While perusing the list of builders at NAHBS, I ran across Broakland Bikes which looked to be a good representation of street track riding. An internet search yielded a link to their racey Broakland Bikes tradeshow video. After watching, I needed to know more so I spent a few weeks trying to peg down Jason Montano and Jason Grove of Broakland Bikes. After weeks of waiting to learn more, Sarai and I finally had to threaten Jason Montano for a response by means of a furry leg-warmer picture from from Frostbike, many moons ago. That did the trick and the following interview ensued.
Q :: First off, I need to know what’s behind your tradeshow video? How did that come about?
We took the idea of “bike porn” and applied it quite literally to a bike video. We had all this footage of Lil’J riding in Las Vegas. I filmed him off my bike as we road around the downtown LV strip. We wanted to do something with it. Chris Fonseca offered to do a video for us and when it came time I had the idea of putting in the mid area of porn movies, you know, not the hard core stuff, but the in-between stuff to just give it the grit and humor we liked. We added the final sequence of our other sponsored rider, Ferrer Sanders, and that was it.
Q :: You are obviously three really talented guys, how did you come together and start Broakland. When did you start, and what is behind the name?
Stevie and I have worked together off and on for around 12 years. After establishing my shop for a few years, Stevie was looking for a job and came to work for me.
We were the only track friendly shop in the East Bay and we started this blazer of a ride called Friday Fights. It was an amazingly fast ride out on the Bay trail at night. You had to go without lights so your eyes could adjust and see farther up the way to give you more reaction time for things like metal poles, 90 degree turns with metal poles in them, crazy off camber turns, rock gardens and the like. Around that time Jason Grove (our welder) was getting a fish taco on the street our shop is on. He was walking out to his bike when another rider heading to our shop checked his track bike out and said “heading to MV for the friday ride?” Grove, who was new to Oakland, knew nothing about our shop but ended up that night on the Friday ride. That’s it, that’s how we met.
When I found out about Jason Grove’s welding experience it was ground zero for pulling out my ideas and designing our bikes. We took years of riding experience, building experience and welding experience to simply build a bike we wanted to smash on. At first we just wanted to be selling bikes to our locals and friends, but when Grove suggested we put one in the booth at the 2006 NAHBS, our bicycle company became a reality.We called our brand Broakland – and it is, appropriately, a nic-name for our slice of the Bay Area.
Q :: I like that you guys come from a street riding background, that’s how I got into bikes too. What was your first experience with riding? What kind of bicycle were you riding back then? How did those experiences influence your dreams of building bicycles?
Jason M. – - Well, my first bike was a Sears BMX. It was so cool and red. I learned how to ride on that bike – no training wheels – just a lot of my dad pushing me fast and a ton of crashing till I kept it up right. I grew up in rural Colorado during the 80′s and The Red Zinger became the Coors Classic which was my real influence later on. Before I raced though, the road bike was all about transportation. I would ride my bike between 30-70 miles to school, swim team practice and the outskirts of Denver. I also rode a track bike for training in the summer cause some guy named Gregg LeMond wrote about how good it was to use a track bike to improve road skills in his book. My first real road bike was a white KHS with pink bar tape I got when I was 12 (ah the 80′s). My first track bike was a second hand De Rosa with all campy track Grupo I bought for $150.00! – I loved it. My youth on bikes were all about freedom of transportation, racing, having fun, and dirt roads!! Tons of dirt road road riding.
Jason G – - I was fresh out of high school and racing motor bikes. I had this big Husky 510 and was taking it to the local races. I ended up with a busted achilles and ran out of money for re-hab so they recommended I ride a bike.I pulled out this old Univega from our garage and started riding. I re-rehabilitated myself, then moved on to a mountain bike.It was around that time I picked up my welding job with Control-Tech. I was introduced to the sport of Mountain Bike Racing and that was it. I never raced a motorcycle again. My first real Mountain bike was a Gary Fisher Mt. Tam. It was one of the first suspension corrected mountain bikes. During that time we were in De Moines and Kent outside of Seattle. It was a hot bed, and still is, for mountain biking and Cross racing. I raced and welded as much as I could during that time. I wasn’t really introduced to track riding till I met up with Jason Montano and the crew out of MontanoVelo in Oakland. It was 2005 and in that year and the years to come it was all about city track riding. It was a entirely different approach to the frame than say a mountain or cross bike – the riding and exposure to our type of street riding had a great influence on my end in the techniques and strength of bike build I had to do.
Q :: Did you guys have exposure building tools when you were young? Or is it something that came to you on your own?
Jason M. – I was a ways out from a bike shop – and my parents didn’t always have the means to get me and my bike to the shop plus afford to repair it all the time so I learned to do most things on my own. I messed up a bunch, but with practice and study I could replace tubes, tires, chains, cables, adjust derailleurs, and brakes etc. That was 1982 or 3 or something and so there was no internet to look up repairs and such. It was a mess of books and visits to annoy the local shop mechanics at The Spoke and lots of lonely hours in the cold garage – quite enjoyable really. To this day, bike repair and design is the only thing I can do day in and day out without getting bored.
Jason G. – I started welding when I was fifteen years old. They had an advanced shop class in high school called “Trades & Industry” and I excelled in welding there. That class, now that I look back was the equivalent to acollege degree. This was up in the Seattle Washington area and it’s all about industry up there. So I graduate High school and I immediately find a job at a local subcontractor for Boeing called S&S. I worked there for a couple months then was promoted to welding hand rails – this was a huge deal to be promoted to this – your welds had to be damn good to do hand rails. I must have welded miles of rails for, not only planes, but half of the Seattle Coliseum as well.
Q :: How has your experience with street art, graffiti, influenced your company?
Street art and graffiti comes from the street, pushes creativity and exists in the fringes of society. It pretty much summed up what track bike riding was at the time, and though track bikes would see a large surge in popularity it still remains this at heart. Living in Oakland and the East bay in particular, street art is all around you. It’s an aesthetic and idea that you not only get used to but becomes a part of your idea of home – and so, what better way to convey Broakland (our area) than to involve local Graffiti.
In keeping with our Function before Form moto, I knew that we had to powder coat our frames. Powder coating holds up so much longer than paint and keeps it’s look too – so we went with a local powder coater. Only problem was, they couldn’t detail within the powder coat – meaning, no logo. So we had to come up with a way to get a logo on the frame. Our first logos were stencils – pretty basic. We then had a friend of Stevie’s – Gozer – come up with a logo design and that stuck – it’s still one of the two we use to this day. We would powder coat then have the logo hand painted on. Later we would move further into the custom paint and graffiti idea when we took show bikes to a local shop run by a member of the TDK crew. We love to collaborate, and so we would send a frame to the paint shop with paint instructions like “Norm, just grill this one up like a slab of ribs.” or just send a hot saddle and say “these colors, and then whateves”. It was like Christmas when we would get the frames back – we really had no idea what it was going to look like till we pulled them from the box. The only problem with the full custom paint was that it was delicate and chipped easily with daily use and is the main reason we use the process and service we do today. We are currently working with Spectrum Powder Works out of Colorado. The need for better finish and the ability to lay our graphics within the powder coat brought us to Spectrum. When you look at our current finishes and graphics – they are all within the powdercoat and it’s amazing because the finish from top to bottom will now as tough as a Broakland frame! All of our NAHBS frames will be painted by Spectrum, and we still get to throw out creative jobs like our recent “Make it look like it can shoot lasers” paint job that will be on display.
Q :: Jason, owning Montano Velo has probably helped you learn to do bike fits, yeah? But Jason (Grove) How did you learn to build? Did you go to school, apprentice someone? I read in the Guardian that you welded airplanes for Boeing?
Jason M – Bike fit was something that I obsessed over since I was a kid. Through my experience of working at pro-shops and then onto my very own business it has been a 25 year + education in fitting, design and compromise. I am always learning.
Jason G. – After high school I started welding for Boeing. I then went back to school so I could hold more Certification. If you want to more money as a welder, or want to move up the food chain, holding more certification to weld more, is the only way. Soon after, the school gets a call from Control-Tech – (they were making bicycle parts and accessories) – and they were looking for a hot shot welder – my teacher recommended me and that’s how I broke into welding in the bicycle industry. I worked nine years for Control-Tech. I then worked two years for Titus in Tempe Arizona welding Aluminum, Steel and Ti frames.
After more than a decade of welding for larger companies I thought I would take a break and see about making my own fabrication shop. I wanted to make frames for smaller builders and so I visited my contact Carl Strong of Strong Frames in Montana. I ended up staying with Carl and learning a ton about the industry and the life of a small batch builder. Carl and I were able to share knowledge from different areas of the industry and it was a turning point for me. After my stay with Carl, I moved to Oakland. I was making frames for custom builders around the country when I met Jason Montano and the rest is history.
Q :: Clearly, you guys like to have fun, ride and get into the culture behind street riding. What is your philosophy on building? Why custom, hand-built, bicycles? What do you think makes Broakland stand out?
Our philosophy is Function over Form. We believe that a bicycle has to be more than a fancy paint job and a couple custom dropouts – it has a job to do and has to do it well – unless that job is “hanging on a wall” which would be a damn shame. At the root of bike lust is, well, LUST. Lets face it, bike lust is not that much different than good, ole fashioned lust. It’s not NEED, it’s WANT. But then, there is ridingand wanting a better ride and that’s where our bike lust became the ability to create the bike WE wanted and needed. I don’t think that we set out to sell a bike, we just set out to create a bike to ride in our city with our friends at our pace – meaning, very fast through obstacles like cars, fences, dirt, drop offs, rain etc. – - – - hanging out in the parking lot … that sort of thing.
Jason Grove is the perfect welder for a Broakland. His welds are clean and tight. His gas backed TIG technique is second to none. When you get a chance to look at a Broakland again you should inspect any welded area and check it out for yourself. His welds disappear into the material. Keep in mind that there is no filing of this material – - all are first pass, final welds – basically, the strongest for the material.
We had a chance to take our design and numbers to Taiwan and make a mass produced Broakland. In the end we decided to keep it us and keep all manufacturing here in the states. Broakland is and will always be a hand made in the USA product – it’s where we’re from and what we do.
Q :: What type of tooling do you use?
Pro CAD / MAC / Anvil / Snap-On / Lincoln Electric Precision TIG 375 (the beast!)
Q :: What Materials do you work with and how did you decide on them? Did you ride bikes made of these materials or was it another influence?
Primarily, we work in steel. I think that if better selection of aluminum tubes were available here in the US we would be using Aluminum much more. Steel has the ride characteristics we wanted for our bikes. It stands up to abuse and if mixed correctly, can deliver an efficient energy transfer while maintaing a comfortable ride. We all grew up riding steel bikes in the 80′s and 90′s and we look back to those bikes for inspiration. Too much emphasis has been given to weight in bicycles. People have forgotten things like ride, handling, longevity!
Our tube sets are mixes – For instance, our front triangle is chosen because it is stiff and light, but our rear triangle is a different mix to create stick and comfort in the street without compromising the energy transfer. If you climb on a Broakland you can feel this. I am riding a 1991 Merckx steel road bike at the moment that is a rare Reynolds tube build and the ride is simply phenomenal! If we ever made a Braokland Road model it would have to ride like that!
Q :: I have seen some of the crazy cool projects you have worked on. Can you tell me a little bit about the more unusual projects you’ve been asked to complete?
Well, let me start by saying, and this may be the best place to explain that we don’t play well with Custom meaning “anything you want”. If you want a head tube extension or add a gusset that’s one thing, but we don’t build custom from the ground up bikes for customers. Our bikes are all CAD’d and designed in 1cm increments. This gives us stock sizing from 45cm to 62cm center to center sizing. For the most part, this handles everyone – still, we do get some special requests – and of those most are cosmetic – ie, no hole in the gusset of a PipeBomb or a certain paint job etc. . Really, we don’t get many requests for anything to crazy. Crazy would have to be some of our paint jobs like the Meat Wagon of 2007 or the Ziggy of 2008. I did once set up a double driveside bike and we showed that bike at the Indianapolis show – but again it was a cosmetic extension of the bike.
Q :: What is the process for getting a custom bicycle from you? Do people come straight to you? Do you sell through a dealer?
Most people call or contact us through our website: broakland.com – The process starts with us discussing how the bike is to be used; commuting, surfing traffic, tricks, heavy landing use etc. . We get a basic idea of how it will be used and choose an appropriate model – most the time though, the customer already has an idea of the one they want. Then we go through a fitting process either on the phone or in person. Once done we take a deposit and I start the build process with Grove. The build process can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months depending on how busy we are.
We sell them on line and in my shop: MontanoVelo and that’s about it. We tried the process of dealers and it never worked. We’re lucky to live in a day and age where we can get the word out and communicate via internets – - it has opened up the possibility to do business on a much more personal level for us.
Q :: Obviously your pricing varies based on what type of material and components you choose, but in general what does your pricing look like?
It’s pretty straight forward. Our original and lightest track bike is the StreetFighter and retails for $1550.00 frame and fork. Our second model is the PipeBomb triple-triangle design and retails for $1850.00 frame and fork. All of our models come with wound-up forks
Q :: Do you build bicycles for women? Do you involve women in your business, builds, sales, community etc.?
We build bicycles for people, some of which are women. I feel that the industry has “dumbed-down” the idea of bike fit by labeling some bikes for women based on an average. It works in some cases – ie for the big box bike stores that don’t know very much about bike fit, it can help in choosing a more appropriate fit based on average and the results are just that, average. To achieve a great bicycle fit takes communication, experience and a final understanding of the bicycles application. Some men are perfect candidates for “women’s” bikes – - but try getting them to straddle some pink and baby blue monstrosity!! Forget that, try getting a bay area woman to do the same! Women, like men come in all shapes, sizes, and colors – and so do Broaklands.