A Santa Rosa Frame Building Flashback: 1990’s Rigid Kostrikin SSMTB

Santa Rosa – and all of NorCal for that matter – has a rich history with frame builders. From Eisentraut to Salsa, Sycip, and Retrotec, the names and faces of this little realm within the cycling industry have such great stories to tell. While I’m working on a few more posts from my recent trip to Santa Rosa, I thought I’d share this unique build with you.

High in the rafters at Trail House hangs this 1990’s Kostrikin rigid single speed mountain bike. These days, bikes like this are still rolling around, converted with “limp dick” stems, baskets and flat pedals, these once race-ready bikes have found a life living as commuters, bar bikes, tourers, and grocery getters. There was a time, however, when these were the pinnacle of racing technology. Although the single speed market was and seemingly still remains a small percentage of this population.

Kostrikin frames were run by two brothers; Nick and Billy. Nick built the bikes and Billy raced them. These bikes were commonplace in the NorCal MTB racing circuits, with a few frames still popping up here or there, yet I’ve never seen one in such great condition as the one at Trail House, built up with a plethora of vintage Paul Components.

While Nick and Billy had a brief falling out with the cycling scene, Billy is still racing, mostly cyclocross, and Nick is still building from time to time. Nick’s new “brand” is called Highland Cycles, although his Instagram account is pretty slim on content.

As I was shooting this bike, I kept thinking how, despite being almost 30 years old, this bike would be an absolute joy to ride. That’s the thing about rigid single speeds like this; they evoke a sense of sketchy fun. Plenty of bikes like this are still being made today, albeit with disc brakes and bigger tires, but the intent of the bike remains in spirit. I’d personally love to know more about Kostrikin’s work, so if you have stories or photos, please share them in the comments!

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  • Brad

    Love the simplicity of this, M950 was definitely the most desirable XTR groupset too.The cranks are awesome.

    • With a White Industries ring too!

      • Brad

        Yeah that definitely adds to them. I heard they also did the odd chainring to fit Middleburn’s too. I modified a stock one to fit my Middleburn’s but love WI chainrings.

      • John Ross

        Pretty sure it’s a Spot Brand ring. PMW machined them though, so still NorCal!

    • Tim Guarente

      My cross bike still has a 950 rear derailleur, and it will as long as I can manage it. I even made it work an 11-42 cassette (with a Goat Link) for a while.

  • Dario

    I passed through the Trail House yesterday, managed to see this in person! My favorite of their lineup.

  • rick hunter

    I first met the Kostrikin Bros at the 1988 Great Flume race in Tahoe. Ben Capron and I drove up from Marin and raced. It was my second MTB race I think. Billy won the juniors as I remember, I think he was 12 years old, the rest of us were 16 or so. Ended up meeting Stosh Bankston and Patrick Way also, guys I would go on racing XC with for the next 10 years or more. Everyone had rigid bikes with 21″ bars and toe clips and straps.
    Both Nick and Billy are about the strongest humans you could ever meet, really funny guys with big hearts, and even bigger lungs. Nick started building frames and I remember asking him some questions and always wanted to see his latest bike. Framebuilding was a mostly DIY endeavor back then unless you had access to an established shop or framebuilder. I asked him how he would miter his tubing and his technique was just using bench grinders with profiled grinding wheels to shape the fishmouths. Nick was a big influence on me when I started to build my own bikes a few years later.
    Billy went on to be one of the strongest off road racers in California and also nationally. He earned a spot on the powerhouse Ritchey teams of the early nineties and Nick actually built some of the Ritchey team frames for the likes of Frischi , Djernis, and Matthes.

    • Craig

      I love these old steel mountain bikes. They are so incredibly useful and fun to ride. I can’t afford anything chi chi like this, but I have an old kona and ritchey that I’m building up for shopping, commuting and just old school trail riding for trails built in the days before things got stupid in the woods.

    • Thanks, Rick! You’re an encyclopedia of knowledge!

    • Eric Richter

      Bill was a crusher man. Pretty sure he won the Junior national at Mammoth in 91… (the year I first met Bob Seals…). Stoked to see one of these bikes show up!

  • Patrick Jonathan Neitzey

    The Fork is beautiful

    • It’s really well made. Hard to capture the welds in photos.

  • Not really keen on the colour scheme but it’s pretty 90’s. I will admit though, it doesn’t look too bad though for a style of bike I’ve never really had much interest in. Even though my first real bike as a kid was a 90s mountain bike.

  • GNARdina

    I look at this and I see that simple, blocky look of Geek house (especially that fork). I love bikes like this.

    • It does certainly have a certain “geekhouse-ness” to it doesn’t it?

  • nothingfuture

    Maybe my bike development got arrested at some point- or maybe I’m a romantic and love the nostalgia. Or maybe I remember (clearly, even) riding bikes like this (from Indy Fab, Fat, Merlin, and the like) back when they were new and hip.
    But they’re still what I think of when I picture a XC singlespeed. Before discs and droppers and stubby stems. Before huge tires and boost.
    A bit of steel, welded. A nearly horizontal top tube. One gear and rim brakes.
    I remember the first time I road one up a steep bit of New England singletrack and felt the bike accelerate under me- the immediacy of it! The quick handling! The lack of distractions. And, in the area, the need to really let loose on the descents if you wanted a prayer of getting up the following climb.

  • Peter Hedman

    I see nothing but a classy steed… Rides like this were the pinnacle of my late high school / early college bike-lust. A Boone Ti ring and a Flite saddle would have been my only mods!

  • California Travis

    I like when you post historical/obscure bikes like this. And Rick’s backstory is the frosting on the cake. V rad!

  • AngryBikeWrench

    Another fun detail – that’s a Sub 11 dropout, which were the first dropouts used by Surly, back before they were Surly. You can read more here, by a guy who knows a lot more than I ever will: https://surlybikes.com/blog/i_know_a_lot_of_dropouts

    • AngryBikeWrench

      Edit: they’re track ends. Somebody was gonna correct me.

  • You had me at XTR.

  • Stuart Hanson

    SO RAD.

  • Sam Scavo

    One bike that will never leave my stable is a rigid 26″ SS. There is something really pure about riding these bikes in a world of over built squishy nonsense.

    • erolorhun

      Indeed. This article made me put together an old steel Kona frame I´ve had in the basement for a long time, as a rigid SS.