Come along as we take a leisurely dive into the origin story of the 26+ Stridsland Beachcomber frame. Matias Stridsland has built a following around reviving old 26″ bikes and not taking things too seriously, but now he’s here to present his own 90s-inspired 26″ MTB.
Matias is self-admittedly addicted to the details and his chronicling of the process behind the Beachcomber gives real insight into the dedication that goes into these short-run projects. As he writes, this exact bike didn’t exist before and now it does—we think that’s pretty rad and if you’re interested in owning one, read to the bottom for pre-order details!
First off, I want to start by sending all the love to everyone who’s expressed their stoke and interest in the Beachcombers so far. It’s been straight-up incredible to have so much support and encouragement from the community throughout this project, so thanks for that!
I feel like I spam about these frames all the time on my Instagram, but in reality, I guess I haven’t gathered any concrete info about the bike anywhere. So here we go, let me bore you with a tale of the STRIDSLAND Beachcomber.
A Brief Introduction
I grew up with the North Shore trails of British Columbia, Canada, in my backyard, so creaking up the switchbacks and bouncing back down the gnar was my go-to Sunday activity. Ten-year-old Matias Stridsland had no idea how lucky he was, riding bikes with friends all day, in such a beautiful place, and being taught the ways by the local legends who invested their time in us groms. My old 26″ Norco with v-brakes was eventually upgraded to a pretty hardcore Rocky Mountain hardtail with a triple crown fork from the local sports swap, and, later, a hunk of full-suspension Norco Team DH with a 26″ front and 24″ rear wheel, and the almighty Marzocchi Shivers.
My interest in other tangents of two-wheeled fun evolved to some subsequent years of BMX, a dabble in the Trials World, and a bit of fixed-gear freestyle for good measure. After I moved to Denmark in 2013, my focus briefly shifted towards a more functional bike with 700c wheels, full mudguards, gears, racks and bags. I had apparently grown up and become a sensible cyclist. But something was missing. Something more playful, more robust, with bigger tires. Riding 26″ was calling me back!
Back to the Roots
My bicycle-heart beats for old 26″ mountain bikes. They’re just pretty brilliant, and really always have been. For me, it’s probably the combination of generous tire clearance, solid construction, simple mechanics, and functional standards. Also, the entire concept of putting something old, nostalgic, and otherwise forgotten to good use just feels pretty wholesome. Above and below are a couple of the builds that sort of started it all for me eight years ago, back in 2015. The Marin was unfortunately claimed by the rust gods from the insides of the chainstays. However, the GT is still going strong, now with a very different setup but still an important part of the stable.
In 2019, I designed my original Barnacle fork with its short 400 mm axle to crown specifically for old 26″ MTBs, intended to make them extra rad and extra functional while maintaining the original handling characteristics. With a Barnacle fork, you’ve suddenly got a disc mount, huge tire clearance, and lots of cage mounts on a bike that otherwise very much lacked these things from the beginning.
In my opinion, this is a sweet way to upgrade an old bike into something that, I feel, gives a better riding experience and opens up some new windows of utility and adventure. The dream was to have people pull a bunch of old, dusty, but perfectly fine frames out of sheds, attics, and basements, and give them a second chance.
Similarly, my 94BCD narrow-wide chainrings were aimed at getting some of those cool old triple cranks out on bikes again. After setting a few batches of forks and chainrings free into the wild, it’s been super sick to see all the lovely builds and stoked people—thanks to everyone supporting and sharing on Instagram, it means a lot! Here are some of the builds and mockups I’ve done since I got the first Barney prototypes back in 2020:
Even though a 26″ MTB from the 80s or 90s certainly suffices in a lot of cases—especially with a few frame modifications and upgrades—I sometimes found myself wanting more. I pretty much wanted the things that my Barnacle fork provided, but on the frame too; disc brakes, huge tire clearance, and lots of cage mounts. After letting the idea marinate in my head for ages, I finally mocked up a first sketch of the Beachcomber back in early 2020, now nearly four years ago. I knew what I wanted, and I had taught myself enough about bikes and geometry to know how to achieve that.
The Beachcomber is my dream 26+ modern retro MTB; essentially the frame that matches the Barnacle fork. An All Terrain Bike if you will. Or, as I like to call it, an ‘MTBMX,’ as it’s basically an effort to merge a BMX and an MTB into something functional. Its geometry is scientifically proven to enhance fun and adventure with the use of short-rear-end technology, an accommodatingly spacious front triangle, and tremendous tire clearance (26×2.8″). It also sports an abundance of cage mounts, adjustable dropouts, and stealth dropper routing, utilizing only the most standardized of standards, such as a straight head tube, threaded bottom bracket, IS disc mounts and external cable routing.
If I dare say it, the one bike to end them all. the N=1, instead of N+1… lol bad joke, sorry.
Since sending this first sketch to the wonderful and talented folks in Taiwan, I’ve spent countless hours dialing in the design and specs, playing email ping-pong with technical drawings, and slowly refining them with incremental changes in preparation for the first physical steel prototypes to be made. Completely oblivious and rather naive, I continued to grossly underestimate the time involved in this project. I’d definitely consider myself a time optimist (put kindly). I also easily lose myself in the process (also put kindly). However, more importantly, I was just pretty new at this whole starting-a-bike-company thing. The fact that all this was in the middle of Covid also made it pretty difficult for a small fish like me to get prioritized, as the manufacturers were busy pumping out bikes at full capacity for all the established brands. So once the first drawings were confirmed and prototypes had begun, their arrival was still several months out.
During the painfully long wait for prototypes from the steel manufacturer, I was able to get a titanium manufacturer to produce a proto for me pretty quickly. From my experience, they weren’t as busy during the major Covid wave—and they seemed accustomed to working in smaller quantities—so this was a quick way to get the ball rolling. I also knew already that I wanted to offer the bike in both steel and Ti.
During this process, I landed on a few changes to the design, which I wanted to include for the Ti sample: notably, rocker dropouts and stealth dropper routing. I also realized I needed bigger tire clearance for the 26×2.8″ tire I was basing the entire concept of the bike on. It took boatloads of more emails and skype calls to dial in the details, but before I knew it, the first Ti Beachcomber had landed in Denmark. I smacked all my coolest parts on it, grinning from ear to ear the entire time.
-STRIDSLAND Beachcomber Ti prototype frame
-STRIDSLAND Barnacle Fork
-WTB Ranger 26×2.8 tires
-Velocity Dually 26″ Rims
-12×142 i9 Hydra rear hub
-15×100 SON dynamo front hub
-Chris King Pewter headset
-Paul Component 7/8″ Stem
-STRIDSLAND Anchor Bar
-200 mm Dropper
-Brooks Cambium C17 Saddle
-Middleburn RS7 cranks + R01 94bcd double spider
-73×118 Shimano UN300 bottom bracket
-STRIDSLAND 94bcd narrow wide
-GX 11 speed sram
-Shimano XT brakes
-Supernova E3Pure Front Blue and Pink combined
-Supernova E3 Tail Silver
-August Bicycles Light Bracket Barrel Nut
This was nuts. I was incredibly stoked to see my idea come to life, and build up my very own frame. This was indeed my dream bike!
About a year and a half after I had sent drawings to Taiwan, four steel prototype frames finally arrived. They were sick too! I was super pleased to see the quality, consistency, and level of detail on these frames: two Large, one Medium, and one Small. There were inevitably some changes that already needed to happen since receiving the Ti proto earlier, but I built up the steel protos in a few different ways to get an idea of geometry, sizing, braze-on details, clearances, and finishes.
Despite the sample frames being way better than I expected, the perfectionist in me knew I still wasn’t quite there yet. I wanted these to be friggin’ perfect, down to every little detail. It took a couple more years of emails, loads of good times riding and testing with friends, and another few prototype frames to dial everything in.
Cage mounts were adjusted, yoke clearances were tweaked, different finishes were tested, dropouts were changed to stainless, logo toolings were made, Ti anodized logos were improved, plastic-free packaging was developed, and the list goes on. The Barnacle Fork also got a number of design updates, ready to be paired with the frames. I absolutely love this process of slowly dialing things in to exactly how I want them. My words “Ride slow, die whenever,” transformed into “Design slow, sell whenever.”
Raw Steel Beachcomber
Below is a photo set of the latest Raw Steel Beachcomber sample frame, setup with 26+ tires, a 1×9 drivetrain, dropper post and my Anchor Bar. This build was sort of atypical for me, as I usually like to pair small cassettes with slick tires and mudguards, and knobby tires with big cassettes. But whaddya know, this bicycle also turned out to be super fun to ride, and the old 9s Sram stuff is just delightful to use.
Despite this being the latest Raw Steel prototype, there were still a few tweaks to be made. The production version will have the seat stay cage mounts lowered, the fork will be through-axle and less rusty, and with those cage mounts moved a bit lower too.
The geometry aesthetic of this Beachcomber is inspired by my old 1993 Marin Team Issue (below left) but with a few important tweaks. Numbers-wise, the 70° head tube is on the slacker side of your average ’90s MTB, adding a bit of stability and shreddiness to the bike. This both lengthens the front-center and slows the steering down a bit, but not so much that it’s difficult to handle at low speed. The 74° seat-tube angle makes it possible to set the bike up with a slightly more aggressive stance. You’re more on top of the bottom bracket and pushing down at the pedals, instead of being behind it and pushing forward into the pedals like you might recognize from some older klunker-type bikes, like my old Raleigh (below right)
Jibbability was high on my list of priorities for the Beachcomber. To ensure its playfulness, I kept the rear end short and the bottom bracket high, landing on 415 mm chainstays, a 35 mm BB drop and resultant 315 mm BB height, with 26×2.8 tires. Both of these factors make it easier to lift the front wheel off the ground for hops and wheelies, really adding lots of fun to the way you ride, regardless of skill level.
The high BB also helps reduce pedal strike, which I really like for situations like riding over roots and rocks where there’s no time for pedal setting, especially with a fully loaded bike where sometimes the best way to get over is just to keep the pedals in motion.
This is what I was talking about when saying the bike is scientifically proven to enhance fun and adventure. This bike is all about jibbing on the way to work, detouring to the dirt jumps, and doing a week-long bikepacking trip, all on the same day.
The yoke area is a super important part of the Beachcomber. It kind of defines the bike, because tire size, chainstay length, chainline and chainring size all need to get along and be friends.
I’ve pushed it right to the limit of what I find acceptable. There’s about 5-6 mm of tire clearance on each side with the dropouts slammed forward and a 26×2.8 WTB Ranger on a 45 mm wide rim. When stuff gets rowdy, flex in the wheel and frame will, for some riders, allow tire knobs to kiss the yoke a bit. Ok safety police, cool yer jets! This wouldn’t fly on a carbon bike, and could even cause trouble on a steel bike with thin tubing, but the solid 5 mm steel/titanium plate extends past the widest point of the tire, so it won’t give a damn about a bit of contact once in a while, even in the long run.
Moving to the drive side of the yoke, it’s got clearance for a 38t chainring at a 49 mm chainline, also close to the limit for a non-boost rear hub. This still allows for a happy drivetrain without any derailing when backpedaling in the largest cog. On the non-drive side, the typical and more economical move would be the asymmetric full-length chainstay tube, however, I wanted to prioritize an aesthetically and torsionally symmetrical yoke.
The Golden Wheel Size, 26+
So if it isn’t clear by now, the Beachcomber is designed for 26″ wheels with plus-sized tires (2.8″). I don’t really understand why this standard never caught on in the industry, there are so many lovely things about it! I’ve “ranted” about this before, but basically, they’re light and nimble due to the small circumference, and still have all that comfort and control you get from a tire of this volume.
A big 29×2.6 tire makes sense for a modern dedicated mountain bike, made for rolling over big obstacles at speed and holding momentum. A 700×23 makes sense in the velodrome, too. But for the type of riding I most enjoy, and what the Beachcomber is designed for, 26+ takes the cake.
The higher volume lets you run lower pressures, which in turn gives you that extra cushion and stability, especially on a wider 45mm rim. A little set of stairs, a surprise pothole, cobblestones, roots, and whatever other bumpy good stuff you can think of will get smoothed out nicely, and significantly more than what a 2.4″ tire will get you. You’ll also get fewer pinch flats! But what about rolling resistance you may ask? My go-to tire is the 26×2.8 WTB Ranger Light / Fast Rolling, which weighs a mere 783 g. I used to commute 30 km a day on asphalt with these tires and loved it. They have tightly spaced knobs, they’re nice and supple, and they spin up really easily. Run them either tubeless or with a lightweight tube, and I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how smooth and easy rolling they are.
I’m lucky enough to have a healthy stock of these tires, and there’s more where they came from. Also, in a few months, I’ll have some specially made 26″ WTB ST i40 rims. So if you’re worried about wheel size compatibility and future-proofing, fear not, I’ve got you covered! There are also loads of great non-plus 26″ tire options out there in the 2.3″-2.5″ range. Despite my efforts against the death of 26, I’m sure we’ll see some 27.5″ builds out there, in which case the Beachcomber is ideally suited for 2.4″ rubber but clears 2.6’s. That being said, I hope to see more 26+ tire options in the future (kinda working on it). I also wish someone made a good 26+ pair of mudguards (also kinda working on it).
The Beachcomber will be available in three sizes: S / M / L, or 50 / 54 / 58, or little one / middle one / big one. We can also call them X / Y / Z, or even Æ / Ø / Å? If you ask the good folks Dan and Zach at BikeInsights.com, they can tell you more about how the skewed world of bike geometry and sizing. They have really created an incredibly useful tool to navigate the unstandardized seas of bike sizing and geometry. I highly recommend you have a look around and compare some bikes. The Beachcomber is in their database as well!
My decision to offer these frames in “only” three sizes was based on a few different things. First off, I initially imagined a batch of 50 steel frames, to which the manufacturer in Taiwan accepted a maximum of three sizes, but would prefer a larger order quantity if I wanted five sizes. Despite having upped the order to 100 frames since then, I am sticking with the current spread of the three sizes and think it will work well. Inevitably, some creatures on each end of the spectrum may not fall perfectly into one of these sizes, but maybe I can change that in the future.
This may be a slightly unpopular opinion, but throughout my entire history of riding bikes, I’ve been more or less unconcerned with “proper” sizing, and it’s been just fine. When I was younger, my options were limited to whatever used bikes the local sports swap had available. When finding a sweet old retro MTB on the local classifieds, I’d simply eyeball the thing to make sure it didn’t have a microscopic head tube and proceed to just make it work. You can get pretty far by adjusting the height and setback of your saddle, the length and rise of your stem, and the shape and tilt of your bars. The Beachcomber is by no means intended to be some optimal high-performance race machine, so I don’t feel the fit needs to be down to the millimeter either. It’s not that I don’t want people to consider their size choice, I just don’t want to overcomplicate things.
At the start of the design process, I was pretty much just drawing up my ideal frame—what a dream! I had loads of past builds and current bikes to compare to, so I knew exactly what I wanted, which were the things I could never really find in retro MTB frames: among other things, a big enough frame! This first frame is what became the size Large, or the “big one,” and in reality, is probably somewhere between the average L and XL. Scaling down to the other two sizes was tricky and required some research, but I wanted to keep the steering geometry and the visual aesthetic consistent.
This process made me recognize how different people’s bike sizing needs are, and how it’s practically impossible to cater to everyone. For this frame, I prioritized a big front triangle for framebag capacity and a high bottom bracket for playfulness and pedal strike clearance. For some people, standover height may be something to keep an eye on, but in general, I’d recommend sizing down if folks are in between two sizes. This frees up more space for a dropper post and a handlebar with some rise, making the bike feel more nimble and less overwhelming.
Here’s a size guide for people to use as a general reference point before making your own call.
S: 165-175 cm (5’5″-5’9″)
M: 175-185 cm (5’9″-6’1″)
L: 185-195 cm (6’1″-6’5″)
I highly recommend spending some time comparing frames on BikeInsights if you’re looking for answers. For example, here’s a M 54 cm Beachcomber and a 56 cm Cross Check just cuz we can.
Here are a few builds in the three different sizes to visualize rider and saddle height (mid BB – top saddle, along the seat tube):
Size S (50 cm)
Left – 170 cm rider, 72 cm saddle height.
Middle – 173 cm rider, 70.5 cm saddle height, 125 mm dropper.
Right – 170 cm rider, 67.5cm saddle height.
Size M (56 cm)
Left – 183 cm rider, 78 cm saddle height, 150 mm dropper.
Right – Just a mockup with an 80 cm saddle height.
Size L (58 cm)
Left – 193 cm rider, 86 cm saddle height, 200 mm dropper.
Middle – 185 cm rider, 82 cm saddle height, 160 mm dropper.
Right – 185 cm rider, 81 cm saddle height, 150 mm dropper.
I take great pleasure in having made conscious decisions about every little detail on this framekit. For example, I’ve positioned five bottle cage holes on the inside of the downtube, so you can get your bottle as low as possible when running a half framebag, or up high for easy access. They even slightly vary in placement between the three frame sizes to get them as low as possible. The angle between the seat tube and down tube becomes tighter on a smaller frame, requiring them to be further away from the bottom bracket, and a larger frame has a wider angle, making it possible for the first mount to sit closer in towards the BB.
Cage mounts under the downtube were a must, but lining them up without spoiling the external cable routing along the down tube was also a challenge. Another fun one is the cage mounts on the seat stays. These also needed multiple tweaks to find the balance between interfering with heel clearance on a size small, and being too close to the wheel and tire. It’s a bit tight, but it’s a sweet spot for a small dry bag, bottles, thermos etc.
Another example is the rocker dropouts. They’re brilliant for running singlespeed, adjusting chainstay length and tire clearance, and they are incredibly strong and easy to work with. The steel versions are stainless steel with a masked-off and polished surface, so frequent adjustments to dropout position won’t mess up any paint. Also, the dropout hardware has an extra deep 6 mm hex tool slot, and the M5 bolts are button-head t25 bolts to help avoid rounding anything off. Rocker dropouts also play nicely with down tube brake cable routing, whereas sliding dropouts pair well with a brake line routed along the top tube. It’s fun little things like this that have been super time-consuming, yet incredibly satisfying and totally worthwhile.
Frame Paint and Finish
The whole world of frame paint jobs and finishes is an aspect of the project that required a surprising amount of attention. I’ve gathered loads of inspiration on interesting finishes from the retro MTB world, but also some more rugged aesthetics from the BMX world. I liked the concept of basing my three frame options on previous 90’s MTBs I’ve owned: The raw/nickel-plated ’93 Marin Team issue; the purple (originally blue) GT Karakoram splatter; and my old Sandvik Titanium frame with its matte, blasted finish.
It wasn’t easy convincing the manufacturer in Taiwan to do the raw finish in the first place, but after loads of back and forth, we’ve landed on a process and result I’m super happy with. Visible weld discoloration, a close-to-natural, polished steel-tube look, and a relatively durable coating that still allows for some rusty patina over time.
The clear powdercoat is among the strongest “raw” finishes but as soon as the clear coat is chipped or scratched, it’s an open invite for the rust worms to start forming, especially if you live in a humid climate. I think it looks sick, but some folks are not into that. It will be purely visual, but consider yourself warned.
I’m calling the purple steel frame Aquatic Eggplant. My old GT Karakoram was the inspiration for this one, and I was so stoked to see the resemblance when I got the sample frame with this finish. That GT has been something special for me since I found it on a street corner, and keeps its spot in the stable today.
As for the titanium frame, there are generally three main types of tube finishes: Brushed, Polished, and Matte. Not to mention the infinite variations of anodizing and partial paint jobs. For me, however, the only right option was a matte blasted finish. My first titanium frame was a 700c Morati CX which took me on some of my first bike tours. My first Ti retro MTB frame was an old Sandvik with a disc tab welded on, bought on PinkBike, which also had a matte finish.
While these bikes periodically changed setups, they slowly nurtured my love for titanium as a bike frame material. It’s the fact that it never corrodes, isn’t bothered by scratches and dings, and the lively and springy ride feel (sometimes too much on that old noodle of a Morati). The lighter weight is nice, too.
The cool part about a matte titanium finish is that it also ages well. With time, the tube surfaces become a canvas full of scratches, smudges, and polished sections from bag straps. Therefore, I determined that the Beachcomber must be made in a matte titanium finish. Oh, and with a lovely ano fade logo to top it off.
While I’m wrapping up this story here in early 2024, the first batch of 100 steel frames is finally nearing the end of production, and the titanium manufacturer is preparing materials. It hasn’t even really hit me yet, but I’m about to like, REALLY, be the owner of a bike company!
Since I’m not made of money and most of my gold coins are bound in prototypes and tooling costs, the financial logistics of buying a container full of bike frames is also a bit of a challenge to figure out. The beauty and privilege of having so many cool cats following along means I don’t feel like I’m taking a massive leap of faith. The flow of good vibes and encouragement I’m getting from the community has been incredible, so to ease the financial pressure, I’m planning to sell them as pre-orders.
Steel frames will be available for pre-order as soon as they’re put on a ship bound for Europe with an ETA of about a month-and-a-half later. Titanium frames will be a pre-production pre-order, so I’ll produce as many as there’s interest for. This is because the quantities are smaller, lead times shorter, and very costly to stock. The lead time on titanium will be around four months. The pre-order launch is planned for around February 1st.
A Few Thoughts
It’s funny, sometimes I feel like I could have had these frames available many months (maybe years) ago. But it’s nice to remind myself of something I find quite important in all this. I would rather spend the extra time and know the thing I decide to put into production is exactly how I want it, rather than rush something half-heartedly.
But in all honesty, I think it boils down to money. (Nothing to do with me being stupidly meticulous, lol). Money is not my motivation in all this. The whole financial side of this really doesn’t interest me, but I’m lucky enough to be able to ease into this while making ends meet on a part-time salary, while not putting too much financial pressure on STRIDSLAND. This essentially means money isn’t on the other line impatiently waiting, maybe leading to rushed decisions. I can just develop my stuff at whatever speed it takes and go nice and slow.
At times I really had to work on the fact that it was such a slow process, especially while being so damn excited about everything. However, at other times, it was a real challenge being a one-person gig. Product development, content, bookkeeping, website, customer service, shipping, etc. This was particularly tough later on; being a father of two (now three), having recently moved into a house, building a workshop, and working part-time at Omnium (the best damn workplace I could ask for, huge shoutout). If only there were twice as many hours in a day! Most importantly, the unending support from my partner, Anna Sofie, has been extraordinary, and absolutely crucial. Not only does she have more bike-knowledge than bike-interest (I can take credit for that), but she’s also the most dedicated partner and loving mother for our children, and so much more.
Despite choosing to have a lot on my plate, I friggin’ love every part of it and feel incredibly lucky and thankful to be where I’m at.
The Story Behind the Name
Being born and raised on the West Coast of Canada, the mountains and ocean have defined my appreciation for nature. The family cabin in Howe Sound called for countless hours on and around the water, and since I moved to Denmark in 2013, I’ve really missed BC’s nature and the coast in particular. That’s where my motivation to incorporate the nautical/maritime vibes comes in: the Barnacle fork, the Anchor bar, and now the Beachcombers.
For my family, beachcombing is the act of scavenging the shoreline for treasures, anything from flip-flops and floats to some interesting driftwood or a substantial piece of lumber. The real trophies are the Japanese glass floats that sail all the way across the Pacific and land somewhere on the outside of Vancouver Island.
True Beachcombers, however, are the gnarly folks who work the waters of West Coast, BC and make their living by picking up stray logs that escape the big logbooms. Among their arsenal of rope and an axe is this lovely object called a “Log Dog.” They’re designed to get hammered into a log to have a place to tie a rope to and tow the log away for resale. I guess I’m drawing some parallels between the rough utilitarian function of those log dogs and my frames and parts, as well as some shared values with the old beachcomber lifestyle.
Video below: “Not making a dime, I love the work, but no, I’m not making any money.”
Haha yep, I can vibe with that.
All this time, energy, and gold coins that have gone into this project, and yet, it’s still just a friggin’ bike. A bike, just like many other bikes, that can be ridden from your front door, to work, to get groceries, to the trails, or on a sweet adventure.
In my eyes, this exact bike was missing in the world, so I made it exactly how I wanted it. It’s such an honor that there are some good folks out there who actually want to own one, too! This is all in the name of fun, and I guess I’m pretty passionate about having fun. As long as I can keep spreading the bicycle love and getting people stoked, I’d consider that a success.