Road to NAHBS 2014: 44 Bikes, Made with Parts from the Lower 48
First time exhibitor 44 Bikes isn’t new to building, just showing. We’ve featured their bikes here and here, and now we get a little peek into builder Kristofer Henry’s process in our annual lead up to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.
BIKERUMOR: What are your main building materials?
KRISTOFER: I’m presently working with steel. I will eventually offer titanium to my clients but that is a ways off in the future. In the meantime, steel is an incredibly strong, durable and very practical material to work with. It offers a resilient and lively ride quality. I feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible with the material. All of my frames are built using True Temper steel sourced from Henry James and all of my headtubes, bottom brackets, dropouts and assorted braze-ons are sourced from Paragon Machine Works. All made in the USA.
BIKERUMOR: What’s new with your company since NAHBS last year?
KRISTOFER: This will be my first attendance at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. So what I bring to the show will reflect the ethos that I bring with my company, 44 Bikes. It is of note that all of the bikes that will reside in my booth (#926) were not built for the show. These are all bicycles that were purpose built and ridden. So I bring them with everything laid bare with all the trail worn scratches and scuffs for all to see When you come to me for a custom bicycle, there is a connection to my work that speaks to you. You tell me what you want, and I build you what you need, leveraging my experience both on the trail and behind the bench as a guide in crafting you your custom build. I don’t build show bikes. My bicycles are Made to Shred. That’s Guaranteed.
BIKERUMOR: Any killer custom bike builds in that time?
KRISTOFER: This past year (2013) there have been a lot of interesting bicycles built. I feel as though many come to me for my expertise building mountain bikes, but a recent addition of a versatile road bike which I’ve dubbed “The Huntsman” has seemed to gather a lot of attention from clients and it’s been well received. The concept being one built on versatility and the bikes ability to offer a wide array of options for the rider where it can be built up and ridden as a skinny tire commuter one day, hit the pavement on a group ride the next but has room for 32c tires so if you wish, it can head to points unknown via gravel roads. A few that stand out are a CXish gravel beast currently in NC, a “Do Everything Bicycle” for Richard Sachs’ wife Deb, a Fat Bike with room for 5″ tires that also takes 29+ wheelset with no change in geometry, and a 1×11 commuter with custom rack and bag that can be built up with 32c tires, run 28c for commuting and was sent along with a ENVE Carbon fork as well as the custom Engin fork commissioned by the client from Drew at Engin for his commuting duties/rack duties.
BIKERUMOR: Say a customer gives you free reign, where do you draw your inspiration for the best projects?
KRISTOFER: If a client gave me free reign, I’d have to tell them no, and I’d come back with a series of questions to help guide them with their decision making process. All of my clients to date have come to me looking for something specific. Custom bikes are rarely all about fit and physical deficiencies of the rider. A good fit is a given with a custom bicycle. That’s what is expected. No compromises in that department. Few times the client speaks of their aging bodies, old injuries etc. More often than not, clients come to me because their existing off the shelf bicycles have a deficiency. It does X well, but Y not so well.. Or maybe they have 3 bikes and there are certain attributes about each one that they like, but each one has it’s shortcomings. They have a vision to combine some of these aspects into one bike. Most times the client is looking for that next bike and I’m the builder that they have connected with amongst all the choices. And that’s the point: I’m not building someone’s first bike, I’m building a cyclist’s next bicycle. This is the one that’s going to take them to that next level, help them see their next big adventure realized, push them past that boundary and into a new experience. This is the bicycle that carves turns, digs into climbs and bombs descents. This is the bicycle that is an extension of the rider enhancing their experience on trail. The inspiration comes from the world around me. The trails I ride. The paths I’ve chosen. The endless build, ride, refine and back to the drawing board. Repeat. I want to package my experience as best as I possibly can and build it into each bicycle so that client and that rider can have only the best experiences possible through my work. Every client is important and every project is the best work I can deliver. Period.
BIKERUMOR: What are you building this year that’ll draw a crowd?
KRISTOFER: You’ll note that none of my bicycles in my booth will have a front derailleur. All are 1x something. That’s a difference between most. I’ll have a fat bike on hand which also takes 29+ wheels and I’ll have that wheelset on hand for the magic show. I’ll have a 1×10 “road” bike with some new kit provided by a CX specific company from the west coast. One of my personal favorites will be a singlespeed with some modern twists built in the traditional New England trails feel. There’s something really nice and pleasing about a singlespeed. One thing that will stand out I suppose is my booth will be pretty spartan. For my first NAHBS, I want the focus to be on the bikes. Not the backdrop. I’ve been to a few other smaller shows before this one, and I feel this has been a good recipe for a new brand like mine. It engages the guests and asks them only to focus on the bikes. That’s what I’m there for: to share my bicycles and share with the guests all the details and thought that has gone into each one. I hope that will stand out and draw guests in.
BIKERUMOR: Scenario: NAHBS introduces a new category called Mashups, pairing two completely different builders to make one bike. Who’s the yin to your yang, and what kind of bike do you think you’d build?
KRISTOFER: If I were given a choice of a collaboration partner, I’d want someone who had similar processes or had expertise that I did not have so our differences were compliments to each other. I’ve worked in the graphic and product design world for many years, and it’s all about finding clients and collaborators who share similarities so you both work with each other and not against each other. It’s all about finding people who are a good “fit”. There should be a natural flow to the equation and I’ve attempted to surround myself with like minded people and attract like minded clients. Keep in mind this is not to say I’m not all for working with others who are complete opposites and the goal is to find common ground through a series of compromises. But this isn’t politics. After all, we’re building bicycles. Riding a bicycle gives you that taste of rebelliousness. When you through a leg over your first bike as a kid, striking out on your own for the first time, that’s a tremendous feeling of freedom. Your parents have no say as to where you’re headed. That’s a special moment in time and many experience it first through their bicycle. I’d have to say IF I could pick one person to collaborate with it would be Tyler Evans at Firefly Bicycles. I respect all of the work that the team at Firefly has done to date and I know that we’d push each other to a whole new level. I feel we have a bunch of similar aesthetic sensibilities, with divergent processes that would add interest and challenge to the mix. Our expertise differ in many regards so I think the collaboration would be an excellent challenge and the resulting bicycle would be very special.