Desperado Cycles

While the original Desperado Cycles went out of business amid some legal issues years ago, the website itself contained some highly valuable articles from author Jalon Hawk. This website is in no way condoning any past actions, but I came across it from an old link and thought it  was worthwhile content best shared. It was a bit of a sad ending for the original business, but you can see the quality of writing and knowledge of Jalon Hawk. This website contains some original articles that give credit where credit is due and also some new articles that I hope will help someone.

The story of Jalon Hawk.

The bicycle has always been a tool of freedom for me, always providing me with my youthful smile.

Born in 58′ in Madison Wisconsin, the bicycle capital of the U. S. At the age of four I received my first trike to race circles around the furnace in the basement. My father died of Leukemia in 66′, but before he did he gave me a converted Schwinn cruiser that had a banana seat and some monkey bars for steering for my birthday. I rode that bike till I turned 14, giving it to a friend to deliver his newspapers. By then I was designing 10 speed frames in high school drafting class. Got me a Sears FreeSpirit and started touring. For folklore of the Desperado, I was 15 in the beginning of June of 74’. This is when the Eagles rock group came out with the “Desperado” album. I began singing the songs at an early age and if you venture into the “The Adventures Of Jalon Hawk”, you will find reference to this!

I went to college and increased my knowledge of architectural and mechanical design. This was not the first place that I found my ideas to be visionary. Taking a long look and where I wanted to go with my career choices, I started a service shop in Madison, forcing the quality of service to new standards. I brought in some frame builder’s work to fulfill the needs of my clients for the boom of ATB’s. This is where I got very well known for my talents. In 1987 I designed a set of wheels that broke the mold of anything before, setting the standards for custom wheels.

When my independent builders took different directions in business, the right circumstances came about for me to begin my frame-building livelihood. There was a day when I remember that you had to be certified to build with Reynolds 753 tubing. Silver solder was the choice of discriminating builders. Chris Chance changed the bicycle world when he TIG welded a frame together. In an industry where profits are the main concern, TIG has become the standard because of its quick joining and no clean up. There are still some that understand the virtues of silver brazed frames.

My first jig was home made. I had my first frame ‘set’ when a gentleman came in and we began discussing what was going on in my Shoppe. He indicated he was the head of the engineering department at Oscar Myers and told me that they did everything in silver brazing and asked why I decided to brass braze when I could silver braze. The Queen of Hearts was born with silver, and everything since then.

A Henry James jig was purchased with the help of Steely Turner’s ability to see the need for this industry to have a visionary. He also showed up one day to deliver a floor standing drill press. My skills have sharpened to the point to have True Temper and Henry James to recognize them, as well as Universities, and enthusiasts all around the world. Areas of my web page have become bookmarks for many, and my ISP indicates that I have averaged 60,000 hits a month.

Business:

I was over purchasing Imron activator the other day and got upset that the price has over doubled in the last 12 years. I discussed this with the owner of the business and he indicated that I should pass the increase to the customer. I got to thinking about this and thought about the cost of living. If the inflation rate is 4% over the last 12 years, then the value of the dollar is 48% of what it was 12 years ago. This being the case, then custom frames that cost the consumer $1200 12 years ago would cost approximately $2400 today. Wow! Or think of it this way: The average price of one of my frames is $1200 today (I have not changed the price in 8 years). If you think about that, you will find the value of today’s custom frames against the value of the American dollar. My property taxes before my move were almost five times what they where 12 years, from $380 to $2100 and talk of a 30% increase next year. This cannot continue for the independent builder. Ten years from now you should be paying 40% more, and you won’t because there will not be any more independents. If you were ever considering a custom frame, now is the time!

With the new generation of riders out there, I know you cringe at the price of a custom frame. If you could only understand what you are missing. Soon all your custom frame builders will give up on their passion for the masses. Corporate America has control over your purchasing and you will wonder why your bike is so generic and does not perform like you want. It is your choice, just watch out for being marketed. Make a wise investment in your riding pleasure.

Enjoy the reading. It is constantly growing. I mostly do my changes with this web page in the fall season. The bottom line is that regardless what the direction this industry takes, I will remain focused on the line that my front wheel is taking, visions of the next advancements in cycling. After all, I am in it for the ride!

So begins a new chapter for the history of Desperado Cycles and Tailwind Bicycle Shoppe. Project “Exodus” consisted of relocating both the bicycle shop and myself 200 miles north of Madison WI. The move was necessary in order to be able to reduce the cost of business to take the pressure off of my work. Living in the city of Madison was getting to be somewhat nerve racking with the expansion of the town moving into the suburbs, taking up the roads that I love to ride in the country and creating high traffic areas that began to be dangerous to travel.

My personal life also brought me to the great north in my love for the woods, fresh air and clear skies. Right out of my front door I am now able to ride country roads that are much more favorable for my style of riding. I also now have over 140,000 acres of forest land that begins somewhere outside my backyard and have all-terrain vehicles trails that seem to go everywhere.

I am now in my mid-40s and have been in the bicycle business for over 25 years. I have seen much in the change of the consumer and the design of the bicycle. I have isolated myself mostly from an industry that works in such a way that if it cannot be manufactured in high-volume for low cost with adequate profits then it is not worth manufacturing at all. It seems lately the inquiries about my work leave people to ask why they cannot find the type of work that they see on my web page on anyone else’s. On a weekly basis, I hear the words “genius”, “master”. Very few people have ever had the privilege of complements towards their work. This is one of the reasons why I have followed the path in life that I have. I work with ethics that I have been brought up with. That work ethic is to perform up to my abilities. Simply, to work up to my potential.

It is not so much as to my concern what is being done in any aspic of the bicycle business, but what can be done. I believe this is why my final product is unique. I do not surrounded myself with folks that say “You can’t really do that”, and when the stuff hit the fan in the “Frame building forum” about my work, Fred Parr expressed himself “I can create joints with any of them (Silver brazing materials) that look great but can be pryed apart, or do it right and like Jalon, have a lasting joint– it is not cut and dried– it takes practice– and experience…”

In that thread, Joshua Putnam explains

“Bulletin T-5: Design of silver alloy brazed joints from the standpoint of stress distribution

Bulletin T-5 Supplement: Stress analysis of brazed joints Bulletin

One point worth noting on the strength of *joints* vs. the strength of
*fillers* — a silver-brazed joint with very good tolerances may be considerably stronger than the filler itself. With tight enough tolerances, a silver brazed joint is as strong as normalized 4130 steel, even though the silver itself is soft and weak.

I built a set of cro-mo crunches for a polio victim that broke the aluminum units on a monthly basis. After 10 years of daily use the shaft broke below the handle. The silver joint for the handle was still in tact.

There is much support in the methods that I have come to use. I have become a “Master” in my work setting the standard as to what can be accomplished. Years ago I did a lot of testing of various joining methods and I still continue to build with 45% cadmium free Harris silver.

It has been sometime that I have been in the “normal” work environment. Upon occasion I have taken different jobs to broaden my perspective of what work is to others, and expand my knowledge in the areas of computer technology, sales, even heating and air conditioning installations, etc. These work experiences most certainly have brought me back to here, in the new home and shop where I will probably work and live in until they carry me out feet first. I would like to think that it is the German blood in me that perseveres for the best product that can be made by my hands.

I am only going to build at most 12 frames a year.Over a period of 10 years I have averaged almost this amount. For those concerned about this amount not bringing my skills to be sharp, Fred Parr’s comment above should explain that it is not in the numbers so much, but attention to detail. I am a natural with my skills. I cut my teeth frame building with the Metax stainless. To this date no one has matched my work. I had the last Metax road tube set hanging around for the last 4 years. I sat down and built that frame and I have taken it off road. Tailwind bicycle shop started out as a service shop. Today I must have close to 500 customers who have custom bicycles from me. In order to remain a full-service shop that has personalized attention, I must keep my volume low.

If you are interested in a shop that has a one-man band, someone who not only will build your dream machine but service it too, then you have found your builder. After all, the last word in the name is spelt “Shoppe” for a reason. If you are looking for a resource to help you decide on what’s best for your cycling experience, is there anywhere better to go to than someone who has ridden a bicycle close to 300,000 miles?

Without getting too long-winded, I am looking forward to being able to take the time that is necessary to create the type of work that I do without the constraints of time that can cause others to find shortcuts. Visionaries very rarely in history have ever been understood. Over 60 patents that have come out of my head have changed the way you are riding a bicycle today. At the time that these ideas were originally conceived they were thought absurd by others. I am still fighting with the collective mind of this industry to push it forward even farther. In the meantime you can purchase either a frame, fork or whole dream machine from a visionary whose work is both timeless and ahead of its time.

Time is going to be allocated towards educating those who want to learn more about the fundamentals of frame building. Over the many years of my frame building experience I have collected what I feel is a vast amount of information on the engineering aspects of bicycle frame building. Hence I am beginning the first Midwest School of Bicycle Frame Building from an Engineering Perspective. In the next couple months I will be posting specific information about the classroom experience. I currently have a brochure that is made up that explains the different levels that one can take down the road of the frame building experience. As I said before, we are in a new chapter for Desperado Cycles!

So strap yourself in and come along for the ride. There is so much more to the cycle experience than just the ride!