Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chris Daily - Smorgasbord Cycles



You may be wondering, "Smorgasbord Cycles?" A little off-shoot of the record label and zine, Chris Daily gives us some info on the bicycle frame company he started in the mid nineties. We thought it was a cool little bit of info that probably few know about. The Schism Skateboards story is next week…


-Gordo DCXX

Somewhere in 1991 I stumbled onto mountain biking. A few friends got into it and as soon as I saw it and the stuff they were riding it brought back all sorts of memories from my youth riding and racing BMX. By this time I was working in design engineering and always loved designing, making, building, and fixing things. I was pretty mechanically inclined which was surprising because my Dad can't fix a damn thing.

Smorgasbord Cycles was initially done as a fake bike shop set up with a bike part distributor so I could scam parts to feed my habit at wholesale. I'd have to say this was about 1994. I went to the level of even photographing an existing bike shop and claiming it was mine because one distributor required that and a listing in the yellow pages, which I also did for a one month period until my account was set up. I met a local guy that built his own bike frame by hand, then I read a book or two on bike set up and fit and decided I could make a frame for my self just as easy.


An authentic full suspension Smorgasbord Cycle

I designed a hard tail mountain bike, ordered some tubing, machined all the parts myself and had a welder weld it all together. I rode the bike for a few weeks and a bunch of people kept asking me to build them one…so I designed a production frame jig, had it made and started making frames in my garage after going to a few tool auctions and buying a lathe, Bridgeport mill and a welder. By that point I had a full service machine shop set up in the garage behind my house.

Why Smorgasbord Cycles as a name? At the time I was still doing Smorgasbord Records, I thought it had a nice ring to it and that way I was at least able to keep up with the packages that were coming to my apartment with the name "Smorgasbord" on them. I started out with two other guys and they did not care about a name, I don't even think it was an option, I just set up the account in that name for the distributor, not even thinking about actually building bike frames at the time.

As for those guys, the first guy got shelled about 5 months into the venture, the second guy I ended up buying out after about 2 years working together. I tend to really be pushy once a ball gets rolling and move forward with 110% of effort. They had other ideas, so it just worked out best to go forward solo.


The Smorgasbord Cycles Crew, Chris in the middle with the black shirt

As I was going thru the process to actually start making bikes for other people I noticed an ad in a magazine called DIRT RAG for a bike company named SPOOKY Cycles and in the ad was the Minor Threat OUT OF STEP sheep. It blew my mind and I called the number and spoke with the owner. Turns out he was a hardcore kid from up in Carmel, NY who went to the Anthrax and high school with the UP FRONT guys. He helped me with all sorts of legal and bike fabricating info during that time in the process of incorporating and start-up.

Spooky was a lot bigger then Smorgasbord, they produced thousands of bikes. The owner is still one of my best friends. Their sales manager was a R.I. hardcore skinhead, used to go to a ton of shows back in the mid 80s. English Nick (YDL) actually raced downhill on TEAM Spooky as well.

I am bad with dates and time periods, but up until mid 1999 I made about 250 frames. Bike frames for all genres of cycling: MTB, Cyclo-Cross, Road, Downhill, BMX, Single Speed. It was not a huge money maker but I also did not lose money.


A page from the Smorgasbord Cycles catalog

I was getting a little disenchanted with the tough USA hand built bike market in 1999, since the big bike companies (TREK, Cannondale, etc.) can all produce really good bikes that don't cost much. I was small potatoes in the frame market and the one man show struggle was a tough aspect of my life at the time. It seemed more like a job than something I really enjoyed doing. In 1999 I was selling my house and losing my shop so it was a perfect time to step away and close down.

Shirt designs...I never thought about doing a mock up of the Smorgasbord SXE shirts, but when I went to visit Spooky Cycles in NY they had a shirt with the SMOR fist on it...and were selling a bunch of them! Guav from Syracuse drew the warrior flower logo for the Smorgasbord bike company.

Highlights:
Exhibited at the international InterBIKE industry trade show for 2 years
Sold bike frames all over the country and 3 in Europe
Expo'd at 10 national level race events
Sponsored a full race team with co-sponsors and trailer
Built test bikes for Major mass market Bike Company
Had clothing line that sold in Japan
Self-taught myself how to actually design and fabricate bike frames


Chris competing on his Smorgasbord Cycle

10 comments:

Handsome Pete said...

I want one.

D. Sine said...

That's a cool story. Bicycles rule!

Anonymous said...

Have my Smor hanging in the garage at this very moment. Been called out to pull over so that other riders could check it out while in Moab, all the way to being in Bozemon, MT once and having Carl Strong give it props! "Lobsterboy LOVES a good Smorgasbord!" Ha, ha!

Anonymous said...

Great to hear from Chris! My wife still has her tiny Smorgasbord mountain bike with the "Baby Blue to Baby Poop Brown" fade. I still have my Spooky Darkside...

Thanks for the bikes and the memories!

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PedroGuererro said...

I'll never forget the greatest bike ad ever "you pedal, i'll steer" by smorgasbord cycles. two guys on a tandem. the peddler, in back had no arms. the steerer, had no legs! I wish i still had that ad. (laughing thinking about it!) was that in dirt rag?

those were the days! riding my spooky in albany, to hardcore shows @ the QE2 ... breakdown, sick of it all, murphy's law, sheer terror. nothing better than NYHC and independent bike companies of the 90's

anyone remember the spooky bike toss at Mt. Snow? those were the days : )

PedroGuererro said...

I'll never forget the greatest bike ad ever "you pedal, i'll steer" by smorgasbord cycles. two guys on a tandem. the peddler, in back had no arms. the steerer, had no legs! I wish i still had that ad. (laughing thinking about it!) was that in dirt rag?

those were the days! riding my spooky in albany, to hardcore shows @ the QE2 ... breakdown, sick of it all, murphy's law, sheer terror. nothing better than NYHC and independent bike companies of the 90's

anyone remember the spooky bike toss at Mt. Snow? those were the days : )