While he and his wife were on holiday in Santa Fe, John got in a few rides with Steve Rex who brought along his fillet-brazed hardtail. Since Steve wasn’t at the MADE Bike Show, John wanted to give the Sacramento-based builder a spotlight of his own, so read on for the full gallery…
Steve Rex began building bicycle frames in 1987. While he might be best known for his fillet-brazed constructed bikes, he’s also built several lugged beauties in this time. Now going on 36 years in the framebuilding world, Steve’s work mostly consists of gravel road and road bikes, offering up beautiful fillet and bi-lam (a process of fillet brazing tubes directly to a lug, versus another tube) chariots for his customers.
His work has gone noticed, as evidenced by his NAHBS awards: 2012 NAHBS Best Road Bike, 2016 NAHBS Best Fillet-Brazed Frame, 2019 NAHBS Runner-up Road Bike, 2019 NAHBS Best City Bike
I’m not sure when exactly I met Steve Rex. It was most likely at a NAHBS, perhaps one of the early ones in Sacramento. Those events are always a blur in my mind. But the point of the matter is, Steve has always been on my list of framebuilders to document at showcases like NAHBS.
Yet, my favorite Rex Cycles is Steve’s own fillet brazed steel and carbon-sleeved gravel bike. I first documented it at Grinduro and it remains in Steve’s possession today. Then, when I moved to Santa Fe, I was able to photograph a rare Rex Cycles: a fillet brazed hardtail for a customer in Albuquerque.
Sincere Cycles built that one up and being new to Santa Fe, it gave me hope that unique bikes did in fact exist here. I remember thinking at the time that I hadn’t seen many Rex Cycles hardtails, so when Steve showed up on his personal bike, I had to document it too.
Steve and I took our local Blue Bus up to the top of Hyde Park Rd and bombed down Winsor one afternoon at photo-making-pace. While Upper Winsor is fairly technical for a hardtail, Steve held his own with style and grace, picking smooth lines through the roots of spruce, fir, and pine trees, glissading across rocky chutes, and maintaining traction across our parched soil.
We took a break at one of the many meadows along the Winsor corridor and began discussing this 150mm travel hardtail mountainbike. My first impression was how light it was when I put it into position, smack dab in the middle of a sunny patch of grass. “What is this, 25lbs?!” I asked impressed: “I haven’t weighed it in some time but low-20s if I recall…”
Steve’s attention to detail is profound. I’ve noticed a duality when it comes to framebuilders’ own bikes. They’re either quick and dirty; as a working prototype or exercise in a design intent, or they’re impeccable with no compromises. This bike is the latter.
The fillet brazed, fastback seat cluster is as clean as it gets, as are the head tube cluster fillets, seat stay bridge, bottom bracket cluster. Across this frame ner’a pinhole or misstep exists. The head tube is braced by a Soulcraft gusset that he bought from Sean Walling a few years back when Sean made a batch.
As a late adopter to new technologies, Steve noted he’s only built three boost mountain bike frames, including this one.
With a 150mm fork, a gusseted downtube, and featherlike build, I was surprised to hear Steve mention his seat stays were specced with the same tubing he used on his road bikes over the years: 16mm x .7. Damn. This is a testament to Steve’s approach to custom building.
The job of a builder is to assess the client’s needs and design a bike specific for them. Steve knows he’s not going to ride hard on technical terrain, so he specced a tubeset that reflects his own riding, while engineering the bike to withstand the increased leverage of a 150mm fork. In short, Steve made himself a bike, tailored to his style of riding, for his preferred terrain.
A good builder will do the same for you.