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Fat Bike – ready for paint.

December 9th, 2014

I’ve got a paint color picked and it’s off to JB’s. I’m excited to build it and get it on the snow.

Dave

Kirk Fat……or Fat Kirk III.

December 4th, 2014

Today was a short day at the bench as I have been neglecting deskwork but I did manage to get all the fillets buffed out.

Next up comes the small fussy bits……..cable routing, bottle bosses and the rear disc tab. As long as I can make a good dent in my deskwork I can reward myself with a bench day tomorrow and get this wrapped up and off to Joe Bell for paint.

I’m still taking color suggestions………..

Dave

Kirk Fat II.

December 3rd, 2014

Kirk Fat II

Today’s installment of the Kirk Fat miniseries picks up where yesterday’s left off and the first step is cleaning and prepping the mitered tubes to tack and braze. Typing this out with so few words makes it feel like it should be something that takes little time. Just three things really – clean, tack, braze. But this takes a number of hours to do. The amount of time with a torch in your hand while bent over and twisted at some odd angle can’t be dismissed. That said you can see in the photos that the brazing work is indeed done. The glassy clear and whiteish stuff on the joint is hardened flux and this is removed in a hot water bath where it dissolves.

Once the flux is removed the next step is to machine and face the BB shell so that the alignment can be done based on those parallel faces. The parallel BB faces are ‘home base’ so to speak and everything is referenced to them. If I’ve done my job well the frame will only need to be checked and not moved at all and my work here went very well. Once everything here is verified the wheel and fat tire are used to make a final checks to be sure that the wheel is perfectly in plane with the center plane of the frame. Lastly the clearance room for the tire to the chain and seat stays is double checked and here I decided to add just a bit with some shallow dimples in the tubes – better safe than sorry.

With the BB machined, the frame aligned and the tire clearance checked it’s now time to get into some serious sanding of fillets – More on that later.

Dave

Kirk Fat.

December 2nd, 2014

Winter in Montana is long……..very long…….and one needs to have stuff they enjoy doing outside during all those cold and snowy months. As the old timers say “winter is 9 months long and then there’s 3 months of really tough sledding.” For a few decades I did a lot of XC skate skiing and enjoyed it. It has its downside and for me that’s that I need to load of the car and drive a few miles to ski. I’m very lucky to have good skinny skiing so close but I still didn’t like having to drive to get my fix. Combine this with some upper back issues that don’t like the poling motion and that meant my skinny skis stayed in the rack.

About this time fatbikes started to become available…or I should say that the tires and rims became available and that allowed everything else to fall in place. The frame really is the easy part in the big picture on a fat bike. It’s the special hubs (170 mm rear, 135 mm front), bottom bracket and crank (designed to work with a 100 mm wide BB shell), and the huge offset front derailleur (needs to extend way off the seat tube to reach the chain rings WAY out there where the rings are) that are the tough part. I frankly wasn’t sure I wanted to build one just to try it out but I could buy one and see what it’s like – so that’s what I did. I bought a Surly Moonlander complete with its 100 mm wide rims and 4.7” tires. If those seem like huge numbers to you they should. The bike is huge fat in every way.

I find I now look forward to snow falling and getting packed into just the right consistency so that I can bust out the big bike and have fun and stay fit. That said, the bike I bought is a real tank at 34+ pounds and the geometry left a lot of room for improvement so I decided to take the time to build myself a lighter and more nimble fillet brazed fatbike designed for how and where I’ll use it. I’ll be building it with shorter stays, a lower BB and steeper front end to help counter the weight of the huge tires and make the steering quicker.

The tough thing about building a fatbike is of course the rear end and the fork. I opted for a Salsa aluminum fork and so that made that super easy but chain and seat stays aren’t quite so simple. I ended up using Deda 29’er stays and changing the bends a good bit and this, along with the 100 mm wide bottom bracket and 170 mm rear hub, allows me to get these tubes to all play nice with a 4.8” tire. The main tubes are a mix of Deda (1.5” down tube) and Reynolds (853 Pro top tube and 725 externally butted seat tube) that are plenty tough but should be loads lighter than the bike I’m riding now.

The photos show the dry fitting of the all the mitered tubes into the Anvil jig with a cardboard tire mock up so that I can check tire clearance as the tubes are mitered to fit. I often make a faux tire like this when I’m not 100% sure of tire clearance but I must say this thing just looks silly. As you can see all the tubes are mitered and fit into the jig and ready to clean, tack and braze.

Over the next week or so I’ll be sharing more photos of the build and to give a better idea of what goes into building a fillet brazed prototype like this. So – stay tuned and watch it come together. And………if you have any ideas for a bright color to paint the beast feel free to chime in.

Dave

S & S Coupler Retrofit.

November 24th, 2014

Many of you might know I happily offer S&S stainless steel couplers as an option built into frames from new but I’m guess most didn’t know that I can also retrofit the couplers into an older Kirk to give the owner the option of using the frame as a travel bike. The S&S system is very cool and bomb proof and allows a complete bike to pack down into a 26″ x 26″ x 10″ case that is airline compatible. The size of the case insures that most airlines will not charge an oversize or bike fee and the case is treated like any other piece of luggage.

For those tech curious folks out there here’s how the retrofit is done.

– The first step is to set the frame jig to the original specs and fit the frame into the jig.

– With the frame set in place the location for the couplers is picked. Generally we want the coupler to be as far to the rear as possible to keep the rear section of the frame as small as possible when broken down to make it easy to fit into the case.

– The frame is then marked where for the two sections of tube to be removed. Each section is about 36 mm long and the space will be taken up by the coupler.

– The coupler is ‘dry fit’ to insure everything lines up as it should.

– Once the dry fitting is done all the pieces are cleaned to remove any paint or dirt in preparation of the couplers being brazed in place. You can see that instead of the large and shiny stainless nut the steel ‘work nut’ is in its place. This assures that the fancy nut’s finish stays clean and pretty during the brazing process.

– The new joints are covered in white flux and the frame is placed back in the jig. With everything in place the S&S couplers are brazed in place using silver.

– Once the brazing is done the the joint cools the flux is removed and the joints are cleaned up and made pretty. Then the stainless nuts are put in place and everything is tightened down and the alignment is checked.

– Lastly frame is boxed and shipped to Joe Bell for a full repaint. In this case the original paint scheme will be replicated with a fresh version of the original paint done including the original period decals.

And that’s it. Cut out sections of tube, replace those sections with couplers and repaint. A great way to turn your existing bike into a travel bike. If you have a Kirk that you’d like to retrofit and have any questions please let me know.

Dave

MRB.

October 29th, 2014

Shortly after I started my company I started building bikes that were meant to be used the way I use my everyday bike – on whatever road that lies ahead, paved or not. Here in Montana many of the roads turn to dirt when they leave the ‘big city’ and it’s a shame to ignore those wonderful empty road just because they aren’t paved. I nicknamed these bikes “Montana Road Bikes” or “MRB’s” and I’ve built a good number of them over the years.

Interestingly this riding of dirt roads has become a thing at this point and while I certainly can’t take credit for the trend I’m happy to see it happening as some of the best roads and adventures are unpaved and it’s good to see that all the folks that want to ‘Gravel Grind’ feel the same way.

While one certainly doesn’t need a special bike to ride on a dirt road it sure can make it more fun and stable and allow the rider to hammer instead of just ride……….and that’s what the bike below is designed to do. It’s designed with mixed surfaces in mind with geometry that will allow it to track very well when the surface gets loose or rough yet it’s still light and agile. This bike is built with Ultegra Di2 shifting as well as the new hydraulic road disc brakes and the wheels are handbuilt by Joe Young.

I look forward to seeing this bike dusty and dirty in its natural environment.

Thanks for looking –

Dave

2003 used frameset for sale.

October 8th, 2014

On very rare occasions I come across a used Kirk that needs a home and I do my best to help the owner find one…………in this case a gentleman was cleaning out his father’s home and came across this frameset. He googled the name and got in touch with me and I offered to buy it from him.

This fillet-brazed frameset was built September, 2003 for a rider in Massachusetts and is constructed with Reynolds 725 tubing. The original owner of this frameset went on to buy two more Kirks and still rides one. The tube diameters are what many would call ‘standard sized’ meaning that the top tube is 1” and the seat and down tubes are 1 1/8”. The fork has a 1” threadless steerer and is built with a Cinelli fork crown. The frame dimensions are below – the saddle height and stem length are for reference only so that perspective owners can have an idea of how it might fit. The ideal weight for performance purposes would be in the 130 – 170 lbs range.

The frame has a standard 68 mm English threaded bottom bracket and uses a 130 mm rear hub, a 27.2 seat post, a 1 1/8” clamp-on front derailleur and a 1” threadless headset (included). The largest size tire that will fit is 25 mm.

Upon return to me I checked for any damage or dents and of course checked the alignment of both the frame and fork. Both the frame and fork checked out as they should and show no sign of ever being crashed or abused. There are no dents whatsoever. There are a number of paint chips but no corrosion either inside or out. I do not have access to touch up paint of this color as the painter (Cycle Fantasy) retired a few years after the frame was painted. The frameset presents well and the Celadon green paint has a lovely shine to it.

I’m offering this little bit of history as a frame/fork and King headset combination for $875 as it sits with a fresh treatment of anticorrosion treatment on the inside of all the tubes, new brass adjusters and all fresh bolts. One could also purchase it and have me send it to Joe Bell for a repaint with the paint cost added to the frameset price. I do have a limited supply of the original decals so the frame could be put back in its correct period look or if the new owner wanted the current artwork that is also an option.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to purchase this frameset and I’ll do my best to get right back to you.

Thanks for looking.

Dave

10/10/14 – The frameset is sold pending payment. Thank you for all the interest.

We’re not in Kansas anymore – guest blog.

August 22nd, 2014

I consider myself very fortunate to have customers spread out all over the world and that they often share photos with me of what the riding in their area looks like. I always enjoy seeing where others ride the bikes I made for them and get some pretty cool photos………..and sometimes the landscapes are so stunning, and the photos so well done, that I find myself looking at them time and time again.

Recently customer and friend of the business Thomas, who lives and rides in Switzerland, shared a few photos with me that were so beautiful I asked him to share them with everyone here. So here is Thomas’ ride report along with a good number of wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing Thomas – I expect we’ll all want to pay a visit to you very soon.

Be sure to click on the photos to get the large version.

Dave

——————————————

Dave was kind enough to invite me to send a post about a recent trip in the Alps, aboard a Kirk Frameworks bicycle. I decided to tell you about some side trips into tucked away Swiss valleys, easy to miss if you only focus on the big passes. So here are my 3 top recommendations:

3) Val Tuors in Grisons/Graubünden

This little valley is on the way to/from the Albula Pass. (I came from the South, the Engadin valley)

You reach the village of Bravuogn, with its traditionnal painted houses

Then you turn East, through a narrow gorge

and go up the val

You see some remote villages

2) Binntal
This valley is in the Goms valley, or Haut-valais/Oberwallis, and the trip starts in Ernen.
I have come over the Furka pass (it means fork, or pass, just like Forcola or Forclaz…) from Andermatt. This is the view East from Furka where I was headed; you see the Furka road, Gletsch and the Rhône river (the glacier/Gletscher used to reach all the way down there), and the road to Grimsel Pass.

It’s a popular biking route

Below Oberwald it’s best to leave the main road and pick up the cycling route to Ernen

Ernen is a well preserved village. There are some façades that date back centuries; here the Gemeindehaus

Cyclists must take a dirt road to bypass a mile-long tunnel, which is a definite bonus

It’s real canyon, with waterfalls crossing the road

There was a roadside art show which included a spiked tunnel

The Binntal itself is great hiking country; again, quiet and beautiful

1) Zwischbergen and passo Furggu
This side-trip starts in Gondo, South of the Simplon pass, just short of the Italian border. Simplon has plenty of traffic, viaducts, galleries; if you ride it be sure to take the old road out of Brig, and leave the new one and its overpasses to cars.

In Gondo you take a right into Zwischbergen (“betwen the mountains”; not a very imaginative name). This is a complete opposite of the Simplon: quiet road, no traffic, little-disturbed nature. I saw a woman with a bucket full of wild strawberries, and farmers making hay.

Once you reach the passo Furggu (another variation on “fork”) you can descend 2-3 km until the road stops above a cliff.

There is a nice view of Simplon village and the modern road

Then you have to backtrack to Gondo; in places it’s quite steep

Oh, and btw, the bicycle

Happy riding!

Thomas

Jay Adams.

August 19th, 2014

As a kid growing up in Central New York State in the mid 1970’s you either played ball sports or you watched TV. So many of the sports we take for granted now didn’t even exist at that point and I just never strong enough, quick enough, or aggressive enough to play any ball sports well – and I just never was a ‘join a team’ kind of kid. At some point I ended up with my first skateboard. It was a roller skate cut in half nailed to a 2×4 as I recall…….it had steel wheels.

I rode that metal-wheeled board around the driveway most of one summer before I stumbled on some used clay wheeled roller skates at a second hand store. I ‘barrowed’ money from my Pops to buy them and they were so much better than the metal wheels. A few of the kids in the neighborhood skated in my driveway with me a bit here and there but for the most part I skated alone. At some point a kid I knew was headed to Florida where he said you could buy plastic (urethane) skateboard wheels and I gave him $12 and waited all summer for him to come back to New York.

He brought me back a set of clear amber Cadillac wheels with cone and cup bearings and they were unbelievable. I skated in the morning before school and came home and told my mom I didn’t have any homework and skated until dinner and then after dinner until it was time for bed. I was obsessed with skateboarding but for the most part I was alone. I don’t think I minded skating alone – that’s just how it was.

Skating for me at the time was going back and forth in the driveway making turns around chalk marks I put on the driveway – just turning and carving and feeling the G loads build and release. I didn’t do any tricks to speak of and I didn’t even know one could do more than I was doing. I was the best skater in the neighborhood and proud of that.

One year for my birthday my Aunt Nancy came over and gave me a copy of ‘Skateboarder’ magazine and my world was changed forever. On the cover of that issue of December 1976 issue of Skateboarder was Jay Adams. He was flying through the air, set low on the board with his two hands hold the deck to his feet. I couldn’t believe it – he was off the fucking ground while skating. All of a sudden my driveway and my hometown of Rome, NY seemed incredibly small.

The magazine was full of photos of skaters in far away places in skateparks (I didn’t know there was such a thing) and riding on vertical swimming pool walls like they were surfing…….but it was even better than surfing to me. I went to Carl’s drug store everyday for the next month or more with money in hand to buy the next issue. I was 14 years old.

Of all the skaters shown in Skateboarder none resonated with me more than Jay Adams. One could see even in still photos that he skated with aggression, maybe even anger, and it was a free form, never do the same thing twice kind of self expression. He expressed his feelings through skating with slashing frontside grinds, hand plant Berts on vertical pool walls and by looking straight into the camera and flipping it off – all while right on the coping of the pool 10’ off the hard concrete bottom of the pool.

My skating instantly changed from being something akin to figure skating to being a means of expressing myself and my anger, frustration, aggression, joy, beauty….etc. Skating suddenly gave me a voice and that was a very powerful thing for this boy in his mid-teens.

I subscribed to Skateboarder and read each copy cover to cover countless times. I studied the photos with an intensity I’ve never before applied to anything and while the beauty of Stacy Peralta’s skating floored me, and Tony Alva’s cool aggression always got my attention it was Jay Adams’ skating that made the biggest impression on me. During the long NY winters I skated in the basement in a narrow hallway that was concrete and I stared at Skateboarder magazine and waited for spring.

It was Jay’s skating that brought me out of my shell and gave me an identity and Skateboarder Magazine let me know that while I was physically alone in my driveway, on the small wooden ramp I built with scrap plywood and lumber, I was part of something bigger. I had a tribe and the leader of my tribe was Jay Adams.

As time went on I skated more (if that was possible) and traveled a good bit to skate at parks all around the east coast. The desire to skate got this sheltered kid to get in his truck with a paper map in the seat and drive to strange places and skate until I was so tired I could hardly stand, sleep in the truck and then to do it again the next day.

At some point cycling crept into my life and I raced BMX, and did freestyle BMX and always in the back of my mind was that one could express themselves with movement……every movement. In time I got older and more focused on cycling and skating took a back seat and then finally the board sat unused for a year, and then two while I immersed myself in cycling.

Every once in a while I’d see a skate rag and leaf through it and the tricks had gotten so hard, so complex, that I couldn’t relate to them. They were incredible for sure but the focus was on the trick and the number of spins and not really the simple invisible line drawn by the skater as he arced up the wall. I read somewhere that Jay had gotten in trouble and was in jail in Hawaii. I guess it didn’t come as a surprise really as I didn’t get the impression that he was able to live a life inside the lines.

Years later I’m back skating some at the local park in Bozeman where I now live and I hook up with some old skater friends on FaceBook and through that I see that Jay is out of jail, covered with tattoos, a few pounds heavier but back skating. He didn’t do McTwists or 540’s…………….he did slashbacks and Berts and he painted the walls with his lines fast and hard. He was Jay Adams again, still, and he ripped. I smiled every time I saw his photo with kids 1/3 his age smacking their trucks on the coping as he ripped by on the vertical. It was beautiful.

Jay Adams died this past week at the age of 53. I read it was a heart attack – not that it matters much I guess. But Jay, his skating, and his wide influence has been in most of my waking thoughts over the past few days. I never met Jay, I never saw him skate in person, I didn’t know him……….but loved what he and his skating did for me and no doubt countless others stuck in their little hometowns skating the plywood ramps in their driveways. Jay Adams was, and will always be, in my mind skateboarding in its purest and most beautiful form. Jay gave us all a voice and the courage to use it.

Thank you Jay Adams – rest in peace.

Dave

A New Backdrop.

July 31st, 2014

As many of you might know I work from home using 1/2 of my garage for bike work while the other 1/2 gets used to store the sports car I use for SCCA Solo events. Since I share a good number of photos of bikes in process the car tends to act as a backdrop and it generates its own share of comments. Until last winter the car that was my back drop was a 2005 Lotus Elise and while I liked the car very much I kept feeling the urge to have something more simple, lighter, and with a higher power/weight ratio for autocross events.

So last fall I sold the Elise and ordered a 2014 Westfield S2000. The car can be purchased in two different forms – as a completed and built ‘roller’ sans engine and transmission or as a kit. I’d always wanted to assemble my own car from the ground up so I ordered the kit and then waited. The plan was for the kit to arrive during the long dark and cold Montana winter and that I’d take my time putting it together after work and on weekends but the plan didn’t work out as intended – the kit arrived not in February but late April.

“It is what it is” as they say and I got to work. Frankly it was challenging, fun, and at times very frustrating, building my new backdrop but I put time in on it most every day and in time it started to look like a car………or as much like a ‘normal’ car as an homage to a Lotus Seven ever looks. The build starts with riveting aluminum panels (hundreds of rivets!) to the tubular space frame and the progresses to adding suspension and wiring and bodywork. Finally the engine and transmission get bolted in place. About two and a half weeks ago, with my friend Joe’s help, I fired the engine up for the first time. First turn of the key not much happened…………second turn and it fired right up and idled smooth and quiet. Fluids did not come pouring out, there was no smoke and the fire extinguisher and hose I had at the ready sat unused. We drove it slowly around the neighborhood a few times with almost no bodywork on it and it shifted and braked and for the most part worked. After a few hundred hours of work the crate of parts was a car.

Over the past few weeks it’s been registered, insured, and generally sorted and it’s starting to work very well……….and I must say it’s very quick. Certainly the quickest thing I’ve ever driven. The Honda S2000 engine puts out 247 hp and the car weighs 1400 pounds so it gets out of the way in a hurry. My first Solo race with it is coming up on the 9th of August and there is still much to do to make sure it’s as ready as can be but it’s now a car……..a car I built with my own two hands just like the bikes that come out of the other half of the garage. At the risk of sounding all too pleased with myself I’m proud of the car and the hard work I put in to make it happen. I don’t know that I’ll want to do it again any time soon but I can say i’ve done it. I find myself coming home from rides and leaning my bike against the bench and sitting and looking at my orange bike and orange car in the same view. That feels good.

So there you have it – the short story of how and why you’ll see a new backdrop in the shop photos for some years to come.

Time to get to work.

Dave