torsdag 15 januari 2015

Interview with Lewis Composites

Bought everything for your bike and yourself but still want something that no one else has?
Maybe a pair of custom shoes is what you need.
Learn more about the guy who can make it happen.

Where are you from?

I’m Canadian, but I’ve been living here in Sweden for a little more than one year now.

How come you live in Sweden?

My girlfriend is Swedish, we met when she was over training in Canada. We were both elite speed skaters originally, and I was living and training in Calgary. She had lived in Canada for about two years to train full time there. After we both retired from competition back in 2009 we decided that we wanted a change of scenery from Calgary, so we decided we’d come over to Sweden.

Where in Sweden are you located?

Right now we’re in the town of Kristinehamn, it’s about 40km east of Karlstad.

New roadshoe with a special liner for colder weather.

What´s your background?

While training I worked at a speed skating shop where I did a lot of repair work to peoples skates and blades. I specialized in boot fitting for people who just couldn’t fit regular stock boots very well.

How come you started working with composites?

It started back in 2002 when I ordered my first pair of custom skating boots. I had ordered this pair from a builder in Calgary and I had asked for a few special details in how I wanted my skates to fit. When I got them, none of the details I wanted were done. The fit wasn’t very good at all, there were lots of small gaps and air pockets around my foot. And on the ice I just couldn’t’ skate fast on them. Talking to the builder about my options it became clear that he wasn’t willing to stand by his product. So after trying them out for a season I finally decided that I could do a better boot than these ones. So I set out to build my own pair. The first ones were really ugly, but with only one week of time on them I set all new personal records.

How long have you been doing this?

I started building skate boots as sort of a hobby in 2003 where I would build some boots for myself and see how they worked. After a few pairs of trial and error I had some friends that wanted me to build them some boots. So for a few years I had myself and some friends try out al my new ideas to see what worked and what didn’t. Every year it got a bit busier, eventually in 2006 I started doing this full time. I started doing cycling shoes in 2005. A lot of the benefits that you get from custom skates transfer straight into cycling shoes. So it was sort of a natural progressionto start working with cyclists.

Take us thru the making of o custom shoe?

The very first step is to make a mould of the foot. I use a method called alginate moulding. It’s the same material that they use when the dentist takes a mould of your teeth. It’s by far the best method to get a good mould of your feet, the moulds are good enough that I can even see the wrinkles in your skin. I then fill the moulds up with plaster to get a copy of your feet. Next the plaster must dry out for about two weeks, once it’s dry enough I have to carefully sand the feet down. This is the most important part in the shoe building, knowing exactly where to shave a little bit off the mould to make the shoes fit better. But at the same time still be comfortable. It’s quite an art form to do this well, It’s taken years of practice to get really good at this. Once I’ve completed shaving down the feet I can start with the building of the shoes. The first step is to build a leather liner that will become the part that sits against the foot. I use a special pigskin with a nice suede finish on it so it’s quite comfortable. Also it’s good to note that the only seam in the leather is at the heel of the shoe, under and around the foot there are no seams. The insides are smooth so there’s nothing to rub against the skin and cause sore spots. Then I’ll use a layer of Kevlar to stop the completed shoes from stretching when they get wet, and then an initial layer of carbon fiber. All the parts for the cycling shoes or speed skates are added and then a final few layers of carbon are added. The actual build process is a secret, it’s a system that I’ve been developing for the last eight years. The carbon is all vacuum formed around the foot moulds. And I’m the only builder in the world to run the leather underneath the carbon. This adds quite a bit of work time, but it stops any issues with the leather peeling away from the carbon, and it makes them much more durable.

How long does it take to make a pair?

Every single shoe is completely hand made, all the materials are cut out specifically for that persons shoe. The leather insole, exterior to all the carbon used is made only for that one pair. I don’t use any pre fabricated parts to build the shoes. As such it takes about 40 hours of work to build one pair from start to finish.

What is the price range?

Shoes start at 7000:-, and skating boots start at 10000:-.

What are the benefits of custom shoes?

The biggest thing that people notice when they try custom shoes for the first time is how light they are compared to stock shoes. I don’t quote people exact weights for their shoes before they’re built because they vary so much from foot to foot. But you’re usually looking about half the weight of stock shoes. Then there is the performance, even the stiffest stock shoe actually flexes quite a lot. In my shoes the bottoms just don’t flex. This is because of how I use the carbon to wrap around the foot in some spots. The heel cup and arch are all moulded one piece with the base of the shoe. The end result is no power loss from shoe to pedal, you really notice this when you stand up to sprint or climb. You can actually feel the difference between regular shoes and custom ones. Then lastly there’s the fit of the shoe. It’s very comfortable, the shoes really do fit better than any stock shoe can. This is especially good if you’ve got very wide, narrow, or oddly shaped feet. You cannot get shoes that fit if your feet are at all different than the norm.

Do you sponsor any riders?

Yes, I’ll be sponsoring a few riders next season. I’ve got a few already signed on to race in shoes for next year, and I’m always open to getting a well thought out sponsorship request from people. In skating I do sponsor a few athletes already. I’ve had a number of Olympic athletes use my skates, now I’d really like to get a few road and mountain cyclists at that level on my products.

Canadian sprinter Jamie Gregg at the Vancouver olympics wearing a pair of James boots, he's a world cup medalist as well as the highest finishing Canadian sprinter at the olympics.

You have a XC prototype shoe pair on your site, when will they be ready for the consumers?

I’ll be riding in the first pair next week to see what changes I want to make for the production model. They should be ready for production next month. I’ve attached the first photos of those shoes, they’re not even up on my website yet. That’s how new they are. The prototype ones are done in the green leather, but the production ones will be done in white or black.

Do you ride alot yourself?

I try to ride quite a lot, this year I didn’t manage to get out anywhere the amount that I usually do. I raced on both road, mountain and a bit of track back in Canada. But training for skating kept the racing to a minimum, but now that I’m not competing on the ice anymore I plan to start doing some more racing on the bike. I’m hoping to ride the trans rockies again next year, so I really have to get myself back into racing shape to do that.

You also make frames out if bamboo, tell us about that.

I started off making a few carbon road frames for myself. They were fun to build and ride, but I wanted to try something a little different. So I started experimenting with bamboo tubes and carbon joints. Eventually I tried a mountain bike frame, I’ve logged about 4000km on it so far. And noproblems yet. When you’re out riding a bamboo frame you have to stop and answer a lot of questions from people. Most people don’t have any idea how strong the bamboo actually is. So lots of people think it’s just some paint job. You do have to pose for a lot of photos as well. I’m planning on riding a bamboo 29er next year.

The first carbonframe, James did 8000 km on it before he tried to built in bamboo instead.

Bamboo trackframe.

James and his bamboo mtb in the rockies.

You also repair damaged carbon frames?

I get a few frames each year from people who’s warranty has run out but they’ve damaged their frame somehow. I always recommend people try to go through the manufacturer first, I prefer to repair as a last resort. But if your frame’s out of warranty then it’s no problem. I also do repairs on hockey sticks, car/motorcycle parts, a lot of carbon rims. I personally ride a set zipp race wheels that I’ve repaired, most people can’t even see where they’ve been rebuilt. I can generally fix just about any damaged part.

How much does a "normal" repairjob cost?

It really depends on how much work there is to do. It’s all based on how much time I have to spend doing the work. A simple cracked tube would start at around 1000:-, and then go up depending on how extensive the damage is. A lot of times people see one small crack in the tube, and when I cut the tube open there’s much more damage inside. I did a time trial bike last year that looked like a small crack, but I ended up having to redo the entire top tube since the crack actually went completely around the inside of tube.

Are your customers mostly from Sweden or are they international?

Most of my customers are international, I get a lot of skate orders from Canada. Recently though I’ve been building skates for quite a few athletes from Finland and Holland. I’m hoping that more interest will develop with in custom cycling shoe market.

Want your own custom shoes or repair your frame? Check out

Lewis composites

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