4: Wes - Employee No.1
Wes Williams was the first real career employee at Ibis.
We’d met Wes a few times, after frequent trips back to Crested Butte for the Crested Butte to Aspen Pearl Pass Tour. In 1983 he asked if could come out and work for Ibis and we gave him the green light.
He moved down from 9,000’ Crested Butte Colorado. He was from Texas originally (where it’s really hot), and didn’t seem to have any trouble moving to icy high altitude Colorado (it’s a dry cold). But that first winter he spent in coastal California, he had a hard time staying warm (it’s a wet cold).
Wes hit his stride fast as a talented frame builder, and as we hired more employees he assumed the roll of production manager.
Wes was an integral part of building the various bikes at Ibis in the years between 1984 and 1994, and his quality and attention to detail were helped Ibis gain its reputation for building the best quality products.
But it was his extracurricular activities that Wes really showed his talents. In the early days, he would take old steel road frames, and convert them to fixed gears with Torrington style moustache bars (when he could find them) or something similar.
Here’s a story that appeared in Bicycle Guide Magazine, talking about the bikes Wes was putting together before he came to work at Ibis.
If the bike in the picture above looks vaguely familiar, you’re probably recalling The Ibis Scorcher, the bike that we built at Ibis based on Wes’ earlier forays into fixed gears with retro bars.
There’s another page on the Scorcher coming later in this series, so we won’t dwell too much on it now, but here’s a picture of the scorcher, you can certainly see the resemblance.
The steady hand of Wes pioneered the gorgeous welds that were laid down on our Ti stems and frames. It wasn’t easy finding welders who could attain the level of quality we demanded. Many tried out, few were chosen. Although we hired full time welders to take care of “burning the metal”, Wes was the guy who set the standard for us. Here are a couple examples of our welding prowess.
But the real pièce de résistance of all the creations Wes did while he was at Ibis was the legendary Chopper From Hell. Wes, you need to turn that frown upside down!
You can see more pictures of it here: mywilson.homestead.com/gallery98.html
Wes was the earliest adopter/evangelist for the 29” wheel. It was the big fat 41C tires on the 700C fixed gears that really got him going in this direction. He saw their advantages immediately, and they helped counteract the disadvantages of the fixed gear single speed setup off road. The off road scorching also pointed him to bigger tires, one was called the Hakkapeliitta and even way back in the day we could get it in 700 x 45. That was years before the 29er thing came along.
Interesting side note: it was actually the Hakkapeliitta tire that was the inspiration for the name we later gave our cross bike called the Hakkalügi. Bet you didn’t know that!
Wes left the company in 1994 to start Willits Bicycles, now located in Austin Texas.
Mountain Bike Magazine published a pictorial history of Wes’ career in 2007, here it is.