Happy 2009, part 1

Has it been 9 weeks since I updated this sucker? Uffda, as we used to say. It’s still winter here: cold, gray, fat, out of shape, but the days are getting longer and green things are poking out of the ground. The orders keep coming in and the bikes keep going out – such is the circle of life.

Looking ahead in 2009 I see some fun things on the horizon and I’ll talk about them as I go along. Probably the first thing is to thank all you who contributed to 2008 being such a good year: all you customers, and suppliers, and builders, and pals – having such good folks to deal with is a huge part of what I love about my job.

It looks like there will be at several magazine articles/reviews/blurbs on Hampsten and Tournesol coming in the next few months. I won’t give much away now but I’ll boast when the issue hits the stands (or “drops”, to use the current vernacular) and I’ll link if possible. Keep those subscriptions current, y’all!

Over the last six months or so we’ve been sharing my shop with Max and Bernard, who build under the name 333fab – www.333fab.com. Briefly, they both welded at Merlin, Seven and Rygin, and are working metal jobs here in Seattle as they get their company off the ground. And I’ve seen them work and the quality of what they do and I’ve asked them to build some frames for the HampCo juggernaut – that’s how good they are. My thinking is to bring some of the welded steel frames in-house as there are features I’d like to offer that just don’t mesh with what our suppliers offer: MAX tubing, Breezer-style dropouts, and curvy seat stays – just for starters.

IF still supplies us with lovely steel frames, Co-Mo with aluminum, Moots and Kent E with ti, Parlee with carbon, Martin with lugged frames – none of that has changed. But now we can play around with steel just a little bit more. And I like being in the shop when a frame is born…

Happy 2009, part 2

Random notes on new models and current:

Gran Paradiso: our skinny-tire race bikes gets a few tweaks in the form of Edge Composites forks and the addition of a 953 option. Edge are the new kids on the block but they’ve all done this for many years and their stuff is great. I’m trying to get a long reach fork from them for the Classic line – are you listening, Jim? 953 is the new wonder metal from Reynolds by way of Carpenter. It’s a mar-aging stainless steel with pretty remarkable strength qualities, which allows a frame to be built that rivals titanium in terms of weight but with a ride very much like that of steel – which it is. But it doesn’t need to be painted; the finish is bright and shiny, and the welding is tiny and immaculate. Look for the Edge/953 combo here shortly, $3500.
New model, Team Pro – this is the lightweight lugged steel frame that we’ve built off-and-on since day one, formerly known as “Giro ‘88”. It’s back, we’ve made some tweaks, Martin will be building all of these here at the Towers from Sachs lugs and castings using True Temper/Columbus tubing, magazine review slated, $2600. Photos soon.
Strada Bianca – no big changes but we’re playing with some Bontrager forks that have rather hurking clearances. Still our best seller in titanium, steel, and S & S coupler versions. Rivendell’s Jack Brown 33.3mm tires are a huge hit on this bike for most who try them.
New model, Travelissimo – speaking of S & S torque couplers, we’ve decided to finally build a coupler-bike page. We’ve sold dozens of these over the years in both skinny-tire and Strada Bianca configurations; likely the version we show will be for short-reach calipers but with the ability to take 27mm tires – a one-design-fits-most approach, unusual for us.
Cinghiale Pro: our basic welded steel frame with brazed fork – think of an IF-produced Team Pro – remains unchanged for 2009. Currently the sleeper in our line-up, I can’t think of a more perfect frame. It could the white paint works against the pictures – look for this one to be re-shot soon in a new easier-to-see color. (Otoh, if they were all best-sellers then nothing would be a best-seller, right?)
New model, Mud Pig: as with the Team Pro we’ve done quite a few versions of a cyclocross frame over the years. Unlike the Team Pro, we’ve offered this in aluminum (with carbon rear!), steel, and titanium. The new version will be offered in Kent-built titanium and in-house welded steel, web page soon.
Classic/Leger: last year’s new kid, for 2009 this one is settling in nicely and selling briskly. We’re currently welding up another MAX version pour moi, this time with a steel fork and extended seat mast – pictures soon. It looks like we have a good supplier for Columbus MAX tubes and the interest is certainly there. MAX frame slated for review, Classic OS (round steel tubes) bike for magazine review, likely a Classic OS at the IF booth in Indy at NAHMBS. I’ll be there, too…
Carbon Z1/Z2/Z3 from Parlee: no price increases foreseen and the quality is still topnotch. Parlee will be rolling out a new tubeset this year, “CL”, for “compliant”. Supposedly equal in torsional rigidity to their SL tubing but with 30% more vertical compliance – hey, it’s all in the lay-up and design.
Tournesol: no changes really but my preference is becoming that we focus on the lugged steel frames – it just seems to make the most sense. Racks and fenders pretty dialed, lighting just got better with the new Gino mount. Tournesol review/piece coming to a Big Outdoorsy Magazine this summer, stay tuned.
Nap time.