Our Q&A with Abbey Bike Tools founder Jason Quade
11 AUGUST 2022
By Nicki Giles
We chat with Abbey Bike Tools' Jason Quade about his career, his favourite materials and tools, custom jobs he's done and more.
Abbey Bike Tools owner Jason Quade fully admits that he got into the tool making business by accident. As an ex-aerospace welder and long-term race mechanic, he knew about the challenges fellow mechanics faced on race day and had the skills needed to find solutions, which is how he came to collaborate with Jeff Crombie.
Once the Crombie Tool swept the Cascade Classic pits, and press plaudits and enquiries started coming in, Jason realised this was something big. But you knew all that. Here’s more about the man behind the luxury tools, in his own words.
You have a lot of experience of working as a bike mechanic in shops and at races, but what is your background in cycling? Why bikes rather than anything else?
I got into cycling as a sport that I could do on my own terms. Something that didn’t have the team schedule to work around. I’ve tried to run away from the industry a few times, mostly by doing welding and industrial fabrication on everything from nuclear pressure vessels to aircraft parts. But bikes keep calling me back. Like many of us, I started working in shops while in school and it just stuck.
What was the first bike you bought with your own money?
A Schwinn Sidewinder, bought with money from my paper route.
Do you get out and ride much these days?
I try to, but between running a business and family stuff I’m lucky to get out once a week.
Before you started with tools, you co-designed your own bike frames. Are any of the frames you designed sitting in your house now and do you still design frames on the side?
It’s been a few years since I’ve built a frame, but we still have several around the house, both road and mountain.
Do you think you’ll start producing bike frames again in the future, and if so, what type of frame material would you use and why?
Nope. Frame building is the hardest way to make a living in our industry and my hat goes off to anyone who can make that happen.
What is your dream bike, past or present?
The last bike frame I built was a bit of a dream bike for me. I tend to stay pretty current on mountain bikes, turning them over every two years at most, but I wanted something to ride in between the modern trail bikes, something to keep forever. So, I built a frame around all the preferences that I’ve acquired in a career in this industry. The first part was the narrow Q factor XTR crank from a couple generations ago. It’s got a really long top tube to fit my ape-like arms, but after that, it’s a fairly normal steel 29er hardtail. It has nice parts but there’s nothing exotic about it.
What type of tool were you using when you realised it wasn’t good enough and you needed to make your own?
A hanger tool. There was just so much room for improvement in that tool.
Do you have a favourite material to work with when creating tools?
We use a lot of martensitic stainless steel, it’s hard enough to last but not so hard that it’s a nightmare to machine. It doesn’t rust and it’s weldable. It’s certainly not cheap but it’s a very versatile material.
What makes a great tool stand out from the sea of average ones?
It really comes down to tool engagement. With a lot of standard spanners, they need to work on such a wide variety of fasteners that it’s risky to take some of the extra clearance out of the fit. Thankfully, the parts we make tools for tend to have much better tolerances and we can make them fit really well. This takes the slop out of the tool and keeps you from damaging the parts or the tools.
What makes you uniquely qualified to design those tools that other mechanics can only dream of owning?
I think it’s a mix of being a mechanic at a high level, for everything from performance shops to race teams, and having the background required to make things. The job’s a good blend of my industrial background and the bike industry.
What’s your favourite custom job that you’ve done? It doesn’t have to be a tool!
A couple years ago I built billet curling brooms for our club team. It was an excessive solution to a problem I could have solved more cheaply by just buying a stock broom, but sometimes you just need to scratch an itch and make something no one else has.
Are there any particular tools that you really rate (and maybe wish you’d invented)?
You should ask our competitors which one of our tools they wished they would have invented, lol!
Is there anywhere in particular that you go to get inspired to create new tools?
The shop, on a weekend when no one else is here.
If your workshop caught fire, what tool would you save first and why?
The box of old prototypes, everything else is replaceable.
When have you been most excited to see or hear of somebody using your tools?
Our tools are so entrenched in racing that it’s gotten hard to pick a single instance. But I remember the first time we saw our tools at the Tour de France being amazing. For a guy that was welding everything together in his garage at the time to be featured at the biggest race in our sport was mega.
Do you still make craft beer, and if so, should we be expecting to see an Abbey Bike Tools beer on sale anytime soon?
Running a business has definitely taken its toll on hobby time but we do brew on occasion. It’s something I’ll always do just for fun, though.
Do you have any top tips for those considering brewing their own beer at home?
Clean everything, then clean it again. Hand bottling sucks, switch to kegs as soon as you can justify it. Don’t be afraid to fail, you’ve got to start somewhere.
What’s your beer of choice?
My staple beer is Rippin pale ale from Sunriver Brewing Company here in Oregon. It’s got great balance and is an easy drinker. Doesn’t hurt that it comes in a green can either. We have it on tap at the shop from time to time. I also love Cascadian Dark Ales (black IPAs) but they’re getting hard to find commercially. I do have some recipes to make my own though.
What is the name of your shop dog and how did you come to be ‘workmates’?
Remington, or just Remi for short. He’s a Weimaraner we adopted from another family in town when they found out that they were allergic to dogs. He’s my mountain bike buddy and loves to be on the trail. He’s also very good at letting us know when the UPS driver comes by twice a day. These dogs are known for being really attached to their people, so it just makes sense to bring him to work with me every day. He’s good at reminding us of when it’s break time or time to go home for the day as well.
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