Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
I’m writing this on Independence Day so I thought that a story about the career American bicycle builder Paul Sadoff would be perfect. Actually, I think of Paul as a master builder – look at the lovely lugwork in the photo. But he told me he doesn’t see himself that way and prefers I use “career framebuilder.”
Paul has certainly had quite a career so that title fits, too. He started by repairing other maker’s frames. Then he began making his own for himself, family and friends in the late 1970s before going pro and creating his Rock Lobster brand about a decade later.
Successful and Versatile
Now his is one of the busiest framebuilding shops in the country cranking out about 100 frames a year that get shipped to riders around the globe. And he builds all types of frames, too, from road and track to cross and gravel, to MTB and even one-offs that customers request. He builds with steel and aluminum tubing.
His handcrafted Rock Lobster Cycles frames have carried racers to impressive podiums across all disciplines. The Olympics, National championships, UCI World Cup races, World Championships, state championships and in both womens and mens events, his bikes have excelled time and again. It’s quite a feat for a small one-builder frameshop.
I met Paul in the winter of 1980 when he was working at the Bicycle Center in Santa Cruz, California where he still lives and has his business. I got a job there at the end of a cross-country tour.
For the six weeks I worked there Paul was spinning wrenches on the Park repair stand right across the workshop from me. He knew his way around bikes and was quick with a joke or clever pun – fun guy to work with.
Q&A with Paul
All these years later he’s the same and it’s always great running into him on rides or visiting him in his shop. About a month ago I was there to look at a vintage Masi someone had asked his help with. I couldn’t tell Paul much more about the bike (I restored a 1974 Masi). But while in the shop a light bulb went off and I asked him if he’d be okay with doing an interview with me for this column.
My bright idea was that Paul would be the perfect person to answer questions for people thinking of ordering a custom bicycle and also for anyone interested in building frames or even going into the business.
Paul agreed to the interview and I recorded it last week and am sharing it today. We cover a lot of ground from his background to his second passion playing the guitar, to the ups and downs of being a framebuilder. And we get into tips for people who want a custom bike or have a hankering to build their own.
The interview is almost an hour-long show. But I built in what YouTube calls “chapters.” These allow you to jump to whatever part of the video you’re interested in with a single click. So there’s no need to watch the whole show if you don’t want to. Just scroll through the Chapter titles and choose whichever ones are of interest.
I think you’ll enjoy meeting Paul and appreciate his tips and advice.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.
Bruce Ross says
Fun interview with Paul Sadoff! I’ve known Paul for many years – all the way back to when I was building acoustic guitars when I co-owned the Santa Cruz Guitar Co. He’s a real local legend. Never owned one of his frames but have admired them from afar and am glad he stuck with it. Also, a very well-spoken person with lots of information about the bicycle industry. Thanks again,
Jim Langley says
You’re welcome, Bruce! Thanks for the great comment.
Chris Baker says
Really enjoyed that Jim! Fantastic human and fantastic frames!
We met along time ago when I was a student at UCSC and you managed a bicycle shop in Santa Cruz. Your shop was carrying Jim Oxford frames at the time. Shortly after graduating I bought an Oxford touring frame from you and then a few years later, a road frame directly from Jim (your shop stopped carrying them). I’m looking to buy a new road frame and have heard great things about Rock Lobster. I’m wondering if you can speak to how steel frames have changed, in general, since the eighties and nineties (my newest Oxford was built in 91), and specifically, the differences between Jim Oxford’s and Paul Sadoff’s frames. Thanks!