Kent Eriksen Q&A – building bikes
Part one of a series of five interviews with frame builders (as published in RIDE #61, volume 3, 2013).
Eriksen Cycles (Steamboat springs)
How long have you worked with your hands and what is your background? “It’s all I’ve ever done, with my hand-and-a-half. Part of my thumb got chopped just before a bike show, but I got out of going to Vegas [for Interbike] so it was worth it. I had been to 20-plus years of Interbike, starting in New York. That was 1982, with Moots [he started Moots with Steve Keselik in 1979 and later sold the company in 2000]. I think that was all for handbuilt bikes.
“My dad was a journalist, the sports editor at a local paper. Back in Wisconsin, we both got into bike riding. He enjoyed it and so did I. I was kind of a geek, an environmentalist. I graduated high school in 1973 and headed west by bicycle. Eventually I hitch-hiked into Steamboat Springs. That’s where I’ve lived ever since.”
When did you begin building frames? What inspired you?
“When Steve Keselik and I started Moots, I sent him to Bruce Gordon’s framebuilding school. I was too busy to go myself. That was in 1979. By 1980 we were building all the jigs and fixtures. Our first bikes were mountain bikes. We called them the Moots Mountaineers.”
What is your preferred frame material? “Titanium. Never going back to anything else. I’m not saying there aren’t other great materials, but for the weight, titanium is so strong. The only downside is that it’s hard to find. We like Sandvik and Haynes. It’s nice to stay with US materials. We have to order a year in advance for our tubes. Sandvik is Swedish-owned but out of Washington.”
How many frames do you build in a year? “We do 150 frames a year, give or take. This year a little more, even a few tandems. With Brad and his amazing talent, we can do more. He’s quite the welder.”
From what other builders, artists or influences do you draw inspiration? “Really, Brad Bingham was an inspiration. We used to be a bit competitive. But now I’m spending more time on sales, on the phone, mitering tubes.
“Steve Potts. He came and filled in for us for a brief period. Most of the custom framebuilders inspire me in some ways. Different aspects are all really interesting.”
What makes Colorado and its bicycle builders so unique? “Boulder is such a big bike town. Of course the mountains are here. But Fort Collins is important too. Yeti, Dean and GT and others are, or were, all in Colorado. While some of their production is overseas, they made the scene big.
“I’m not sure what it is, but it’s such a hub for cycling. The Colorado Rocky Mountain high thing, I guess.”
What is your favourite thing about attending NAHBS? “It’s great because it’s lower-key. It’s not so glitzy. The guys are making their own stuff. They make it all with their own hands. I’ve been through it all, but it’s great to see all the newer builders. There’s such a following for it here in the US. It used to be that all the builders were from England or Italy. But that’s changed now.”