Sunday, November 23, 2014

Inosculation in the Framebuilders Forest: Mike Flanigan Joins Seven Cycles

Seven Pioneer
Much has been written about the amazing Boston framebuilders family tree - in particular, of the legacy left behind by the Somerville-based Fat Chance and Merlin. A good portion of the New England builders we know and love today can trace their roots to one of these storied manufacturers. That includes Seven Cycles and ANT, which were founded by former Merlin and Fat Chance employees, respectively. Now it seems that a merging of these lineages will take place. Last week, Mike Flanigan announced that he will be closing ANT and joining Seven as a full time welder.

Though I only learned the news recently, I had a faint flash of intuition about it several month ago, when I saw the Seven Pioneer bike and (since ANT is known for its truss bike designs) thought "wouldn't it be something if they worked together." Still, the news that Mike was closing shop came as a shock to me, as I am sure it did to all of his customers, fans and friends.

Over its memorable 14 year run, ANT Bikes was a successful one man operation. With his focus on sturdy, practical utility bikes at a time when few custom builders would deviate from the standard road frame, Mike built up a solid base of fans and loyal customers who appreciated his unique work. As transportation cycling in the US gained momentum, he became particularly well known for his loop frame city bikes and basket bikes. And for the real wow-factor, there were his historically-inspired models such as the Scorcher and the Truss Bike - not to mention the quirky one-off wonders like this wooden copper luged bicycle! Whenever possible, Mike has always tried to equip his bikes with locally made components - including those he would make himself. He offered financially accessible build options. He hosted open houses, donated his bikes to charity auctions, and participated in local bicycle shows. Mike was always extremely supportive of fellow framebuilders, in particular newcomers. Several years ago he began to offer formal framebuilding classes, which became internationally popular. ANT bicycles have been featured in museum exhibitions and design books. In short, with his work at ANT Mike has delighted and influenced a great number of people, myself very much included. I will always cherish my ANT truss bike, and will remember the skills Mike taught me even if I never pick up a brazing torch again.

Mike's move to Seven Cycles will be a life change for certain. But sometimes it's time for a change. While working at Seven, Mike will continue building bikes in his spare time in a pared-down workshop. In contrast to most of his previous work at ANT and his new role at Seven, he will be using traditional lugged steel brazing techniques in his own future builds. Lugged ANTs? Finally I may get my wish!

As a follower of Mike Flanigan's work over the past 6 years as well as his friend, I sincerely wish him the best in his new endeavors. Seven Cycles will be all the cooler for having him on board.

33 comments:

  1. You can't underestimate the value of a regular paycheck and health insurance. Good luck to Mike.

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  2. i thought this was one of your joke posts at first :(

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  3. What news. I admire ANT work from this site a long time. But maybe new beginning is good. ((And pioneer bike, did you ride it?))

    PS: I enjoy new blog's look very much, but do you to know the links are similar color of text? Handsome appearance with gray, but not noticeable where to click!

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    1. The Pioneer bike is much too big for me, so I have not tried it. I'm hoping John Bayley, for whose specs it was made, will post a test ride report (cough cough John!).

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  4. Mike was very helpful when I was trying to track down replacement handlebars for my Ibis Scorcher. While a regular paycheck and health insurance are certainly often big factors in returning to more traditional employment, after 14 years in a one man shop, it might be invigorating to exchange ideas or just kibitz with comrades around the water cooler.

    I second P.'s kudos for your blog redesign. You can never have too much white space! One would think it's easy to design a simple, clean, functional site. But as my tai chi teacher was fond of saying, Simple, but very difficult. Bravo.

    (I also agree with P. that the link text is difficult to see. In my opinion, the elliptical underline.........................can be an elegant solution when you don't want too much contrast in the text. It seems to work well with sites like Lovely Bicycle that don't have an excessive amount of linkage.)

    Heads-up: This is a redo of a comment that appears to have been lost, perhaps because it timed out. If not, please delete one or the other.

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    1. Some of my posts actually are fairly dense with links, and in the old blog I thought it was distracting. I've tried the elliptical underline, but not sure I'm a fan. I'll change the colour to something that stands out just a tad more though and see how that looks.

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  5. Thanks for making me look up yet another word in the dictionary, Lovely Bicycle!

    And good luck, Mike Flanigan!

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    1. You are welcome. Just looked it up myself and found this super cool example.

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  6. That is surprising! Was he asked to come in and build a specific line for Seven? Or just tired of working for himself and needing/wanting a job he can go to and leave at the end of shift?
    i know a woodworker who just go so tired of doing all the work himself, trying to bring in clients etc, and went and got a job doing woodworking for a yacht company! Top of the line fine wood, regular hours, benefits, pension...why not?

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    1. We'll have to wait and see... but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for speedy and featherweight Ti loop frames!

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  7. Hmm... Interesting news. I wonder if there will be some Ant-like touches to future Sevens?

    Mike's bikes are easy to love, not least because of the neat Proto-Locomotive aesthetic. Sevens sort of leave me cold in some ways, which doesn't mean I don't like them, I E-bay-ed a bunch of old BMX stuff to buy one of their frames and am trying to make it look a little less "Space-shippy"as I build it. If I'm lucky maybe I can even make it look a little "Antsy" with some paint and stuff. If I had waited a few months maybe it could have been welded by him. That would have been neat...

    Spindizzy

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    1. Seven left me cold until I rode one. Since then I've been hot and bothered.

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  8. Oh, BTW, I'd cheerfully pay actual money for a T-Shirt with your cool new logo on it... If my initials were L.B. I'd also totally rip it off in brass for headbadges for a couple of my bikes.

    Spindizzy

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    1. I've had a few requests for t-shirts since the new logo, but not sure if people are kidding or what.

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    2. I never kid.

      Spin

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    3. Tough to make the decision that Mike made, but probably also a bit of a relief. I hope this goes really well for him.
      Surely his creative juices will get a boost from not needing to support every aspect of a small business.

      As for the proposed LB shirts...how about cycling caps? There are probably a lot of folks who would wear them.
      (I certainly would.)

      I also hope we can all get a glimpse of Reverend Spin's new Seven when he finishes it.

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    4. Velouria, you may be underestimating the extent to which Lovely Bicycle has become a brand of sorts; an aesthetic and way of thinking about bikes which a lot of us have adopted. You've successfully joined old 3-speeds, modern road bikes, humble utility bikes and folders into one 'thing' that reduces to "I bought this bike because I like it", without these purchases needing to be broken down into a bunch of other categories.

      As an example, I recently started noticing brightly colored fixies that I have been ignoring for years here in fixie-mad Northern California. It suddenly dawned on me that - outside of whatever cultural references I apply to them - some of them are quite pretty! I had never considered my 52-year-old non-hipster self owning one before, but your "it's a nice bike" approach has taught me to see them as bicycles, not a certain KIND of bicycle. It's very freeing, and you should be proud of your contribution. I want a t-shirt!

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    5. embroidered Walz caps might be nice actually...

      Thanks Joseph : )

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    6. Oh dear! A brand? Really? These ideas have been around and lived by for years. Of course you do what you want but, man, this would rub against my, and others, grain. I like your sharing what we all have in common. There are moments you do it well. Lots of us cycle nerds share over coffee in the morning or wine in the evening and enjoy learning about each other along the way. It's not a blog or income but a lifestyle. I'm glad to know there's someone in Northern Ireland doing the same.

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    7. To be fair, I'm the one who used the term "brand", and others mentioned a t-shirt and hats. None of this has anything to do with Velouria beyond her response that maybe she'll do a hat. So really your agitation is with me if you don't like the way I expressed my appreciation for how she has shaped the way I look at bicycles.

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    8. I wouldn't be offended if you committed a little commerce via this site. It would be nicel if this site could make your life a little better in that way, but I understand Anonymous' concern about "Branding" and such.Some really cool things have become less cool after they grew to the point they could be leveraged and maximized.

      I'm not too worried about this site though, your priorities seem to be in other areas so at the risk of helping to push you down the slippery slope towards marketing tie-ins with Wal-Mart and a reality show of your own(Luscious Bicycle, N. I.), put me on the list for shirts and hats. XXXL.

      Spindizzy

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    9. The idea of branding is vast enough to encompass all sorts of meanings. For instance, there is concept branding versus commodity branding and I believe Joseph meant the former. Existing as an entity with a distinct name and look that can be culturally referenced in whatever small way, does technically make LB a concept brand, whether it's deliberate on my part or not, and whether it's commodified or not. That said, I prefer not to think about this stuff too much, as I find it interferes with my enjoyment of writing and photographing.

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  9. I've admired Mike's beautiful bicycles for years, and finally got an order in for my very own Roadster a couple months ago. It came as quite a shock to check his blog a week ago and discover this news. While I'm sad to see ANT end its run as we've known it, this sounds like a positive move for Mike and his family. I wish him the best of luck at Seven, and can't wait to ride my new ANT!

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  10. That Seven headbadge looks like it was made for you! A new design or a one off?

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    1. I know! It's a one-off design for the Pioneer project bike.

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  11. Are those bottle cages hanging from the bars or is the bike leaning on something? I can't figure out what those silver loopy things are.
    Admittedly, I've never been too quick on the uptake.

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    1. Bottle cages. Here is a full frontal.

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    2. Very cool. With those two bar-mounted cages, it looks like something Fausto Coppi would ride.

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  12. I started riding in the 50's, and most of the bikes of that time had handlebar water bottle holders. It has been fun being able to see all of the changes to the bike industry and to enjoy all of the various bikes over the years. However I have also been priced out of most of the newer stuff.

    I like the new blog format and I really enjoy all of the great photos you include. Keep up the good work.
    Skip, San Diego, Ca.

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  13. Yes, there have been many changes in the bike industry - I started riding in the 60s and have seen many reinventions of cycling - I love it that people are still riding bikes and that those who never rode have commenced but the 'trendiness' of cycling has impacted on affordability and that is unfortunate. Bikes have always been beautiful even when they were not trendy.

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  14. Wow. Can you tell me the name of the bike in the first picture_ It does not show on their site.

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    1. It is a one-off concept bike called the Pioneer. You can read all about it here.

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  15. I haven't looked at LB for a month or so and this is where I pick up the thread. This kind of article is, in my view, particularly hard to write, as it is like a performance evaluation, of sorts. I think Velouria has done a really good job of weaving Mike's accomplishments as well as developing a narrative of his work. This is one reason why I think LB is a really interesting blog: you tend to get spoiled for the easy articles about the 20 words in Irish for sleet and the smell of a peat fire, or whatever. This is good journalistic writing and important, because it encourages industry and creativity in those who actually build bicycles. Brava Velouria! as usual. PJT

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