Factory Tour: Hunter Cycles’ Santa Cruz Mountain Workshop

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (17)Nestled deep in the coastal redwood forests of Northern California, acclaimed custom builder Rick Hunter quietly builds hand made bicycles for clients from around the world.

Starting with steel tubing, and dabbling in carbon, over the past twenty years he has created a reputation for clean lines and a unique aesthetic.

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (19)

Each frame begins on paper. While Rick has achieved prominence due to his custom frames , he also builds small production batches for stocking dealers.

Hunter Cycles Custom Jig

The numbers are translated into steel via one of Hunter’s two custom jigs.

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (6)

Rick created these units many years ago because commercial jigs were not yet available. They would have also been out of the price range of a young hobbiest frame builder.

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (2)

Traditionally, Hunter frames have been built from steel, but he began experimenting with carbon several years ago. At first, it was just top tubes, but this prototype features both a carbon seat tube and top tube.

Prototype Hunter Cycles Cyclocross Carbon Steel Mountain Bike Frame (3)

Each carbon tube helps shave about a quarter of a pound, and also ads additional strength and stiffness. He purchases the carbon tubes from Rock West composites, then sends them out to Ruckus Components (factory tour here) to have the sub assembly completed. When the parts arrive, he uses a two part epoxy process to complete the frame.

Prototype Hunter Cycles Cyclocross Carbon Steel Mountain Bike Frame (1)

Rick recently finished building this hardtail for himself. He’s a touch shorter than the average NBA player and prefers not to ride with a hydration pack, so he’s been known to squeeze 3, 4, and even 5 water bottle mounts on his frame.

That distaste for riding with a pack has also lead him to collaborate with Porcelain Rocket on a little fanny pack side venture.

Prototype Hunter Cycles Cyclocross Carbon Steel Mountain Bike Frame (2)

Prototype Hunter Cycles Cyclocross Carbon Steel Frame (2)

He’s also experimenting with a similar carbon process on his cyclocross frames.

Prototype Hunter Cycles Cyclocross Carbon Steel Frame (1)

We feature lots of incredible frames on this website everyday, but this simple frame has to be one of my all time favorites.

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Many custom builders purchase premade dropouts, headtubes, and bottom brackets from machine shops like Paragon, but Rick prefers to make everything in house.

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Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (15)

Both his front forks and rear dropouts utilize the same convertible pinch bolt system to make his bikes compatible with any number of current and future standards.

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Rick also builds his own forks in house. This combination of burly welds and delicate arches is one of his signatures.

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While he has been recently doing more and more small batch runs, Rick is a custom builder at heart. Whether you want disc brakes on your road bike or fancy a fattie, he can make it make happen.

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Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (20)

Scattered throughout the shop and lining the rafters are dozens of spare parts.

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (2)

Like his frame jigs, Rick has built, customized, and even bartered for many of the machines in his shop. Some didn’t exist when he started, while purchasing others new might have been too cost prohibitive.

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Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (1)

Behind the row of metal working tools hang several of Rick’s personal bikes.

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (3)

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (16)

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Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (7)

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Like any good shop, Rick has countless small drawers filled with various fasteners and other odds and ends.

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (3)

The walls of the shop are largely uncluttered but little details like these pins give the space character.

Rick Hunter, Hunter Cycles Pump Track

Just a few pedal strokes from his workshop is Rick’s glorious pumptrack.

Rick Hunter Pump Track Bike (1)

To tear the berms a new one, he built a small batch of dirt jumper frames. At well over 6 feet, on his personal bike he uses a setback post, and handlebars with a lot of rise.

Rick Hunter Pump Track Bike (4)

Rick Hunter Pump Track Details

He is currently working with Nitto to develop a line of handlebars. We’ll share more details on that project as we get them…

Hunter Cycles 16 Pixie Bike (2)

In addition to all of Rick’s personal bikes, this little Pixie was also hanging from the ceiling in the workshop. One of three, this one was originally built for his nephew. The other two can be seen around town being ridden by two up and coming rippers.

Hunter Cycles 16 Pixie

It may be for kids, but it would probably be the ideal Parkfield Pixie Bike.

Hunter Cycles Factory Tour (1)

And for making it this far, here’s a picture of Rick’s best friend Woody.

There is currently a year long wait time for a Hunter frame, but you can learn more about his custom builds, or check out the online store here.

Comments

Mike M. - 07/21/14 - 3:05pm

Great write up Sarise, I can’t say enough good things about Rick’s work. Functional beauty at its finest.

-Mike

ThinksTooMuch - 07/21/14 - 3:29pm

This is what gets me excited and counting my shekels for a future purchase. I enjoy all the reporting on carbon wonder-bikes but guys like Rick are the true backbone of modern cyclecraft, IMO. Did you do any interviewing while visiting and pressing the shutter? I’d love to hear from Rick himself…

Andy D. - 07/21/14 - 3:49pm

That’s some tool porn for your Monday!

Chris L - 07/21/14 - 7:13pm

Rick is an amazing builder. He’s one of those guys whose work doesn’t scream out as being different at first glance but then when you look close you start to see all sorts of really smart, tiny details. Years ago a shop I worked in had one of his Racing Couch full suspension bikes in. Such a clever and simple design.

buriedundersnow - 07/21/14 - 7:31pm

Woody rocks.

il Bruce - 07/21/14 - 9:48pm

Not my aesthetic but nice work. I love that these guys are putting out great bikes. Woody looks like a great dog.

mkay - 07/22/14 - 3:11am

Good that garro has something to aspire too

Jon Palmer - 07/22/14 - 12:27pm

Such strong hands

lmwong - 07/22/14 - 12:36pm

Love love love my Hunter. It may be a bike a have forever. Great write-up and pics. Thanks Rick.

ploor - 07/22/14 - 1:58pm

i have dealt with a lot of custom builders –

rick is great – had him make me a koski replica fork for my 80s merlin –
what a pleasure to deal with

Bryan - 07/22/14 - 4:17pm

His unicycle frames rock, as well. Timeless, beautifully made, unique, incredibly durable, & fantastic ride qualities. If only I could trail ride it as well as it deserves. Guess I have the rest of my life to keep trying, as it’ll easily last at least as long as I do….

Ross - 07/22/14 - 9:10pm

I love my Hunter CX. All my other bikes are surplus to requirement since getting it a few years ago. I’ll never sell it. My Hunter is for life.

Lee Seid - 07/28/14 - 6:35pm

Rick Hunter builds fantastic frames, I’d put him in the top 3 (along with Todd Ingermanson and yourchoicehere) best framebuilders for people who ride a lot and are seeking a MTB or CX frame. Plenty of hyped custom builders may see more site clicks and expressed faddish interest among lifestylers, but people who have been riding a good while and have seen the trendy builders come and go know that Rick is the business! I hear he even rides bikes, rather than spending his time curating an image of a style counselor in the mountain lifestyle clique.

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