Bicycle Industry Insider Profile: Jeff Jones

By Jeff Lockwood

Aside from bicycles, of course, the main reason I choose to continue my futile search for fortune in the bicycle industry is because of the people I know and meet. There’s no shortage of extremely smart and passionate people who are insanely interesting, individualistic personalities. Sure it’s cool to be around famous athletes from time to time, but I much more deeply value the less publicly visible people that make the bicycle world go ’round. As such, I’ve decided to revive a special online series where we do a very brief standardized interview with some of these individuals: The Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series. I want to share the stories of these people with the rest of the world through the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times web sites. This week we have…

Name: Jeff Jones

Hometown: Southern California

Current location: Medford Oregon

What do you do for/with/to bicycles?  I design and build custom and production bicycles. I run Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles with my wife and partner Sheila.

What’s the best thing about your job? Working with bikes and the people involved with bikes sure is nice. The best thing is probably the bike riding, but I also really love working in the shop building the bikes.

What’s the toughest part of your job? There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. I want to ride, I want to build bikes and develop new ideas. I’d love to build a bike for every like-minded cyclist on the planet!

The running of a business, the cost and availability of raw materials, the conflict between cycling as "a fun thing to do" and the harsh realities of the bicycle industry; fashion and hype, copycats and cynics, profit and loss. It’s not nearly as simple as I wish it was.

What was the path that led you to work with bicycles? It is all I have ever done and it is what I have wanted to do. As a young kid I’d ride with my friends. We would build jumps and go on long rides. We all worked on our own bikes and never thought of taking them to the shop for repair.

My dad taught me to stick weld when I was 13. I’d cut up old bikes and weld them back together again making side hacks, tandems  and a recumbent. I used a hack saw and grinding wheel to miter tubing. They weren’t pretty but they were fun to ride!

Hanging out at the local bike shop eventually got me a job, around 1985. I worked there and then another shop for a few years until I landed a job doing quality control at the GT bicycle factory in 1991. There I learned to build frames and all about making bikes. They sent me to Taiwan to oversee bike production for a month at a time. That was a whole new lesson in bike building there. After 6 years at GT, I left I to start a bike shop with my wife Sheila. About 5 years after that we sold the shops and moved to Oregon, and I started building bikes.

What was your first bicycle? I don’t know. I got a bike when I was about 5 and I could not ride it very well. At 6 I learned to ride on a borrowed bike. The first bike I owned and rode without training wheels was a star-spangled red, white and blue bike with a banana seat in 1976. Around 1978 I got a used Yamaha moto bicycle with full suspension. I jumped that heavy thing until the head tube separated from the down tube. Then I got a used Mongoose and rode that until I saved up enough paper route money to buy a black and gold PK Ripper. That was my first big purchase and first new bike.

What bike do you currently ride the most?
It’s a steel bike I built for myself a few months ago for longer rides and more open trails, as well as load carrying.  I’ve been using it mostly for riding into town.

Where is your favorite place to ride? I don’t have a favorite. I just like to ride where I can. I do really enjoy my rides from my shop/home up the mountain, on the forest roads. They go all over and I have different length loops I’ve found. I like that I can ride there often and I always get to finish with a ride home.

Riding on new trails in faraway places with the locals is something I like to do when I get a chance. I usually learn a thing or two.

What music goes through your head while you ride? (literally or figuratively) While I’m riding I think. I’m thinking about the bike and how it’s functioning. I just ride and think about anything, and if the riding gets technical and fast enough then my mind is cleared and I’m just on my wheels moving. It’s not really music but I like it and I am listening.

What are your interests aside from bicycles? Family, fun, the future, what is happening in and to the world.

If you weren’t working around bicycles, what do you think you’d be doing?
I have no idea and don’t want to think about it. No matter what, I’d still be riding bikes.

Please share one of your favorite stories you’ve seen or been a part of while involved with the bicycle industry: Many things have happened, but I don’t have any favorite stories to tell.

Who would you choose for the next subject for the Bicycle Industry Insider Profile Series? Scott Gibson at New Sun Productions.

Why? Every time I see Scott or get to talk with him we end up talking for while and it is always good.

More on Jeff Jones

We’ve written quite a bit about Jones and his bikes through the years. Here’s a quick recap:

Karen’s first impression of his titanium SpaceFrame

Karen’s full review of the titanium SpaceFrame (from Issue #141)

Another interview from 2004 (Issue #105)

Justin’s first impressions of the steel diamond frame in touring mode

Justin’s first impression of the fat front truss fork

A report from Jones’ visit to Dirt Rag HQ in summer 2008

A look at Jones’ Taiwanese-made steel SpaceFrame

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