A Father and Son Titanium Operation: A Shop Visit to Sanitas Cycles

Sanitas Cycles is the titanium framebuilding operation co-led by David and John Siegrist. With his father’s work at DEAN Bicycles acting as the backdrop of his childhood in Boulder, Colorado, Dave decided to start working in bikes upon graduating from Fort Lewis College in Durango, convincing his dad to join him in his new titanium label. Read on to learn how John and Dave are merging the classic and the modern in their stock frame offerings and custom builds, and check out a short video from Colt Fetter’s time at the shop!

David Siegrist grew up around bikes. Not just simply ripping around the neighborhood like most of us did, he grew up around bike builders. In fact, the garage in his childhood home was where the legendary titanium bike brand DEAN Bicycles was born.

David came to Durango to attend school at Fort Lewis College, but after graduating during the pandemic he decided to go back to what he knew: building bikes. At the same time his father, John, was retiring from a 30-year career in the bicycle industry. Doing what any good son would do, David called upon his dad to pick back up his welding hood and help him start Sanitas Cycles, named from the iconic Mount Sanitas in Boulder. From the meager beginnings of a shed in their backyard (not all that different from the garage-origins of DEAN) they started to piece together what is now a thriving bike building operation.



From DEAN to Sanitas

Now, some of you readers may have perked up when you read the name John Siegrist. As one of the co-founders of DEAN back in the 80’s—one of the original ti manufacturers in the US—John Siegrist is a legend in the world of titanium welding. John’s bicycle building story started in 1989 when he sold his ti Litespeed race bike to fund the purchase of a TIG welder and a mill. Over a quarter of a century later, he has amassed a long resume of design and building experience for the likes of Merlin Metal Works, Ibis, EverTi, Form, Haley, Ionic, Samson, Jade, Stoemper, Red Tail, and Vynl, to name a few. As happens to most of us, John eventually spent more and more time behind a computer screen. Now working with his son to build Sanitas, John is excited to have his welding hood back on.

Sanitas World Headquarters is tucked away off a back alley in Durango, CO. It’s a small but quaint shop, their garage door left open on the hot summer day that I visited. Several shop dogs mill around, employees hang out after work and drink beer; it seems they’ve so organically created the work environment that every tech startup aspires to. I arrived at their little shop at the same time that a local cyclist by the name of Ali was picking up her new gravel frame, “I’ve had plenty of carbon bikes, I’m just excited to have a titanium bike hand built here in town that I can ride for the rest of my life.”

Durango, CO: Community Built on Reciprocity

Both John and David were excited to be based in the bike-centric town of Durango. They spoke to the importance of a bicycle community that supports their efforts. In turn, they make sure to do their part in supporting the Durango bicycle community. For instance, the 2022 Single Speed Cyclocross worlds were hosted in town and Sanitas donated a gravel/cross frame as a prize. Sanitas chooses to embrace community over competition. They work closely with Agave Finishworks, a local bike anodizer, who created the custom work on John’s mtb/commuter (seen in photos attached). Another builder in town, Eric at Myth Cycles, helped them source machinery and get their shop setup. Setting up a machine shop like this isn’t a simple process. David spent many months sourcing equipment, all during the height of COVID, mind you. Their Bridgeport Series 1 J-Head, built in 1963, was found on an online auction. Eric helped David restore this machine to its current mostly-working order.

Sanitas’ Bikes: Stock & Custom

Much like DEAN started off, Sanitas is best known for its skinny-tire bikes. Their stock frames run the gamut of drop bar options:, the Sepal is an extra light road bike, the Node is a gravel bike that sports up to 700 x 48mm tires and, lastly, their All-Road, blends the best characteristics of both of the other two models with clearance for 35mm tires. All of these bikes are handcrafted with cold worked 3/2.5 titanium tubing.

Although they focus on all-road bikes, Sanitas does have a couple of mountain bike models available. The Vacule offers a bikepacking-focused platform with a higher standover which allows for a bigger frame bag. The other side of the category, the Root Hardtail, is more singletrack specific and is built around a more aggressive head tube angle and longer reach. They’re even working on a full-suspension titanium mountain bike (gasp). A big part of Sanitas Cycles business is building OE frames for other bike brands. While they aren’t able to disclose whose bikes they’re building, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a bike they’ve built out in the wild.

When it comes to bike design, John is a self proclaimed retro-grouch while David is consistently trying to balance that with the modern demands of performance bicycles. When designing a new model, they like to sit down with a few beers, reflect on the various bikes they’ve designed and ridden, and find a happy middle ground. Their bike models are just a starting point for many of their customers. With custom services, they are willing to guide their customers from initial concept through even the smallest design elements. Surprisingly, the custom models come at no additional cost to their stock models. After you purchase the frame, you then work directly with their team to pick out your components from a range of build kit options.

David and John aren’t the overly serious racer types. They’ve always appreciated riding bikes for the things that come with it, good company, a bit of adventure, and an excuse to have an extra beer and pizza afterwards. Their style of riding obviously informs their design. They enjoy comfortable bikes that perform well, that’s why John has worked with titanium for over 30 years, plus he’s pretty darn good with it. But don’t get the wrong idea, they have several gravel and cyclocross ambassadors on their roster that are using these bikes to snag podiums. In short, they’re here to please all riders, from the lycra-clad speedsters to the folks who are more interested in their Sunday group coffee rides.

This family operation is staying busy. They’re booked out at least six months in advance. What’s not to love here? A father-son bicycle company that’s making some of the most dreamy titanium frames in the country. Visit their shop in Durango and you’ll find friendly shop dogs napping in the corner and you’ll surely be greeted with a smile. You can learn more about Sanitas Cycles by visiting their website here.