With the headlights pointing north, I departed at sparrow’s fart, my destination: Beechworth. It’s a little over a three-hour jaunt from Melbourne along the Hume Highway. The drive is punctuated by rolling hills, bouncing kangaroos, and petrol (gas) stations. Historically known for the gold rush of the late 1800s, I was heading there in search of the slightly less precious metal of steel – crafted by the hand of Shane Flint of Tor Bikes.
If you plug “Beechworth” into Trailforks you’ll see the longstanding MTB park trail network, with Yackandandah, and El Dorado also close by, though I know the latter by reputation as “Hell Dorado.” Many of the other trails in the area remain unlisted and need the nose of a local to be sniffed out. Another El Dorado claim to fame is having the smallest pub in Victoria for post-ride refreshments.
Rolling up to the gate of a rural property on Library road, I’m greeted by a pair of howling labradors, announcing my presence to “Dad” who has already fired up the wood heater in the large work shed. The Tor Bikes studio is a clean, and spacious sanctuary for Shane to braze his frames. The name Tor means the rocky pinnacle of a hill, exposed and showing riders the way. It’s perfect for a brand that exists in an area surrounded by barren rocky outcrops.
Shane and his wife moved from Canberra in 2011 and have built a home, family, and workshop on their property. The property includes extensive bushland which is an amazing space for creating trails, for his wife’s horses to roam, and for their kid to make cubby houses. By trade, Shane is a metal fabricator and also studied mechanical engineering which is an asset for local businesses who use him to problem solve.
Tor frames speak to Shane’s riding passion. The workshop wall is littered with race plates from past events predominantly in downhill, with a youth spent bombing Canberra hills before getting a taste for the intensity of cross-country. The Beechworth environs are great for road and gravel and you’ll find Shane on the bike more days than not.
In between brazing bidon bosses, Shane talked about his future build, with more pinion-based MTBs in the pipeline. The Tor Pinion hardtail with two-tone Cerakote was a fan favorite at the Handmade Bicycle Show Australia, held earlier in the year at Seaworks, Williamstown. Shane has been an exhibitor at the show for four years in a row.
Anyone who remembers the last Beechworth SHITS (Six Hours In The Saddle; an XC lap-a-thon style race with individual and team categories) will recall the filthy weather and torrential rain that descended on the course prior to the starting gun.
The first pinion build was for an event participant wanting a progressive geo “Abrade” hardtail that could be ridden year-round, regardless of the filthy wear. It is easy to see why the sealed belt-driven setup has merit, with weight centrally located. With no derailleur to risk banging on boulders, the list of benefits grows for a bike to be ridden in an area like Beechworth.
Once the torch was extinguished, it was time to show off the current bikes in his stable.
The Zenith is his single-pivot dual suspension mountain bike, with a unique 1/8″ 4130 side plate design that immediately reminded me of a boomerang. It’s the second prototype of his design with an enduro mind and 170mm of travel. Four years of abuse later, it’s perfect for the steep and rocky terrain the area is known for. The Zenith is TIG construction with a pairing of Reynolds and Columbus tubes and is available in both 27.5″ and 29″ (pictured), though for a few more beans you can opt for fillet brazed.
Throw the Zenith in the car, and you can be pedaling up Mystic Mountain, and more importantly bombing down the technical jank of ‘Elevation’ and the bermed jump lines of ‘Shred Kelly’ in under an hour. Another great reason to live in Beechworth. The lattice brace caught some criticism from those who frequently ride in sloppy terrain who saw it as a ‘mud catcher’, but in a climate as dry and arid as Australia it’s less of an issue but definitely had Shane taking notes for future iterations.
While Shane can build road frames, too—as demonstrated by his own blue Cerakoted bike—his brand focus and passion is for the trails.
The intersection between the road and proper trails, of course, are gravel/bikepacking-oriented frames, which Shane builds for Monday Cycles, another Beechworth label that takes its name from the local “Monday night” gravel mob ride. This partnership involves design input by Joe Arblaster (of Monday) leaving Shane more focused on the construction side, as gravel isn’t his chosen way to recreate on two wheels.
Monday launched earlier this year at the Handmade Bicycle Show Australia, and has two models in the line up: the Pilot and Pilot+ to accommodate up to a 29 x 3.0. These are explorateur-style gravel bikes, designed with multiple fixing points to carry gear, and with a focus on durability and comfort for long rides.
All Tor Bike frames are painted by Mitch at Seven4Works in Tawonga, with powder coat or Cerakote as the main preference for finishes. In the short period, I’ve come to know of Tor there has been a strong progression with each frame and I can’t wait to see what he reveals in the future.