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Craftsman Makes Custom-Made Cycles

February 27, 1988

BREINIGSVILLE, Pa. (AP) _ A little more than a mile from a world-class velodrome, Tom Kellogg makes custom-fit bicycles by hand in a converted barn.

Kellogg builds only 65 bicycles a year, tailoring them from a series of steel tubes to match the size and needs of their riders, who range from European professionals to weekend cyclists from Philadelphia.

″Tom almost takes it like a work of art,″ said Pat McDonough, who trained on one of Kellogg’s Spectrum bicycles before winning a silver medal in team pursuit in the 1984 Olympics.

Winning Bicycle Racing Illustrated magazine has called Kellogg ″The Picasso of frame building.″

″I take a lot of pride in our workmanship,″ said Kellogg, who designs the bicycles but is assisted building them by Jeff Duser.

Customers have to wait six months for a Spectrum bicycles, which cost between $900 and $3,000 and take about 55 hours to make, according to Kellogg.

Kellogg said his love of the craft, not large profits, keeps him in the business.

″We don’t make any money,″ said Kellogg, who lives in a farmhouse next to the crowded stone barn where the bicycles are made.

To tailor bicycles to individual riders, Kellogg asks them about what kind of riding they plan to do and then fits them on a bicycle with moveable parts. Cyclists from far away who can’t be fitted in person send in detailed measurements, he said.

A sprinter needs a stiffer frame and rides in an aerodynamic crouch, while a touring rider needs a more flexible frame and tends to sit upright, according to Kellogg.

″I love it when somebody comes to pick up their bike. They put on their shoes and take it around the block and they come back and say, ’This is great,‴ Kellogg said.

John Kukoda, a senior editor at Bicycling magazine, said between 100 and 200 custom frame builders exist in the world, but only six to eight of the same caliber as Kellogg.

″I would put Tom at the top of the craft,″ Kukoda said. ″I know people that build bikes as well as Tom. I don’t know anyone that builds them better - and that’s in the world.″

Australian Danny Clarke won two gold medals in the World Professional Championships in 1980 and 1981 on Spectrum bicycles. Racers on Spectrum bicycles also have won more than 35 medals in U.S. National Championships, Kellogg said.

Kellogg, who is 35, got his first taste of bicycle building in 1975 during a summer vacation from college.

He was riding outside of London, England, with his brother, David, when he was hit by a car, wrecking his bicycle. Kellogg rebuilt the bicycle and continued on his trip.

″I didn’t know anything about bikes at that point,″ Kellogg said.

When he returned to the United States, he said he started reading Bicycling magazine.

″There was an article in bicycling about American framebuilders. Of course, I didn’t even know that animal existed,″ said Kellogg, who was a sociology major at the University of Rochester.

He decided he wanted to become one of them and took a job in May 1976 as an apprentice for Bill Boston, a custom framebuilder in Swedesboro, N.J.

″He realized by late August, early September, that I was completely hopeless so he fired me,″ Kellogg said.

Boston, who is still a custom builder, said Kellogg’s work was ″pretty crude back when he got started.″

Kellogg retreated to his parents’ home in Holderness, N.H., where he worked on his craft in a utility shed.

In 1976, Kellogg moved to Allentown to be near the Lehigh County Velodrome, where the Olympic cyclists were training and where McDonough now works as a coach.

Kellogg worked in the back of bicycle shop and then in a friend’s basement, building bicycles and his reputation.

In 1980, Ross Bicycles Inc. in Allentown hired Kellogg to make ″Tom Kellogg″ signature bicycles.

″They wanted my ability and my knowledge, and they also wanted my reputation because I was known all over the coutry and I had bu8ilt bikes for European pros,″ he said.

Kellogg returned to custom building in 1982 when he got tired of building production bicycles and missed seeing his customers. Since then, he said has built about 250 custom frames.

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