FBQ #19 Don Walker

Posted September 15, 2005 @ 5:22pm | by S. Cutshall

When not building bikes, Walker oversees something near and dear to his heart: the North American Hand Made Bicycle Show ... a show which he started in 2005 to showcase the work of frame builders living & working within the USA.
With a particular passion for building track cycles, Walker will build the customer nearly anything they desire.  This is Don Walker in his own words...

1.   How old are you?


2.   Where were you born?

Sacramento, California

3.   What's your earliest memory of a bicycle or something bicycle related?

Learning to ride on the family's "hand-me-down" Columbia girls bike... and promptly wiping out because I didn't know how to stop.

4.   What was your first cycle?

Other than the hand-me-down, it was a boy's bike called "The Dill Pickle" because of its green color.

5.   How about first "high-end" cycle?

I started off on a Windsor Carrera Sport, but would hardly consider that high end.  My Holdsworth road bike must fit that description.

6.   Did (does) your family (parents, siblings, etc) ride also?

My brother started riding before I did, and then quit before I started racing.

7.   Did you like to tinker with bikes back then?

Oh man... that's a haunting question... I can't tell you how many times I regreased my BB or headset after getting caught in the rain.  I just needed an excuse to rip it apart and clean & pack it again.

8.   Did you ever work in a Bike Shop... if so, where/how long?

I worked in a couple of Sacramento bike shops as a junior, maybe a year and then only one when I had to support a family.  That didn't last long...


9.   Have you ever done any organized racing?

Yes, I started on the road like most other Juniors in NorCal, but the group of friends I met in the Bay Area got me hooked on Track.

10.   How about cyclo-touring?

When I first started riding it was metric centuries.

11.   What job(s) did you have before frame building and also-do you have any other job currently besides frame building?

I am an aircraft mechanic by trade.  That has pretty much been what I have done my entire adult life.  There were periods of odd jobs, like when I worked for a small phone company installing business phone systems.  I worked one time as a telemarketer, remember this... "Hello Mr. Cutshall, I have a very exciting offer for you and your family"?

12.   When did you start building?

In 1991


13.   Who would you say is your greatest influence in designing & frame building?

Wow, I hadn't really thought of this.  For design it would have to be Track racers.  They need super high performance frames.  As for the frame building end of it, I would say Al Wanta.  He mentored me when I first started out.

14.  Did you apprentice... if so, with who?

I apprenticed with the Paterek Manual.

15.   What's your idea of the "perfect cycle" regardless if you built it or not? 

A bike that blends with the rider.  How it fits, performs and feels so natural to the person riding it: that it helps them free their mind to win a race.

16.   Shooting a guess... how many frames would you say you've built?

I think in the 300's somewhere.


17.   Any cycles out there that you secretly wished, "Darn, I wish I'd built that!"?

Oh yeah!  Glenn Erickson had one in the early '90s that was all polished lugs carved in the shape of stars and the paintjob looked like the night sky.  It was the most incredible frame I had ever seen.

18.   Your idea of the perfect client?

A client that can tell me what they want in a frame and they pay with cash...  ;)

19.   What defines a nightmare client in your experience? 

Any client who tries to change their design AFTER the bike has been built and never addressed their "issue" prior to that... oh, and one that calls several times a week to check on the progress of their frame.

20.   Any words of advice to up & coming frame builders? 

You can do it, if you keep your day job.  If you quit your day job, get used to Top Ramen and rice.  Chili Mac isn't too bad either.


21.   What do you find most funny or peculiar (in a kind way-not brutal) about the cycle-buying public... what don't they get or aren't they seeing?

People thinking that the BEST bike is the lightest bike... weight weenies.

22.   What do you think of mass-produced bikes (without naming names)?

They are fine as transportation, but I wouldn't ride one.

23.   What cycle don't you have anymore that you wished you did?

My Holdsworth.  I made the mistake of selling it way back when.

24.   What cycle do you currently ride most, even if it wasn't built by you?

I bought a cheap aluminum frame to see how many rides it would take before I broke it.  I am up to 4 rides.

25.   When did you last ride your bike and for how far?

Last fall, 35 miles.

26.   What's your idea of the perfect ride? 

75 degrees, partly cloudy, no wind on ANY track.

27.   Could you ever see yourself being Car Free... just using mass-transportation and your bike to get around?

If I lived in a major city, like downtown, I could probably get away with it but living in Texas,  where its so spread out, it just isn't a reality for me.

28.   Why do you think so many folks have romanticized bicycles & bicycling?

It's one of the first things you learn to do when growing up, it takes you back to your childhood.

29.   Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life? 

My kids, Lesley (my Fiance) and my Black Labs, Jake and Elwood.  I take them to the lake for playing fetch with a frisbee.  The pursuit of  the "perfect" roast beef sandwich is another passion... so far, its Togo's in California.  I brewed my own beer for a while... but the frame building takes up all of my time right now.   I love music and used to play in a band one-upon-a-time.  My neighbor has a 24 track studio, so I get to jam a little with him.


30.   If you could say one thing to Lance Armstrong what would it be?

Lance, ditch that carbon stuff and lets go after Merckx's Hour Record.  You and me, Bud.

31.   In a pinch... McDonalds or Burger King?

Never in a pinch, I will eat either depending on my tastebuds at the time... well, my kids tastebuds anyhow.

32.   What kind of shampoo did you last use?

I forgot... I am bald and what little hair I have gets shaved off once a week.

33.   Favorite libation: wine, beer or fire water? 

Ahhhhh, now we get to the good stuff... I am partial to Red Hook ESB, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and almost anything by Sacramento Brewing Company but in particular their India Pale Ale and Scotch Ale.

34.   Even though there seems to be a real tradition to it-what do you think of folks who spend more time setting up their cycle with just the right color saddle, bar tape, bags, hoods, etc than actually riding or at least commenting on the ride?

Bicycle riding isn't style points, and you should have seen what my bike looked like as a junior.  I am surprised I had anything that matched.

35.   Did you go to college... if so, what was your major?

It was a short-lived 2 semesters.

36.   Your favorite music while working (if any)? 

Lately I have been really getting into vintage REM, Catherine Wheel, Captain Sensible, Grandaddy, Flaming Lips (only Yoshimi battles the Pink Robots, what a masterpiece!), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, New Model Army and a band appropriately named "Ride".  Pretty much any music that's off the beaten path.  Alternative, Punk, Blues, Indie, Lo-Fi, etc... that's the stuff I like.


37.   If you had it to do all over again... would you be building cycles?

I did it all over again!  My shop was burglarized in 95.  I had to rebuild over 6 or 7 years to start up again.  This is my passion, my choice of occupation.

38.   What's your favorite lunch food during a work day in the shop?

Oh no, I have to admit Chili Mac and Top Ramen here, huh?   Just kidding... it's probably a roast beef sandwich, but there's this little Mexican place in town that makes a phenomenal fajita chicken burrito.

39.   When it's all said & done-what kind of legacy will you hope to have left behind? 

He was a great friend and helped a lot of riders realize their full potential.


40.   How can folks get in touch with you to order a custom cycle?

Don Walker
PO BOX 2392
Hewitt, TX  76643

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