The following is an extract from Mike Flanigan’s blog recalling the time he spent working at Fat City Cycles back in the day. Mike now runs his own frame shop and you read the full text of this article on his blog here.
My years at Fat were the last 5 of the 12 that they were in business [in Somerville MA that is]. When I got there Fat was in full swing making about 1650 frames and forks a year with about 20 or so people. Fat had a high volume and that counts for a lot. You can learn a lot with that volume, making bikes that would be abused and broken. Chris did a lot of testing. While in the beginning I am sure that frames were developed by trail and error. Something breaks, make it thicker, add a gusset or both. In the years I was there Chris helped build testing equipment to destroy frames and forks, designed heat treated tubes with True Temper. Chris did not have Bikecad, so frames were cut to frame programs he calculated with formulas he developed. Chris learned from the school of hard knocks starting at Electric Boat, then Witcomb USA in CT [hired by Richard Sachs]. When Witcomb shut down Chris moved to Boston thinking he was out of the bike business. But a Chance came up to buy out another frame shop at 331 Somerville Ave called Tanguy Cycles and then Chris Chance Cycles was born in 1977.
In my years there Chris was not really making the bikes per say, as in cutting tubes, welding or doing finish work and that is OK with me. He was the head of the company and paid his dues with hard work making a lot of bikes before I was there. Chris did not how to TIG weld and never did. Again that was fine with me. Chris was fantastic at brazing and using a file [among other things]. Why learn TIG at that time, because you could hire a professional welder like Scott Bengsten who had a bachelors degree in welding to be your head welder. Scott set the bar for TIG welding at that time and Chris was smart to hire him. There were many other good welders at Fat through the years, but Scott led the way.
I wish Chris the best and glad to see that he is interested in bicycles again. He was way into bikes and riding for many years. Got totally burned out and had his balls in a vise when the company went south. It was sad and I felt bad for him. Yes I was upset too loosing my job, but it was actually the best thing…I got to help start a new company and move on. Thanks to Chris for giving me a job. When I started at Fat Chris set me up at the sand blaster and said “this was where I started”. When Fat shut down I told Chris I was going to start my own paint shop, he said “Keep your over heads low”. Good advise. Wish I had stuck to it 😉