Please excuse the intrusion, but it is neccessary for me to make this announcment to the CR list; mainly on account of the fact that almost all of my customers are members of the list. This will be the most effecient way to inform the majority of my clients and friends.
I finally came to a conclusion as to what must be done with my business and framebuilding persuits, which are two different entities in so far as I am concerned. My business is painting and restoring bike frames. About 15 months ago, as most are aware, I formed an LLC and a partnership, known as Vintage Cycle Studios. This was designed as a 2 to 3 person operation at it's inception and immediately generated at least enough work for 2 highly skilled and productive workers. As most also know, my partner experienced various difficulties, and was gone within a month of our getting a building ang getting set up to work. The result of this was that I was left holding the ball, the workload of at least 2 persons, and an increaseing demand for the type of work I do. Since that time I have been trying to juggle about 75 jobs in the shop and a good number of custom frame orders. My original intention for forming the partnership in the first place was to hopefully free up enough time to build about 6 or so "super custom" frames per year. Thus far I barely ever see the light of day, I work 6 or 7 days per week, and the pile of work continues to come in faster than I can I can finish it and get it out. This situation has forced me to make a radical adjustment in my plan in order to maintain my sanity and get control of the volume of paint and repair work that comes in. Any "normal" person would have come to the conclusion I have reached long ago. But I am not normal. I am always very generous with my time (in other words I have always tried to keep my prices under control) while being one of the few persons in the world with the collection of talents I have, the patience to persist for such little pay and long hours, and the belief that people with this interest need people like me to keep the bikes we love and collect on the road and at the gatherings.
At the highest levels of bike painting and restoration, each outfit has it's forte and specialties. Most employ at least a few other people to help them out and spread out the work. My case is not quite unique, but awefully close, in that I personally do every job and operation in the shop, from answering the phone to scrubbing the bathroom floor (upon the rare occassions when that happens) in addition to performing everything from the bike frame equivelent of applying a band aid to advanced brain surgery (like the miricle I performed on a vintage DeRosa this very afternoon). During this delicate operation that took all afternoon, I had this thought and instantly decided that I am going to make this major change in my format. BTW, the DeRosa is resting easy and doing well and will be making a debut apperance at the Velo Rendezvous during the seminar and discussion on bike restoration. This will be a good opportunity for people to see one of my actual patients.
The first thing I must do is to announce a moritorium on accepting paintwork and frame repairs. I'm not sure how long this will last, possibly up until the framebuilders show in March 2006. I need to get a grip and a leg up on the work in the shop before accepting more. There is a logjam in frame repairs that needs attention right away. The volume of day to day paint is always just enough too much to prevent me from getting to some of the more difficult and extensive repairs. Both of these jobs require concentration which is hard to come by when the phone is ringing all day long and there are hundreds of details for me to keep track of. I need to clear out a lot of long term projects.
When I resume taking paint orders, there will be a drastic price increase. At this point it is foolish to price my work in comparison to anyone else in the business. I am unique. I don things that the others either won't or cant do in many cases. Except for the part time help I get from my "framebuilding student", I gut it out doing the most difficult and challanging type of restoration work in a way that no one else does. I do my own polishing for the plater, which with the jobs I do means you are paying the expert hand and eye of a world class framebuilder to maintain the qualities, and in many cases improve upon the work of the classic and collectable frames we enjoy, in a way that even the best platers cannot accomplish; mainly because they aren't framebuilders and don't know what subtle things make a difference. Most of my customers don't really know that either, but it's there and I appreciate the bikes enough to give them that kind of care and attention. I work on every frame as if it were my own, and that is literally true. There must be a price paid for this and the hundreds of other personal favors your frames recieve when it is I doing 95% of the major work on every project. Frame repairs are especially important. Having a good selection of approiate and original frame materials is critical for top class work. I strive to make every frame repair as undectable as humanly possible, which require major decication on my part. You should see some of the frame repair work done by others that comes into my shop. It's shocking! So, when I resume taking paintwork be aware you are paying me to do the work personally for the most part, and I believe my prices need to reflect that and my time spent needs to be cut back a bit so I can do what I do best, build "super customs" for the few people who also appreciate genuine old school craftsmanship and an artistic flair in a real practical bike which will be a lifetime companion like no other.
The other change is that for the first time in my 30+ year career, I will begin focusing on framebuilding and whittling down the paint business to a smaller portion. The reason for this is simple. There IS a renaissance brewing in the framebuilding world. There is no question about it. Don Walker feels that it's actually a "revolution" and upon thinking about it; I believe he is more correct. The cycling public is becomming more "aware" to a degree, and those who demand quality AND performance combined with artistic interpetation, pracicality, and VALUE (remember my new catch phrase, "the highest quality gives the best value") are about fed up with the current state of the high end bicycle industry. The racing segment no longer exists for me. They can have their "technology as God". The place for lugged steel frames is in sport, touring, randonneur, and "constructuer" bicycles, the latter being the most exciting and challangeing, and the direction I shall be focusing upon. Baylis Cycles inself is entering and new arena. I reccommend you hold on to your hat. If you think you've seen "framebuilding" before, I promise you; you haven't seen anything YET! I fully plan on participating in the party, and I'm anxious to build some VERY new and exciting stuff. If you are serious about getting in on this, I would suggest you start a savings account now. I'm serious. There are those who say the "Golden Age of Cycling" has past. They are misinformed, and I personally intend to make them eat those words. You all can thank the NAHBS for setting off the "touchpaper" for this explosion of interest and the neccessary "competition" that is the spark that sets the players in motion. There will be a "Battle Royal" in March. If you are not there to see it, I'm pretty sure when it's all over you will wish that you had been. fortunately, the reveloution has just barely started and this is going to continue for a while.
The last thing that is going to change is my website. Right now it's "milktoast". When the new version becomes active, it will be there as a beacon to help guide those seeking knowledge and enlightenment about the nature of handmade frames and framebuilding. I really detest the general tack of the cycling media (save VBQ) and have lost my patience and passive attitude towards the type of Madison Ave. meets Hollywood websites. I seriously object to some of the crap that appears on the internet and I feel it's time to fight back and educate people and give the straight skinny to the "public". So far it's a one way street with self promotion based on what the traditional cycling media might publish and what massive self promotion campaigns feed people. The facts are the facts, proof will be given. I will be diplomatic, but I will hold NONE of my opinions back and everything will be open for discussion if someone would like to disagree. But fair warning, I don't talk crap, twist stories, exaggerate (except for dramatic effect in which case it's obvious), nor make statements I can not back up with real life examples. Yes, some of it will be "opinions", but if you know me at all, I don't try to manipulate reality. It is that which I am most opposed to. That is most of what I read when I go to various websites or read what magazines and such have to say about framebuilders and their frames. I find it dishonest and shameful in many cases. That's "business" and "advertising" for you. Well, I don like it and Homey don't play dat. Some may be offended. Good. I'm offended by much of what I read. Fair is fair. We'll see who's being straight up and who's blowing smoke up everyone's backside. Part of the "revolution" will involve seperating the men from the boys. It's the way it has to be if people are really going to elevate their knowledge and appreciation of the handcrafted bike frame. I may be a bumpy ride at times, but like a rollercoaster it will also be fun. (I hate rollercoasters. I'd rather dive off the uppermost height and do a headplant into the ground than ride one.)
So that's it, except for one thing. I would like to mention my "helper" around the shop, Carlos Martell. He came almost out of nowhere and has prevented me from becomming completely buried in work, and most likely saved me a trip to the looney bin. He came asking if he could learn how to build frame from me. My normal automatic reaction to that is "not going to happen, sorry". I told him originally that I would take him as a "student" if he wanted to pay me my fee for teaching him. I have no use or need for a framebuilding apprentice or whatever. He replied that he himself was a student (he's studying for his PhD in Latin American Lit.) and that he could not afford my tuition. He proposed a trade for work. I could tell he was sincere and determined. I agreed to a test period to see if he did in fact have the ability to help me out during the summer. Almost from the very first day it was apparent that Carlos is one of those special people, and on many levels. He is diciplined, very aware, and very tuned into learning. But by far his best trait is that he is intellegent and a true thinker. He is a leader and not a follower. He thinks for himself, uses his natural logic, and has very high principals. He has helped me tremendously and he is going to be a great framebuilder someday, I'm pretty sure. He is smart enough to know that he wants to do it for the right reasons, not for profit and a business. (When I say not for profit, that means he wants to build frames for the satisfaction and accomplishment of it and for reasons other than as a sole source of livelyhood. This has a major influence on the type of work a person produces.) He is worthy of the best teacher. As a student he is ready, and the teacher has appeared. We are becomming good friends, ride together a bit, and as all good students do for their teachers; he teaches me a lot also. It has been a long time since I have met a person of this caliber seeking my knowledge. I am thankful he has come to rescue me, and learn from me. The real tradition CAN be passed on. Only a few months ago I felt that the craft as I live it may die with me. I am passing the tourch to Carlos. Time will tell if the flame grows strong. I am hopeful. In the meantime, he is learning the very basic first steps to painting bikes. This knowledge will aid him when it comes to his own work in the future. A framebuilder who paints their own work deserves double credit and then some. As any top professional painter in the business and they will tell you that painting actually takes a finer touch than framebuilding. I agree, up to the point where the builder is genuinely exceptional (not just claims to be on their website) and is building masterpieces with every frame; at that point framebuilding is a finer art. I would say there are only 4 or 5 framebuilders in that catagory, and some of the names one might expect won't make the list. (The longest line is not neccessarily in front of the best restruaunt).
I guess that's it for now. Any questions?
Brian Baylis La Mesa, CA I didn't come here to bow, I came to conquer. (A little something from Carlos)