By Janet Bressler-Bilenky
I love asking our Philly Bike Expo exhibitors what they did before becoming framebuilders (or other cycling-related business owners). As I'm pretty familiar with the racer-turned-framebuilder and bike shop mechanic-turned framebuilder career trajectories, I get pleasantly surprised by the more divergent paths I come across. Pierre Chastain’s story may contain the most surprising journey yet. Here are my questions, and his answers:
PBE: Blaze Bicycles is a one-man operation, right?
PC: Yes, I'm a one man shop.
PBE: How big is your workshop?
PC: My workshop is pretty small. It’s an efficient space filled to gills with tools.
PBE: Where is it located?
PC: I'm located in a small town in Utah called Moab. My shop is by my home and I also have a retail location. Moab is pretty remote, but it’s home to two national parks, Arches and Canyonlands. It’s also a major mountain biking destination. The landscape and riding here are spectacular.
PBE: What did you do before you got into frame building?
PC: Before I was a frame builder, I worked in visual effects. I worked on films from Titanic to Alice in Wonderland.
PBE: Wow! I just looked you up. You might be the only frame builder with his own IMDB page! So, am I correct in assuming you used to live in L.A.? And if so, did you start building bikes there, or did a move to Moab come first?
PC: I started (framebuilding) in 2008 while I was still living in Venice Beach. I moved to Moab in Nov. 2010.
PBE: Where are you from originally?
PC: Originally, I'm from Athens, Ohio, but I spent a large portion youth in Germany, whereI went to school till 10th grade. It may sound like a radical career move, but I’ve been riding bikes my whole life. I’ve also been interested in craft. When I was in college, I worked for Dan Erlewine fixing and restoring guitars under his watchful eye. Oddly, it was a natural transition for me as things changed.
PBE: From luthier to visual effects artist to framebuilder seems pretty radical to me, just sayin’. How did you get your training in framebuilding?
PC: I'm mostly self taught. I got some help form a close friend who is a professional welder. I learned first to fillet braze bikes, then lugged construction, including making custom lugs, before I moved on to TIG welding steel frames, and eventually titanium. It's been a long road, but I’m still learning every day!
PBE: What inspires you?
PC: I'm inspired by riding bikes. I like providing people with "forever" bikes. Bikes that fit well, ride like a dream, and are built to last. I'm into making practical bikes that are relevant to riders.
PBE: What's your favorite part of the frame building process?
PC: The best part? Seeing my customers riding their bikes. The joy they get from the bikes I built them is an intense feeling. Runner up: Welding titanium.......
PBE: How did you come up with the name Blaze?
PC: It’s a mystery! Originally, I brazed my frames so the word-play of “blaze” and “braze” was obvious. I wanted something fast and modern. "Blazing a trail." "Blazing saddles" … Just kinda fell in love with the word. It can mean so many things.