NAHBS Builder Profile: W.H. Bradford
Ritchey is proud to share the passion, the spirit and the dedication of small framebuilders around the world. We're especially excited when these talented craftspeople choose to adorn their works of art with Ritchey components. We're highlighting these builders, and their bikes, here on the Ritchey web site with the NAHBS Builder Profile Series. Today, we have W.H Bradford.
Name: Brad Hodges
Years Building: 10+ I guess, but only 3 doing bikes under the W.H.Bradford name before this I did more production bmx style mountain bikes.
1) What was your first bike – not the first one you built? How did it come to you?
Peugeot CPX 200 in black and gold my Mom and Dad bought it for me around 1983 from the bicycle tree in Sunnyvale, I was too small for it so I didn't end up riding it until a few years later. I remember asking for the blue one but Mom got me the black one, good looking out Mom!
2) What was the last bike you bought that you didn’t make, and why?
2000 Yeti DH9 one of the compression Lawwill bikes ,growing up we always herd stories of the Lawwill bikes being the fastest you could buy so when I had the chance I scored a deal through the shop I was working at the time. It was too sweet of a bike to pass up.
3) When did you decide to start making frames of your own? What influenced you to do so?
Around 2004 or so I started making 24” freestyle mountain bikes with hacked Marzocchi forks designed for urban trails and street riding. I guess I was influenced by riding BMX and racing DH and DS and wanting a bike that could do all three on . More of a legit freestyle mountain bike that you could ride with a bmx influenced style on at most modern skateparks. More recently I shifted things from the trick bikes to more hand-build frames with more attention to detail. It was more what I’m into now, getting the fab on each frame perfect . I also started doing more touring and bike packing so that helped the shift as well.
4) What was the last odd job you held before frame building?
That’s a good one, I’ve had a few random bike shop jobs but my last real “odd job” before doing bikes full time ? (scratches head).. Ahhh digging holes for back flow valve repair was one of them , assembling and shipping modern ceiling fan’s was another. I’ve been lucky enough to have been doing this long enough it’s kinda hard to remember what I did before bikes.
5) Did you have a mentor when you started, or do you still have one?
I try to listen to anyone who has been making a living building bikes for any extended period of time. Growing up Keith Bontrager was a big influence and was anyways there with tough words of encouragement. More recently Sherwood Gibson from Ventana has been there when I have questions and really helped me get the new bikes dialed. Venation’s shop is just down the road and they powder coat my frames for me too.
6) What do you listen to when you’re working?
Anything really current playlist’s include - Vybez Cartel , Run the Jewels , Eagles of Death Metal , Danny Brown , Two Door Cinema Club , The Polish Ambassador , DanLeSec VS Scroobius Pip , PANTyRAiD and whatever else I get into that week.
7) What’s your favorite tool in the shop and why?
Too hard for one answer here’s my top three 1. Bridgeport mill set up for 90’ cut’s , it’s tolerances are spot on for any cut and I find myself using it on almost everything. 2. My original Arctos frame jig , Oscar from Simple bikes updated it a few years back right around the time I got the new mill for wider offset’s and to work in harmony with BikeCad. 3. A very small fine file that came in the lot of tools I purchased from Ezra Caldwell’s wife after his passing. It’s another of the three that I find essential to finishing any bike.
8) Every builder seems to have an “Ah Ha” moment where they figure out some way to do a weld different or set up a jig for that one type of braze-on, what was yours? And did it come easily to you once you figured it out?
Wait ... there’s supposed to be an “Ah Ha moment” .. crap ! ... was I like supposed to remember that or has it even happened yet ?? In all seriousness I think it may have been sometime before NAHBS last year while working over Christmas. Just getting my production process’s nailed down and building some really kick ass bikes in the process. This year is just seemed like work that had to get done , not like I was trying to prove something to myself or others. It’s just work now.
9) When designing or building a bike for someone, what is your thought process? What sticks out most about a build/design that you need to tackle first?
That’s a good question , I think the thought process may be different for every bike. I try to focus in on that one part that makes the bike unique then build from there. On most bikes for customers it’s the geo first and foremost, I’ll spend just as much time getting the geo’s nailed down with customer as I do building the frame if needed.
10) What’s your go to bike when you go on a ride? I still like the first Gazos bike I built a few years back , it’s my daily commute bike and still my favorite for long rides around Sac. The Ritchey Carbon fork works great with the integrated headset and provides a stiff ride wile still keeping the bike looking clean up front.
Last words? I just wanted to thank everyone at Ritchey for giving me this opportunity. It’s a huge honor to be featured by a company I’ve admired for so many years. Thanks