Framebuilders

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Concours de Machines 2022: Backstage of the Adventure with Cycles Manivelle

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Concours de Machines 2022: Backstage of the Adventure with Cycles Manivelle

Each framebuilder has probably their own relationship with the Concourse de Machines. Mine is not monochrome.

On the one hand, there is the excitement of creating a product with soul and sharing it with the framebuilding family. Our profession is “socially” atypical. It is at the same time very solitary: us and our ideas, our tools, the calm atmosphere of the workshop. And it is also inevitable to expose the brand/our work on social networks, the only lever to promote ourselves autonomously, without counting on the press. During the CDM contest, this too virtual sphere becomes the timespan of a few days entirely palpable and real. I find in the other framebuilders a sensitivity, convictions, a listening that it is hard to find in someone who did not go through the same choice of professional life as me. For many, it remains one. The contest is also about that: talking about our joys, our doubts, our desires, our difficulties, and that makes it very attractive to me.

On the other side, there is this shell that I try to put on myself since the frustrations felt during the CDM 2019. I had a bad experience putting so much soul into a project to feel pretty much unconsidered. Too young, too shy to show off, not enough in the good papers. So I take advantage of each edition to remind myself that we are doing this competition above all for ourselves, to continue to invent ourselves. The look of others is sometimes pleasant and often relevant, but it should not affect our own.

Under No Pretext Should Radness Be Surrendered: Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol Review and Factory Visit

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Under No Pretext Should Radness Be Surrendered: Guerrilla Gravity Trail Pistol Review and Factory Visit

The Trail Pistol is Guerrilla Gravity’s short travel trail bike with 29″ wheels and 120mm of travel. It’s the type of bike that seemed to fit my riding style, and I was super excited for the opportunity to spend some time with one for a long-term review. Since the factory where these bikes are made is just a short drive from where I currently live, it made sense to combine the review with a more in-depth look at the brand, their manufacturing process, and the modularity of their bikes. The original article was close to 6500 words, so we decided to split it up a bit for everyone’s sake. Next week, we’ll share a slightly shorter article that takes a look at the modular frame platform, new paint schemes for the brand, and the next-gen Gnarvana, which is GG’s long travel enduro bike. Let’s get to it!

Engin Cycles Port Royal Crankset Review: A Modern Crank With a Vintage Silhouette

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Engin Cycles Port Royal Crankset Review: A Modern Crank With a Vintage Silhouette

Modern tech, bikes, and components were lost on me over the previous few years. Sure, I talk about all that here at “work,” but in my personal life, I have spent more time looking backward, not forward, with bikes. Maybe it was because all the major manufacturers wanted journalists (if I can even call myself that) to review new gear that wouldn’t hit consumers for another year or so. Or perhaps I felt like there was inherently more to learn from the past than new tech and its marginal gains mantra.

Having spent a lot of time curating a few vintage builds, re-evaluating my own stable, and pouring over old bike catalogs, there’s something about the aesthetic found in the 1980s and early 90s mountain bike components that hits the nail on the head. Be it the eeWings cranks, those nifty Cyber Cranks, or these Engin Cycles Port Royal cranks, what’s old is new again in terms of design silhouette.

When I first saw these cranks, I immediately felt like they were an homage to the first gen M700 Deore cranks by Shimano, which did in fact come in black. (Ritchey Commandos were specced with an all-black Deer Head group!) Yet, the thing I liked about them the most was the slim profile, 30mm spindle, and the fact that Engin Cycles, a framebuilder I hold in deep regard and respect for, machines these in Philly!

I’ve had the Engin Cycles Port Royal Cranks ($575) on my Starling Murmur for a while now and finally have some thoughts I can share with y’all, so read on below for a quick review…

We’ll Be at Bespoked 2022!

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We’ll Be at Bespoked 2022!

Bespoked is Europe’s largest handmade bicycle show and it’s taking place in just under two months, from October 14-16, at London’s Lee Valley VeloPark. As you might have heard, our friend Petor Georgallou, who has documented previous Bespoked shows for us, has purchased the show! So, to let Petor focus on running the show rather than documenting it, we’re stoked to announce that we’ll be there photographing bikes AND giving out awards and prizes for a yet TBD category.

If you haven’t already purchased tickets to attend, you can do so over at the Bespoked website. Also, be sure to sign up for Bespoked’s newsletter, which will have a discount code in the upcoming edition.

There are still a few exhibitor booths remaining, but they are going fast, so reserve yours now!

Inside / Out at Bender Bicycle Company of Fort Collins, CO

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Inside / Out at Bender Bicycle Company of Fort Collins, CO

I’ve always wondered if there was something special about the water in Fort Collins that makes it a hotbed for legendary bicycle frame builders. Is the Poudre River’s clean mountain water that so famously supplies New Belgium, Odell, and numerous other local breweries in some way responsible for the wildly beautiful frames made by the likes of Black Sheep Bikes, Oddity Cycles, or Moonmen Bikes? Well, the answer is probably not, but Fort Collins’ water is delicious and it’s a great place to build bikes. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting with the Choice City’s newest framebuilder, Will Bender, of Bender Bicycle Company. Will has been making frames part-time for a handful of years now, with some truly beautiful machines under his belt, and he just recently moved into a new shop space to start building full-time.

Below, let’s take a look at Bender Bicycle Company as well as some of Will’s recent customer builds!

From The Pro’s Closet: 1987 Steve Potts Signature

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From The Pro’s Closet: 1987 Steve Potts Signature

This entry from The Pro’s Closet museum is my personal favorite bike I’ve shot thus far. It’s not often you find such a clean and pristine example of a 1980s Potts Signature, complete with WTB dirt drops, a LD stem, and a full WTB/Suntour Grease Guard kit. Today we’re stoked to feature this gem with words by the Vintage MTB Workshop‘s Tasshi Dennis so read on below for more!

2022 Concourse de Machines Part Two: The Race and The Show

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2022 Concourse de Machines Part Two: The Race and The Show

Saying we woke up would imply sleep, which is a luxury the night before the Concours de Machines race hadn’t afforded us, owing to thick black clouds of mosquitoes that infested our van. I lit a church of citronella candles and closed all the doors and windows, while Josh rolled himself up in a sheet and slept outside on a decrepit shezlongé that sat outside the factory. Mosquitos spent the night screaming and raging in our ears while doing their best to tear us limb from limb. At 4 am they sat lining the window sills, fat and bloated, drunk on our blood.

I killed a dozen of them with an old sock in one limp sleep-deprived swipe as a tokenistic act of vengeance, knowing they’d be saving their strength for another assault the next evening. I stood in Andreas’ elegant la fraise workshop contorting my body to scratch bites between nerve endings on my back, craving coffee as the pilotes clip clopped in on road shoes. For many of them, road shoes were a terrible choice. The 204km route billed as a road with some cobbles and gravel somehow encompassed 1466m of short sharp climbs in an oppressively pancake-flat landscape, as well as some muddy singletrack. The singletrack must have caught teams rolling on 28c slick tyres off guard, and would prove catastrophic for some.

This is the second of two reports from the 2022 Concours de Machines. Be sure to check here for the first installment!

2022 Concours de Machines Part One: The Contest and the Contestants

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2022 Concours de Machines Part One: The Contest and the Contestants

In 2018 I was invited to take part in the third edition of Concours de Machines as Dear Susan, in the medieval town of Bruniquel in the south of France. The Concours is a recent(ish) revival of a frame-building contest first organized in 1903 that ran up to the late 1940s. It was traditionally hosted in different locations around France, the goal of which was to demonstrate the superiority of artisanal “constructeurs” and their machines, over production bikes.

Before accepting the invitation, there were some red flags for me. For instance the idea of “better;” how you can numerically score one bike against another, especially if they’re designed and made around a particular rider for a particular course? There’s so much that just comes down to preference! Reading further into the scoring system, the seemingly arbitrary categories actually became quite liberating, in that scores were given based on abstract criteria rather than what constituted a good or appropriate bike. Limitations included things like: “the bicycle must have wheels with tyres, and a system with which to steer,” as well as point scoring sections like: “the bicycle must be able to power its own lights and it must have bags to carry everything you need for an overnight trip.”

This is the first of two reports from the 2022 Concours de Machines. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the second installment!

A Shop Visit to Wildflower Cycles in Superior, Wisconsin

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A Shop Visit to Wildflower Cycles in Superior, Wisconsin

Back in June of 2021, I found myself way up north in Duluth, Minnesota. I was there with my teammate Kait Boyle for a Backcountry Bike Challenge fundraising event for the local advocacy organization, Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) and to ride the Duluth Traverse. COGGS had been working on the 45-mile-long Duluth Traverse for years, building and linking together trails on the highlands above town, and we wanted to experience what they had created. But this was also a trip back to where I spent quite a bit of time as a kid that grew up just a couple hours to the south near Minneapolis, albeit in a decade when there were far, far fewer trails in the area. I’ll save the story of just how impressive the Duluth Traverse is for another time since you’re probably here to read about Wildflower Bicycles’ beautiful bikes rather than beautiful trails. But first, let me share why I was especially excited to visit the shop of a new-to-the-Midwest frame builder and the only one in the Duluth-Superior area.

John’s Moots Womble 29er Hardtail Updates: Chris King Fusion Fiber MTN30 Wheels and the New Rock Shox Pike Ultimate

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John’s Moots Womble 29er Hardtail Updates: Chris King Fusion Fiber MTN30 Wheels and the New Rock Shox Pike Ultimate

I’ve been privileged to throw my leg around many fine bicycles, and two years ago, when I got to review a Moots Womble, I fell in love. It’s incredibly light and capable, but, most importantly, it pedals pleasantly whether you’re climbing or descending. It’s the bike I ride the most here in Santa Fe, and while it often gets in over its head, so to speak, I find it capable enough for a proper all-mountain experience. I’ve climbed with it from town to our towers (12,500′) and took it right back down the guts of the Rocky Mountains on a long, 15-mile singletrack descent. It’s taken me across the Uncompahgre Plateau and all over Northern New Mexico. While it only has a 140mm travel fork, it’s honed my riding skills to where I feel like I’ve mastered this titanium chassis. Yet, I’m not opposed to upgrades or using this trusty bike as a lab rat for product tests.

Over the past few months, I’ve been giving two new products a proper thrashin’ from New Mexico to Montana, so let’s see what I think about the Chris King FusionFiber Wheels and the new RockShox Pike Ultimate below.

Megan Dean’s Frame Building Class at Center for Metal Arts in Johnstown, PA

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Megan Dean’s Frame Building Class at Center for Metal Arts in Johnstown, PA

The Philly Bike Expo brings together folks from all over the country each year, many of whom have transformed the event into a gathering of some of the finest frame builders in the world. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years attending the show and documenting these awesome builders. While at the show in Philly, I often approach it with a mission in the back of my mind to bring good friends back to Johnstown, PA where I live. It’s a place that desperately needs more cycling culture.

A couple of years ago I did just that and, with fingers crossed, I sprung this question on Megan Dean of Moth Attack: “This bike is unreal, it’s truly a work of art, have you ever thought about teaching a frame-building class?” I think Megan said something like “Funny you should say that… I actually have been.” I responded by telling her that I have a friend in town with a special spot we could use called Center For Metal Arts. It’s filled with light, a fire, and the glow of forged metals most days of the week. Not familiar with CMA? No problem, read on.