Taylor Sizemore is an up and coming frame builder in Seattle, WA- making a name for himself with a growing number of custom bikes under his belt and a positive outlook on the future. At 23 years old he is young and determined. Recently engaged to be married, things are going well for this young man. Born in Roseville, CA, Taylor’s family relocated to Gig Harbor, WA when he was young and it is Puget Sound he calls home. I recently spoke with him in his live/work space in Pioneer Square while Robin snapped some photos. We caught him while he was working on a Randonneur frame for a client in New York City. You can see more pictures on Robin’s Flickr HERE. We got the opportunity to ask Taylor some questions, and you will find our interview below.
GO MEANS GO: How did you get into bikes and frame building?
GMG: How long have you been building frames?
SB: Just over a year. I finished my first frame out of school for myself – a track frame. I was just like “I’ll just jump into this” I rode the bike all last winter. I found out after that I did a few things wrong- but it’s held up awesome. I silver brazed the rear dropouts, rather than brass, but everything is so strong, brass or silver, that unless you do something really crappy, it’s going to hold up well for a long time. I’ve done a lot of drops, ridden it hard, and it still keeps going. This Randonneur frame is the sixth frame that I’ve built; the process definitely feels a lot smoother.
GMG: Did you go to frame building school?
SB: I attended United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, OR, and graduated in Fall 2006.
GMG: What frame builders inspire you?
SB: Jordan (Hufnagel) for sure, because he really jumped on it. We went to the same school at the same time. He completed the brazing course, as well as the TIG welding, whereas I just attended the TIG course. He had his money saved up, went home, bought all his tools, and within a year was pumping great frames out. For a fairly new frame builder, Jordan is killing it. He’s definitely part of the frame building community to stay. J.P. Weigel too, he focuses on randonneur frames now, and they are so clean. He uses a lot of French curves. They look really good.
GMG: Tell me about the frame you are working on now.
SB: A friend of mine who has a shop in Brooklyn called Bespoke Bicycles, used to work at Recycled Cycles and my girlfriend got to know him there. We went to visit for the Bike Film Festival and he wanted a frame from me. He wanted a Randonneur frame, so this is my first fillet brazed frame… and I’m pretty satisfied with how it’s turning out. The randonneur stuff is pretty tricky, it’s like a track bike, where you’ve got to get every clearance just right. But it’s a bit more complicated because there are fenders, wider tires, cable routing, stuff like that. There is a bunch of theory behind Randonneur geometry, especially in the headtube and the fork because they’re really concerned with trail; it’s a 72.5 degree head tube angle and has 55mm of rake in the fork.
He’s doing Mafac brake mounts, for either refurbished centerpulls, or the newer Paul Racer brakes. Honjo fenders and Nitto rack, painted to match.
GMG: Who designed your head tube badge?
SB: Zach Hoffner. I don’t really have a down tube logo yet, but I’ve got some good things in the works. It’s going to look nice.
GMG: Internal cable routing looks pretty slick, have you done it before?
SB: I will on my next bike. It’s going to rule. This Randonneur frame is getting internal wiring for a generator hub. It’s going to go to the back as well.
I just took another deposit for a bike…. A commuter. The guy lives on the water and either kayaks or rides his bike in to work… He wants an urban commuter, but he’s like you or me, when riding down the street, you see a curb or something and think “I’ve gotta jump that.”
GMG: I guess life wasn’t meant to be ridden in a straight line huh?
SB: Ha, Yeah- he’s riding this newer Cannondale road bike his friend gave him right now. He doesn’t like the feeling, all hunched over, he said he feels like Lance Armstrong is going to pass by him. He wants something more upright.
GMG: What tubing do you build with?
SB: I’ve been using Columbus SL and it’s nice to work with, but I think I’m going to try and use some True Temper- I’ve found some good prices with Henry James and it’s made in the USA. I’ve also found some nice dropouts, they are well designed. I like Henry James as a company, I use their frame jig. It’s a husband and wife that work in the office. They are really old, but they remember everyone. I ordered a frame building book from them and then talked to them a year or two later and they said “Oh, you ordered that book from us and you were on vacation in Hawaii.”
GMG: Where did you get your frame jig?
SB: I got it from the UBI classified section after I graduated from the school. I got a whole bunch of equipment: Reaming, alignment, facing equipment and a bunch of old Campy parts, for $50 extra.
GMG: How long does a frame take you?
SB: It usually takes about 2 weeks to finish something. I take a $500 deposit, and then start designing it, order your tubes, then as I am finishing it up I’ll get the rest of the money depending on what the cost is. Then it goes to paint, which is pretty expensive. I think I found a new paint shop that will do a good job. Paint cost is something that costs more than people think.
GMG: Do you powdercoat, or use wetpaint?
SB: Wet paint. I don’t want to do powdercoat. It never ends up looking as good as I think it should. I would maybe go to Spectrum but then I’d have to ship it out, and it’s too much worry. I took some frames to a powder coater in Seattle a while ago and they damaged a frame, and wouldn’t take responsibility for it. I want to give a good price, and I make sure that my work is clean, but with a bad paint job, it just doesn’t work out.
GMG: What’s the cost for a track frame:
$1500 + $250 for a custom steel fork
A Road frame is $100 more.
GMG: What is your favorite style of frame to build?
SB: I don’t think that Randonneur frames like this will be my most enjoyable, just because it’s so particular. There is a lot of history in it which is cool, but there are a lot of things that people are critical of. I’m not trying to build a replica bike. I like building commuting bikes, that are much more than your average commuting bike. The commuting bike for someone that doesn’t want to wear the yellow jacket on and off the bike. If I were to connect it with a style, it would be the Outlier Clothing customer, Bikes like I built for Tyler, for the Oregon Manifest Show. That was really fun. This next bike that I build is going to be pushing the limits of commuting, into the trail aspect or something like that.
GMG: How do you feel about bike culture in Seattle?
SB: I want it to be bigger. I’d like to start getting involved with the advocacy side, go to some meetings, maybe put up a gauge on the Burke Gilman to show how many cyclists pass by every day or something. I think it can definitely be bigger. I think that the whole fixed gear thing helped, but then it kind of dropped down because people didn’t want to be part of “that group.” They felt that fixed gear riders were too cool for school, and it wasn’t them, but they still saw people having fun on bikes, and so they decided to get some other kind of bike. It’s exciting, and I definitely want to see it get bigger, but it’s hard to know where to start. It’s almost like we have to build a “brand” around commuting, and sell that brand to people.
GMG: What’s next for you in your shop?
SB: I want to start making things more efficient. And get to a point where I have a more solid assortment of tools. Maybe purchase a tube mitering system. The end product will stay pretty much the same, but my efficiency will increase. As it is now it takes me a lot longer to fit the tube by hand. With a more modern system, I would cut the tube, clean the burrs off, and that’s it.
GMG: Where do you see Sizemore Bicycles in the next three years?
SB: I’m working on building a solid waiting list. It’s necessary for stability because you can’t just pound out more bikes. I’m interested in doing some furniture. I really like designing things for people. I’m going to be talking to a Seattle boutique about the possibility of doing made to order bikes through them. That could fill up my schedule pretty quick if it gets the right press, and it would be pretty awesome. At this point, the money that I make in this business I put it back into the business.
GMG: Any shout outs? Things you are pumped on now?
SB: Jordan Huffnagel’s bikes, Tyler Johnson’s riding, Chris Black’s design, the GO MEANS GO blog. I have a lot of respect for people that are actually doing something positive. That needs to happen more. Seattle isn’t necessarily the most inpiring environment- and I want it to be, because it’s a hassle to move.
Head over to the Sizemore website to check out more of what is going on and get updates on his projects. He also has a Flickr account, which is updated with pictures of bikes he has known past and present, as well as what he has coming up in the future. Get in touch with Taylor if you are thinking of getting a new frame this spring.
A big thanks goes to Robin who took these photos- and more, which can be seen on his Flickr.