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Friday, June 10, 2011
Big Dave Harrison leaves FBM Bike Co.


Big Dave Harrison, during his last week of work as the head welder/machine shop manager at FBM Bike Co.

It's not too often that someone as behind-the-scenes as "Big" Dave Harrison has a reputation in the BMX world as a legitimate legend. But Big Dave is different. As a welder and machinist, Big Dave's work has graced the bikes of many famous pros, including Taj Mihelich, Joe Rich, Jimmy Levan, Dakota Roche, Chase Hawk, Aaron Ross and every pro that has walked FBM's hallowed halls since the company's early beginnings.

In the year 2000, Dave went to work full-time as head welder and machine shop manager at FBM. Together with Mike Erb, Steve Crandall and a loose crew of employees, Big Dave developed a fully equipped machine shop in Johnson City, N.Y., and for the past 11 years, Dave has developed his skills into a craft that is matched by few in the bike industry. But he was never just the guy in the basement welding bikes. Along the way, Big Dave starred in many infamous Props commercials, tagged along on "Road Fools" and pulled double time for every FBM event that swept through Binghamton, doing whatever it took to get the job done.

Last year, Big Dave gave FBM a year and a half's notice that it was time to move on. In the time since, he's welded many batches of Cult frames, took over construction of T-1's Barcode frames, and continued to build BMX and Fixed frames for FBM. But the time has finally come for Dave to leave FBM, and that day is today. Fortunately, Dave isn't going far, and he intends to remain in the bike-building business. Because Dave's been such an influence to those that have ridden his bikes, we felt it only appropriate to catch up with him and see what the future holds. Here's Big Dave.

ESPN.com: What are you doing after you leave FBM?
Harrison: I'm moving with my girlfriend (Ashley) to Providence, R.I. She is doing a internship in clinical psychology at Brown and I'm very proud of her. And me, I'm gonna be working at a metal fab shop, doing whatever they need. They do a lot of furniture, welding. On the side, I'm gonna start my own bike company called "Pedal Driven Cycles," (TM) and I'm gonna be using the shop that I'm working at to buy some tubes, build some fixtures and start from scratch. I talked to the guys at Circle-A in Providence, and they said that I could possibly use their tools. So I'll be able to bounce around and get things started on my own.

What's the brand?
It's called "Pedal Driven Cycles," (TM) and I'll start off doing BMX bikes at first, but I wanna also get into building classic commuter style frames too. And eventually, I want to be able to build any bike that anyone might want. I'm a frame builder, I wanna build bicycles, not just one particular style.

During Dave's last week at FBM, he worked on T-1's latest batch of Barcode frames.

Are you still doing Barcodes for T-1?
My last three days here are going to be pretty hectic. I have to finish up 100 Barcodes in three days, so I'll be working long hours to finish those up. On my own, I probably won't be doing production for other companies, because I wouldn't be able to handle the amount per piece that brands might want. But if I can get to that point, I love doing production bikes for my friends. So I'd like to eventually be able to take on some other production work for T-1, Cult or whoever is looking for work to get done.

So no more FBM frames?
Not at the present moment. If down the road, I'm able to reach that point and they approach me, I'll consider it. But right now, this will be the end of me building bikes for FBM.

Dave at a Binghamton staple, the Belmar, host to FBM dirt comps and Dave's favorite night of the week, Taco Tuesday.

How does that feel?
It feels crazy. It's sad a little bit. I built FBM frames originally over ten years ago at Spooky Cycles, then moved up here and eventually started the machine shop with Crandall and Mike Erb. It's been my baby for a long time, and I'm glad to pass it off to someone else and let these guys run it, but it's a little sad to part ways.

Are you glad to be getting out of the Binghamton area though?
Yes, very much so. It's what you make it here. It's a small town, it's cheap to live, and I've met some really great people, but I've been here 11 years and I feel it's time to move on. I'm sad to go, and there's some things I'll miss about Binghamton, but overall, I'm just excited to have a new start.

Phil Wasson's signature PW Moto frame, hand built by Big Dave in the mid '00s.

What's been your favorite era of FBM since you've been a part of the brand?
The PW Moto, Capone era, with Phil Wasson and Shawn Arata. That was also the time of the introduction of Mid bottom brackets and integrated headtubes. I really liked the bikes I built then, and with the new innovations, it was an exciting time. The machine shop itself was making a big push, and we were making new tools as well, so that was nice.

Did you actually build the first ever FBM frame?
Yes, me and Frank Wadelton basically built the first Angel of Death frame at Spooky Cycles. I think we built one or two prototypes, and then we built the first three or four hundred before they went to Kastan.

Whatever happened to DTS? (infamous star of an FBM commercial where Big Dave threw a TV out the window of his house)
He actually surfaced the other day, back living in Binghamton. He's sober, and he bought a complete bike from us the other day. He's back riding and working. Over the years, we've had some kids come in here that worked, wandered off and moved on. Quite a few characters have been through here I should say.

Where do you think the future of American-made frame building is going?
I don't think it will ever go away. I feel right now personally that kids don't care where their bike is made. I feel like through the years, I've seen surges of interest with who makes your bike and where it comes from. I don't think U.S. manufacturing will ever go away. I'd like to see more people get into it, but it's a really hard market to get into. You don't make a lot of profit per bike. The cost of tubing is high, and labor is expensive, and you have a small budget to make off the bike once you sell it. But the people that stick with it, they do it really good, and they do it because they love to do it, not to make money.

Big Dave puts the finishing touches on one of the final FBM frames of his time in Binghamton, N.Y.

Who's going to run the FBM machine shop now?
Mike Erb, FBM's vice president, is going to start managing it, and overseeing what goes on. And Joby [Springsteen] is going to be the head welder and machinist. He'll be doing a lot of the bikes. We have a couple of kids here that I'm training too, so at this point, Mike and Joby will be running the show.

Do you want to add anything about your time with FBM?
I definitely need to thank Steve and Mike a ton for giving me the chance to come here, and believing in me enough to make this work. I'd definitely like to thank everyone that supported FBM, and I hope everyone keeps supporting FBM after I leave. FBM is not just one person; it's a group of people. They make great bikes and they will continue to make great bikes. I have faith in them.

One of Dave's final frames, the limited edition "Anthem ll" frame from FBM.

Is the Pedal Driven site up yet?
No, I just purchased the domain name. I have e-mail if people want to contact me. That's pedaldrivencycles (at) gmail dot com or through my Twitter (@spookydave4130).

When do you think you'd be up for making frames for people?
By the end of the year, I should have that all figured out. At this point, I'm just writing down ideas and working on this on my own as I can. I'm not rushing myself into anything.