This is a story you might not be expecting to hear at a bike show.
Joe Roggenbuck got into framebuilding and built a brand called Cobra Frames. He bought a booth at the 2016 Philly Bike Expo and word got around about his well-crafted all road bikes that could handle any kind of terrain. He even concocted a slick marketing credo around the serpent he chose as his mascot: Strike Excellence.
Then he got out of frame building.
“I want to keep building some bikes, just to keep my head in the game. But I’m not selling any to the public anymore,” says Roggenbuck.
But this isn’t to say that Roggenbuck is leaving the bicycle world. He’s remade himself and his brand as a builder of specialty tools for framebuilders.
Using his past experiences as a framebuilder to guide him, Roggenbuck devised specific tools that, in his words, “solve annoying problems” for custom framebuilders.
Among the tools he’s developed are clamps to hold braze-ons in place as the torch is applied, and miters that hold the smaller, and sometimes curved tubes like seat and chainstays so that the builder can cut them.
Roggenbuck is only six months into his second coming as a builder for the builders, but the Philly Bike Expo has been an excellent networking opportunity for him. This year he shared a booth with Boulder, Colorado-based builder Olivetti Cycles.
It’s been a success from a sales standpoint as well. Roggenbuck showed us his tube bender that he says serves the middle ground that many custom framebuilders inhabit: between a bender that a hobbyist might use to bend a bumper for his Jeep, and an expensive, industrial-strength bender not necessary for the smaller gauge and thinner walled tubing used in bicycles. He sold one of the benders he produces for $1250 at this year’s Expo.
“Just from that sale alone, it’s been a net gain for me here,” he says.
With a nose for the specialty tools that framebuilding shops require, you’d be tempted to assume that Roggenbuck got into framebuilding with a background as a machinist. In fact, just the opposite is true. Working with metal while framebuilding cultivated a keen interest in machining specialty tools.
Roggenbuck is clearly happy with the niche within a niche he’s carved out for himself, and it’s proof that life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it to.
“Building tools is just a more straightforward business,” he says. “Other builders sell their bikes by riding with their clients, but I was always a lot more comfortable talking shop, so this end of the business is a much better place for me to be.”