Today, as part of our ongoing series “RACE TO NAHBS!” we thoroughly harass Sutton, Massachusetts based frame builder Mike Zanconato. Mike tore himself away from feverishly readying bikes for the big North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Austin, Texas next month to answer BikeRumor’s 11 questions in a very well thought out manner.
BR: Are your plans for NAHBS a secret, or can you tell us a little bit about what you’re showing?
MZ: Nah, no secrets. My customers, who are loaning me the bikes, already know. Why not tell everyone else, right? I’ll have three complete bikes with me. The first is the Columbus Max frame with internal Di2 routing that you guys gave a sneak peak of. In addition, I will have a no-frills cyclocross bike and a road bike designed for the tough roads in New Hampshire. I’ll also have a couple of other frames and forks there. Maybe I’ll keep the details of those under my hat for now.
BR: What about the booth, anything extra-special-crazy in the booth department?
MZ: I’m all about clean and non-cluttered. My booth will have a feel similar to my shop.
BR: What do you see as the hot trend at NAHBS this year?
MZ: My gut is telling me that the builders will be bringing customer bikes rather than crazy show bikes. I just think it makes sense. I don’t want to give potential customers a false impression of what I offer. I think others are taking that approach too.
BR: What is the lamest frame building trend ever?
MZ: Making bikes that take way too much time to build and could never support a career because a builder just can’t charge enough for the labor. You just can’t give away your time and expect to make a living at it.
BR: What is the most challenging or horrible thing you’ve had to do as a frame builder.
MZ: The worst part of the business is delivering bad news of any kind. It’s eats away at me.
BR: What is your favorite type of bike to build?
MZ: Tossup here. I love building pure road racing bikes and cyclocross bikes. There’s just something about their elegance that makes me a happy builder. Lately though, I’ve also been really fond of the go-almost-anywhere road bike. I love the idea that the bikes will get beat up on dirt and broken roads. I know they are getting used.
BR: As a frame builder is there anything you absolutely will not to? Like a not-without-a-gun-to-my-head type thing?
MZ: I won’t take on jobs that are outside my knowledge base. I don’t know the first thing about a track racing bike, how it should handle, or how it should fit. I’ve never been on a track. Similarly, I’ve never “toured” on a bike. I don’t really know what challenges there are when you are out in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, I guess I could copy some geometry or braze-on locations from others, but at that point I’m just a set of hands. I wouldn’t recognize potential problems in the design phase or during fabrication. I leave those bikes to others.
BR: Sum up your entire bicycle building philosophy in one word or less. Kidding. How about three words?
MZ: A few weeks ago, a customer told me that I was kind of the “working man” framebuilder and the bikes had that personality too. I took that as a great compliment and sums up my approach.
BR: If you weren’t building bikes, what would you be doing?
MZ: I’d probably still be in the plastics industry or maybe in the medical devices industry. I know for sure I would be in some type of manufacturing environment.
BR: Who is your bike-building idol? Who do you look up to?
MZ: Two guys really inspire me. Richard Sachs and Carl Strong have made fantastic careers for themselves. They are both incredible craftsman. Neither of them waiver from their beliefs. They run their businesses the way I strive to run mine.
BR: This one is important. Of the people showing at NAHBS, who is the last frame builder you would ever want to fight? Like physically.
MZ: Don Ferris. Hands down. Craig Gaulzetti comes to mind though too.
For more well thought out words from Mike Zanconato, check out his very-often-updated blog. He does a great job of explaining and documenting his meticulous process.