Road to NAHBS 2016: Rob English of English Cycles

Photo by Tina Buescher
Photo by Trask Bedortha
Photo by Trask Bedortha

The frame building and racing career of Rob English began at an early age. Having built his first bike as a teenager for a school project, his passion for bikes, racing, and engineering drove him to build his first branded bike, a time trial bike, when he could not find any available to work for his unique fit requirements. While he always knew he would work within the bike industry, it was outside interest in his approach and process that really drove him to break out as a frame builder.

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The frame building and racing career of Rob English began at an early age. Having built his first bike as a teenager for a school project, his passion for bikes, racing, and engineering drove him to build his first branded bike, a time trial bike, when he could not find any available to work for […]

Posted in Feature, Interviews, Mountain Bike, NAHBS, Road Bike16 Comments

Road to NAHBS 2016: Curtis Inglis of Retrotec

NAHBS-2016_Curtis-Inglis_Retrotec_01
Photo by Curtis Inglish
Photos by Curtis Inglis

When I visited Curtis Inglis at his shop in Napa, CA, last summer, I got a glimpse into the mind of a guy who is obsessed with bending tubes. And actually, it ruined me a little for looking at other bikes. When you see a Retrotec in a room full of straight-tubed bicycles, it’s easy to take its curves for granted because it is just that different. When you finally really see and understand the flawless quality of the arcs in a Retrotec frame, bends Curtis has been refining for decades, you can’t unsee it. And you find yourself reevaluating all curved frames with that eye.

Last year, despite a hurried build due to attending the show at short notice, Curtis took home the Best Mountain Bike award for his fat bike. For this year, it looks like we have more stunners to look forward to…

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When I visited Curtis Inglis at his shop in Napa, CA, last summer, I got a glimpse into the mind of a guy who is obsessed with bending tubes. And actually, it ruined me a little for looking at other bikes. When you see a Retrotec in a room full of straight-tubed bicycles, it’s easy to take […]

Posted in Feature, Interviews, Mountain Bike, NAHBS10 Comments

Road to NAHBS 2016: Complete Pre-Coverage Interview Summary

ROAD_TO_NAHBS

ROAD_TO_NAHBS

We took a dynamic approach in covering this year’s show compared to past coverage. Rather than send out a standard questionnaire to builders, I chose several builders for long form phone interviews to break up the rhythm of the posts. Both types of interviews would center around an origin story theme because, well, I was personally curious. While some build their stories into their branding, others are more guarded about them. For new builders, they are still living their origin stories. Some just don’t want to muck around in the past because they are too excited about current and future projects.

At any rate, it was a total pleasure to speak to all of these builders and I’m grateful that they took time out of their insane schedules leading up to the show to tell us their story.

What I started to understand a few weeks into the coverage is that there were several themes evolving that I did not expect to hear. My own perceptions of the industry, one that I had felt pretty intimate with, were challenged. After the process of writing and editing these interviews, I  respect and appreciate the frame builder community more deeply than I previously had thought possible.

I hope you enjoy these; it’s a fascinating corner of the industry full of interesting people and fantastic stories. Bookmark this summary and save it for later. You’ll learn something.

Continue reading “Road to NAHBS 2016: Complete Pre-Coverage Interview Summary”



We took a dynamic approach in covering this year’s show compared to past coverage. Rather than send out a standard questionnaire to builders, I chose several builders for long form phone interviews to break up the rhythm of the posts. Both types of interviews would center around an origin story theme because, well, I was personally […]

Posted in Feature, Interviews, NAHBS7 Comments

Road to NAHBS 2016: Steve Potts of Steve Potts Bicycles

Photo used with permission of Steve Potts
Photo used with permission of Steve Potts
Photo used with permission of Steve Potts

NAHBS 2016 poster model and “Nicest Guy in the Industry,” Steve Potts, started his bike career in high school, reinforcing and modifying old steel junkyard bikes in his high school fabrication shop so they wouldn’t break as he pushed them further into the wilderness. By the late 70’s, he was building bikes with Mark Slate and Charlie Cunningham. When they couldn’t find the components to do what they wanted for these new mountain bikes they were developing they developed their own, founding Wilderness Trail Bikes.

Though Steve has built frames throughout his career, he’s really refocused his efforts on his brand in the past ten years. The Type II rigid fork that many thought would go out with suspension, has been retooled for 29in and, most recently, gravel applications. There are also projects in the works for stock steel frames, being made with the help and input of his sons who have been dipping their toes into the family business.

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NAHBS 2016 poster model and “Nicest Guy in the Industry,” Steve Potts, started his bike career in high school, reinforcing and modifying old steel junkyard bikes in his high school fabrication shop so they wouldn’t break as he pushed them further into the wilderness. By the late 70’s, he was building bikes with Mark Slate and Charlie […]

Posted in Feature, Interviews, Mountain Bike, NAHBS20 Comments

Road to NAHBS 2016: Josh Poertner of SILCA

Photo by SILCA
Photo by SILCA
Photo by SILCA

When the SILCA SuperPista Ultimate landed on the scene in 2014, it was so beyond anything in its category that it simultaneously inspired outrage and confusion in the consuming public. Why should a pump be so special? Why the heck would anyone buy a $450 floor pump?

But for those familiar with Josh Poertner, the new proprietor of SILCA, it made total sense. Josh had helped to not only establish the carbon wheel category during his time at Zipp, but effectively challenged the upper end of that category throughout his time at the company – the Ultimate pump was just Josh doing what Josh does.

In this phone interview, Josh talks about getting started, his transition from high-performance racing components to the timeless, heirloom-quality tools he now designs and produces to interface with them. (Also, for full disclosure and interview context, I used to kind of work for the guy as an engineer, so there is some of that in the interview too)…

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When the SILCA SuperPista Ultimate landed on the scene in 2014, it was so beyond anything in its category that it simultaneously inspired outrage and confusion in the consuming public. Why should a pump be so special? Why the heck would anyone buy a $450 floor pump? But for those familiar with Josh Poertner, the new […]

Posted in Clothing-Gear-Tools, Feature, Interviews, NAHBS19 Comments

Road to NAHBS 2016: Brad Hodges with W. H. Bradford Custom Bikes

Photo by Brad Hodges
Photo by Brad Hodges
Photo by Brad Hodges

Brad Hodges grew up steeped in early mountain biking culture in the hills around Cupertino, California. After committing himself to a life of building bicycles for a living at an early age, Brad began his career heavily influenced by BMX bikes and still finds himself coming back to trick bikes.

These days, Brad has been flexing a broader repertoire. We can expect to see a full range of road, mountain, cyclocross, and touring machines at this year’s show. While he builds mostly in steel, rumor has it that a certain ‘Tytanium’ bike will ‘steel’ the show in the WH Bradford booth this year at NAHBS…

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Brad Hodges grew up steeped in early mountain biking culture in the hills around Cupertino, California. After committing himself to a life of building bicycles for a living at an early age, Brad began his career heavily influenced by BMX bikes and still finds himself coming back to trick bikes. These days, Brad has been flexing […]

Posted in BMX, Feature, Interviews, Mountain Bike, NAHBS1 Comment

Road to NAHBS 2016: Claudio Bellon of Bellon Handmade Bicycles

Photo by Julia Bellon
Photo by Julia Bellon
Photo by Julia Bellon

Having grown up in Italy, builder Claudio Bellon was surrounded by cycling culture throughout childhood. Though bicycles continued to run as a theme throughout his life, and despite decades of experience as a welder and fabricator, it was only after being prodded by friends that he decided to take to the torch to build them for himself. Self-taught with house-made fixtures and tooling, Claudio focuses on building the classic, lugged frame sets that he would like to see more of in the world…

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Having grown up in Italy, builder Claudio Bellon was surrounded by cycling culture throughout childhood. Though bicycles continued to run as a theme throughout his life, and despite decades of experience as a welder and fabricator, it was only after being prodded by friends that he decided to take to the torch to build them for himself. […]

Posted in Feature, Interviews, NAHBS2 Comments

Road to NAHBS 2016: Chris Connor of Connor Cycles

Photo used with permission of Connor Cycles
Photo by John Johnston Photography
Photo by John Johnston Photography

I sought out Chris Connor for a phone interview in this series primarily because of a bike he did for NAHBS last year, a white ash bike he made in conjunction with Louisville Slugger in honor of the show location. I’ll admit – I hadn’t sought out or worked to understand wood as a modern bicycle frame material until learning about this bike but when presented with the baseball bat analogy for impact resistance, I reconsidered the medium for the application.

Chris is exceptional not just for his choice of material but also for his approach in embracing the performance reinforcements and adhesives that have been developed as a result of the refreshed interest in sustainability and renewable materials. His bikes are highly labor intensive – but Chris believes it is entirely worth it for the unique suppleness and beauty of the final product…

Continue reading “Road to NAHBS 2016: Chris Connor of Connor Cycles”



I sought out Chris Connor for a phone interview in this series primarily because of a bike he did for NAHBS last year, a white ash bike he made in conjunction with Louisville Slugger in honor of the show location. I’ll admit – I hadn’t sought out or worked to understand wood as a modern […]

Posted in Commuter, Cyclocross, Feature, Interviews, Mountain Bike, NAHBS7 Comments

Road to NAHBS 2016: Tim O’Donnell of Shamrock Cycles

NAHBS-2016_Shamrock-Cycles_Tim-ODonnell_02
Photo by Tim O'Donnell
Photo by Tim O’Donnell

Until last year’s NAHBS, I could say with complete certainty that I’d never had a bike move me to tears. That streak ended when I stepped into the Shamrock Cycles booth at the show. My friend Tim handed me a cold beer, walked me over to the Paper Airplane bike and told me its story. The bike, which was designed to be ridden with full fenders, but race-able without, was dripping in all the sweet little details and considerations that you know to look for in a Tim O’Donnell bike. It was purchased by a guy and built for a woman he met at a cyclocross race and was covered in 585 hand-painted paper airplanes, one for each day between their meeting and their wedding. I started weeping right there in the booth, pleading, “Tim, what are you doing to me?!”

But as exceptional as that bike is in terms of craftsmanship and execution, it isn’t exceptional within the context of the work that Tim does. And that’s what I adore about him as a builder and as a person. Tim’s work is obsessive, but never for the sake of being obsessive, it’s always to make himself better for the next thing…

Continue reading “Road to NAHBS 2016: Tim O’Donnell of Shamrock Cycles”



Until last year’s NAHBS, I could say with complete certainty that I’d never had a bike move me to tears. That streak ended when I stepped into the Shamrock Cycles booth at the show. My friend Tim handed me a cold beer, walked me over to the Paper Airplane bike and told me its story. […]

Posted in Feature, Interviews, NAHBS16 Comments