Over the years, I’ve had the honor to throw my leg over many bikes, try them out, write a review, and then send them back. While the bikes return to their companies, the experience stays with me, and in the time I’ve been running this website, I’ve developed my own belief for what the perfect geometry for a hardtail mountain bike is. About a year ago, I began talking with Adam Sklar and Colin Frazer, who were about to launch a new production, US-made frame company called Mystic. We wanted to test the waters with a Radavist edition frame, dubbed the Alluvium. After chatting about numbers and branding, we felt like we were getting closer to releasing this frame. Then the reality of such an undertaking took hold and we killed the project.
Luca Shaw takes the new and improved Tallboy out on the World Cup course to make it to the XC finish… Discover the new Tallboy for yourself at Santa Cruz Bicycles.
ENVE has been supporting frame builders, both in the US and internationally for years now and has developed a symbiotic relationship with these artisans, who choose to put their forks, bars, and wheels on customer’s build kit lists. With this catalog of talent at their fingertips, they decided to have an Open House to celebrate not only their factory and offices in Ogden, Utah but the frame builders who choose ENVE to build out their complete bikes.
Downieville is a sleepy little town in the Lost Sierra. It was first known as “the Forks” due to its geographical location at the confluence of the Yuba and Downie rivers. Like many towns in the area, Downieville was founded in 1849 during the Gold Rush. Later, it was named after the town’s founder, Major William Downie. As you might imagine, this place has a sordid history during the lawless heyday of gold mining, including being the location for the only hanging of a woman in California history. Josefa Segovia was a pregnant Californio resident of the town and was lynched by an angry mob, accusing her of killing a miner in July 1851.
Nearby, in the Sierra Buttes, the largest gold nugget in California history was found in 1869. It weighed a whopping 109.2 pounds. Gold has always been on the lips of those who flocked to Downieville. Still, to this day, don’t be surprised to see active mining claims and people panning for gold at the confluence of the Yuba and Downie rivers.
Since 1995, the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship has thrown a special little event in this town. The Downieville Classic features an XC race on Saturday and a Downhill on Sunday. The terrain is rocky, steep, and silty, making for a tough day on the bike no matter what you’re riding. While they’re by no means rare, seeing people riding and racing hardtails always causes a stir. So this year, I set out to photograph some of these bikes, including Curtis Inglis from Retrotec‘s own Funduro, a shining, gold nugget of a bike.
HED has been making rims and wheels for a long, long time. 35 years in fact! They’ve taken all they’ve learned in that time and have developed a new cross-country wheelset, unlike anything they’ve made in the past. The HED Raptor 29er wheels utilize HED’s DNA profile and CNC drilling technology, offsetting the nipple bed to align with the spokes, this patent-pending technology is what HED has dubbed their Dual-axis Nipple Alignment (DNA) rim profile. This alleviates any uneven strain on the nipple and minimizes spoke bend, making for a lighter, stronger wheel with less maintenance. These new wheels utilize a wide, 25mm internal/31mm external width, making them ideal for 2″ – 2.5″ 29er race tires. Each rim is manufactured inside HED’s Minnesota factory from 148 hand-laid sheets of carbon, resulting in a 380g rim. These tubeless-ready clincher rims are then laced with 28 Sapim Laser spokes to a number of hub options including HED Brick House Hubs, Onyx or Industry Nine Hydra. The Raptor begins at $1,070.00 per wheel.
Head to HED for more!
Remember that sick Black Sheep we shared last week? Well, the owner of that bike, Sam, has been tinkering in his garage and building some really unique bikes. Granted, he calls them “hunks of steel” and “kinda weird” but as a cycling photographer I couldn’t pass up shooting his 135mm spaced Rohloff fatbike.
Stayer Cycles, a framebuilder from East London makes bikes of the off-road variety from production models like their Groadinger and Chigzag to full-on custom project like this. This is Raoul’s second bike from Stayer. This bike was built around two items: Bontrager 3.0” Chubacarbra tires and a front rack duffle bag from Dan at Envelope Bagworks. What Stayer sculpted from those two items is really something else. See more below, check out a more in-depth look at Raoul’s dirt drop bike, and read about more of their custom builds at Stayer!
Each year at NAHBS, a selection of builders at the show lament on how we should actually ride bikes together more, not just talk about them once a year at the show. I get it. Sitting in a convention center, under that horrible lighting, discussing how a bike rides is worlds apart from actually riding out on the trails. This year, Adam Sklar took the initiative to plan a weekend and then some of fun times in Bozeman and sent out an open invite to numerous builders. His idea was to expose people to the culture here, the town’s local builders, eats, drinks, and shops, in an event playfully dubbed the “Builder’s Camp.” Squid, Breadwinner, Retrotec, Falconer, Horse, Alliance, and Strong, along with a few other locals, all prepared for 5 days of non-stop riding and relaxing in this beautiful mountain town.
Alliance Titanium 29er
Erik from Alliance makes some damn fine bicycles, yet they have flown under the radar for me and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I’m often overwhelmed at NAHBS and don’t spend enough time really vetting the display booth. Each year, when Erik has displayed, I’ve missed his booth. But what I will say is after shooting this bike and watching Erik shred it in Bozeman, those days are over. Alliance is perhaps one of the most underrated, or maybe “unknown” is the correct nomenclature, titanium frame builders in the US.
Look, this bike doesn’t use plus tires, or the latest fancy mountain bike group, or carbon wheels, and that’s why I like it so much, because all that flashy stuff isn’t there to distract from Erik’s impeccable craftsmanship. Also, how cool is that Fix It Stix holder?
Adam Sklar has been building bikes for five years now. Among his first customers was Sam, a good friend from high school. Sam had Adam build him a single speed 29er, but Sklar #4 has since been through many iterations over the years. Recently, Sam was feeling like his original Sklar, while abundant with character and nostalgia, was ready to give way to a new Sklar. Adam’s style has certainly developed over his time building bikes, and Sam wanted to honor his friend’s success by commissioning another frame.