Continuing on with our 2021 ENVE Builder Round Up coverage – we posted the first Gallery on Friday – today we’re featuring the show-stopping work of Prova Cycles, Naked Bicycles, 44 Bikes, Spooky, Retrotec, and Argonaut Cycles. Each of these builders brought something special to the showcase and a few raised the bar considerably in various ways. There’s a lot to go over here so let’s get to it!
I don’t know about you all but personally, I miss seeing off-the-wall crazy custom bikes at the various tradeshows. With the pandemic canceling the 2020 and most likely 2021 dates for various open houses and NAHBS, I’ve just accepted the fact that those balleur bicycle gallery shoots will have to wait. That said, when projects like this fall into my lap, I’m more than excited to take some extra time documenting them.
ENVE launched their Foundation Gravel wheels last week and in a perfect world, a press-camp was supposed to happen in Arizona to test out those wheels. ENVE planned on pinging various builders to fabricate the chassis for their full gravel lineup. One of those builders was Retrotec and Curtis went overboard for the event, building a handful of titanium frames alongside Oscar Camarena of Simple Bike Company. When the press camp wasn’t happening, Curtis decided he’d send this bike out for me to document. He needed photos for his website and I won’t say no to content like this…
If 2020 brought anything, it was an unexpected amount of time spent locally and at home. It feels like ages ago that we were spending seven months of the year on the road, traveling to events, races, and bike rides throughout the American West living out of our truck, grinding our morning coffee and cooking dinner under the stars. While it was and is a huge downer to be stuck at home with the Nation’s strictest Covid-19 restrictions, I cannot deny how much fun we had sticking to a radius close to our new home in the Land of Enchantment. While we didn’t do any month-long road trips, quick weekend jaunts provided plenty of inspiration as we familiarized ourselves with this beautiful state we now call home.
This year, a handful of products made my life easier in one way or another. Check out a quick list of some of my personal favorite products I used this year.
Steel is real. We all have personal paths when it comes to cycling and it’s serendipitous when our favorite bikes can adapt to align with these twists and turns within this cycling journey. My Retrotec has long been one of my favorite bikes. In the time I’ve owned it, I’ve swapped out the drivetrain, brakes, fork, wheel size, yet this latest permutation is easily the most drastic…
Last year, ENVE opened its doors to the public for an Open House event. Once inside, visitors took a tour of its Ogden, Utah facilities and were greeted by two-dozen custom bikes from builders across the globe. This year the pandemic forced ENVE to pivot a bit, holding a virtual tour and framebuilder showcase they’re calling the Builder Round-Up. We’re pleased to once again host this showcase, with two-part coverage, so read on below for part two of a full breakdown on these Beautiful Bicycles along with a few teasers of new ENVE product…
It had been years since I’ve ridden singlespeed and to be honest, I was pretty reluctant to do so here in Santa Fe. We’ve been in town for about two months now and it’s taken a while to get used to the elevation. Our house is at 6,800′ and the local trails start around 7,000′, shooting up to 12,000′. It’s a lot to take in but for the more flowy cross-country trails, I felt like I could get away with one gear and I knew just the bike for it!
My Retrotec is one of those “forever” machines. I could never sell it as it feels like it’s a part of this website. Plus, the maker – Mr. Curtis Inglis – is just such a stand up guy. When you ride a Retrotec, you put a smile on Curtis’ face and if you’ve ever met the guy, you know that’s well worth it!
With the pandemic putting a halt to NAHBS and our post-NAHBS framebuilder ride/showcase in Sedona this year, we decided to pull something together with our friends at ENVE to commemorate their new Foundation AM30 MTB wheel launch. When ENVE moved into its new carbon manufacturing and testing facility, they worked hard to push the progression of carbon wheel design and manufacturing. Over three years later and thousands of hours developing, today they launched their Foundation Collection, a completely new wheel line that marks a new milestone in wheel design. In short, for those of us who aren’t interested in graphs or projections, ENVE launched a $1600 made in the USA wheelset and to help showcase these new wheels, we pinged three frame builders to showcase these wheels. The last in the series is Retrotec with a beautiful Funduro 29er.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate something special, the 30th anniversary of Paul Component Engineering. Paul is a close friend, and when asked to come down for the weekend, tickets were booked quickly and preparations began in good faith.
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.