I’ve wanted to build frames for a long time. I even majored in Material Science Engineering with an outside hope of getting a gig in “the biz”. I got to talk with Brian Marcroft about the steps he took to make his framebuilding dream come true. He’s still a small builder, but he’s quickly making a name for himself amongst the hot Oregon custom frame market.
BH: Tell us a little about how you got into the framebuilding craft. What’s your background - what sort of training did you seek out?
Marcroft: I got into this business kind of on a whim. I thought, ‘what do I really want to be doing with my life?’ Of course one part of the answer was, ‘I want to be doing some thing related to cycling.’ So with my background in manufacturing and engineering it wasn’t too far of a stretch to find my cycling niche was going to be frame building.
I decided up front that I wasn’t going to mess around trying to figure out how to build on my own. I wanted to know all the tricks that experienced builders have learned over the years. I did my research and decided to take a course at UBI in Ashland. It was a great experience. I’m sure Kish got tired of all my business related questions but when you have a resource right there you have to take advantage of it.
I took the course in October 2005 and by February 2006 I was building out of my own shop. It was a ton of work getting up and running in that short amount of time but I did it and have been turning out bikes ever since.
BH: Just a ballpark, but aside from the technical aptitude, manual dexterity, and attention to details - what’s the “checkbook commitment” to start a frame building shop?
Marcroft: I’m still acquiring equipment and tools but to get Marcroft Cycles started I dropped about $20K. I tig weld so there are some extra expenses that I have that a braze builder doesn’t. Because of that I was pretty frugal with my spending. I scored a used Frame jig from the guys at Sycip and my Bridgeport mill I got for a song and dance. Knowing people in the manufacturing world really helped the process of getting started.
BH: I love steel frames - are you going to continue to focus there?
Marcroft: Steel is sweet, I’ll agree. That’s going to be my focus for the time being. The steels that are available right now are awesome.
BH: How do you make them so light?
Marcroft: I don’t know if I would say my bikes are all that light by industry standards. I think most carbon builders are touting sub 900gram frames…whatever. I try not to focus on building uber-light bikes. I want my stuff to last longer than a season of riding. That being said my race bike is 15.1lbs race ready (pedals, bottle cages, etc.)
BH: You got a chance to check out the competition at the Oregon Bicycle Constructors Show.
Marcroft: Unfortunately I didn’t show my stuff at that show. I will be displaying at the NAHBS in February. That’s going to be a big show. I’m hoping to gain some local exposure from being there.
BH: Do you have any favorites?
Marcroft: Favorites….they’re all good. Jones is doing some fun stuff with Ti and Vendetta had some blinged out bikes.
BH: When do you plan to put your work on display?
Marcroft: Most of my work is being displayed under cyclists. Most everything I’ve built is being ridden by guys. Heck for NAHBS I’m not even building a ‘show bike’. I’ll have bikes on display but they will be my race bikes and some customer bikes.
BH: How long have you been doing Ti frames?
Marcroft: I learned how to do build with titanium in June of 06. I haven’t really pushed titanium too much. I can do it if asked but everyone is pretty stoked to get a steel bike from me. Besides have you seen some of the ti bikes being made right now by established builders, they’re out of control. It’s tough to compete with ti bike manufacturers that are forming and welding their own tubes. Maybe in time I’ll get there.
I love your disc brake steel rain bike you made last year for a customer. I also have seen quite a few Marcroft Cyclocross bikes. Would you say you have a “niche”,
or are you open to all frame types?
Marcroft: Rain bikes in the northwest….what a novel concept :) Those things are great! Same geometry as your race bike and all the water protection and stopping power you’ll need for our rainy winters. I wish I would hurry up and get mine done.
Oregon is especially crazy for cross. I’m trying to support that market as much as possible. So much so that a Marcroft Cycles factory cross team might be coming together for the 08 season.
No niche, I build whatever to whomever….well, except 29ers. There are lots of builders out there specializing in those things. I would say I enjoy building road bikes the most. I like the thought of my bikes getting ridden almost every day.
BH: I remember a post a while back on your blog about the “fastest framebuilder on his frame”. I know John Slawta races his Landsharks. Have you had a chance to put it to the test?
Marcroft: LOL! I got so much shit for that post! Let’s just say when I line up for a pro 1/2 race I don’t see anyone else racing a bike they built.
BH: Many of the big-name Oregon builders have many month lead times before getting a frame. What sort of times are you able meet?
Marcroft: I have a pretty good turn around. I am pretty up front with people though. I still have a full time job, a new baby, a wife, and I’m training for next year’s season. The building of bikes is fit in between all that. I’m pretty efficient with my time in the shop and on the computer and can get stuff done in a hurry.
BH: What’s the most surprising thing people will find from their custom bike?
Marcroft: I think it’s the overall experience of getting a custom bike. It’s not very often a rider gets to have input on the design of a bike.
Thanks Brian - See you at the races!