Sunday, January 20, 2013

Drillium Revival - Jon Williams

I am very sorry to report that Jon Williams died suddenly of a heart-attack while riding his bike. He was a special guy. As talented a fine art woodworker as he was a machinist and a Music lover. He will be missed by the whole bicycle community he was so much a part of.

Jon Williams became interested in recreational riding when he was young and working at a record store where the hours provided plenty of time to ride. But that changed with a new job at a custom auto shop which took up all of the daylight hours, and cycling fell to the wayside. But there he learned engine building skills and other auto-related machine work. He also got interested in vintage motorcycles and restoration work. This introduced him to the tools that would lead to a different future. Years later, he hurt his knee and as part of the rehabilitation he started riding a bicycle again. He enjoyed it so much he started racing, and began to hunt for some of the bikes he lusted over and could not afford when young. He wanted to have some nice fluted parts for his vintage bikes but they were expensive and tough to find so decided to put some of his machining experience to work to create some parts himself. Soon other collectors, seeing what he had created, started asking him to do pieces for them. After years of experimenting and trial and error, he decided he was ready to offer parts to the general public as Drillium Revival.

 That is when I met Jon. I had acquired a 1973 Colnago and I wanted a fully pantographed bike. But after years of watching, bidding and losing bids on Ebay for original drillium parts of the era I gave up. Then I noticed an Ebay auction for a chainring drilled in the original Eddy Merckx style that would be right for my bike. It was offered by Jon Williams and I bought the ring. It had the original flower Colnago logo and looked great.

After I received it, I got thinking that maybe he could continue the theme and create a set of parts for my bike.I asked and he agreed and proceeded to take my seatpost and mill an original looking set of fine flutes with a flower logo on the front. I loved it! Soon, I had a complete set of parts that gave my 1973 Colnago that wonderful pantographed look. I like the result even more than a set of original drillium because it is unique to my bike.

In a recent visit to Jon's shop, I met Hank his Jack Russell-Walker Hound mix who accompanies Jon on his cyclocross rides into the Oregon countryside.

 Jon is as adept at fine woodworking as he is at millium/drillium work and has created beautiful Arts & Crafts style furniture

In the shop, we got a look at his nice collection of vintage bikes including his 1976 Colnago in Eddy Merckx orange and the drilled & milled parts he created for it. 

He has an interesting and carefully selected collection: a tangerine pearl 1969 Masi refinished at Masi’s Milan shop in the mid 70’s, a Peloso restored by Keith Anderson in a perfect 

coppery-warm color just right for the era, and my favorite, the 1962 Bianchi Specialissima with its Celeste paint job and chrome lugs with original paint and decals. He loves the stories behind the bikes and tells me about some of the less well known bikes in his collection.

 I wish I knew more about these unsung marques. He laughs as I point out the Hetchins in his Italian stable and says it is a favorite because it is a so un-Hetchins Hetchins with its long-point, un-adored lugs.

During my visit, he was working on parts for a Chris Bishop NAHBS  bike and a 50th anniversary group for another customer.
Simple and classic for your Baylis or ...
...elegant for your Hetchins or..

... colorful and wild.
 His array of vintage machine tools is quite impressive with two lathes, milling machine, sanders and buffers. 

Most of the machines in his shop are vintage American pieces picked up at auctions or estate sales, and lovingly put back in to useable condition like his old bicycles. There’s no CNC or CAD tooling in his shop.  All the work is done as it would have been done in the day.

I am amazed at how he can come up with so many different designs for different customers but he rebels at being called an "artist." He wants to keep his work grounded in the traditions of cycling. Don't tell him, but I still think he is an artist and has taken this tradition and turned it into an art form.

Contact Jon to have him take your old parts and turn them into something very special, / Phone 541-295-0457

More of Jon's work

Monday, January 7, 2013

Keith Anderson

Keith Anderson has been part of the cycling industry for a long time. He started out wrenching at a bike shop for a living but soon found he wanted to do more. He started to learn framebulding, mostly on his own, but  with help from framebuilder Doug Fattic. Over the years he refined his skills but, even though he has been in the business now for decades, he tells me he only refined his processes to make a successful business in the last five years. Many framebuilders tell me how tough it is to make ends meet. People like Keith, who have years of experience and know how to do it right, spend a lot of time on the details of building a frame. It makes it difficult to compete when you must present a handmade product to a public used to robotically-made products or products that are a subsidized export from a foreign country. He doesn't make many frames these days and is focusing on frame painting.
I first met Keith in Moab, Utah where he had a shop. The rear wheel on my ti mountain bike was pulling out of the drop-outs under load. He graciously dropped what he was doing and milled a light depression for the quick release to solve the problem and save my vacation. It was here that I first saw one of his bikes and, in keeping with the southwest style, he had made these really cool sculpted headbadges for his frames with local imagery like Kokepelli the flute playing "pied piper" of local mythology. These are touches I have not seen on any other frames except those of Glen Erickson.

This filet brazed head tube still has the flux on the bottom lug.
Lucky for me, he is just finishing a beautiful frame for a friend and it is on the stand, unpainted, ready for finishing touches. Smooth filet-brazed joints show the golden brass brazing material blending into the steel of the frame. Hanging on the wall is a lilac and black frame with gold trim and a custom stem, definitely a show-bike candidate.

 We move into the paint room where he is completing a new Steelman.Keith paints new frames from a number of builders, including Steelman and Alchemy. This Steelman is getting a gorgeous, complex paint job in white, yellow and blue with panels and stripes.

The shelves are filled with paint cans for mixing the array of colors he creates. Keith says he likes to do restorations where he works with passionate customers who have a vision of what they want. He works with them to get the paint right and to reproduce the decals. Jon Williams' 1973 Masi is in queue and is a good example. Jon wants the metallic yellow pearl and blue that the Samontana team bikes used. He and Keith will work together to get the frame just right.

Keith is another example of a resource we're lucky to have. If you have a project in mind, give him a call and see if you can get that special frame restored just the way you want it. You can contact him at 541-471-4114 and email at

My thanks to Keith for giving us a tour in short notice and for Kami, the red heeler, for guiding us to the shop.

Note: 2017, Keith has called it quits and moved on to new adventures. He is no longer painting bicycles. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New York City Bike Shops -Conrad's

Most tourists go to attractions like the Empire State building when they visit New York City. But for cycling freaks, there is a grand bike culture to see in NYC. There are more shops per square mile than I have ever seen so we could only visit a few recommended by Classic Rendezvous list members.( We started our tour by visiting Conrad's, located in Tudor City.

Conrad's was started in 1972 by Conrad Weiss and his wife Sarah. They started importing high-end European frames after attending a bicycle Expo in New York. Soon, Conrad's handlebar moustache became a logo. The shop was sold to John Tsang,  who has worked in Conrad's since he was 14, and he eventually bought the shop from Sarah Weiss in 1997. It is my image of a classic bike shop. Small but packed full of frames hanging from the ceiling and groupos beckoning in the display case. I grew up dreaming of the European bikes in such shops. You don't see too many shops these days that offer bare frames and groupos to create your own build. I just don't find the popular spacious, modern glass, chrome and slatboard superstores appealing. They are staffed with well meaning, polite and usually inexperienced young folks that just don't have the depth of knowledge to provide the service I'm looking for and the bikes are all huge production plastic bikes made by machines in Asia. But small shops like this with staff that have years of experience know what the capacity of a certain rear derailleur is and know what a 144bcd chainring is and know about the trail of a frame and fork combination.
John seems well suited to retail chatting up his customers.

 The staff has all been working in the bike industry for more than a decade.
The place has the feel of cycling.
There are frames from classic European names as well as
new hot properties like Seven Titanium.
 The display case has a set of silver and gold-plated Campy belt buckles.
There is a nod to tradition with a classic blue Gios Torino in the window and
steel De Rosa frames along side a Colnago and a Condor hanging from the rafters.

If you are interested in vintage frames and classic bike shop feel, it would be worth a visit to Conrad's on your next trip to the city.

25 Tudor City Place #4, New York, NY (212) 697-6967