In this shop visit, Sam swings by Curve Cycling’s Melbourne digs and chats with the team about the brand’s history, their team of riders, and, of course, their range of adventure-first titanium and steel freedom machines. Read on to get the full rundown.
Since its launch in 2013, Melbourne-based Curve Cycling has developed an impressive and unique stable of adventure-focused framesets, wheels, and components. If you spend any significant time on the cyclo-internet, no doubt you’ve come across their ultra-wide Walmer Bar, or their mega-wheeled 36er: The Titanosaur.
But viral masterpieces aside: within the last decade, Curve has positioned itself as a true adventure brand. Every product has its own origin story, unique genesis, and real-world application. From their endurance road bike, the Belgie Ultra, designed specifically for Jesse Carlsson to compete and win the Trans Am Bike Race in 2015, to their Tour Divide, Silk Road Mountain Race, and Race to the Rock juggernaut, the GMX+, Curve doesn’t design bikes to keep up with industry trends. They design bikes that redefine them.
Curve didn’t start out designing race-winning bikes, though. The initial idea for the brand came in 2010 when Founder, Steve Varga (who was working in a Melbourne bike shop) became interested in sourcing bike parts and accessories. Together with his best mate and co-founder, Jesse Carlsson, he decided to focus on carbon wheels – a transformative upgrade to even a basic bike. With riders like Steve Peat claiming to ride an entire season on a single set of carbon hoops, it was hard to ignore the metamorphic claims of NASA’s super material. But even though carbon fibre construction was almost a decade old and rapidly maturing, the technology hadn’t yet trickled down to the consumer market so it was awash with big brands and even bigger price tags.
To combat this, Steve started importing open cast rims from Taiwan and modifying them to his specifications. Some tweaking, tuning and tinkering later, he’d developed a set of wheels he was happy with and christened them the Dirt Hoops. But no Curve product is complete without some serious real-world testing, and who better for the job than his partner Jesse? A former BMX world champion, theoretical physics PhD, and ultra-endurance athlete, Jesse’s unique testing methodology involved riding gnarly MTB trails on bare rims with no suspension. I guess you could call that R&D – right?
In 2015, Jesse entered the Trans Am Bike Race: a self-supported, 6,772km ultra-endurance race that traverses no less than ten US states. Having finished second in the ‘Tour Divide’ in 2013, Jesse was no stranger to long days in the saddle. Aside from his countless hours of training, Jesse had a secret strategy for success in the Trans Am – a custom titanium superbike dubbed the Belgie Disc, a bike that would later go on to be the cornerstone of the Curve story and define the brand’s design ethos.
Fast forward to today and Curve’s reach is truly global. With stockists in the USA, Canada, Asia, Europe, South Africa & Middle East – the brand’s popularity is hard to ignore. Instrumental to this success has been Sales Director and third Curve partner, Ryan Flinn (aka Rhino). A riot of fun and charisma, Rhino has kept his followers entertained (riding nude at night across the Nullarbor to combat saddle sores). But it’s not all fun with Rhino. Like everyone at Curve, he’s also a serious rider and has completed ultra-endurance challenges around the world, including the Indian Pacific Wheel Race and the Pan Celtic.
Inside the Dojo
Nestled between one of Melbourne’s top craft breweries and thirty kilometres of primo cycle trail, Curve’s shop space really couldn’t be better positioned. Sometimes these large industrial spaces can feel sterile and cavernous, but the team have done a great job partitioning the space to make it feel warm and functional. Poke your head through the magical PVC strip curtain door and you’re transported to the Adventure Dojo, an open plan workshop full of busy mechanics and a large sales floor stocked with bikes, wheel-sets, and handlebars – plus bikepacking bags from Apidura, Skingrowsback, and apparel from 7Mesh.
The team’s eclectic Spotify mix fills the warehouse space as wheels get built, tyres mounted, and custom builds completed. It was a riot of activity and a joy for me to document.
Spaces, brands and bikes aside, the thing that makes Curve special is the people behind the products. From the moment you walk through the door, the fun and experienced team are happy to share their knowledge, encourage your ideas and stoke the flames of bike adventures with you. Whether that’s Sarah Hammond advising you on how to pack for an upcoming adventure, or Bec arming you with a long list of local trails to ride and cafes to sample. Within minutes, I had a pair of bars in my hand, a meat-free bacon sandwich in my gob and an invitation to their next shop ride out. Talk about a direct route to all the feels.
Demo the Sh*t Out Of It…
In an industry often dominated by endless marketing jargon, it’s easy to lose trust in some bike brands’ claims. Some wax lyrical about their rigorous lab testing, ISO ratings, and computer-generated simulation tests. Curve, on the other hand, has always taken a different approach: preferring to test its products through baptism by fire, so it’s not uncommon to find them racing in some of the harshest environments on earth and generally doing stupid shit in the pursuit of producing genuine excellence.
In fact, the spirit of real-world testing is so ingrained in the company ethos that it carries right through to the experience of buying a bike. With a full demo fleet at the ready, the Curve crew encourage you to ride their bikes hard before buying. Instead of the usual cursory spin around the block, riders can take a bike out for three to four hours on the local dirt trails that surround them.
So, still unsure if this gravel thing is entirely for you? Keen to see if titanium bikes are worth all the hype? Unsure who the hell Kevin is? – All these questions and more can be answered in a simple shred around their Abbotsford abode.
The GMX+ is Curve’s ultimate titanium bikepacking rig. Inspired by the intrepid overlanders of the 1890s, who covered incredible distances without support across the harsh Australian outback, the GMX+ is a gear-hauling, mile-munching juggernaut of a bike.
Built around the 29+ platform and designed specifically for ultra-wide drop bars, the GMX+ features an unprecedented seven bottle cage mounts, a full-carbon fork with six inline mounts per blade and slack geometry that’ll keep you comfy in the saddle for weeks at a time.
Affectionately named after Melbourne’s infamous “Belgie Ride,” the Belgie Ultra is Curve’s all-road, ultra racing specialist. With a frame engineered from years of testing in the wild: including a 2015 win for Jesse Carlson in the Trans Am Bike Race and an 18,000km, 75-day Cape to Cape record by Jonas Deichman.
As well as being luxurious and speedy on the tarmac, the Belgie Ultra is happy tackling cobbles and light gravel with confidence, helped by wider tyre clearance (700×35) and a lengthened wheelbase. So chuck on some bikepacking bags, load up on calories and go set some FKT’s.
Kevin of Steel
Curve’s Kevin of Steel is a rowdy gravel bike built from light and durable Columbus Zona tubing. Designed to accommodate a broad spectrum of possible riding styles, it’s built with scope for two different wheel sizes and officially clears 650B x 2.2” for days in the chunder or 700c x 45mm for speedy groad adventures.
This new ‘camel cruiser’ colour way is simply beautiful and pays tribute to the mighty four-wheel drives that cut the first vehicle tracks through the Australian outback. With bikepacking-friendly features, such as rack, fender, triple bottle mounts and a faithful T47 bottom bracket; the Kevin of steel is perfect for everything from day trips and weekenders to multi-year bikepacking adventures.
Born from the team’s love of thrashing the local Melbourne trails, The DownRock is Curve’s take on a modern hardtail mountain bike. It embodies everything there is to love about the hardtail platform with its snappy, agile, and adrenaline-pumping geometry.
With clearance for high volume 29×2.6 tyres, a 130mm-150mm travel fork, and a short seat tube to accommodate the latest generation of long travel dropper posts (170mm – 210mm), this 3Al-2.5V Titanium shred sled is suited to everything from fast flow trails to blasting technical downhills.
More Than Just A Shop
On a recent visit to Campfire Cycling, John Watson said something that really resonated with me:
“It’s my opinion that in order for shops to compete with online sales, they have to offer more than just a few bike models for sale. They have to engage, encourage, and facilitate their communities, be hubs for locals to meet up, and share information.”
I’m not sure if Curve has read John’s piece, but it’s awesome to see them living these values over in Australia. The team has created more than just a bike brand. They’ve created a community where people can come and learn from experienced riders, drink a beer, join a group ride and share in the same pursuit of adventure as the team behind the action themselves. If you’re ever near their digs in Melbourne, be sure to go experience it for yourself.