Category Archives: Beautiful Bicycles
A Stelbel Nina All-Road Bike for South Africa – Tino Pohlmann
South African Dirt and the Karoobaix

A Stelbel Nina All-Road Bike for South Africa
Photos by Tino Pohlmann, cover photo by Stan Engelbrecht and words by John Watson

After yesterday’s gallery, I received a number of emails requesting more photos of this bike!

Within yesterday’s epic gallery by Stan Engelbrecht, you might have spotted this blue beauty, albeit covered in a bit of dirt, dust, mud and Apidura bikepacking bags. This Stelbel Nina is something special. Made in Italy from one of the oldest tig welding builders in the world, the Nina is at home on the ‘cross course with 33mm tires as much as it is in the backcountry, rolling on 40mm rubber and unlike many of the frames on the market today, this one comes from a legacy.

Stelbel has arguably brought more to the tig-welding alignment table than anyone else. When Stelio Belletti first founded the company in 1973, there weren’t a lot of builders out there experimenting with tig welding and not just with bicycle frames. Belletti was responsible for improving the chassis for the Grand Prix monster machine, the Honda 500 GP as well as a fuselage for the P19 Scricciolo, a small plane and the vehicle of choice for the Aero Club d’Italia. This knowledge spilled over onto the Stelbel name and to this day, the workshop is creating impeccable examples of tig-welded steel. See more of this beaut in the gallery and for more information on the Nina, head to Stelbel!


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Jun 23, 2016 9 comments
The Breadwinner Goodwater in Big Country – Gabe Tiller
Camped out for a beer in the middle of the Alvord Desert

The Breadwinner Goodwater in Big Country
Photos and words by Gabe Tiller

Some friends and I had been scheming and dreaming up our Oregon Big Country route for an entire year, and this spring right as we were finalizing details Breadwinner Cycles launched their new Goodwater 27.5+ trail bike. I’ve known Tony since he moved to Portland from Salt Lake and watch him build bike after bike, each more lustworthy than the last. And they’ve pulled home award after award from NAHBS and the Oregon Manifest too. His meticulous craft building bicycles has become impeccably tuned, and the few times I’ve had the opportunity to ride bikes with him he’s whooped me soundly on the trail as well.

A few years ago when Surly launched their plus platform I took my first ride on the Krampus and instantly knew mountain bikes would be forever changed. Wider rims, more volume, and less pressure allowed me to clean technical lines I’d never come close to before. Rim, tire, and tubeless technology had brought high volume and large contact patches to the table without the weighing anywhere near as much as the motocross wheels they looked like. I was sold and thrashed my Krampus for a year before upgrading to a Ti Gnarvester. And now I really wanted to steal away on Tony’s fat-tired trail bike for our eight-day overland adventure through Oregon’s Big Country. Surprisingly when I asked, he agreed: “Sure, and ride it like I would—hard.”

He and Ira are often heard saying “We build the bikes we ride” and it shows in the Goodwater. Tony spends a fair amount of our rainy winter sessioning The Lumberyard and while the Goodwater is designed for an entirely different riding environment, he has maintained that nimble playfulness that make park bikes so fun. Giddily riding it home I could feel it begging to be flicked up curb banks and manualed through puddles. It’s got the shortest rear end (440mm) of any plus bikes I’ve ridden, and paired with the Fox Float 34 it cruises over rough terrain and still easily wheelies through desert stream crossings. At least the ones not filled with axle deep mud.

With internal routing, Shimano’s XTR Di2 1×11 drivetrain, Enve HV hoops, and a Thompson dropper it’s an incredibly clean build. It loaded up super well with my Porcelain Rocket Mr Fusion dropper hack, a Revelate framebag, and Limberlost’s DIY Handlebar Roll. It tackled the steep climbs and rocky descents over the Steens with ease, and the 2.8″ Schwalbe Nobby Nics held up well being pushed hard in loose corners or slogging through the Big Sand Gap on our way to Willow Hot Springs.

My only regret is that I didn’t get the chance to drop all the bags and really let this shreddy trail bike shine on some local singletrack before wearily giving Tony back his baby. I’m excited to see so many mountain bike builders embracing fatter tires, and Breadwinner is pushing the momentum of this movement with their Goodwater.

Follow along with the rest of our adventures at


Follow Gabe and the Limberlost crew on Instagram and check out Breadwinner’s Instagram!

Jun 21, 2016 34 comments
Makoto’s Doppo Sim Works Tourer
Makoto's Doppo Sim Works Tourer

Doppo Kunikida was a Japanese naturalist, one of the best. In fact, he’s the founder of the movement which focuses on, you guessed it, nature in literature. This love of nature inspired Sim Works to develop their own touring bike, one that would take a 27.5 or 29″ wheel and be prepared for just about anything you’d encounter on the road or trail. The Doppo is a steel bike, made in Nagoya by the framebuilder Shin and was first debuted at NAHBS this year. This is Makato’s personal bike, which he affixed with racks and panniers for our tour, while utilizing the “anything” mounts on the fork and the Sim Works “Homage” tires. You can read more about the Doppo at the Sim Works blog and contact them for ordering information…

This bike looked so good on the top of Mount Mihara that I had to shoot a few photos of it. Enjoy!

Jun 17, 2016 14 comments
Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Jeremy’s Sycip Break-Away Road
Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Jeremy's Sycip Break-Away Road

Bikepacking kits are all the rage these days and with good reason. You can take a rackless bike, add bags and get on the road easily. Well, long before ‘cross bikes were loaded down with bikepacking bags, dedicated touring bikes or even road bikes were fitted with racks and panniers for multi-day trips. Rear loading on a road bike is usually easier than attempting to front load them, since the geometry doesn’t really add much wiggle room in terms of having weight up front. Most road bikes are designed with a high trail, which can make front-loading unpredictable and downright scary. Not to mention most road forks don’t have rack mounts or aren’t engineered for such a load. Yet, with a rear rack, you can put the weight up a bit higher and further back without any hassle.

Jeremy Sycip brought this bike with him to Japan to display at the Circles Personal Bike Show and to tackle our Mount Fuji and Oshima bicycle tour. I was stoked when I saw his setup: a Ritchey Breakaway frame, with long reach calipers that’ll fit a 32mm tire and an elegant steel fork make for one classic looking ride. Jeremy rode the Gourmet Century Asuke on this, then added his rear rack and handlebar bag for the tour.

This is such a capable travel bike, built for whatever you want to throw at it or on it and best of all: it fits in a box that evades extra charges at the airport.

Jun 16, 2016 7 comments
Char Rie’s Cafe: The Hunter Cycles Super Coffee Bike Tourer
Char Rie's Cafe: The Hunter Cycles Super Coffee Bike Tourer

Bicycles. They’re only as great as their owners, and custom bikes, being as special as they are, still follow this rule. I’m sure every framebuilder has completed a project like this at some point. Specific, yet versatile, made for multi-surfaces and designed for a short in stature, big in personality owner.

Rick Hunter of Hunter Cycles takes on projects like this frequently. Or at least it appears that way. I don’t know what it is about some of Rick’s bikes, but they seem to be an exercise in problem solving, while delivering upon their specific use with confidence. A master of the touring bike, custom racks and creative designs, Rick’s finished products are some of the most unique in the industry.

Chari means bike in Japanese.

Rie’s “Super Coffee Bike Tourer” came to be when she decided to tour Europe, after her friend Mortimer from Keirin Berlin urged her to do so. Rie decided she wanted to attend various bike events, make new friends and pour coffee from her bike, something she had been doing since 2010 at her job while working for Circles and Sim Works in Nagoya from a singlespeed city bike. This trip however, would require something more capable, so she contacted Hunter Cycles and began to plan for her trip.

She started her journey on July 15, 2013 at Keirin Berlin and finished on October 28, 2013 for her birthday in Portugal at Cabo de São Vicente, aka “the end of the world”, the Southwesternmost point of European Continent. A bike’s use doesn’t die once its job has been completed though. For the past few years, Rie has tackled singletrack in Santa Cruz and various other bike tours, including our recent trip to Mount Fuji and Izu Oshima.

My job surrounds me with Beautiful Bicycles, of all shapes and sizes, sometimes desensitizing me to just how insane they can be, yet I can’t get over how rad this bike is… See more from Rie’s trip or her bike at her blog and be sure to check out her Instagram for more photos from her life of bikes!


Jun 15, 2016 18 comments
A Circles DeSalvo painted by Landshark
A Circles DeSalvo painted by Landshark-6

Mike DeSalvo makes absolutely beautiful steel and titanium frames, with some of the best welds in the business. In fact, his construction is so wonderful that he teaches tig-welding at UBI. While Mike’s frames are gorgeous in terms of construction, he’s admittedly not the most creative in terms of paint designs. His job is to focus on the frame’s engineering, leaving the designs up to the owners. Truthfully, I’d never seen a DeSalvo painted until coming to Japan and seeing the Circles customer’s personal rigs. Titanium is great and all, but sometimes paint really makes the frame pop!

When it comes to pop, if I were to ask you who designs the most outrageous paint jobs for bicycles, you might answer “John Slawta of Landshark.” John’s a living legend and his paint designs have long burned the retinas of their owners and anyone who has feasted their eyes upon these bikes. John and Mike began talking and decided to make six frames with insane paint jobs. This is the first, for Circles Japan and if you’re wondering what the inspiration was, Mike told John to be “very aggressive…” See John’s full design below, which features street art and pop culture references from Warhol, Keith Haring and Banksy, with a balls to the wall spin. If you’re in Nagoya, make sure you swing by Circles to check it out in person! (more…)

Jun 12, 2016 11 comments
Akiyoshi’s Hunter Cycles Road Bike
Akiyoshi's Hunter Cycles Road Bike

This bike is so Japanese. Well, it’s a Hunter Cycles frame, so technically it’s American but the build, the character, the colors and the size are very indicative of the scene at Circles. Sim Works parts, Chris King and that bag, which believe it or not, was the reason I wanted to shoot the bike.

Akiyoshi is an architect who makes bags in his spare time. Like the tensile structure from an Olympic stadium, this bag relies on a chord’s tension to maintain its stability. The most interesting detail for me however is the tie-down bottle boss bolt. When the bag is loaded and the chord is pulled tight, the bag doesn’t sway at all. It’s a pretty impressive design and it’s a bit of added character to an already beautiful frame.

Thanks for letting me shoot your bike!

Jun 9, 2016 12 comments
Breadwinner Holeshot Disc
Breadwinner Holeshot Disc

Breadwinner’s presence in Japan is huge. At the Gourmet Century Asuke, I saw so many Breadwinners, from the Lolo to the Holeshot, just about every group of riders sported at least one of these made in Portland frames, all built to the same general spec: Chris King everything. This one just looked so good after a morning rain that I had to shoot photos of it.

Jun 8, 2016 9 comments
Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Chris King’s Own Cielo
Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Chris King's Own Cielo

If you look at each and every Cielo‘s non-drive chainstay, you’ll see the phrase “Built by Chris King” but if you look at a select few, it’ll read “Built by me, Chris King.” This happens to be one of those bikes. Chris King is too busy these days to build frames but there are a few rolling around, including this one that happens to be his own. If you’re skipping to the photos now, you’ll be returning to read all about it.

Chris wanted to run a 1 1/8″ steerer on a 1″ head tube so he could run a more modern cockpit but maintain the elegant lines in the frame. The way he achieved this was by running a stainless steel headset with the skirts cut off. He then counter bore the cups and silver brazed them onto the headtube.

He used Reynolds 953 on the front triangle, NOS Campy fork ends and dropouts, Columbus SL stays from the early 80’s on the rear. After it was built, the frame received a post-build heat treat tempering process to strengthen the brazing points of the stainless tubing. This caused the stainless cups to patina with the headtube, which was then clear coated to maintain this finish.

This bike was built prior to Cielo offering stems and as far as Chris is concerned, if the current cockpit works, why change it out? The same goes for his saddle, his pedals and that saddle bag from 1977…

Jun 7, 2016 32 comments
Circles Japan Personal Bike Show: Mike’s DeSalvo Titanium ‘Cross
Mike's DeSalvo Titanium 'Cross

Mike DeSalvo isn’t known for flashy paintjobs, or crazy-shaped tubing, instead, his titanium frames attract attention with a different kind of detail: precision. These bikes are made from a ti welder’s dream with their meticulously-laid beads and cable stops. Not every detail needs to be observed with a macro lens however. Step back and look at the ever-so-elegant bend to the top tube for shouldering in cross races and the bendy, swoopy stays for, ya know, looks!

This bike was on display at the Circles Japan Personal Bike Show and Mike’s Japanese customers spent plenty of time nerding out!

Jun 5, 2016 6 comments