Builders and their bikes – Q&A with frame makers
In RIDE 69 (out in September) we will feature a bike test from a brand that won the coveted ‘Best Road Bike’ prize at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in 2015. This is a gather that has featured on the pages of RIDE Cycling Review in the past when, instead of the regular two-page story ‘Bikes from the bunch’ (which is associated with each instalment of ‘Caffeine Culture’) Nick Legan interviewed five frame builders and asked them a series of questions about their trade.
We revisit those interviews (in an online format) as a prelude to the Repete Reborn test in RIDE 69. (Click the photo of the five respective builders from Colorado to reveal their interviews…)
The questions asked were:
• How long have you been working with your hands and what is your background?
• When did you begin building frames?
• What inspired you?
• What is your preferred frame material?
• How many frames do you build in a year?
• From what other builders, artists or influences do you draw your inspiration?
• What makes Colorado and its bicycle builders so unique?
• What is your favourite thing about attending NAHBS?
The builders featured in volume 3 of 2013 (RIDE 61) were:
The introduction to ‘Builders and their bikes’…
– By Nick Legan (RIDE 61)
The North American Handmade Bicycle Show found its way to the Rocky Mountains and Denver, Colorado this year. As in past years, framebuilders from all over the world came to show their workmanship, fraternise with other builders and maybe win a prize. The roaming nature of NAHBS ensures that the show’s flavour changes from year to year. There are always mainstays of the handmade scene, and framebuilders are rarely wealthy, but they are pedantic and passionate. Putting them together in one location helps each gain attention for their craftsmanship while they share ideas.
Just as it was in Austin, Texas (2011) and Sacramento, California (2012), local builders made the most of NAHBS’ decision to come to their backyard. Colorado builders were out in force, ensuring that show-goers remembered the Rocky Mountain high that a large hall filled with lust-worthy bicycles can elicit.
This is a break from the traditional vox-pop format for the ‘Bikes from the Bunch’ feature in RIDE but the conversation about certain aspects of cycling – and/or cycling products – continues. During the event in Denver in February I sought out five of Colorado’s finest framebuilders who were in attendance: Eriksen (Steamboat Springs), Yipsan (Fort Collins), Alchemy (Denver), Mosaic (Boulder) and Black Sheep (Fort Collins).
Among the selection of builders who were interviewed, four were award winners: Mosaic won best cyclocross bike for its titanium, disc-brake steed; Eriksen won for best titanium construction; Black Sheep won awards for its curvaceous titanium MTB tandem and its titanium fat bike; and Alchemy won best carbon-fibre construction with its aero road machine.
Even if the number of custom builders is much smaller than it once was, the consensus seems to be that there is a market for handcrafted bikes.
“We think that the acceptance by mainstream dealers of custom and handbuilt bikes is being driven by their customer demographic,” is how Matt Simpson from Alchemy sees it. “The ‘me’ generation is starting to figure out the experience is worth it. There is a shift happening. Handmade bikes are becoming a value to dealers, thus we – the builders – will have a major influence on the type of bike we build. This goes hand in hand with the riding experience.”
Eriksen, however, remind us of the drawbacks of custom building. “You have to back it up with good service. Cyclists do their homework. Plenty of small builders don’t make delivery on time. That’s a big problem for some builders.” But art, it seems, can take time to create.
– By Nick Legan