Bikes and Builders of the MADE Bike Show: Part One
With the inaugural MADE Bike Show wrapped up, we’re kicking off our recap with part one of three roundups showcasing the gorgeous bicycles on display and the builders who created them. Find details on 10 bikes, their unique stories, and a vibrant selection of photos showcasing their handmade details here…
According to all the builders I spoke with, the MADE Bike Show came at the perfect time. Since the North American Handmade Bike Show (NAHBS) didn’t return after their 2019 event and the pandemic prevented us from gathering, the familiar story at the event was that the framebuilding community desperately wanted a show to get the band back together again. A huge shoutout goes to MADE co-founder Billy Sinkford for making it happen (and a huge success, no less).
I spent the last four days at the Ziddel Yards in Portland, reuniting with friends, making new ones, and drooling over a sea of stunning handmade bicycles and other gear. Most of my time was spent with the builders, learning more about their process and shooting photos of what I believe to be the most interesting bikes at the show. We’re splitting the bicycle coverage into three parts (there were a lot of nice bikes!), and I’m excited to share part one below, showcasing bikes from Goodday + Curiosity, Frances Cycles, Schön Studio, Bamtam, Black Cat Cycles, BTCHN’ Bikes, Sour Bicycles, RatKing, and Wilde. Enjoy!
Goodday Bikes + Curiosity Bags link
Goodday Bikes + Curiosity Bags is a partnership between Chris Besnia and Arly Landry. Based in Gunnison, Colorado, they work together to integrate gorgeous bikes with equally stunning bikepacking bags. The end result is a totally custom frame and unique matching bag set packed with so many little details that you’ll continue discovering new aspects long after you first see it.
Where the Buffalos Roam
Goodday + Curiosity brought a long-travel hardtail that did a great job of encapsulating their vision. It has a complete set of integrated bags, is designed for a shorter rider, and is equipped with their Spacer Cradle Rack, which supports the front dry bag. They believe that your centre of gravity shouldn’t change just because you’re loaded up for bikepacking, which is why having such a massive frame bag on a small bike is so important. “The challenge with small bikes is that they have really small triangles, and that’s the most optimum place to put your gear because it keeps your centre of gravity low,” Arly explained.
The color scheme is based around a custom MRP fork, and because they powder coat and make all the bags in house, they can offer that level of detail. They ordered in a bunch of color swatches, matched things up, and the full build took off from there. When I asked them what design elements stand out in their eyes, Chris said, “The whole thing is built for a small person, so everything is maximized to get the biggest frame pack with plenty of stand over while being able to run a 160mm dropper post. I tried to make it so it all worked on this bike.”
Frances Cycles link
Santa Cruz, California
Based in Santa Cruz, California, Frances Cycles is owned and operated by Josh Muir. Josh has been surrounded by bikes his whole life, from starting a campus bike co-op in college, going down the community bike project rabbit hole, and helping start the Bike Church in Santa Cruz where he worked for 18 years. During that time and up until recently, carpentry was the real money maker for Josh. He learned how to build frames with a friend in a barn, made himself a bike, and rode that bike from California to the south of Mexico. “These days my favorite thing is all of the different ways I can haul my shit and my kid around,” Josh said.
Platypus + Farfarer Trailer
Josh built the first Platypus in 2008, constructed mostly from old Bontrager tubes in Santa Cruz. The one on display is only the sixth or seventh he’s built and something he calls a “mid-gravity bike” since it’s not super low but it has a big front rack and is great for zipping around. “Everything is structurally tied in and triangulated in ways that make me happy.”
Josh has been building the Farfarer Trailers since 2015. The trailer is designed around a chromoly steel frame with a pivoting seatpost attachment point and a durable Cordura cargo area. They are designed to be lightweight (<10 pounds) and packable to make travel easier. When I asked Josh what about the Platypus or trailer excited him, he said, "I get excited about lots of fender integration points and clean generator hub setups. Getting all those things integrated makes me feel good."
Schon Studio link
Squamish, British Columbia
Schön Studio is a welding shop located in Squamish, British Columbia. Owner Danielle Schön specializes in custom bicycles, repairs, one-off creative projects, and has been offering framebuilding classes since 2020 as well. Danielle’s road to Schön Studio is an interesting one. She originally went to art and photography school but landed a corporate job that wasn’t fulfilling her creative side. She’d always wanted to take welding courses at OCAD University in Toronto but could never get into it because she was in the photography stream. She ended up taking night school classes for welding for two and a half years, followed by a welding diploma program at George Brown.
Custom Cargo Bike
Long story short, Danielle eventually found her way to framebuilding, worked as Paul Brodie’s shop assistant in a framebuilding 101 course, and started getting student referrals from Paul after he retired. She had eight students in 2020, and this year, she has 16. It has grown to a point where she’s spending half her time teaching framebuilding and the other half building frames herself. “I also work for a blacksmith part-time, where we do mostly railings for fancy houses. I like the variety. I think I need it creatively.”
Danielle’s fine arts background influences the frames she builds, balancing creativity with a strong sense of functionality. The cargo bike was designed for someone 6’2″ tall but who also wanted their 5’1″ wife to be able to ride it. That helped decide on the initial design, which included a low standover and slanted top tube. There’s room for 2.25″ tires with fenders, and the front end is as low as she could make it. “It took me a really long time to design this frame because functionally it needed to handle well, but it also needed to be interesting to look at. I learned a lot. It was really hard to build,” she told me.
Bantam Bicycle Works link
Owned and operated by Bob Kamzelski, Bantam Bicycles has been fabricating, repairing, and modifying bicycles out of Portland, Oregon since 2012. Bob honed his skills working with the prestigious Bilenky Cycle Works in Philadelphia for more than six years and has made every type of bike under the sun but specializes in commuting, touring, bikepacking, randonneuring, and all-road bikes. Every frame Bantam makes features rider-specific custom geometry and is almost always designed to carry stuff.
The Travelall is the closest thing Bantam has to a stock model. It’s based around a custom-sized TIG welded steel frame, an integrated lighting system, geometry and handling optimized for bikepacking and loaded riding, and a suggested base build or your choice of a completely custom setup. It’s available either as a frameset with matching racks and a basket or a complete bike with all the bells and whistles.
Black Cat Bicycles link
Located in Aptos, California, Black Cat Bicycles designs, fabricates, and paints some truly impressive custom bikes, all in-house. Owner Todd Ingermanson worked in the cycling industry for nearly his entire life started Black Cat for one simple reason: it was 2001 and he wanted a 29er. Todd convinced a friend to lend him some tools, and he’s still at it 23 years later.
The Swami is a rigid mountain bike for fast, flowy trails. The frame isn’t suspension corrected, which allows Todd to build it for compliance instead of trying to make it fit in multiple boxes. “This is a dedicated rigid bike, so you get to play with the tubing and all of that to make it just function as a rigid bike. You get all the things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do on a suspension-corrected bike.” Todd has been playing with horizontal lines for a few years and is proud of the joints—such as on the seat tube and head tube—that all line up perfectly. “It’s just something to play with,” Todd said.
BTCHN’ Bikes link
Tyler of BTCHN’ Bikes grew up around motorcycles. Thanks to his dad, he spent much of his youth around the flat track scene, raced 125 and 250 GP bikes on the road, and pedal bikes were mostly just a tool for exercise during his racing career. After an injury in his early 20s, Tyler turned to pedal bikes, and they quickly became an obsession. His father is also a machinist, so he grew up making his own race parts, controls, and doing engine work. Tyler explained, “Most of my childhood was spent like, you get home from work, we’d go out in the shop, and we’d make shit out in the shop until 10 or 11 at night and then go to bed and wake up and repeat.”
After looking at the price of a custom frame, Tyler realized he had all the skills to make one himself. He ran the numbers and realized he could survive making custom bikes. This particular bike showcases Tyler’s desire to push things further and evolve as a framebuilder and designer. He was going after a classic rando look with thin tubes, including an undersized seat tube and top tube, but larger diameter chain stays to complement them. The rear dropouts are designed and 3D-printed in house out of titanium, and he purposely designed them to blend into the rest of the frame. Even the tiny curved cable guides and dynamo light mount, made from a thin sheet of titanium that weighs four grams, are all made in house. All the anodized parts are finished by him as well, and Tyler’s girlfriend Myra custom dyed a light tan color on the bar tape and made the frame bag for the bike to match accents on the bike.
Sour Bicycles link
Dresden-based Sour Bicycles made the trip to Portland with a collection of their German-made frames and teamed up with their primary US dealer, Chariot Bike Shop, to offer some local flare. I ended up spending a fair bit of time with the Sour crew, and it was interesting to hear about their transition to Germany-based manufacturing and developing some brand recognition in the North American market.
Florian from Sour had his rusty prototype Bad Granny on display and it was catching eyes all weekend. Florian broke his dropper remote just before coming out to MADE and decided to braze on an integrated steel dropper lever and simply trim super wide bars to dial in the position. Seems logical, right? If you look closely, the matching steel fork has a rebound knob decal and a sag O-ring. According to Florian this is so no one can mess with his settings. Sour is producing a limited number of Bad Grannys, which you can learn more about here.
The Sour Cycles Crumble is named after a classic apple crumble. “It’s not tiramisu, but it’s like you’re always good with apple crumble”, explained Joergen at Sour. It’s a crowdpleasing trail bike designed around a 130-140mm fork, not too low or not too long, finished off with a powder coat that’s also done in Dresden, where Sour is based. Florian can do custom add-ons for anyone interested in any of Sour’s bikes, including extra bosses, top tube mounts, and more.
Smith Levi of RatKing grew up around glass blowing, heavy equipment, and tools. As personal rebellion against his father, he chose metal fabrication instead of glass. Smith explained, “I was always really interested in it. It’s permanent, and there’s something about the weight density of metal. It was really interesting to me.” At the age of 15, he started interning at a local bike shop, Montano Velo in San Francisco, which at the time had its own house bike brand called Broakland. The owner took Smith under his wing and answered all manner of questions about bicycle geometry and design. He found an old Fuji at a recycling centre, hacked it apart, and welded it back together.
Steel Gravel Bike
Since then, Smith has worked with Matt at Pass and Stow Racks, built Dustin Klein a custom bike in exchange for a fresh logo set for RatKing, and worked with a friend to conceive what is now the Tumbleweed T-Rack. Smith clearly has some punk rock style rebellion in his blood, but he’s responsible for some pretty iconic designs and loves to design products to fit people’s specific needs.
The gravel bike pictured here belongs to Smith’s sister. When I asked him if there were any design elements on this frame he was proud of, he mentioned the head badge, which is his take on an old Fuji head badge (from the bike his sister has ridden for the past 15 years, which he also used to ride), using the same mountain silhouette and a similar typeface to what they used on old stamped head tubes. He’s also a big fan of the fork. “I think the segmented fork is one of the cleanest segmented forks I’ve made, especially its inch-and-a-quarter steerer and really short segments.”
Wilde Bikes link
Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Wilde Bikes brought an extra special custom lugged Earth Ship build to MADE as a way to show off something they’ve never done before. When I asked owner Jeffrey Frane about how it came to be, he said him and his friend Andy came across the Chris Bishop lug set in a catalog one day and said, “Oh, this thing exists? Let’s build it!”
Lugged Earth Ship
Wilde Bikes offers a number of production bikes in steel and titanium, made by Maxway in Taiwan, which is known for making some the best steel frames available. However, this special lugged Earth Ship is a shiny example of what they can offer for anyone wanting to go the full-custom, US-made route. “If somebody wants one of these, hell yeah we’ll build it for them,” Jeffery told me.
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