Approaching one of Oakland’s industrial area warehouses I am stoked to take note of the impressive lineup of old Toyota pickups and a VW bus. Smith meets me at the gate and I am unsurprised that he is another very tall frame-builder. I have a sneaking suspicion many tall riders got sick of finding frames that fit them so they just started making their own. Anywho, Smith gives me a tour of the large building that is split into smaller studios for painting, ceramics, and glass work. The main area has many kilns and people working various glass projects. The yard is filled with pups lounging and a family gutting some old camping trailers to make them home.
Smith’s shop, Rat King, is quite humble, just enough room for a few tables to weld on, some shelving, and a mill. He keeps detailed notes of time spent on each frame to track his efficiency and still has many hand-drawn frame layouts up on the walls. Smith started pulling out some of his first frames and laying them next to a current batch of thru axel touring machines. If one thing sticks out on most of his frames it seems to be an affinity for very large head tubes, in diameter and length. Those massive 44mm head tubes lead to some really amazing custom fork work as well. The progression appears to have been quick from the first-built-but-never-ridden track frame to his current small lineup of custom frames. My first trip to his shop I caught a few frames in progress and pre-paint and was stoked to return a few weeks later to see the finished product.