1973 Butterfly Crit.
Tom sold his first bike in 1973 at the age16 to his best friend Donny McBride. As news and interest spread of Tom’s custom frames, demand grew from word of mouth and by his senior year in high school Tom was building 200-250 frames a year. This early experience in frame building served as an important factor in developing Tom’s passion for the sport and fostered a high regard for a craftsman’s approach to product refinement. These formative years gave Tom the opportunity to experiment with his ideas before having to consider the challenges of operating a business and earning enough to support himself.
Tom winning local race
Tom was fortunate enough to have the support and encouragement of two key figures during his early years of designing and building; his father and Jobst Brandt. Tom’s father taught Tom the basics of machining and to respect the science behind materials and design. Tom’s natural curiosity coupled with his dissatisfaction with available components of the day drew him deeper into trusting his design skills. His father constantly challenged his use of materials, wall thicknesses and design nuances to render even better designs – a culture that would stick with Tom to this day. Jobst Brandt, a local avid cyclist, engineer for Hewlett Packard at the time, former race car engineer, and designer of the Porsche 911 braking system who would eventually go on to be head designer for Avocet brand, provided Tom with invaluable advice, wisdom and instilled in Tom a respect for traditional design and the heritage of cycling. Jobst also introduced Tom to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Nearly every trail Tom still rides in the area today, was introduced to him by Jobst, It was on those trails, Tom discovered his calling.
While still primarily occupied with road racing, Tom began logging more and more miles off-road and was shaped into a more complete cyclist as a result. He began heading out on rides of 100 to 150 miles of combined on and off-road riding, to seek the limits of what a road bike could navigate, off-road. He began to think about how to create a better riding experience for every kind of cyclist. “I wanted to be involved with the sport at every level and I felt I could make contributions at every level,” Tom recalled in early interviews and so he continued to experiment and break barriers regularly. The beginnings of a business were taking shape.