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.
Hardtails. Antiquated examples of mountain bike technology to some but to others, they’re liberated and simplified machines. Each year, I plan on riding a full suspension in Downieville, yet I always end up bringing my hardtail for one reason or another so this year, I took a look at just some of the bikes that were rolling around this Gold Rush town.
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.
NAHBS this year has a lot more vendors this year than years prior – or at least it feels that way – making it a bit easier to see all the builders and what they brought to Sacramento, showcasing their talents. There are a lot of familiar faces in the crowds, yet what these talented frame builders brought with them are anything but.
This is such a magical project and everyone involved put in so much effort to put their best foot forward. It’s such a pleasure to kick off NAHBS weekend with a look at the Sierra Klunker, built with the new limited edition Paul Component Engineering Green parts!. Check out the press release and photos below!
For the past few years, Chris King has opened their doors to the public as part of an entire weekend of events dubbed the Chris King Open House. This event’s intent is to be coordinated with a product launch of their new colors for the year, as well as to showcase what makes their operations tick, and to display a selection of custom bikes, built by some of their best builder customers.
the two new colors for this year: matte turqoise and matte mango.
This year, they sent out an open invite to 30 of their best builder accounts, offering up discounted pricing to them to build a bike for the show, passing on the discount to their customers. Out of those 30 builders, 17 showed up, and they were displayed alongside a Pegoretti bike, which we looked at on Friday. These bikes lined the halls of the Chris King factory, where visitors could look at their features in great detail, chat with the builders about their process, and if they were so inclined, purchase their dream bike.
I was invited up to the Open House to document these bikes for the builders and for Chris King, as well as offering up an ultimate dream bike gallery for you, the readers of this website. Please enjoy! Which bike do you like the best and why? Oh and if you’re interested in one of the bikes showcased here, be sure to reach out to the builders, who are linked in the bike descriptions below.
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.
Retrotec 25th-Anniversary Funduro XC 29er Hardtail
25 years in the frame building industry will teach you a lot. Not just about building bikes, either. Think about it. That’s 25 years of keeping up with industry change. From fads to standards, and technological advancements that are not a big deal for a large company, but for a dude in a garage in Napa, it can be a lot to keep on top of. Curtis Inglis from Retrotec is a perfectionist, a tinkerer, a lover of bicycles, autos, motos, scooters, and just about anything with two wheels. Curtis’ work is in my opinion, some of the most unique in the industry.
Curtis has two brands, Retrotec and Inglis Cycles. You’re probably most familiar with Retrotec, the ‘cruiser-inspired’ label, with swoopy tubes and a cruiser-inspired aesthetic. Inglis Cycles delivers a more straight up custom bike, with no curves. For his 25th anniversary, Curtis is doing something special with Retrotec.
The Retrotec man is one of my favorite logos and for his 25th, Curtis is building 25 frames, of which will be numbered on these unique head badges. For the Builder’s Camp, Curtis rode this new XC-oriented Retrotec 29er, rendered in grey primer and designed with a more cross country geometry. Technically, this model falls under the Funduro lineup – Retrotec’s trail hardtails – but he’s calling it a Funduro XC.
After Builder’s Camp, this bike went to Curtis’ close friend and Santa Rosa figure, Chris. Curtis and Chris are the same size, so they both swap bikes back and forth, discussing things like geometry, fit and parts kit, resulting in the best Retrotec Curtis can deliver to you, his customers.
If you’re in the market for a new hardtail, holler at Retrotec for one of his 25th-anniversary frames!
I’ve never owned a bike that receives as much attention from non-cyclists as a Retrotec. With comments ranging from “can I fit big tires like that on my cruiser?” to “how’d you put disc brakes on that cruiser?” Once I follow up with an explanation, they quickly lose interest, yet are still entranced with the bike itself. That connection is not too far from the reality of the Retrotec brand, however. Back in 1992, a builder named Bob Seals wanted to race his old cantilever cruiser frame. This frame, the Retrotec number one, still hangs in Curtis’ shop to this day.
Bob’s intent was to make modern-day cruisers, designed to be ridden and raced. The look of Bob’s builds really resonated with Curtis and in 1993, he moved to Chico, CA to work for Retrotec. In 1995, Bob had exhausted his framebuilding efforts, prompting Curtis to take over, relocating the business to San Francisco. This presented a problem for Curtis, who quickly realized that cruiser bikes weren’t really a thing – yet – and work was slow. Curtis chugged along in San Francisco, building frames part-time and experimenting with new Retrotec designs, while sharing a shop with the Sycip brothers.
In 1998 Retrotec moved to Napa, California and everything changed.
Way back in 2010, an event called the Oregon Manifest pinged a selection of frame builders to solve common usage problems with bikes. This included cargo carrying specifications ranging from the large and out of the ordinary, to the simple task of carrying a change of clothes. It just so happened that in 2010, the Oregon Manifest’s task was to carry just that. For Retrotec and Inglis Cycles‘ Curtis Inglis, he approached this challenge by first looking for inspiration within his own shop.
Curtis had this Salsa quill stem, back when they were made in California in the shop of Ross Shafer, whos shop, and employees, like Sean Walling influenced Curtis’ own frame building operations. We’ll look at that more in-depth tomorrow. For now, let’s focus on this bike. So there he was, with this stem that needed a home. He had an idea of what the frame was supposed to look like and pinged his buddy Jeff Hantman to make some half wheel fenders with the Retrotec “guy,” smiling on the back and a halftone fade.
As for the frame, well, that’s the easy part for Curtis. He got to work, knowing the design challenges of the frame including the need to carry a spare change of clothes for the party after the show, perhaps harkening to the need for commuters to have nice “work” clothing once they’ve rolled into their office job. Curtis brought white loafers, a pair of plaid pants that he converted into nickers. He then had Travis at Freight Baggage to include the scraps of plaid into the rack bag still being used on the bike today. Curtis even painted the Pass and Stow rack to match! Chuey even made a cycling cap of this material. Bottom line: Curtis thought out all the details for this bike, including many of his friend’s work in his final product.
This bike has a new use now; Curtis carries their dog Coco around town with his wife on their city cruises. I wish I could have gotten a photo of that during my stay, but Curtis had his hands full with unexpected life events.
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Before we jump into the world of Retrotec Bikes and Curtis Inglis, let’s look at one of Curtis’ personal rigs; this 29+ rigid mountain bike, what I like to call the “Trail Cruiser.” Now, calling this a cruiser has nothing to do with the speed at which Curtis rides trails while on this rig and has everything to do with the history of Retrotec; a company that began modifying actual cruisers into off-road machines.
Paul Camp is a magical week where Paul Component Engineering invites journalists from all over the US to check out their day to day operations through a series of hands-on workshops. Each journalist is assigned a CNC machine, or workstation and is taught the skills needed to machine brakes, stems, and other components. From there, they camp out on the property, eat sandwhiches and run the machines 24 hours a day, in shifts. This gives the employees of Paul a chance to ride during the week. Everybody wins!
Just kidding. In reality, Paul gives the journalists a tour of the shop, where he walks them through the process of fabricating everything in the Paul Component Engineering catalog. From there, they are able to select a bike from one of eleven builders and go on a ride in the hills of Chico. Swimming usually ensues, along with a Sierra Nevada Brewery tour, some dinner and then everyone goes home. It’s a rad time, or at least I’ve heard it is, because each year, for one reason or another, I cannot attend this Bicycle Journalist Spring Break.
Feeling like I owe Mr. Paul something, not only because we’re friends, but because he had these eleven bikes just hanging out, waiting for a proper photoshoot, I planned on heading up to Chico once I got back from my European travels. Last week, I loaded up the truck and drove straight up California for 10 hours until I reached Chico, Paul and these bikes.
Each year when NAHBS rolls around, many builders use the opportunity to build themselves a new bike. This year was Curtis Inglis‘ time for a new hardtail. Over the years, Curtis has experimented with the Funduro model, altering the bottom bracket drop and angles ever-so-slightly to dial in what he feels like is the ultimate hardtail geometry. As a pretty tall dude, he decided to give the 29+ platform a spin, resulting in a bike with a large stance and aggressive geometry.
Over the past few days, Curtis has been riding this show bike and not exactly babying it. He’s got one of those new White Industries headsets on the bike, along with White hubs, cranks and a Paul stem, PIKE fork, XTR rear mech, with a Thomson dropper.
Excuse me for double dipping in Retrotec this week, but Blue Lug’s recent photoset has me swooning for all the double-top tube curves of Curtis Inglis’ bikes. Wanna see more? Head to the Blue Lug Flickr and don’t miss out on NAHBS this year!
It’s a damn shame. Yeah, it really is. It’s a shame that this bike sat in my storage room, with no drivetrain or brake parts for so long. After reviewing this Retrotec Funduro 27.5+ hardtail a few months back, I couldn’t send the frame back to Curtis. I just loved it so much. After some emailing, he agreed I could buy the frame, but I had to send the Shimano parts back to Retrotec HQ in Napa and buy him a new Chris King 40th group.
Months later, Chris King asked to have the bike for their 40th Anniversary show, so I cobbled together a partially working build with a new SRAM Eagle group and sent it to Portland for display purposes only. Partially working? Huh? You see, SRAM and Shimano do chainring offset very differently and SRAM’s Eagle ring isn’t available in 0mm offset, like their other drivetrain systems are and like Shimano’s XTR cranks are designed, so even though it looked damn fine with all that glistening gold on it, the chainring wouldn’t clear the stay…
Curtis is the best and these series from MW are always a lot of fun… Here’s the scoop!
“Join us on October 22nd for an evening with Curtis Inglis of Retrotec Cycles. Hear about his 25 years building bikes, SSWC08, restoring British cars, and everything in between. We’ll kick things off with a ride* leaving the shop at 12:30 pm and return to beers and tacos starting around 5:30 pm, with Curtis taking the stage at 6:00 pm.
*The ride: It’s a cyclocross ride. Bring a cyclocross bike and extra tubes (a road bike won’t cut it). There will be rocks and singletrack with the route sometimes erring on the mountain bike side of the spectrum. We’ll be riding in the east bay. Bring some cash for a BART ticket or meet at Rockridge station at 1:00 pm. Not to be missed. Here’s the route.”
RSVP for the event so Mission Workshop has an estimate for attendance.
Say what you will about hardtail mountain bikes. Die hard park rats think they’re antiquated, beginners often times think they’re hard to ride and the most common complaint I hear is that it’s hard getting bucked all over the place without rear suspension. Granted a lot of those common conceptions can have some truth to them, yet with the advent and availability of new rear spacing, dropper posts that work really well and bigger tire sizes, a hardtail can be pretty damn capable and even a lot of fun. For the past six months, I’ve been riding what I consider a new benchmark in hardtail mountain bike design: a 140mm travel, slack and low, 27.5+ hardtail, complete with a dropper post and a 1x drivetrain. This one in particular was built by hand in Napa by Curtis Inglis of Retrotec. So what does the creator of this beast call it? Well, what else? It’s a Funduro.
Grinduro was a weekend-long event, filled with music, food, booze and a killer ride (or race, depending on how you party) but one of my favorite features was the expo, which featured a series of California-based frame builders, all designing what would be the ultimate “Grinduro bike.”
The first one to be featured here on this site is a unique Retrotec “all-road” which was built using signature Inglis details like a double, curved top tube, a seat tube cluster gusset, a hotrod-inspired paint job and extra sexy thru-axle dropouts.
It’s easy to swoon over a bike with such curves, but once you look at the build kit, the practicality really shines through. By using SRAM’s massive 10-42 cluster cassette and the CX-1 long cage rear derailleur, this bike can tackle anything, including China Grade’s intimidating average grade.
For the client, a Whisky thru-axle fork and wheels topped off the build… Which he then took right off the display shelf and rode the next day. If only I had gotten a post-race portrait.
Velocity Dually rims have been helping builders get a little plumper in the realm of rigid mountain bikes. One such builder is Curtis Inglis from Retrotec, who took advantage of the Dually platform with this rather gargantuan 29+ MTB.
Large frames tend to be on the gaudy side, but the Panaracer FatBNimble tires and seemingly-balanced proportions give this bike a rather pleasant stance. You almost don’t notice the gigantic head tube and massive standover.