Inspiration - both childhood and current...
I grew up in an era where steel was the only material used to make bicycles - as it had been for previous 100 years. It has only been in the last 20 to 30 years that other materials like aluminium, carbon fibre and titanium have started to be used, and already we are coming back to steel as the material of choice for the serious non-racing cyclist. My inspiration came from having custom racing frames made for me by Geoff Scott, childhood heroes Sarroni and Zoetemelk who rode Colnagos, and Argentin on a Bianchi.
I spent two years in my twenties as head mechanic of Condor Cycles; privileged to still build custom bicycles of the era and work on those made in the fifties and sixties. This really was an era when handmade bicycles were at their most beautiful - and I hope to continue that tradition. Though I have done a lot of my own research, being Australian has afforded me the opportunity to tap into the experience, insight and products from one of the world's best contemporary framebuilders, Darrell McCulloch (Llewellyn Custom Bikes).
In addition, I was fortunate enough to have known master frame builder Ron Cooper for over twenty years. I first rode one of his frames in 1991 and went on to have the advantage of spending time in his workshop learning the art of frame building and skills necessary for this craft.
How and why did I get into frame building?
At the start of 2011 I was approached by someone I know who wanted to start building bicycle frames. He came to me as I have vast experience with bicycles - building them, repairing them and racing them through most of my life. Through my career as a top bicycle mechanic I have regularly been asked if I wanted to build bicycle frames. My answer had always been "NO” straight off the cuff. I guess that when I was young and racing I was stuck in making the machine as a whole run the best it could. And as I moved on to build and repair bikes as my job I was deeply involved in understanding this and making them the best they could be. Besides, by the time I was building bikes for international riders; who now include World Champions, Olympic Champions and Tour de France winners, the industry as a whole had moved away from steel as a material to aluminium and carbon fibre.
I wanted to help my friend out and had reached a point in my career where I felt I had conquered all the challenges I had set for myself as far as bicycles were concerned. But as I started to do the research into frame building I realised that I had a yearning to do something special with my knowledge and skills. I found that not only was I striving to learn more about this master craft, but discovered I already possessed much of the understanding and skills required. I was on a quest to learn more and apply it to making bicycles people would love and enjoy for the rest of their cycling lives. Some might even just get hung on a wall once their days on the road were over.
What background do I have?
I started racing bicycles at the age of nine in outback Australia and was lucky enough at that time to be amongst some great talent, like Scott Sunderland in the Inverell Cycling Club (who would go on to be a Director de Sportive for CSC for four years before becoming the main developer of the BSkyB team). It would be many miles and five years of hard training and racing before I would really come to stardom.
At the age of fourteen I started to win some big races both on the track and the road, that year becoming New South Wales State Champion on the track and runner up on the road.
At sixteen I won a Gold medal in the Team Pursuit, a silver medal in the Scratch race and fourth place in the Match Sprint. My competition was Danny Day; placed second in four World Track Championships and the infamous 1km Time Trial legend Shane Kelly; five times World Track Champion. In the same year I was placed third in the Australian Road Race for my age. This lead to me being ranked number one in Australian cycling for my age and I was awarded New South Wales cyclist of the year in 1986.
The following year - and being a year younger than the competition - I won gold in the New South Wales state Point Score Championship (a title I would win again the following year). I won silver in the Australian Point Score Championship, second to Brett Aitken - who went on to become World Point Score Champion that year and in the decade that followed would take a bag full of World Championship, Olympic and Commonwealth medals home.
The following summer I represented Australia on the track and the road at the Oceanic Games, bringing home a silver medal. On the way, I won the illustrious Bob Blair memorial, holding off Olympic Gold medallist Brett Dutton. Shortly after that I attended the Australian Institute of Sport where I lived and trained with world track cycling legends Martin Vinnicombe, Steve McGlede, Craig Chapman, Simon Calder, David Bink, and Simon Kersten. This was the development time in a country with a population smaller than some world cities, later becoming the number one track cycling nation for over a decade. I also had the privilege of being nurtured by Gary Sutton (brother of Shane Sutton), 1981 World Points Score Champion and silver medallist in the same after returning from retirement aged 38.