Part 5 The Llewellyn frame casting story
While I was galloping about Europe, washing bikes in a different country every week (23 in total) the world of the independent bicycle frame maker was changing and it was never going to be the same. From about 1995 we could say that the Corporations were arriving, Giant, Cannondale etc. The bike industry was becoming commoditised like it had never seen or experienced before. The Corporation’s product was being mass produced in places where labour was cheap. The executives were realising their asperations through the efforts of others. At the Australian Institute of Sport the road team had Giant as a sponsor. Back then these bikes worked well in the harsh environment of a national cycling team. In early 1996 we had the team pictures being taken and the Giant representatives were there, explaining to me and others with extreme enthusiasm and gusto about the new frame size system they were introducing soon. Three frame sizes and with various seat posts and stems so we can fit a bike to anybody. GOOD GRIEF went through my mind! “What could possibly be wrong with that ? ” They thought it was the answer that had never been discovered……………… Any how the steady arriving stream of containers loaded with high end bikes to down under had begun. The bike shop retailers loved it, a phone call, a box arrives, give the tyres some wind, “CA CHING” went the cash register and even that sound was soon to be gone as the consumer racked up their debt on the “fantastic plastic”. The banks are also happy, but they would never admit it, they had their catheters in the punters wallet for a steady income stream of their interest-blood $.
The $ flowed, cycling as we knew it was changing and it was no longer the underground sport that we “Special dedicated cyclists” understood. It was now for the masses and that is good but also a bit sad as something was lost and gone forever. The masses are riding expensive and inexpensive bikes on laps around the river and getting some knick time at the coffee shop after watching the TDF on SBS the evening before. New brands that were popping up when numerous entrepreneurs went to the Taipa show with cash to make the orders and have the containers shipped with their decals. It was feeding the bike industry like never before.
At first it seemed good to me, then to me it seemed shallow and it was about selling an image, it all became a bit kitsch to my mind. People actually thought you need to buy a set of Red coloured special climbing wheels to be able do a lap over Mt Mee on a Sunday with three types of special scientific formulated packaged food bar in your back pockets along with the C02 inflators. Something we did in the early morning before work on our training hack bikes with a banana or a piece of fruit cake in the back pocket with the Zefel pump strapped under the top tube and we rode hard with grace on the pedals. The bike magazines and the internet are telling them this is how you must ride or your health and your cycling enjoyment will be compromised. SIGH!” How to be a better climber in five lessons and …………………” Sigh!
Anyhow, I wanted to stay home in 2001, I had some weeks off over the summer, went back to the bike shop to earn a $. I lasted till lunch time on the third day, my brain evaporated. I could not do it, nothing wrong with the good people there at the shop, they were terrific, it was just that my time in the bike shops was over. It was time to go home and ponder about working for the first time in my life as a full time independent frame maker.
But things had changed, very big and different changes.
The pic is of me working on Deane Rogers bike under the feeble light of a sky light in what looks like a bomb site at the back of the Hotel in Columbia before the 1995 World Championship time trial. Big Mig won. The other pic is walking out into the stadium with the Aussie team at the Sydney 5 ring gig 2000, what a buzz that was