How to Break Into the Cycling Industry – Jeff Frane of All-City Cycles

Jeff-Frane-All-City-Cycles

As a more urban rider, I have had my eye on the products that All-City Cycles has been turning out.  They make dope fixed gear freestyle frames, along side a nice road frame (Mr. Pink), a cross bike (Nature Boy), and a touring bike (Space horse).  Plus, they have a quality parts selection.  I have been reading Jeff’s blog, BikeJerks for a while now, and at Interbike I had the pleasure of meeting him and talking more about All-City.  After that meeting, I knew Jeff would be a good candidate for our interview series.  Below is his story.

BIKERUMOR: Who are you and what are you doing here?

JEFF: I’m Jeff Frane, the Sales and Marketing Manager for All-City. I run the nuts and bolts of the day to day operations of the brand, work with the dealers and handle the marketing duties. I’m also the guy who gets to dream up our new products and bike models.

Jeff Frane 2

BIKERUMOR: What was your first job or experience in the cycling industry? How did you “break” in?

JEFF: I worked and raced for a shop through high school, and after college graduation I lived in my van and was a climbing / snowboarding bum.  Eventually I got to missing my lady/ sick of being dirt poor / sick of living in a van and moved back to the Midwest. I got a job wrenching (I didn’t know shit) at Freewheel in Minneapolis, and that was the start of my “career.”

BIKERUMOR: What’s your educational background?

JEFF: I have a Bachelors with a twin major in Comparative Studies in Religion and Public Relations. Both of which explain why I ended up back in shop after graduation.  I wanted a marketing job but was totally unemployable in the field.  With no one wanting to hire me because of a total lack of experience I started my own little company, Bike Jerks (www.bikejerks.com), in order to gain experience in branding and event promotion.  I figured if no one would hire me, the only way I was ever going to learn was by doing it myself.

BIKERUMOR: After that first experience/job, what was the path to your current position?

JEFF: Predictably, not being one of the senior mechanics, when fall came around I was laid off so I took up working for a junk removal service and the local climbing gym.  In February of that year a buddy of mine took a job at Quality Bicycle Products and I soon followed him when I heard they were hiring a bunch of folks.

I started off in the warehouse as a seasonal employee packing boxes and picking parts, the low rung on the totem pole.  Having my passion for bikes recognized, I quickly moved into other areas of the warehouse and eventually up to Bike Builder and Shock Treatment Center where I was able to polish my mechanical skills.  This was around 2007/8 and the track boom was hitting hard.  Unfortunately for me, QBP didn’t carry much of the track stuff I wanted such as double clips and straps.

Through my work with Bike Jerks, throwing alleycats and such, I had gained a reputation as “the fixed gear guy” at QBP and I started making requests of Lisa Snyder (AC’s Brand Manager) for parts to fill in the gaps.  She listened to my requests and the parts did well, from there it was only a matter of time before we pressed Steve Flagg, the owner of QBP, to allow us to create a separate brand to give these parts some identity and life.  My selfish mission in this was to create a platform to design and produce my dream track bike, the Big Block.

To my surprise Steve said “Yes” and we were on our way.

Jeff Frane 4

BIKERUMOR: What’s a normal day for you?

JEFF: I get up around 7:30, check email, let the dog out, then jump on my bike for the hour ride to work.  Get into the office, check email again, and take care of whatever it is that needs to be taken care of that day.  Every day’s different depending on the season.

BIKERUMOR: What are the highlights of your job?

JEFF: It’s pretty much all highlights.  I live a ridiculous lifestyle (party, ride, repeat), get to ride my bike a whole lot, create products that enhance people’s lives, get to travel and meet amazing people, etc. etc.  Of course it’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day B.S. of any job, but when you take the long view I’m pretty much the luckiest person on earth.

Jeff Frane 3

BIKERUMOR: What could you do without?

JEFF: The thing I struggle with the most is not owning something that I put every ounce of my life and love into.  I work for an amazing company and am surrounded by people who inspire me, but at the end of the day I sometimes just feel like a replaceable cog in the machine.

BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give to someone looking to follow your path today?

JEFF: Don’t wait for something to come along,  just get out there and make it happen.  I don’t mean to give you the boot straps routine, but it’s true, for most of us in the world we aren’t going to be given anything.  Bust your ass and make it happen.

 

Comments

rickflair - 01/13/12 - 7:35pm

I have their Nature Boy cross fork. The lugged crown gives it a nice touch. Wooooo!

rickflair - 01/13/12 - 7:35pm

Their Nature Boy lugged crown fork is stylin’ and profilin’. Wooooooo!!!

Steve - 01/14/12 - 1:41am

Great interview. need more guys like Jeff in the biz.

EpicThroatBeard - 01/14/12 - 4:39pm

The industry is made of “guys like Jeff”. Don’t let the dross at the top of the ingot disguise the gold.

Cockleburr - 01/14/12 - 5:10pm

Working at the qube farm pretty much gets you everything. Just dont let it suck the soul out of you and make sure you give props to all the people who help you get there.., where ever that is.
Who took the group photo by the way?

Steve - 01/15/12 - 7:21pm

Epic,

You are an idiot. You took my complimentary comment and ran with it, grabbing ASSumptions out of your ass. My comment is about as innocent and non-controversial as they come (especially considering this is BikeRumor). Even if you meant it as a joke, grabbing the thesaurus for words like “dross” and “ingot” makes you look nonetheless. Take a bow, you just won first prize for Idiotic Post of the Month.

Really, I'm not jaded - 01/18/12 - 11:13am

I like this whole “Break into the Cycling” thing. Very timely it seems. Maybe it’s the recent job market in the toilet, but the requests to “help me get into the bike industry” thing has been smothering me lately. All sorts of randoms with long resumes and fancy degrees asking me for the secret handshake that will land them a cush job as a marketing pro or product developer in the bike biz (different from the young guys who are good shop guys). These are the guys that previously made real money, and now claim they are ready to put in their time and do the hard stuff. Most are too nice so I can’t tell them the truth: “Well you need a time machine to back twenty years before you had those kids and a huge mortgage. Then, quit college and start working at a bike store for peanuts with zero further aspirations. Wait about 5-10 years, then realize you do have aspirations and you missed your opportunity to develop a marketable skill like doctoring or lawyering. Next, do anything you can to not have to work weekends any longer. This will likely be answering the phone at a bike company or packing boxes at a bike company cause it’s all you know and you begged the rep and he likes you. Your new job is awesome, no weekends, maybe even healthcare for the first time, but still in a wage bracket that allows you to rent a studio apartment and save exactly zero for a rainy day, vacation, or down payment on a house. Although, no worry about paying for a house and kids at this point, remember from a woman’s perspective you’re 30+, live in a studio apartment crammed with 5 bikes and no car. Wait another 5-10 years, a small raise here or there and/or shift in departments and you nudge your way over the poverty line declaring you at the bottom of middle class. Then you can end up like the rest of us with a cush job in the biz, all the bike parts we desire at super cheap prices, and $138 to last the rest of the month.”

What I like about this, is that Jeff’s story is exactly like everyone I know in the bike industry. He worked at a bike shop. He worked packing boxes. If you’re so devoted to bikes, work at a bike shop for a barely livable wage for a decade and the bike lifestyle and job will show up like magic.

ps. I do really love my job in the industry just as Jeff does. Only being realistic about how we got here.

gene o - 01/18/12 - 12:40pm

Wow! maybe Steve and EpicThroatBeard need to go on a ride with Mr. Frane. On second thought why don’t you all come on a ride with me and my friends.
Feb 18 or 19 1pm, Brownie Lake, Minneapolis, MN. Bring your “A” game and be prepared for anything!
Kinda like my old job in the bike industry.

ay - 06/23/12 - 9:19pm

Jaded pretty much has it covered. The industry courtesy deals are awesome, and I couldn’t imagine going back to paying retail for anything. Personally my current job as a wheelbuilder is the highest paid wage I’ve ever had. Maybe that says something about the quality of jobs available nowadays.

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