This is by far the most comprehensive interview in our Race To NAHBS! series. Dave Kirk of Bozeman, Montana’s Kirk Frameworks took more than a couple minutes out of his schedule to compose these thoroughly thought out answers. Like many of the other builders we’ve heard from already, Dave would prefer not to fight Don Walker, a man he describes as “a cleaned up Chewbacca in a skirt.”
11 NAHBS-Related Questions:
BR: Are your plans for NAHBS a secret, or can you tell us a little bit about what you’re showing?
DK: My NAHBS plans are anything but secret. I’ve been sharing the design and build process of the show bikes on my blog and have posted photos of them there as well as at Vsalon. I’ve heard some say that they won’t show their bikes before the show to keep people in suspense and I suppose that might happen in some cases but I fully expect that the public will not just pass by my booth because they saw a photo of my work online.
I’ll be bringing 2 complete bikes and one fillet brazed frameset in the raw (sans paint). The two completes are new models for me. The first is the new JK Special X and it is a full on race bike in the spring classics tradition. It’s built of XL tubing (a mix of 953 and special chain and seat stays made for me by Reynolds) and features my curved Terraplane seat stays. This is my personal bike.
The second complete bike is a JK Special Classic. It too is a race bike and it is built with a special mix of OS tubes chosen and made just for the JKS series. It is also a lugged frame like the original JK Special but unlike the JKS it has a horizontal top tube.
The final bike is being shown as an unpainted frameset. It is a fillet brazed all rounder road bike and if I’m lucky I may win my 3rd NAHBS “Best Fillet” award with it. A 3rd would be fun.
Both the JKS Classic and the fillet frameset show bikes are available to purchase and special show pricing is in effect for these two bikes.
BR: What about the booth, anything extra-special-crazy in the booth department?
DK: My booth this year is totally new for me and being the pragmatic guy I am I wanted it to be super functional as well as cool looking. It is a 4’x4’x7’ crate that holds the bikes as well as all the other stuff going to the show. When it gets there I open one side of the crate like a door and remove the contents and then open the crate further and it then becomes the backdrop and display for the bikes. It incorporates lighting and photos and signage and and all that stuff that one needs to show off the bikes well under bad convention hall lighting conditions. So nothing crazy for me. I just want a way to display my work that shows it off well and doesn’t require that I disassemble and bubble wraps bikes and stuff them into cardboard boxes at the end of the show. I will not miss the tape, newspaper and bubble wrap routine.
BR: What do you see as the hot trend at NAHBS this year?
DK: It’s hard to say. I don’t spend much time looking around online at what others are doing and what the current trend is. My gut tells me that there is a move away from silly show bikes that can’t be used or ridden in a real way……….. Or maybe I’m just hoping that is the case. We’ll see in about a week I guess.
BR: What is the lamest frame building trend ever?
DK: I don’t think anyone, myself included, would consider me as a good judge of trends……….. Or maybe I just can’t get behind any trend at all so I seem to disapprove of them all. That said – I think there was a trend with regards to NAHBS specifically that for some reason made (makes?) builders build silly things that will not stand the test of time and just don’t work well. These bikes made of leather or cork or copper get lots of photos taken of them but I often wonder if the person taking the photo is doing so out of admiration or in a mocking way.
BR: What is the most challenging or horrible thing you’ve had to do as a frame builder?
DK: A number of years ago I had a customer go through what turned out to be a complete mental breakdown while I was building his bike. I found out later that he suffers from mental illness and had gone off his meds and he just unraveled. Being the kind of guy who values customer service I wanted him to be happy and to enjoy the bike and he was so upset with everything and everyone there was no way that could happen. It was very difficult to deal with not knowing his health situation. I hope he is doing much better now. As hard as he made my life I’m sure his role was the harder one to play.
BR: What is your favorite type of bike to build?
DK: Finally an easy question. I like racing anything that can be raced (for me – bikes, skis, skateboards, snowboards and cars) and I might be a bit too competitive for my own good. So I tend to favor race bikes. I raced (pro BMX and MTB and amateur road) for a very long time and issues with my spine keep me from doing so still but I love the feeling of a good, simple, clean and properly balanced race bike. They are the most rewarding for me to use and the most rewarding to build. I like building road and cross race bikes the most followed by all-rounders that can be used most anywhere and used hard.
BR: As a frame builder is there anything you absolutely will not to? Like a not-without-a-gun-to-my-head type thing?
DK: Slider dropouts, eccentric BB’s and carbon monostays. There are lots of guys who are happy to build with this stuff but I’m not one of them.
BR: Sum up your entire bicycle building philosophy in one word or less. Kidding. How about three words?
DK: Functional, simple, thoughtful.
BR: If you weren’t building bikes, what would you be doing?
DK: If I had to give it up today I’m move immediately into sports car suspension design. Have I mentioned that I like driving nearly as much as I like riding? Well, I do.
BR: Who is your bike-building idol? Who do you look up to?
DK: There are two and for different reasons. The first is JP Weigle. He has the ‘simplicity is beautiful’ thing down cold. Nothing fancy or extraneous but instead, functional beauty. If good design can be defined as ‘nothing left to be taken away’ then JPW has it nailed. The second is Sir Alex Moulton. His bikes are not beautiful in the conventional or popular sense but they are so functionally right that they end up being so. I don’t own bikes by any other builders but I hope to own a Moulton space-frame one day soon.
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.
DK: I assume you have met Don Walker? The man is like a cleaned up Chewbacca in a skirt. What dumbass is going to pick a fight with that guy?
Thanks for asking me to play along. See you at the show.
For more info visit the Kirk Frameworks website.