Necessity is the mother of invention - it has been said countless times.
My name is Tommy Barse and this is my story of necessity and growth.
As a bike messenger in Baltimore, MD I learned what it is to push components to their limits. The thought of missing any work due to a part failing was stressful. After going through multiple machine-built wheels I made the leap for a set made just for me. I went to the mechanic that all the messengers trusted- Mike. I immediately felt the difference. I had another set built by my roommate for another build. I loved the wheels and knew that I wanted to give building a shot for my next set.
I moved to Georgia in 2008 and worked in a small shop for about 18 months. My last day there I begged the owner to show me how to build my wheels to bring with me to Baltimore. I loved the process and quickly grew a passion for creating wheels to best suit the individual rider.
Back in Maryland I reconnected with the messenger world and was back to work making deliveries. My messenger friends were my first wheel “customers” and allowed me to see what I can do to improve my builds over time. Many of these wheels are still being ridden today.
I started building wheels and assembling bikes for Chris Bishop (Bishop Bikes) in late 2009. Working with Chris has allowed me to refine my abilities and push myself. The Richmond NAHBS I got to see Tom Kellogg’s paint seminar and wanted to see what all went into making someone’s dream bike. I also got to visit his shop in Breinigsville, PA which was amazing. At the 2010 Philly Bike Expo, Chris met Bryan Myers, a super talented painter in Pennsylvania. Chris mentioned Bryan was interested in maybe offering a paint class. I sent Bryan an email offering to be a test pupil to see how he could design a curriculum. Somehow that worked and I started apprenticing for Bryan shortly afterwards. In fact, my first day was a crash course in painting. Bryan had gotten surgery on his rotator cuff a couple days before I started.
After a few months I was right-hooked by a 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass (hence the name) and spent 4 days in shock trauma and several months recuperating. Bryan hired me full time to help get me back on my feet. It was a great experience but the situation was arduous due to not having a car and staying at his house for several nights a week. I moved on due to a more convenient working situation at a retail bike shop working as a service writer and wheel builder.
Now it’s time for me to pursue my goals even if it’s bit by bit. I want to offer an experience that not only provides a custom reliable product but motivates people to continue a healthy and fun lifestyle.