Inside Why Cycles: The State of Titanium
Our friend Chris Reichel recently joined the team at Why Cycles, so we popped into their headquarters in Carbondale, Colorado, to have a peek and to and see what’s next for the bikepacking-friendly titanium bike company…
If you’re at all privy to the recent resurgence of titanium in the bike world, you’ve probably seen the bikes coming out of Why Cycles. Or, if you’re a bikepacker, you’ve more than likely seen a few of their rigs that seem built specifically for multi-day adventures. Regardless, they’re certainly beautiful bicycles. A few weeks ago, I passed through Carbondale to take a peek at their facility and say hello to the new “Marketing Guy,” Chris Reichel. I snapped a few photos and asked him some questions about their bikes, what makes them tick, and what the future holds…
Can you tell us a little about Why Cycles and how it came to be?
Adam Miller, the founder, was sitting in a bar in Ogden, Utah, having a couple beers with Jason Schiers, formerly of Enve Composites, and shortly thereafter a bike company was born. As cliche as it may be, the ideas for the first two frames and the logo were sketched out on bar napkins that night. The rest is history! The goal was to make bikes with modern geometry and styling that they would want to ride every day, but out of titanium.
You just made a big move from Asheville, NC to Carbondale. What drew you to Why?
Five years ago, I pitched a rather ambitious bikepacking trip to Adam when he was at another bike company. At the time, he was making some of the best fatikes in the business and he was beyond excited to send me to Iceland on his bike. Fast forward four years and we found ourselves touring on a couple of his new Why gravel bikes across Switzerland on our way to Eurobike. By the time the trip was over, we realized that we shared a lot of the same business ethics and goals. When Why grew enough for him to offer me a job, I was all over it.
The technical riding in Western North Carolina is second to none, but the adventure and lure of the West is too strong. I’m a desert rat at heart and I am extremely happy to be back among the sage and dust where I belong.
With the R+ and Wayward models, Why Cycles seems to have a solid stake in the bikepacking arena. Was this by choice?
Don’t forget the S7! That bike is a secret bikepacking shredder. The Wayward was designed specifically for long bikepacking trips. I have three big trips on it already and I am definitely in love with this big-wheeled monster truck. Every employee at Why is a lover of all bikes, and bikepacking is a big part of that for most of us. I see a lot of sub-24-hour trips on work nights in our team’s future.
Where do you think bikepacking and adventure fit in to Why’s future, or the bike industry’s future, for that matter?
Bikepacking will always be part of Why. It’s how Adam and I became friends and it’s our preferred way to travel. Personally, I’m really excited about bikepacking’s future in the industry. It’s something everyone can do.
Tell us a little about your personal Wayward setup.
It’s a medium frame set up 29+ with 2.8″ Maxxis Rekon tires on Industry 9 BC450 wheels. It’s a fairly basic SRAM XO1 build but it gets the job done nicely.
My frame bags are always made by Tupper Becker. I feel it is one of the most important pieces of gear and his work has never failed me. The handlebar harness is an older Porcelain Rocket set up that I believe was made for light on-road use. I don’t normally run it this stuffed but I didn’t want to use a seat bag on this last ride. The latest addition to my kit (thanks, Logan!) is an Andrew the Maker “Little Hatch Sack” feed bag. My RX100 camera and some snacks fit in there perfectly. I wear an Osprey Talon 22 pack instead of using a seat bag. It fits really well and it doesn’t bother me much to wear a pack. I’m fairly dropper post dependent these days and I really like the full drop for having all the fun on the trails. I feel like this bike is the most capable MTB I have ever set up for big miles. I definitely have a crush on this thing.
Why’s bikes have a pretty unique tubing look. Tell us a little about the Titanium used and what makes it special.
We like to say that we use a carbon engineering oversight to build ultra modern, bad-ass titanium frames. We wanted to really take ride quality to the next level with our shaped titanium tubes. It’s part art, but definitely a huge part function. We use a cold-forming process to shape our tubes that allows us to keep the same tube strength, but optimizes flex. It makes a massive, noticeable difference in ride quality and stiffness when compared with a traditional round tube bike. We use the highest quality titanium tubing – most of our tubes are a Grade 9 3/2.5 which is the best material available for round/butted tubes that get shaped. We use a 6/4 titanium alloy for all the machined parts like head tube, BB, sliding dropouts, internal cable stops, etc. There’s a ton of different types of titanium alloys, and different Grades refer to those different types. However, within those grades, there is a whole spectrum of quality. Grade does not refer to quality, it refers to type. We work directly with our raw material supplier and certify each batch of tubing created so we know that we consistently use the best quality tubes. We have an ISO-certified test lab at our manufacturing facility, and we do a ton of testing on our frames so we can stand behind them with a lifetime warranty.
Any other particulars that make a Why distinctive?
Modern features like internal cable and dropper routing, integrated head tubes so there is no need to press cups in, stealthy belt drive split, rack mounts, fender mounts. All the good stuff you’d see on any modern carbon bike, but adapted for titanium.
Briefly talk us through the Why process of how each bike is ordered and fulfilled.
It’s actually really easy. You either go to one of our awesome dealers and order up a bike, or you can order through our web site or give us a call. We have three stock complete builds to choose from, or we can even build it up full custom with no extra charge. Then either Greg or Andy will walk you through every step of the way. We are just as excited about every build like it’s our own, so we do our best to keep the customer up to speed each step of the process. We send you regular emails, photos of the bike in its various stages of build, and one photo of the complete bike before we pack it to ship your way.
What’s with the name, Why?
Our first answer to that question is always “Why not?!” But the more existential explanation is that we all have a reason why we go pedal our bikes. There is always a “why,” whether it’s that one hour after work shred or multiple days through remote mountains. All six of us come from other areas of the bike industry and we have teamed up to design products to answer our individual questions of why we ride and what type of riding we like. We are so stoked on every single bike we make that it makes it hard to decide which one to ride on any given day. It’s a great problem to have.
What’s your favorite local trail? How about a local bikepacking route?
You know that picking a favorite trail is like trying to pick a favorite child! I have only been here about a month and I’m still exploring the zone, so it might be a little too early to tell. I am really digging the fact that if I go one way, it’s big peaks and alpine. The other direction is the desert and a couple rivers. I see a lot of great bad ideas in my future. Stay tuned!