Longtime readers of this website will know Tom La Marche, primarily due to his fame during the popularity of fixed gear riding in the early 2000s. More recently, Tom has pursued his love of framebuilding under the banner of La Marche Bicycle Co part-time while working as a stunt man for various Hollywood movies and TV shows. For the past few years, he’s been working on getting his workshop dialed in and making bikes for a select clientele. While in town for the Philly Bike Expo last year, I caught up with Tom at his new shop space and photographed his personal Town & Country gravel bike. Let’s take a look below!
Back in the days of the fixed gear craze, Tom began exploring his desire to build bike frames. Having grown up riding street BMX, he wanted to make robust bikes, ideal for riding in urban environments like Philadelphia and NYC. He began working with Lance at Squarebuilt Frames in NYC to learn this new skillset in 2015.
Lance taught him the basics; afterward, Tom worked for Thomas at Horse Cycles for another year. Realizing he not only had a talent for framebuilding but he could see himself working on bikes for the foreseeable future, he moved out West, where he landed a gig with Stinner Frameworks from 2017 through 2018.
While apprenticing under Squarebuilt in 2015, Tom made his first frame. It was a fillet-brazed track bike with a few unique details inspired by rugged BMX bikes. It had square chainstays with a tire cut out. This detail eventually broke because he brazed the caps poorly. Then, his second frame was a tig welded 26″ MTB he built while at Horse Cycles. It was rough but rideable.
Tom’s 26+ hardtail he built at Stinner Frameworks, 2017, photo: Kyle Kelley
Since 2015, Tom has been “making frames” but not making anything decent until after he left Stinner in 2018 and dove into designing and building bikes for himself. After his time at Stinner, he took manual machining courses at a local community college to learn how to run mills. He then took a fillet brazing class at The Bicycle Academy.
Photo by Kit Ramsey
“Anyone can “make” something, but to make something well takes a massive amount of time and practice.”
Says La Marche
Still, Tom was not proud of his work until recent years, and he’s okay with that. Like many new builders, Tom is reticent to talk about his early frames, and in our conversations, he’s been more forthcoming with embracing his more modern work.
“So let’s say I started ‘making’ frames in 2020 after five years of practice…” is how he put it to me, which makes total sense.
Some of his recent projects include stamped singlespeed dropouts and his machined derailleur hanger dropout. Why not a replaceable hanger? Good luck bending that thing. Tom even whacked it with a hammer when we were in his shop, and it didn’t budge. That’s how you take something commonplace and make it your own…
Still, making bike frames is only part of the challenge for a new framebuilder. La Marche wanted to take his work to the next level with solid branding and a unique color palette. For his inspiration, Tom turned to the BMX and skate companies he admired as a kid. His brand lies somewhere between 1980s skate/BMX culture and Japanese motos. La Marche merch doesn’t speak overtly to cycling, rather it’s a melting pot of influences. Tom nails a branding 101 point. He focused not only on bicycle frames but also on soft goods, videos, and style, all of which evoke La Marche’s compelling energy. He wanted to make his company look like something people can relate to who aren’t bicycle savvy.
He pinged a local branding agency, Mellow Gold Studio, to design his logos. One being an Andy Cap flip, and the type treatment harkening back to cafe racers and checkered flags.
Tom in Moab, 2018, photo: John Watson
Like many builders, La Marche spends much of his frame fabrication time building gravel or all-rounder commuter bikes for Northeastern clients. His 650b bikes have fender, rack, and other touring/commuting accouterments, but he hasn’t forgotten his BMX, street riding, and mountain bike roots.
The La Marche bikes with the most style—in my opinion anyway—are his hardtail mountain bikes, which have a rowdy stance and a clean aesthetic. Watching Tom ride one of his bikes is a real treat. The dude blasts jumps, wallrides, and big, sketchy gaps. Yet, the Town and Country model’s practicality and aesthetics are on a completely different plane. I was able to document Tom’s personal bike while visiting him.
There is a unique allure to such a staple as a commuter/all-rounder, which I think you’ll find in this Town and Country bike…
Town and Country Gravel Bike
Part gravel bike, light tourer, commuter, and urban singletrack sled, the Town and Country bike is exactly what the name implies: a bike for mixed-terrain riding. Being so close to the Wissahickon, Tom was inspired by the urban bike paths that led out to gravel double and singletrack. The Town and Country is perfect for this kind of mixed terrain riding that many folks have within spittin’ distance of their front doors.
- Available with 650b or 29” wheels.
- Clearance for 650b x 48c tires with fenders or up to 650b x 2.2″ without.
- Built around a 1 X crank and fits up to a 40T chainring.
- Disc brakes
- 440mm chainstays
- Custom top tube and seat tube sizing available.
- Rack and fender mounts standard.
- Steel unicrown fork.
Another bike I got to document was a prototype I’m very excited for…
Prototype Folding 26″ Singlespeed
Folding bikes make a lot of sense for travelers and apartment dwellers for several reasons. They’re lightweight, compact, and perfect for inner-city commuting. Taking inspiration from BMX and 26″ mountain bikes, this folding prototype pivots about the bottom bracket shell, with a hitch pin in the seat tube cluster, allowing its rear triangle to fold in on the front triangle completely. While it’s not a typical folder, like a Brompton, it fits in the footprint of a 26″ MTB wheel.
Incredible. This sort of work, where you can see the builder’s history and expertise come to life, always excites me.
Photo by Clint Colbert
Mosquito Track Bike
Track bikes are still a great way to get around a city if you want a rush. After my visit, Tom finished up a track bike model he’s calling the Mosquito. These steel framesets feature a parallel geometry, meaning the head and seat tube angles are the same. This one, in particular, is 74º parallel, which makes it comfortable enough for all-day rides yet zippy enough for inner-city mobbing. It clears a 30mm tire on a 400mm chainstay and the track end and chainstay are nice and thick, or as Tom calls it: “Phati.”
- Headtube angle: 74º
- Seattube angle: 74º
- 55mm BB drop
- 280mm bb height (11″)
- Chainstay length: 400mm
- Max tire: 30mm
- Custom dropouts
- Custom-formed “Phati” chain & seatstays
- Unique steel straight blade fork: 36mm offset
- Available with or without caliper brake mounts
- Custom seattube and toptube sizing available
*Bike pictured is 56cm seattube (c-t) 53cm effective toptube
I wanted to thank my buddy Tom for opening his shop doors to me last year and allowing me to poke around and examine everything with a telephoto lens. His work was a real treat to document, and I can’t wait to see where La Marche Bicycle Co goes!
If you’re lucky enough to own one of Tom’s bikes, please, share it in the comments!