When we held our Bikerumor Schwag Toss in Asheville, we met local framebuilder Stephen Stickel. Building under the name By:Stickel (get it?), he had his latest creation there to show us after all the goodies were tossed.

Built with a number of clever features, his steel 29er forms a remarkably compact package, making it something even our shorter friends could hop on and fit comfortably. Beyond the sizing, things like the sterling silver picture frame headbadge and other nifty details make this a frame builder we’ll keep an eye on.

Check out more photos after the break…

The complete bike was built up locally produced Industry Nine wheels and Cane Creek headset. He was running a modified XT crankset as a double with a bash guard in lieu of a big ring.

Frames are made with tubes from TruTemper, Reynolds, Columbus and Dedacciai depending on the customers’ preferences or needs, and all bikes are custom made to order.

Starting at the front, the downtube runs more vertical than normal, hitting the upper part of the head tube just under the top tube. This creates a lot more wheel clearance, which helps keep the overall wheelbase shorter (making toe-tire contact the concern rather than tube-tire). In order to keep the headtube angled the way it should be, a simple, minimalist gusset is added.

Yes, you can add your own photo to the headbadge and swap it whenever you want.

On the driveside, the front derailleur cable housing hits a small stop on the gusset.

Under the top tube are three small, elegant loops that replace standard cable stops. This means you have to run full length cable housing to the rear derailleur, but it looks super clean. Here, both the rear shift cable and brake hose are simply clipped to the loops.

The side view of all that.

Moving back, the bottom bracket junction is another fine piece of work that takes a different approach to making 29er wheels work on a small, nimble bike. The seat tube comes into the downtube well forward of the BB, and a partial tube gussets the area for strength.

Hollow box section pieces bridge the gap between the main chainstay tubes and the bottom bracket shell and make for an artsy way to wrap the rear tire.  There was still a decent amount of mud clearance for normal width tires.

Moving further up the seat tube, the top of the tube narrows down to accommodate a narrower seatpost. This has two benefits: First, you get a bit more compliance from the thinner seatpost. Second, the frame has a thicker seat tube to weld to on the other tubes, which makes for a stronger, stiffer bike.

This hooded dropout is just one of the options available, with other options accommodating single speeders, too.

Prices for a custom frame start at $1,500 to $1,800, with options like S&S Couplers or fancy paint jobs costing extra. Fortunately, this hot sparkly British Racing Green is a stock color.


  1. That’s actually one of the nicest looking small-shop customs I’ve seen in a while. I love that he found creative ways around the 29er geometry “problems” without making it garish looking or putting in a big ugly curved downtube like a comfort bike. I may play off his HT/DT junction idea on my next frame too 🙂 That idea looks like it could drastically reduce the cable angle, and thereby shifting friction compared to brazing on those stops to the DT directly..

  2. The raised downtube/headtube junction is not for tire clearance, it is for fork crown clearance. One inherent issue w/ 29ers is when the bars are turned, the fork knobs can hit the down tube, at leat damaging the finish; at worst creating a stress riser in a highly stressed area of a frame.

    I really like this frame. There are many creative ideas that address some design issues inherent to 29ers.

  3. Steve has (in my humble opinion) drastically improved the world of 29er’s. He loaned me a bike to ride last time I was out in Asheville and it rode amazingly well. Handling can go toe-to-toe with ANY 26 in wheel bike I’ve ridden. Uber capable climber and precise/stable descender. If you want a 29er hardtail-this is the holy grail.

  4. I’ve had one for three years and Love it! He will even ride with you to get insight on what you are looking for. I rode with him at Dupont so he could see how I rode (Sledge hammer Diesel Truckesque style). Gave my deposit and Life has been better ever since. My buddy just bought this exact bike. I don’t think he realizes what he has yet since the weather has been less than optimal for riding around here.

  5. I think 4000psi doesn’t know what’s up……. that bike is in my basement covered in mud right this moment……. and will see some more date time later today.

What do you think?