Mooney is another I just didn’t have space for.

      The musical chairs aspect (as evidenced by Bracken) was more than my rudimentary diagramming skills could handle.

      And let’s not forget Kelly Bedford and David Wages, also ex-Serotta-ites. I had to stop tracking once the address left New England. It’s wild how this stuff grows.

      It reminds me of a King Crimson family tree I drew up in high school (geeky much?).

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  5. Bob Ross

    >>It reminds me of a King Crimson family tree I drew up in high school<<

    Ha! I *knew* there was a reason I was so attracted to the handcrafted frame industry!

  6. Alan Cote

    Cool piece. The web goes supernova if you continue poking, so nice job. Another: Greg Lake, I mean Ron Andrews — Fat City to King Cage


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Alan: Speaking of New England writers, thanks for stopping by. And yes, cheers to Ron, who made a titanium bottle cage I’ve been using for almost 15 years.

      Noel: thanks.

  7. michael

    RIP Fat City Cycles

    Best hardtail mountain bike I ever owned was a Yo! Eddy!. Why I ever sold that bike I still fail to comprehend :(


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Andrew: I should add him to the family tree for the sake of completeness, but I just didn’t have the space to include him in the feature.

      Michael: You gotta wonder how many guys there are across the U.S. asking themselves that same question. And what became of those bikes?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Perhaps I did a poor job of conveying the real point of this family tree and the post, but my intention had been to help me keep straight the sequence of builders who were related to one another. Call it an oversight, skipping or an error, had I focused on every person who’s ever wielded a torch in New England, this would have looked less like a family tree than a shotgun blast. That’s an inventory, not a story. The major builders I’ve included here account for the majority of the frames New England builders produce in any given year. The story, to me anyway, isn’t a completist’s list of everyone who has ever worked in New England, but how many of them are interconnected; those relationships interest me, though that’s not to say guys like Toby Stanton don’t interest me.

  8. Swami

    This is really good and worthy of an in-depth analysis. I enjoyed it.

    A few comments:

    “I had to stop tracking once the address left New England. It’s wild how this stuff grows.” 333fab and Banjo are also out of NE now.

    “I do mention the studios that Seven has spawned in the feature, but I didn’t count them in this lineage because they aren’t actually bike companies.” Grace Cycles is a shop, or studio.

    You could probably draw a line from IF to Seven, since Lloyd Graves works for Seven now.

    As others have mentioned, Mike Salvatore needs to be mentioned for his Sketchy label.

  9. slappy

    Ron Andrews determined that he oughta join one of Dooms pugsley tours and whipped up a ti fat bike in about four days. One of the cooler features was the triple clamp rigid ti fork with straight legs. Russel the owner of Durango Cyclery decided he needed one and Ron made it with a built in pump, with hose for pumping up huge tires. Ron rocks. .

  10. Dan O

    Cool feature – flat out amazing how many companies have launched from Seven.

    Ah, Fat City Cycles. R.I.P. My ’86 Fat Chance and ’91 Yo Eddy still hang in the garage as tribute.

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