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Roots - disenchanted with our current tandem’s capabilities, my wife Christi and I decided to embark on designing a new tandem to meet out needs. With a goal of having a bicycle that could easily traverse diverse surface conditions, from full on road to the rough double track of some of our favorite Vermont areas, it had to be nimble, tough, and fully suspended…a difficult combination to achieve in the early 90’s with production models. With a Utopian design in hand, I began contacting the few custom builders I could find to see if anyone would be willing to work with us to bring our dream to fruition. I landed at Grove Innovations in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, where Bill Grove was not only receptive to working with us on the project, but was excited about it as well. Months went by with frequent exchanges in phone calls and a few prototypes making their way across the state line between Ohio and Pa before I finally traveled to the shop to watch the final steps in completing the frame take place. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed with the authenticity of the process; a few individuals performing each step of the creation in house, meticulously cutting, brazing, welding, and painting. It was like watching a new mechanical life being born. I was enamored with the union of man and machine, taken with the focus and dedication these guys possessed…I wanted to experience that for myself. Knowing that nothing in life is ever easily attained, I asked Bill if would consider taking me on as an apprentice, willing to work for the experience alone as money could never match that. With hope glimmering in my eyes, I was quickly rebuffed; “We are a small shop with a very busy workload, I can’t afford the time to bring on someone new.” Though disappointed, I was grateful to have been witness to the inner workings of a frame shop, and the smile quickly returned to my face.

My visit ended the following day and as I loaded up our new tandem frame into the car, Bill strolled up and fired off a few serious questions;

“You know, I’ve been thinking about your request. If you are willing to work long days and keep your mouth shut, I think we can work something out.”

“I’m willing to put the work in…but I can’t guarantee the second” I replied with a dimple to dimple grin.

So began my time working in a small custom/production shop. I had the opportunity over the next two years to learn from many of the guys who specialized in specific parts of the process; mechanical design and engineering from the boss, frame layout, machining and tube mitering from Hubby, the art brazing and Tig welding in Steel, Ti and Aluminum from Johnny, and was mesmerized by the colorful talents of Tommy in the paint booth.

When I began building on my own, I took with me experience and a belief structure that I have continued to build upon…to bring a customers dreams to reality, a builder MUST be part of the entire process, from listening to the customers needs/desires through final assembly and delivery. Mastery is never achieved, but one must strive to move closer to it with each build.