Avid readers may remember Kirklee more for their $8,000 full carbon kid’s tri bike (here and, amusingly, here) or the faux wood painted carbon road bike from last year’s NAHBS that got quite a bit of attention. This year, it looks like they’ve been busy doing some more detailed custom paint jobs and are broadening custom offerings to include updated standards…
BIKERUMOR: What have you been working in since NAHBS last year?
BRAD: It has been a busy year. As you may know about two weeks after NAHBS I had my personal KirkLee’s stolen out of my home (none have been recovered so keep your eyes peeled), which was strange to go from daily rides to nothing. The good out of the situation is it forced me to think about what I want on my bikes. Out of that thought process, expect to see a new KirkLee mountain bike in 2012. The road bikes will receive small tweaks as the year goes on; with my personal road bike being a test mule for some of these changes. It is exciting times for a bike company right now. There is talk of disc brakes on the road, 130mm or 135mm rear spacing, and customers are asking about BB386evo.
Business-wise it is like you sometimes fall in love all over again. This year we have done quite a few repairs, but in 2012 we will only do a few each month to make more time for the KirkLee’s, which have always been our first love. Since last NAHBS we have brought more tooling into the shop, and have been prototyping molding for new bike designs and our existing bikes. It is an arduous process, with many late nights talking about design, tooling, and molding. We could order it or have it made for us, and we all know that sometimes it would be easier, but we love building KirkLee’s.
BIKERUMOR: Any killer custom bike builds?
BRAD: Killer builds, oh yea, the last three in particular have been particularly sweet.
The first is an updated version of the green bike at last year’s NAHBS. A customer fell in love with the color and we built one for him with subtle differences such as more intricate tribal paint, more purple to make the graphics pop and a three color fade vs. the original 2 color fade. And the build was Super Record 11 with the Ti Cranks, perhaps the most beautiful group I have had the pleasure of building. We topped it off with a set of Alchemy hubs on Rol carbon clinchers, which we have been hearing good things about.
The second is a tribute to Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged. The bike is beautiful, and that was before it was painted. I pulled the layups farther down the chain stays to stiffen the ride, and incorporated all the special touches that make a KirkLee unique. The paint is understated but not simple. Eight hours went into the head tube alone. From an artistic interpretation this is probably the hardest one we have done this year. The beams of light on shaped tubes proved challenging and how can you have a man crouched without touching the earth to convey the intended message. If you look close you will see the thought that tied the artwork together. Cool stuff.
Finally, due back next week is a cyclocross frame that is a tribute to BMW race cars. We color matched the BMW M series colors and designed a checkered flag pattern similar to one of the factory race machines. Instead of having the flag end, the checkers are falling off the flag and lifting off the frame at the rear of the bike. Frame-wise it is the first KirkLee ‘cross frame sold to a customer. It incorporates 9 of our carbon cable stops, rear derailleur cable run above the rear seat stay, and a press fit 30 bottom bracket. It is planned to be built up with Campy Chorus.
BIKERUMOR: Did you see anything last year that’s inspired you?
BRAD: NAHBS is hard because it is so busy we are working open to close. When we walk around it is usually for short breaks or early AM, so we do not really get into the intricate details like we do at the smaller shows. Usually by the end of the show people coming by the booth let us know what to look at. That said I have a few that stick with me from 2011.
Appleman showed up with a carbon road bike that I thought was neat. I like seeing new carbon builders with a fresh mind and taking the effort to make the bike as much of his own as possible. Every company starts from somewhere and with Appleman I felt the wheels are turning.
Pegoretti: I always stop by this booth. I have never met Dario, but I am a fan of his accomplishments and when I look at the artwork I imagine I am getting a glimpse into the life of a mad scientist.
Strong: I thought his replaceable rear drop out on his carbon frame is very neat. A well thought out way of having one drop that adjust for frame angles, replaceable, gives a flash of color, and no bolt on derailleur hanger (technically).
The steel builders, I am a fan of the steel guys because they have the ability to bend and modify their tubing into beautiful curves. If any material shows the artistic beauty of a bicycle steel is it. At NAHBS last year there was an artistic Red steel bike (in a booth with only 2 other bikes) that I thought was stunning. I do not recall the builder but at first sight it stopped me in my tracks.
BIKERUMOR: Can you give us a teaser of what your bringing to NAHBS 2012?
BRAD: On the short list you can look at question #2. I have a new style of machine in the works but time is getting short so it may get pushed to the Texas Handmade show and NAHBS 2013.
BIKERUMOR: If you had to race all the other builders, who would you want to inch out for the win right at the line?
BRAD: Easy, bring on Glenn at Daltex. Glenn is an all-around good guy and puts on the Texas Handmade Bicycle show, but the real reason I will take him in a sprint is this: Last year I was driving through my neighborhood and passed someone riding a beautiful bass boat blue road frame, even my wife mentioned how pretty it was and said I should do something in that color. At the stop light I notice the bike has a “Daltex” logo on the down tube. What, a Daltex in Austin?
I shot Glenn an e-mail and told him “I thought you would get beat up if you rode a Daltex south of the Brazos river” and he replied something along the lines of, “That is what happens when I don’t sell enough KirkLee’s.”