Monday, October 6, 2014

Visiting Firefly

My trip to Firefly Bicycles started with my friend Carl taking pictures of people after they finished the D2R2 (and several people helping out at the start/finish).  I suggested that Tyler and and Josie, who I had just said hello to, might be great subjects.  And they came over, perhaps in part to check out the camera, a 8x10 inch format camera.  It's hard to not be interested in Carl's camera.  It's one of those that require the photographer to get under a hood to see the viewfinder, if you can call it that, and you focus from outside the hood and you use a separate light meter.  The process is quite long - I know because I posed for a picture that day.  In any case, Carl took a picture of them, which you can see here.  Tyler suggested a shop visit for Carl, who invited me along.  Carl was interested in photographing their shop.  I was interested in looking at the process and checking out the bikes they were working on.

Carl and I arranged with Kevin Wolfson to take a tour of the Firefly factory a couple of weeks ago and it was well worth the effort.  Their shop is clean and somewhat sparse.  They seem to have more room than what seems like is needed but that made moving about, while holding a frame, more comfortable.  And they had time for us, at least Kevin had time to greet us and show us around, and Jamie gave us a more detailed tour, including a great explanation on welding, and showed us a number of frames and bikes in process.  Then Tyler came back from lunch and talked with us as well and checked out Carl's more portable camera (more portable than his 8x10 but still much more substantial than my DSLR).

I think I got one clear message about Firefly and how they operate.  They seem to want the space and time to make each bike perfect for the owner, which, by all accounts, they do.  It was fun to see several bikes in process.  The frame for Jamie's new super commuter was in the tacking jig and nearly ready for tacking.  It was alarming for me to see him pull a piece out to show me and have to get it back in place but it was also great fun to see the details that aren't visible once the frame is welded.  I had the opportunity to check out how all of the complicated tube cuts fit together, and how tight the tolerances were.  We also got to see the new disk road dropouts before they were well known (there are beautiful and now well publicized).  We saw a bike in the welding stand, waiting for Tyler, who finished the dress welds for the big tubes and was about to work on the small parts.  Except for the discoloration from the welding and finish work, it looked ready to ride.  We looked at  a couple of mountain frames looking nearly ready to build into bikes.  We also saw a light touring bike with S and S couplers, waiting on parts but very nearly finished.  We also saw Josh Zisson's frame from Saila Bikes, ready for a bead blasting finish.  There was the shop Bones project bike leaning against the wall, and the shop Adventure team bike waiting for its next adventure.  We also saw a small collection of seat posts and stems and parts ready to make more of them.  We also saw  the waiting list on a white board.  I was tempted to take a picture of it but this wouldn't be something to share if I did.  It was a long list with lots of names, each holding a dream of a perfect bike, waiting its turn to come alive.  Their process seems very deliberate and their results are spectacular.

It was an inspiring visit, even if I'm a few years away from buying a new bicycle.  Having a custom made frame makes me want another and Firefly is certainly high on my list of local custom builders.  I already have a bike that Tyler and Jamie had a part in building so I would certainly trust them, and Kevin, to make another great bike for me.

Overall, I felt like a kid in a candy shop, with very expensive candy that was well worth the cost.  Just after we left Carl asked me if I wanted a Firefly.  The answer was obvious.

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