Torchbearers: Brian Baylis, Part II
Padraig: When fitting a customer for a bike, how do you usually work? How often is it in person?
Brian Baylis: Every customer is different. If they can get here, that’s the best way. Anyone who’s going to buy a Baylis has had a lot of bikes. They are real, dedicated cyclists. They usually come with a bike they like and they know why they like it. It’s just asking a lot of questions. You have no idea why, but I’m asking questions. I’m writing down things and by the end I have all the dimensions I need. It takes probably a 100 questions or so. What do you like, what don’t you like, what would you change?
I need three photos of rider on bike: bar tops, hooks, hoods. It’s not unusual for their not to be any significant changes. All they have to tell me is what they want. I know what to do.
Padraig: 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?
Brian Baylis: The answer to that should be apparent but I respond to what the customer’s needs are. I’ve owned over 100 bikes in 40 years. I’ve made myself over 50 bikes. You learn a thing or two about how bikes ride when you own that many.
You have to respect what the rider wants the experience to be.
Padraig: What informs your sense of color?
Brian Baylis: It started off with Imron in ’74 when we first started using it. Imron was brand new. They still didn’t know how to do metallics. They were fleet truck colors. Not really classy looking on the bike. I wanted good paint colors. I tried lacquers. That didn’t work. I asked the paint shop to put pearls in Imron. I was probably the first to do pearl in Imron, definitely the first to do it on bicycles.
I hate metallic Imron colors. I like pearls.
I learned I could make all my own colors by purchasing toners. Most of my colors are two or three layers, custom-mixed on the spot. Most are in layers, techniques no one was using back in the day. I’ve been mixing my own colors for 40 years.
Padraig: How long is the wait for new customers?
Brian Baylis: I really don’t tell anybody anything. I’ve been in a catchup mode and overseeing a remodel of my home. I tell people I’m not taking orders, but I take orders as a feel like it. It’s no rhyme or reason. I don’t want to take on anything that’ll make it hard to catch up. There are so many tire kickers … I hate taking the time to quote someone and then having them say it’s too expensive.
Padraig: In the interest of keeping the tire kickers to a minimum, what’s your pricing like?
Brian Baylis: They start at $5000 and go up. What I do for $5000 is what you generally see. You come to me for a reason. Sometimes someone comes to me and says I want a Baylis, but I want to keep it simple to keep the cost down. I tell them, ‘Then you don’t want a Baylis.’
Most of the work is in the mitering, cleaning, preparation. I may only spend eight hours on the lugs. I make a drawing for every single bike; it’s an individual bike down to every single tube.
Padraig: What’s your life away from building like? Are you racing or do you have outside interests?
Brian Baylis: I love playing drums, been doing it a long time. And I’m good at it. I make knives, too, and stained glass as well.
Postscript: Unfortunately for me and anyone else who’d like to purchase one of Brian’s frame’s, he has announced his retirement. His last day of building will occur on 11/12/13. This is a real loss to the community. Those his output was never high, it was always stellar. I liken it to the rate at which Peter Gabriel releases albums. We can only hope that his retirement is unsatisfying and that he chooses to light his torch again someday. Until then, enjoy the riding, Brian.