The Inside Line: Frank The Welder

Bellows Falls, Vermont is not a particularly notable place. It was once another typical mill town on the Connecticut River, with businesses harnessing the raging water to turn their machines of industry. Now, it is the site of a hydro-electrical dam and a rundown rail yard, with a quaint downtown always humming with local commerce. An unassuming town, it actually has a lot going on within the time-worn warehouses on the fringe of town, most notably a derelict-looking facade with hiding a gem. The only hint that there is something going on behind the door is the faint glow of fluorescent ceiling lights through the adjacent bay door window. Inside what was once a thriving printing business now resides Frank Wadelton’s newest workspace. Better known as FTW, Frank is an industry legend – he’s in the MTB Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport. I met Frank in 2005 when he asked if I’d like to ride for the company he was a part of at the time, Sinister Bikes. I rode for them during my days as a Junior in DH. Since then, a lot has happened and a lot has changed. But one constant is that Frank has more stories than most, and I learn something new every time we hang out. In this sit-down, we start with some origin stories and then blast through the past, jumping around a bit and land somewhere in the present. A “colorful life” as he put it, Frank is one rad dude! - Zach Faulkner

 

Frank may be at the shop all the time, but [Cat's Name] lives here after being rescued from the local pet shelter, and is now free to come and go as he pleases.

The office is 10x12, the shop is 5-digits of square-footage.

Where the magic happens, quite literally.

Reminders...

If you struggle with math...
the machine shop can seem...
really overwhelming!

"He's the real boss around here."

Are you old enough
to remember
half of these?
A racer first, Frank emphasizes the importance of wanting to ride what he's building. He still wants to race at heart, the years of moto and DH always lingering in the back of his mind.

Frank and his trusty steed.

From a time when bars were not as wide!

High up by the ceiling, covered in machine shop patina, there hangs an innocuous frame... one which has unbound potential, though it sadly never saw production - yet?!

This is the linkage design Frank discusses shopping around to many places, with high praise along the way, but to no avail; VST linkage prototype.

The famed R9 - the last front triangle Frank has, besides his own personal bike.

The F-Bomb front triangle, the successor to the R9.

Frank's personal XC bike. It's really light, but really strong - and a 29'er!

When you work 10+ hours a day, you ride when you can!

The R9 was a really dominant machine in the early 2000s, it was an "it-factor" race sled that drew the eyes of everyone in line at the lift. Everyone wanted one, and it became even more quested after once the "shorty" version was introduced, just a shorter reach [before it was called that] for riders under 5'10", which is what I raced to a fair bit of success (perhaps most notably 3rd at the US Open in AM Open). I still have my frame, it is a treasured possession of mine, along with the DNA hardtail which is just a piece of art!



Frank is also a huge history buff, and really enjoys the originals, as he talks about in the podcast. Here is the Elbridge H. Corson bike he talks about, he also wrote about it on his own blog a few years ago.


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