Chances are, if you walk through the aisles of NAHBS, very few of the bikes you see will be made from Carbon Fiber. We’ve already covered one builder with Appleman, and now we get a chance to talk to Brad Cason from Kirklee bicycles whose custom carbon creations will leave you wondering how such a small operation puts out such a polished final design.
Our last interview for 2013 NAHBS starts now…
Bikerumor: What materials do you build with? Which is your favorite and why?
Kirklee: Carbon fiber is the only material we build with. When we started we were focused on performance bikes and that naturally led us into carbon. Weight is what keeps carbon in the limelight but the beauty/fun is in how you can engineer directional strength for each part of the bike.
Bikerumor: What have you been working in since NAHBS last year? (please list any general tweaks to your models or designs, or any new models or changes to your business)
Kirklee: 2012 has been a busy year, First we designed the KirkLee 29er (Di2 compatible, sculpted rear end, 1 piece CNC dropouts, Lefty, 1.5″ steer tube, bearings pressed into the frame, shown on Bike Rumor.
With the success of the 29er we turned our eye to the road bikes. This NAHBS we will debut a new rear end for the road machines. Independent chain and seat stays, hour glassed, ovalized, CNC drop outs, Internal Di2 compatible, lots of tire clearance, and all out sexy. Just as with the 29er we designed molds and laminate schedules to develop the rear triangle all in house. It is very satisfying to look at the rolls of carbon in the freezer and then look at a finished KirkLee and think, “I built that bike, from this”.
Bikerumor: Any killer custom bike builds? (please detail one or two particular project or customer bikes that you’re really proud of. Include photos)
Kirklee: Killer builds, oh yea. More and more customers seem to be giving us an idea and cutting us loose, when we ask what they want the answer is, “I want a KirkLee”. To us that means they are fans of our craftsmanship and trust us to build something cool, talk about pressure to perform…
One of the best ones we did this year was the “Backlash” bike. Bike Effect in Santa Monica, CA did the fit, and the customer wanted a bike that was understated with a splashes of bright color. In addition to the understated paint, the customer wanted flags of her family’s heritage and the phrase “dancing on the pedals” on the top tube. It was a really fun KirkLee to build. Recently we did one for a customer where the theme was to do something light purple with butterflies but while remaining simple. The customer gave us samples of a mint green and orange to work into the design. We got the fit information, molded the tubes and worked out a design. It came out very well and was another great KirkLee to build. We hope to have these and a few more with is at NAHBS, .
Bikerumor: Did you see anything at NAHBS last year that’s inspired you?
Kirklee: Every year there is a builder (usually steel) that creates something that I can’t take my eyes off. Last year it was YIPsan’s yellow/metal, banana seated, disc braked, city bike. It reminded me of a 1930’s board tracker motorcycle, cool from every angle. Also on the back row was a new builder who had a black and gold 29er that was stunning (apologies for not remembering who it was). It is great to see new builders bringing out their creations.
Bikerumor: What are you bringing to the show this year that’ll have every other builder standing slack jawed in awe? (in other words, what’s the centerpiece of your booth this year?)
Kirklee: I have three things in my booth that I hope are well received by the show attendants and other builders. First, is the new KirkLee 29er, the bike is fast, meticulously crafted, and really shows the direction we are going with our carbon work. Second, is the new road bike with a revised laminate schedules, independent seat and chain stays, and our own dropouts. (Pics show the rear end still in the paint booth as of 2/5/13, cutting it closer than we like for NAHBS). Finally, we will have a few of the bikes we built over the year that show off our work. Should be a great show.
Bikerumor: Scenario: A customer commissions you and one other builder to create the ultimate bicycle using the same parameters, same base material and same budget in an Iron Chef style competition. Who would you want to build against that would push you and elevate your game?
Kirklee: This happens frequently but not in the way described. Usually my customers already have a very nice off the shelf bicycle. It is my job to make that off the shelf bike obsolete and get them hooked on custom bikes. Spreading the word one KirkLee at a time. To answer your question legitimately (sans material) I would choose Eric from Peacock Groove knowing that I would probably loose. There is a lot of creativity in his head and if anyone can go outside the box, it is him. In the end I think I would be more excited to see what he comes up with than actually winning.