Inside / Out at Sycip Design in Santa Rosa, California

Northern California has spawned many frame builders since the 1960’s, beginning in many ways with Albert Eisentraut, whose influence sparked a new wave of American frame builders. One of which is Jeremy Sycip, who learned under Eisentraut’s careful eye at UBI. Prior to that, however, Eisentraut had taught many other builders including; Bruce Gordon, Joe Breeze, Skip Hujsak, Mark Nobilette, and Bill Stevenson. The history of those individuals solidified the US frame building scene, and eventually paved the way for guys like Jeremy Sycip.

For over 25 years, Jeremy has built bicycle frames under the label Sycip. Since 1992, he has been building custom bicycle frames in Northern California. Originally located in San Francisco, he and his brother, Jay, opened a small storefront up in downtown Santa Rosa in the late 90’s. Their plan was pretty genius for its time. Jeremy would work on frames in a glass storefront, while Jay would work on design for the brand, taking breaks to show walk-ins the process. If they came for a custom bike, Jay would offer his custom, one-of-a-kind hand-painted frame… The brand, Sycip Designs, finally took hold.

Beginnings

Jeremy wasn’t guided by Eisentraut alone, not at all. Other builders shared their process with Sycip, including Rock Lobster’s Paul Sadoff, and Soulcraft’s Sean Walling. In fact, many of the process-based innovations still used today were shared by Walling after his time at Salsa.

In the early days of Sycip, frame building is not even close to being as popular as it is today. NAHBS wasn’t a thing yet, and while there were a number of larger frame building operations in the NorthEast and the MidWest with Schwinn, the boutique, artisanal approach to frame construction we have today wasn’t as common. Seeing the details in Sycip number 01 really offers an oracle-like prediction for what was to come from this industry as it lay dormant in chrysalis.

Fast Forward to modern times and Sycip Design has a cult following. You’ll see them all over the world and the customers riding them are always smiling ear to ear. These bikes carry an energy with the clientele because many of them have waited their entire lives to have one. When you’ve been building for over 25 years, that’s the reality. Thinking about how far the industry has come in that time is daunting but realizing that steel bikes are still popular is more than comforting, even if Jeremy builds using aluminum and titanium as well.

Surviving the Fires

Last summer, when this trip of mine was originally scheduled, a horrible outbreak of fires engulfed this region of California. Many people lost their homes, their loved ones, and their entire livelihood. Decades of hard work vanished in a wall of flames, perpetuated by uncharacteristically menacing winds and no matter how hard the firefighters battled the blaze, much of Santa Rosa, its surrounding hillsides, and neighboring towns burned to the ground. For the Sycips who live by Annadel State Park, a refuge for hikers, wildlife, and cyclists alike, the fires had completely surrounded their home, and Jeremy’s workshop. With no options left, they were forced to evacuate and wait.

They were lucky, yet only a few miles away, others were not. The scars still scatter the landscape, and even after spring showers brought bright green undergrowth, much of the forest’s canopy remains charred, the trees dying or dead, and until recently, all of the trails were closed in Annadel. Literally the day I left, they parks department re-opened the last few sections. Life, it seems, like those new growth grasses, has returned to Santa Rosa.

Fabrication

Jeremy likes projects, both cycling-related and non-endemic. In the time I stayed with him and his family, he completed a retrofit of a German fire truck into an espresso cart for Sea Otter, a batch of mufflers, and three e-bikes for the Trans Cascadia, all while helping a customer build up his bike at the last minute, and building frames in his queue. Being a well-rounded welder certainly helps in the constant pursuit of work. The projects Jeremy gets stoked about are the ones where he gets to problem solve, or think of refined production procedures. A drive for efficiency is always present with Jeremy.

While he and Jay opened a storefront in Santa Rosa, since moving his operations to his home, Jeremy has felt the need to build out a larger fit studio, prompting him to initiate his design procedure and begin to plan for growth, something every company hopes for after such a long tenure in any field. It’s been a long road for Jeremy Sycip, but one filled with progression and evolution. Keeping up with an ever-changing and challenging industry hasn’t been easy, yet Jeremy and his work have risen to the top.

If you’re interested in a made-for-you Sycip, check out their bikes and place an order. Jeremy builds road, all-road, ‘cross, commuters, MTBs, tourers and everything in between, from steel, aluminum, or titanium, and yes, if you ask nicely, Jay will paint a frame for you.

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Follow Sycip Designs on Instagram.

  • Brad

    What an awesome work space. Great to see builders ride through the ups and downs of the industry and manage to keep their doors open still. I bet it was great chat, a wealth of knowledge with all that experience.

    • The key here is diversity. Jeremy works on so many welding projects. It keeps him sane, and busy. Having other interests aside from cycling keeps builders – and people like me – from going crazy after the inundation of all bikes, all the time.

  • For a cyclist, riding a bicycle you created from nothing must be the most satisfying thing in the world. As usual, an amazing bit of artistic journalism and insight. You should be proud of this series John.

    • Thanks! I am. It what I love doing the most.

      • I think most of us would agree that these ‘inside the shop’ sets are fantastic. But I think it’s worth mentioning that I believe these aren’t just the best, but probably the most important contributions to the radavist. You should consider putting a book together.

    • Chris DiStefano

      Everybody Loves Raymond was fiction but the real truth of the universe is that Everybody Loves Jeremy. Better still, he loves everyone right back.

    • Willing to bet he gets that a lot. In truth though, I didn’t notice till now.

    • ha!

  • Matthew J
  • Sarkis

    The paintjob of the number one frame is just lovely. Van Gogh style…

    • So beautiful. Check out his 25th Anniversary edition I just posted.

  • p. meyer

    In #30, there is a weld that looks like it goes around the circumference of the seattube. Why is that?

    • AdamC

      #8 shows seattube, looks like it has an insert welded in… Not sure on the why

    • Almost every builder does this, it steps down the ID of the seat tube to accept a common sized seatpost. In this case, a 27.2 post. Not sure what the original diameter of the tube was, but that’s the reason. It also strengthens the clamp location in case someone over torques it.

      • p. meyer

        Ah, I understand. Thanks John!

  • nothingfuture

    I’m always amazing at the similarities between builder’s shops- a common(ish) layout and feel to them.

    Also: that Sriracha bottle with lube in it? I’m stealing that idea.

  • Jeremy, you need a proper fitting framebag! Whats up with that buldgey thing??

    • Jeremy Sycip

      Yes, I do!! That buldgy thing was frame bags from 20yrs ago.

    • Oh yeah he does!

  • Steve X Vanica

    So great to get a little history on Sycip. I lucked into one of his hardtail MTB frames in the early stages of the 27.5+ development, Pre-Boost shred-sled:
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/06d37e919e05bac126fd40703650ed66c98b226a64c863cf831a00cdf4103008.jpg

  • abellyahknow
  • Jared

    Jeremy is an absolute legend and nicest guy on the trail. So cool to see him and Jay doing work on those hand painted frames! Maybe one day I will commission my very own Sycip!!

  • Ryan Stashak

    Love my Sycip! The build process was a blast. Jeremy doesn’t have a pretentious bone in his body. The guy just digs making whatever someone finds useful.

  • Adam H

    I just want to know when the feature on that kitty is going to drop!!! Love the coverage of Jeremy’s work, such a great guy (and gorgeous bikes)!