Not unlike The Matrix, the small framebuilder community is all around you. While we tend to associate these small builders with places like Northern California or Portland or New England, the fact is that the builder community is more pervasive than anyone can understand (and people have tried). Only a small fraction of North American framebuilders show at NAHBS, and even fewer show every year. This means that, chances are, there are people working in garages and workshops building away in your city or town that you probably don’t know about. And while the internet has does wonders to facilitate communication and collaboration between these craftsmen, I have found that the more isolated the builder, the more unique the flavor.
It is in this context that I introduce Pierre Chastain of Blaze Bicycles. It’s been several years since we last saw him at the show (though I’ve personally been following him for awhile now). He’s out of Moab, Utah, a city not exactly a center of small framebuilding which, as he says, cuts out the clutter and allows him to focus. He’s been through the gauntlet of materials and processes, but seems to be settling down with curvy Titanium and TIG as his material and joining process of choice- and he’s certainly not done experimenting or evolving.
BIKERUMOR: Before you started building bikes, what was your favorite bike? How did you ride?
PIERRE: I rode a lot on weekends and commuted almost everyday. I rode a lot! Mountain bikes road bikes, I don’t care. Best give me both. My favorite may have been my Raleigh Mountie- that was my first bike.
BIKERUMOR: How did you get into framebuilding? Why did you take the plunge?
PIERRE: I got into framebuilding because I wanted to make myself some bikes! It’s compulsory for me. I had to do it. I love process and I love the result.
BIKERUMOR: What kind of bikes did you envision building when you started out?
PIERRE: Bad ass titanium bikes. All kinds!
BIKERUMOR: Where did the name “Blaze Bicycles” come from?
PIERRE: I wanted something fast. When I started, I was doing fillet brazed bikes, and I like to play with words. “Blaze-braze.” I just sort of made it up and rolled with it. It fit so many places, like, you can blaze your own trail if you like, “Blazing Saddles,” and so on.
BIKERUMOR: You don’t see a lot of builders coming out of Moab. How is the industrial infrastructure out there? How does that influence the types of bikes you build?
PIERRE: You learn to be more self reliant and to plan ahead. In truth, with the internet, it may be easier to build here with less clutter around to distract. Obviously, it has pushed me to build more mountain bikes and focus on practical designs that will work in the wild when you’re counting on it.
FYI, I’m not the first builder to come out of Moab. Keith Anderson worked here in the 90’s. Neither of us are FROM Moab.
BIKERUMOR: What has been your favorite bike to build and why? What’s the story?
PIERRE: Always the last build! I love building all kinds of bikes and always want them to evolve.
BIKERUMOR: You have a great range of product. You TIG titanium. You custom cut pieces for complicated bilaminate builds. You seem to have fun with repairs. It looks like you’re starting to play with anodizing titanium. What is your favorite method of construction?
PIERRE: I prefer TIG welded Titanium for most builds. It’s been an evolution.
First, I learned how to fillet braze frames, then I learned the lugged workflow. After I got that down, I started to play with TIG- making lugs and doing Bi-lam stuff. After that I started building TIG steel frames, I slowly started to do Ti. I end up with repairs because I’m a sucker and I can’t help myself. I do it for the experience I gain.
BIKERUMOR: Will we see some examples of your experimentation at the show this year?
PIERRE: If course!
BIKERUMOR: If you could only listen to a playlist of five songs while you build, what would those five songs be?
PIERRE: I dunno, it may work out okay. I tend to listen to Grateful Dead shows and raunchy podcasts as I file and weld the time away.
BIKERUMOR: What framebuilder (that you do not know personally) do you admire and why do you admire them?
PIERRE: I’ve met so many of the guys and gals. I knew Brian Baylis and I miss him deeply. My other fave is Rob Roberson also down in San Diego. While I don’t build like either of those guys, they have had a huge influence on me. Of course Mark Nobilette it a god also. Did I mention DiNucci…
BIKERUMOR: Which builder would you most like to collaborate with on a project? What would that project be?
PIERRE: Triton. I think we could take over the world! We both value quality performance.
BIKERUMOR: What unpopular opinion do you have about the cycling community?
PIERRE: Buncha cheapskates.
BIKERUMOR: What is your main bike at the moment? What is that your main ride?
PIERRE: 29 plus hardtail. Ti Blaze.
BIKERUMOR: How do you test or validate your product so that you know you are building the best product for your customer?
PIERRE: Nothing beats riding the product right here in Moab.
BIKERUMOR: What do you put on your hotdog?
PIERRE: Hotdog? I don’t eat those if I can help it.
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