Among custom carbon bike builders, there’s no mistaking Appleman’s unique, three-dimensional logo and often creative outer layers of woven carbon and tinted fiberglass. Last year he was tucked along the back wall with the new builders and first time exhibitors and only showed off a single disc brake cyclocross bike. This year he’s got a few more things planned…

BIKERUMOR: What materials do you build with? Which is your favorite and why?

APPLEMAN: I build frames exclusively with carbon fiber. In fact, I ditch aluminum frame parts and make my own carbon fiber parts resulting in a frame that is 99.8% carbon! I’m obsessed with carbon fiber’s strength and inherent beauty. When done properly, the ride of a carbon fiber frame is amazing. Carbon fiber allows me to truly customize the entire frame for a particular rider. Every frame receives custom tubing and layups that allow for a fine-tuned ride.

BIKERUMOR: What have you been working in since NAHBS last year?

APPLEMAN: Since NAHBS last year I’ve made a lot of improvements to the shop and the process. I have purchased tooling to help me build more efficiently. One of my favorite new pieces of equipment is the new Anvil Journeyman frame fixture. Materials are also being refined. I’m working with a local tubing supplier to provide custom tubes for every bike. Like always, all of my frames come with carbon fiber logos. In the last year, I’ve introduced a few color options in which the color is infused into the carbon logo. Internal routing now comes standard with all CX bikes and is a free of charge option on road frames.

BIKERUMOR: Any killer custom bike builds?

APPLEMAN: I enjoy the creative aspect of framebuilding and love it when customers give me creative freedom. I had a wonderful customer from Thailand who had one requirement. He said, “make me the most unique bike possible.” He was sick of having the same ol’ bike that so many people already have. I came up with a subtle “Thai” themed design. I made blue and red stripes (made out of carbon fiber) and applied them to the top tube and seat stays to resemble the stripes in the Thai flag. I also made an integrated AppleStem handlebar combo to match the frame. The bike really shines. Pictures don’t do it justice.

While some of my customers want something completely unique, other customers want something familiar. I was flattered to have a customer ask for a replica (in his size) of my personal gravel/cyclocross bike. The bike featured Appleman style full internal cable routing, disc brakes, white fiberglass logos and top notch components.

BIKERUMOR: Did you see anything at NAHBS last year that’s inspired you?

APPLEMAN: Demon Frameworks’ road bike last year was very nice. Tom and I share a similar vision, but using different materials. If I built steel frames, the result would be in the same vein as a Demon.

I keep stumbling on Peacock Groove’s “Evil Dead” bike. While paint on any bike isn’t my personal preference, if you are going to paint it… really paint it! I liked how Peacock Groove integrated the theme into the frame with the drooping stainless logo’s and “chain saw” cut outs.

I keep eyeing tandems at NAHBS. They give me the itch to build a tandem…Appleman style.

BIKERUMOR: What are you bringing to the show this year that’ll have every other builder standing slack jawed in awe?

APPLEMAN: I’m pulling out all the stops with a 29er mountain bike! It will have a fun theme built into it and will be even more fun to ride. It will make Paul Bunyan proud! You’ll also find a classy road bike in the booth.

BIKERUMOR: Scenario: A customer commissions you and one other builder to create the ultimate bicycle using the same parameters, same base material and same budget in an Iron Chef style competition. Who would you want to build against that would push you and elevate your game?

APPLEMAN: I’d certainly love to do this in real life! Any takers out there? I would like to duel it out with Brad at Kirklee Bicycles. The customer would have two great bikes that are completely unique.


  1. The stem with the blue and red inlays look like some amateur BCD homemade stuff. Maybe it looks better IRL but I would seriously not show it if I wanted more customers from the net.

  2. Wow, that is the most innovative design I have seen in a long time. Way to do something other than just cover the carbon with paint. Nice that he can do what the customer wants and make it look good.

  3. I’m surprised they led off with the stem/handlebar combo that doesn’t even look finished. The frame looks much nicer.

    For nifty handlebar/stem combos, check out Velo Zephyr out of Boulder. He makes some nice stuff.

  4. Hand-made carbon from amateurs? No, I will pass. Taiwanese factories doing millions of well tested items, still can make mistakes on occasion.

  5. Craig Calfee has been doing this custom carbon bar stem combo for a 5 plus years and even his first gen stuff is so well made and the attention to detail and craftsmanship is awesome. Matt should take a page out from Craig…or refrain until his products “look” like they belong in the same ranks.

  6. Nice to see all the internet experts come out throw some words around.
    Great guy. Incredible nice.
    Incredible composites knowledge.
    Makes KILLER bikes.
    And if that is really you, Greg Herbold, bummer. I have loved your work and riding since wayyyyyy before HBTV.
    Love ya Applehead, see you in Denver.

  7. It’s generally unwise to judge CF on appearance from a photo given that it can be difficult to capture its appearance accurately in a pic. Alas, BikeRumor is plagued with posts from poorly informed or just outright ignorant people.

  8. With a degree in composites engineering, Matt at Appleman isn’t an amateur by any stretch. And ,there’s nothing magical about carbon fiber; it has basic properties just like any metal. Anyone can learn to work with it with due diligence.

    Mindless, where do you stand on the ‘big’ custom carbon companies? Parlee, Calfee? And the middle-sized guys? Kirklee, Alchemy, Crumpton?

    D2 is right, Velo Zephyr’s stem and handlebars combos look like nice stuff!

    I look forward to seeing Matt’s work at NAHBS in Denver. I’m sure his work is even more awesome in person.

  9. The bar stem is an awful pic-period. Of course PSI squared, being both omniscient and omnipresent, offers expert counter analysis to those who venture an opinion. Perhaps Psi could inform the ignorant m-asses?

  10. I think the background of the bar/stem photo is throwing-off the look of the whole thing. Appleman frames seem really clean, so I’m sure the bars are, too.

  11. Steve M, PSI is right. Carbon lay-ups are not like welds- not only can you not see what is under the surface, but what you do see can be very deceiving. Both custom tube-to-tube bikes, and frames that are just popped out of a mold need to be sanded. Even if the surface is perfectly smooth, they are usually sanded before paint. That sanding can expose different layers of the fibers and can show fibers running in different orientations. Even carbon tubing from ENVE has a gentle ‘ribbed’ look to it as not all the fibers are running perfectly straight (this is due to uneven pressure of the cellophane wrap in the roll-wrapping process).

    A handmade bike, not from a mold, is going to get the most attention from the sander. So, you’ll see the most variation in the fiber orientation.

    Before clear/paint, freshly sanded carbon has the most beautiful and colorful shimmer because the fibers (and resin) are reflecting/refracting the light so randomly.

  12. looks like brutal but honest critique to me. even “handmade” carbon parts do not have to be burned through so much in sanding. the clear is very lumpy looking due to not great sanding at that. i don’t question its structural integrity, just its detail.

    the builder should listen to the audience.

  13. It may be the most perfect structure ever made. It is a poor picture. Not arguing whether or not it is safe or not. I would assume that Appleman supplied the photos and is interested on selling some of these. I am all for the small guy. I will, most likely, never see an Appleman in person. For many of us we have to make do with Bike Rumor for most of our two wheeled fantasies.

  14. I do question its structural integrity. I have worked with composites building scientific test equipment, and I do know first hand what it takes and how easy it is to screw up. Without extensive testing – or a large amount of components out there in practical, everyday usage, I would not trust my life and limb to such critical component as a stem. You are welcome to drink the coolaid.

  15. All you peeps out there with such criticism , I think you should all get together and start a carbon bike company. Sounds like you would be the best. Holy cow I can see it now!!!
    After 20 years I have heard it all. Seriously, besides snarky comments, what are YOU offering??? Takes a lot of testicular fortitude to get out and have pics and interviews with the peanut galleries out there.
    Ya dig?

  16. Mindless, the MAX amount of force the carbon needs to contend with are the exact same forces that a stem faceplate/bolts would encounter. The stem is intact underneath that lay-up.

    In fact, this construction is far superior to a standard stem configuration. Even a well engineered bar works better bonded to the stem in this fashion as opposed to clamped under a stem; carbon doesn’t do great with clamping forces.

  17. Hi All,
    There seems to be quite the talk about that bar/stem combo. The customer is extremely happy with the finish and quality of the frame.

    Firstly, I am extremely well versed in composites and have been working with carbon fiber for 9 years, have a degree in Composite Materials Engineering, and have been building bicycles for 6 years. I also have worked as a composite materials engineer outside of the bike world building 130 foot wind turbine blades and airplane parts.

    Building custom carbon frames, handlebar combos, and doing carbon frame repair is my full-time job and livelihood.

    There is absolutely nothing more important to me than building strong and durable structures. When I build a bike I manufacture the frame to be durable and aesthetically pleasing.

    The “Thai Bike” and “Thai AppleStem” was extremely difficult to photograph. The color is very subtle. The background light is reflecting less than desirable in the picture of the integrated combo. I encourage you to look at the following pictures of combo below. The carbon work is incredibly clean, even, and sanding through layers is minimal. The clear coat is also incredibly flat. The blue/red carbon fiber is raised and 3 dimensional and is that way on purpose.

    I encourage you to browse my website and see the incredible quality I offer.

    Please excuse my lack of photography skill.
    -Matt Appleman

  18. @Steven: it does not matter that the design is far superior. You just do not know, and have no way of knowing if there are fatal mistakes there. I have seen professional aero-space engineers working on small sample runs make them. And it did not look as cobbled as the photo on this page. It would make sense if you could not buy a proven stem and bar.

  19. Knowing what little I do about Appleman, I bet they’re probably very well engineered and structurally executed, but the finish work does leave quite a bit to be desired. People expect carbon frames and parts at this level to at least LOOK like they came out of a mold, not laid up by hand. The thick glossy finish just looks cheap in my opinion because the lines and transitions aren’t crisp.


  20. Matt, thanks for the alternate photos; they give a much more clear picture of your high-quality work.

    Mindless, options for pre-made bar/stems seem pretty bad, and very limited in fit. Fit after all is a huge component of custom cycling equipment. The other component, of course, is that it’s handmade and unique, which bars from FSA, Ritchey, and PRO are not. I’m not saying that you couldn’t create something in carbon that could fail; I’m just saying that this bar/stem won’t fail, there’s plenty of material there. Professional aerospace engineers are working with much small margins for error and much higher consequences. As great as bike products are, they aren’t seeing the same stresses and they aren’t built with the same demands for stiffness- or strength-to-weight. As space-aged as our carbon bikes are, they simply don’t push the material to the same extremes as the aerospace industry, or F1 for instance. So yes, the aerospace engineers are going to have more item not pass their standards.

  21. So now Taiwanese bicycles are the STANDARD by which all other carbon bikes are judged & American bicycle builders are amateurs??

    I seemed to have missed a few steps during the transition. FYI, is Americans who have been at the leading edge of composite innovation (Is Boeing Chinese?) & your friends in the Orient have COPIED & STOLEN much of the technology from US & Europeans & while making respectable bikes, are NOT the leaders in innovation..just volumn.

    If price is your ONLY criteria, then buy one & deluded yourself that you are buying the highest quality. In your uninformed world Cherry makes the most technologically advanced cars & Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi et al. are COPYING them.

    When Matt makes a FS 29er, I’ll be looking him up.

  22. I contacted Matt after my Trek Cronus’ virgin ride at Theo Wirth. An unfortunately large branch wedged itself between the rear rim and chain stay. The chainstay cracked in two places and I had to walk 7 miles back to my bike shop. The warrantee department Trek could only offer me a crash replacement-priced frame but I work in the industry and a new frame (at cost) was beyond my budget.

    I contacted Matt Appleman and sent detailed photos of the injured chainstay. I was charged a modest amount of money and 2 weeks later, my frame was hand delivered by Matt to Penn Cycle where I promptly built the frame up again. The chainstay is now wrapped in even more carbon and is stronger than ever. The workmanship, honesty and promptness of his communication with me were always very professional. I then spotted him and his bike at our local weekly ‘cross races in Minneapolis.

    Matt could use a photographer but unless you have come within a 12-foot radius of any of Matt’s work, you have no basis to criticize this man’s livelihood from the anonymity of the comments sections of this site. He’s hardworking, amicable and his framebuilding peers are among the best of the best. Dang, I really love Minneapolis’ bike momentum!

  23. Matt @ Appleman, when taking photos of parts try to use a light box instead of natural light. I know a lot of people think “natural light” looks better for taking photos, but it doesn’t, especially when dealing with glossy surfaces. You can make a light box out of foam board and some Ikea lamps for about $20 and get infinitely better photos even if you are only using a phone camera. If you like the look of different backdrops, apply them after you have taken the shot using Photoshop or any photo editing tool.

  24. These frames and stems look to be laid up with an extreme amount of skill and attention. People being miffed at the aesthetic are being pretty silly. Seems like a real shame that people would take aesthetic criticism and form seething and misguided opinions about workmanship, then spam a website that is trying to give innovators (or at least hard working people with talent and expertise) in the industry a wider audience.

  25. All the obsession over logos and finishes in here explains why I gave up road riding for MTB riding exclusively 20 years ago. It just makes me want to throw up.

  26. Matt,

    Keep it up. Besides Noren I’m probably the only onther person on this thread to have seen your work in person and can appreciate it’s impeccable and characteristic nature. If I was going to buy a carbon frame, it wouldn’t be a Calfee or a Crupton (even though those guys are at the top of their game as well), it would be one of Matt’s bikes. It’s the same reason I chose a one-man shop over Speedvagon or Cielo for my steel bike; the customer interaction and sense of purpose Matt hs translates through the design and build. Like I said, I’m someone who has seen and touched these bikes in person and even though I haven’t ridden one, the seamless joints and smooth finishes that don’t translate well on film definitely are there in the flesh.

    Check this out for a few hi-res pics of last years NAHBS ‘cross bike he showed:

  27. How many of you asshats actually own an Appleman bike?

    I do.

    How many of you asshats can throw down 1600+ watts?

    I can. (and I’ll happily prove it)

    Matt does fantastic work. Period. if you have any doubts about it, feel free to come up to Mpls and see his work, and talk to me.

    –Andy Kruse
    Appleman Factory Pilot & former master’s national champ on the track

  28. The new pictures look worlds better. Still not my cup of tea but I’ll retract my statement about it looking sloppy. I would refrain from distributing the first photo on any other publications to prevent the poor reception.

  29. Dear Anon, (notice how I posted my name and you didn’t!)

    I’m pretty sure Matt and I are on the same page, given that I just saw him & spoke with him mere hours ago. You’ll have to forgive me for stumbling on this thread when I had just finished my post-dinner brew and was feeling a bit belligerent.

    iNo – similarly – you got a name?

    It’s really easy to sit and cast aspersions on the internet. There are 3 people commenting on this thread that I know (and Matt knows) in real life, and none of them are ripping him. What does that say? Maybe it says that they’re aware of the quality of his work and the professional qualifications he has backing his work. As we all do, Matt flat out loves bikes and I am sure that he’d be the first to say that, if you can’t find confidence in his work, you should ride something you DO believe in.

    His bikes are worth every dime – for those who can appreciate them. If they’re not your thing, they’re not your thing, MOVE ON. He’s not trying to create a replacement for a Trek Madone, a SL4, or even a Chinarello. He’s providing a personalized product that can provide 99.9% of the performance of other carbon brands without having to sacrifice having a bike that is dimensioned specifically to the rider. The fact that he can style something just like the rider wants – is total gravy. Point is, don’t compare a custom frame to a black label open mold eBay special. I’m sure there’s someone out there for whom such a bike is perfect, and that person should get that bike – not expect Matt to build something comparable.

    I went from a custom Tiemeyer Cycles Signature track bike, to a Felt TK1 carbon superbike, to the Appleman – and there’s no chance I would ever go back to the big-buck, big R&D carbon superbike. It’s a great bike, it just didn’t ride like I wanted, and the Appleman does, in every way.

    Spewing bullshit in an attempt to discredit his work (from an engineering and design perspective) is completely pointless because the vast majority of you have no idea what you’re talking about – and you’re not making fair comparisons.

  30. andy, for the record, i never ever smacked the “from an engineering and design perspective” side of this. in fact i said i do not question the structural integrity.

    i think people can see the finish, even in those hi res pics, it just simply isn’t up to par. i’ve been to nahbs. i’ve seen the bikes in person.

    i think it is great that matt has some close folks looking out for him but i think if you guy really care, you will help him up his finish work. perhaps exploit some of those hi zoot “aerospace and energy” skills he should have gotten from that industry(or schooling).

    if in fact this is as good as it gets, if he and you guys cannot see teh diff? then i wish you all the best of luck.

    still behind my monitor

    ps, the ugly 1600w comment was a joke. i know who you are.

    i to can hit 1600 but only for that nano second and i am ugly as sin when doing it.

  31. I both know Matt, and his work. I can vouch that it is of very high quality, fit and finish. If you don’t care for the look of handmade, and don’t truly value a one-off creation, there are mountains of options for you.

    If however, you have the $$ and appreciate the passion of these micro builders, then you can experience what a treat it is to own a bike that is made specially for you. I have 2 handmade customs and they are my favorites by far.

    Matt is a niche’ builder with a certain style. Some of you would do well to grow up, quit hiding behind your screen names and try to do something constructive with your time. Maybe a good solid spin on your bike would help you quit hating your life for a brief moment and be decent to nice people.

    Matt- your photos aren’t terrible, but they definitely do not show the work like it deserves. Maybe we ought to talk when you get back and see if there’s a deal we can strike. Good luck and Nahbs!

What do you think?