- Bike Checks
Mike Laird is a BMX lifer who is no stranger to creating badass things. Mike recently embarked on a new venture that combines two of his biggest passions - BMX and metal fabrication. This new project is dubbed "Lairdframe" and specializes in making custom BMX frames out of Mike's shop in North Carolina. We asked the man himself a few questions to learn all about it -
For everyone out there that doesn't know, what's your background with building things?
I've got twenty-three years of fabrication experience. The last ten of those years I've owned my own business, East Carolina Custom Metal. I fabricate for local business, contractors, and a high-performance automotive shop that I currently rent shop space from. I have built portable ramps for King BMX Stunt Shows, the portable DC Shoes ramp/handrail trailer, metal ramps for the TV show Stunt Junkies, and fabricated the entire Jaycee bikepark here in Greenville.
What made you decide to venture into the world of making BMX frames?
The whole reason I initially got into welding was because I thought I was going to work in the BMX industry. In high school, I took vocational education classes to learn welding. Little did I know that my path through BMX would end up going the professional rider route. Now, fast forward fifteen years… In June of 2013 I spoke with Mike Corley from Eastern Bikes. He asked me about a couple of projects I had going on and just came out and asked "How come you're not making BMX frames by now?" My response was that there's very little profit to be made making frames in the USA. But, for the next month, I couldn't get the thought of making a frame out of my head. I enjoy what I do as a fabricator, but was lacking real passion for my work. The timing couldn't have been any more perfect for myself. I was still riding, had no bike sponsor, and my business was self-supportive. I decided in my free evenings I would start building a frame jig. I didn't know how hard (or easy) it would be to build a frame from scratch. I didn't even know if I would enjoy the fabrication. I thought at least I would build five frames to give myself a good indication of how everything went.
I know you've had bike sponsors for the majority of your time in BMX. Did you ever build a frame in the past or did obligations with sponsors hold you back?
Living here in Greenville, I have repaired A LOT of frames. I have heavily modified friends' frames they got from their sponsors. I have added and removed brake mounts. I have made two custom scooters for my good friend Don Wigent (AKA Scooter Don). I had no interest building myself a frame when I was riding full-time. I always had a bike sponsor and was always content with repping them.
Where are you making these things?
I rent shop space from Euro Enginuity here in Greenville, North Carolina. They give me a ridiculously low cost monthly deal. For that, Frank, I thank you!
Do you plan on just making frames or will you be venturing into other parts as well?
As of the day of this interview, I just plan on making frames. Only time will tell with everything else.
Where are all of your materials coming from?
The material for my first batch of frames came from Henry James for the tubing and FBM for the head tubes and bottom brackets. I ordered chromoly plate from my local steel supplier and cut the bridges and dropouts out myself. I just ordered enough material from Solid Bikes for two more frames. I want to check out the difference in quality of the head tubes and bottom brackets. Solid's prices are a whole lot better… Hahaha.
Tell us about the frame you built for yourself…
20.7 inch top tube, 75 degree head tube, 71 degree seat tube, 13.5 inch chain stay, and 8.25 inch stand over. It has one plate gusset on the bottom tube. It's all supertherm double butted tubing. Brakes welded on the chain stays… where they belong! Hahaha. That's my opinion and I'm entitled to it, so don't get all butt-hurt if you're not into it. And the signature feature to my frame is the straightedge "xXx" design on my seat stay bridge. It weighs in at a hefty 4lbs 3oz. Of course I'm joking about the hefty part. This is the lightest frame I've ever ridden.
The bridges you've made look amazing. What goes into creating those?
The customer. I want to give the customer their own "signature" aspect to the frame. When someone orders a frame from me, they're getting exactly what they want - not something I think they will want. All of the bridges you see in the pictures are what the customers requested.
It seems like there has been a lot of interest in your work. Who all is on a frame so far?
I have three prototype fames frames out there right now. The first frame is mine, which I've been riding since October. My second frame went to Rob Armour and my third prototype went to William "Backflip Billy" Genett through partnership with Ketch Bikes. I handpicked Rob and Billy because they're both insanely good and they're both at completely different ends of the riding spectrum. The only way I'm going to learn anything is through feedback and I feel both of these riders will give it to me.
What's your goal with the Lairdframe project?
My goal with Lairdframe is to make quality, custom one-off frames. There are a shit ton of good riders these days and not enough bike sponsors to go around. These really good riders don't support big brands (you know the brands I'm talking about; I've ridden for a handful of them myself). Riders buy from the core brands, which is awesome, but they rip off all the stickers. Core brands rely on image to sell their product. When you rip the stickers off, there's no image to be sold. Selling a brand through image doesn't work for me - never has. One minute you're hot, the next minute you're not. I've been a professional bike rider for sixteen years now and I've seen so many images / styles / brands come and go. I'm not selling you a brand or an image. I'm selling you a frame that you design and customize yourself. Your own "signature" frame. Something I hope you're really proud of because when somebody asks where it came from, you'll be more than willing to tell them where to order one. You are your own image. I want to build a frame for you to express your image. Think of it like building a custom car for yourself, except it's a BMX bike.
I've also considered doing small production runs for some BMX companies but, to tell you the truth, I haven't put much thought into that side yet.
Quality over quantity will ALWAYS be rule number one.
Do you have any idea what a custom Lairdframe is going to cost yet?
Hahaha, putting me on the spot! Anyone who knows the cost of building a frame here in the US knows there's not a lot of money to be made. It's so hard to compete with overseas' prices. With my metal business, I specialize in custom fabrication and I can't tell you how many jobs I've lost over the years because somebody is just looking for a better price against production products. I can't compete against production products or overseas products. I specialize in custom pieces that you can not get in stores. With that said, I'm taking this same philosophy and approach to BMX frame fabrication. I'm not building these frames to get rich. I'm building these frames so the customer and I can be proud of BMX. So, to answer your question, right now I'm thinking at starting off at $450 a frame, but that is subject to change. Trust me, finding the right price point is harder than making the frames themselves.
If anyone out there is interested, where can they get more info on Lairdframe?
I'm still early in this process, but I plan on having a website up in the next few months. Until then, you can follow me on Facebook or Instagram for updates as they come. And if you're not into social media, check back to Vital BMX or e-mail me at ECCMetal@gmail.com.
For good measure, here's Mike Laird's Power Hour from a few years back -