Nice frame and fork to gawk at

Built by Don for another Don…simply beautiful frame and fork. Amazing that Don McClung never put his own decals on his bikes.  This is one builder that should be much better known, eh?!  Before the others, his bikes were given bent seat tubes to allow for super-short chainstays on his 29ers (16″ stays…). He uses classic styling from the Schwinn Excelsior, and uses just hand tools to make tese simply beautifully fillet brazed frames in his one-man shop.  I hear he is still kicking ass on a singlespeed somewhere in the mountains surrounding Salida, CO.

Wish I had better pics but here are some anyways…

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MTB Framebuilding heritage – Tom Ritchey

Saw this Vimeo of Tom Ritchey on another framebuilders blog. I’m sure I’m one of the last to see it, but just in case…it’s a must see.

My favorite parts of this movie:

1) the “Woodsy” bike – a European 650b ‘farm road’ bike that pre-dates the ‘original’ mtn bike. Short mention in the movie (9 min mark), but well worth noting when we’re so focused on Fisher, Breeze, Ritchey as the first mountain bike creators.

2) These dudes were mountain biking on road bikes in the 70’s! SO wiley!

3) Tom fillet brazes on his lap…? No bike stand to rotate the frame around, just uses his shoulder and some kind of table to rest it against.

4) The number of frames Tom built before leaving high school. Wow. And his first frame at a very early age of 14? Nuts.

I remember shopping for a new mountain bike at the Cove bike shop in Tiburon near my dad’s apartment when I had outlived my Specialized green Hard Rock. I think it was 1985 or ’86 and I was 13 or 14 years old. I asked what the guys at the shop recommended and they said they’d get a bike from a guy named Tom who could make a custom MTB but it’d cost around $500 for the frame and fork. That was over my allowance and movie theater ticket checker budget so I declined. (oops!) At the end of the summer, I ended up buying an unfinished aluminum Klein Pinnacle that I had to polish to get shiny from Village Peddler in Larkspur down the street from my house. I loved that bike and had it for 7 years before the seat tube cracked in College in Boulder (they fixed it for free BTW and sent back with a new paint job). But man, in hindsight…how I wish I had one of the fillet-brazed Ritchey’s

Frequently made framebuilding statements

Everybody has an opinion on which frame material is best, or best for a given application. The web is just full of opinions dressed up as facts and it’s hard to muck your way through the mess many times. I come from a science background so am always expecting a reference to the study that supports their theory…which is almost never there. So those of us that aren’t able or willing to go back to school for a degree, we’re left to filter through the massive amount of information and glean what we can on ‘internet metallurgy and mechanical engineering.’ I think I am on my way to at least a Master’s Degree in that right now 😉

I always have loved chatting with Hank and Monika at Henry James Bicycles when I have ordered tubes and other various framebuilding materials. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting them, they are truly one of a kind people. I stumbled upon this “FAQ” page on their website and just wanted to share:

Wishbone seatstays

The two-triangle bike frame is pretty hard to improve upon…there are little tweaks but for the most part everybody uses the same design because it works.  I’ve always loved Retrotec and other frames that incorporate unique lines but try to make a rigid frame less rigid where it matters.  I know there’s very little evidence other than subjective opinions on the effect of bending tubes on making the ride quality more supple…but if done right it works and adds a cool look to some frames.  If nothing else, it’s a way to be creative by trying to re-create the wheel — it looks nice, but may do nothing except make the frame harder to build. Sometimes, it may make it even weaker.

Anyways, I can’t bend the big main tubes yet or create big radius bends on small tubes, and I prefer to figure out how to build a ‘standard’ frame first before experimenting with harder designs.  The one exception to this is the wishbone seat stays. I just really like the look of wishbone seat stays and believe they are a bit beefier/stronger than traditional stays.  I have no evidence for this other than the tubes I use are beefier than regular seat stays which should mean they’re stronger and stiffer if it’s all built up right.  [I’ve been using 0.9mm wall 4130 tubing that’s 25.4mm diameter at the seat tube, 19 or 22mm at the crown, and then 16mm at the main stays, whereas the ‘normal’ stays builders use tend to be 0.6mm wall and 16 or 19mm at the top and tapering to around 12mm at the dropout.]  Honestly, I don’t think many would notice the difference in stiffness or strength of either design – it’s likely more of a matter of ease-of-fabrication or ‘do you like to bend tubes or cut & miter them?’  It’s mainly just another way to distinguish your work from others – and i think they look cooler.

Bontrager "sleeved" wishbone seatstays

I’ve tried the unicrown/wishbone seat stay on frame #1  (above on the old Bontrager) but the pre-bent wishbone stays are pretty thick and heavy. I may bend my own someday and see how that goes.  This style is a bit easier to build but turned out too heavy and less aesthetic than I like. So i tried something else – inbetween what Sycip, Nobilette, and Dekerf make.

The Sycip wishbone stay is really just a segmented fork for the rear end.

Sycip's wishbone stay

The Nobilette design is pretty cool. I’ve never seen it before and it has smooth lines.  It has the option to combine tig welding and fillet brazing to join the lower legs to the crown.  It also is potentially easier to fabricate (if you have the tools to bend the main crown piece).

Nobilette wishbone stays

The Dekerf design is unique and seems like it’d be the easiest to fabricate – or at least fixture while you weld it together. This design is really nice, and similar to the Nobilette design in that you can micro-adjust the wishbone legs up or down if you need to before you weld/braze them to the dropouts.  [One leg may be a tiny bit longer than the other which would pull one dropout up and mess with your rear triangle alignment and wheel spacing.] This means you wouldn’t weld/braze together the wishbone “fork” until you fixture it up in the frame jig and see if one leg needs to go up or down.  Once all looks good, you could then either do it all in the frame fixture or just tack it and connect it all outside of the frame fixture.  Another way to do this is make the wishbone stay like a fork, then file or slot the lower seatstay legs to fit the dropouts after…not sure if that’s better or worse though.

I think why many builders use, or have used, wishbone seat stays is due to the potenial ease of fabrication and the ability to do ‘production runs’.  I don’t agree that they are easier to fabricate (when created one at a time) than fastback seat stays, even if you bend the fastback stays, because there is a lot of cutting and mitering and fixturing going on with most types of wishbone seat stays.  But the one thing I’ve heard which makes more sense to me is that builders (like Bontrager) have many of their stays pre-fabricated (many created in production runs) and then they just need to miter the wishbone tube to the correct length and angle to match the frame being built.  So you can use the same exact wishbone seat stay on a 20″ frame as on a 16″ frame just by cutting it to a different length.

Below are some shots of what i’ve tried on the last two frames. I’m pretty sure I’m going to copy Nobilette’s wishbone for upcoming frames, as soon as i get a bender all set up…

the two seat stay wishbone crown pieces - 22mm diameter x 0.9mm wall 4130 steel.

the main stay inside the crown piece before filing to fit tighter

same as previous but after mitering for a tighter fit so the brass doesn't have to fill so many big gaps

Shop beverage: Best brewery, favorite beer this year...and the old Moots logo - classic!

I tig the crown pieces to the 'stem' of the wishbone stay, then fillet braze the lower legs to the crown pieces.

The whole wishbone, post brazing, strapped to the rest of the frame.

I brass-brazed the end caps on this time instead of using silver. Harder to get it to flow into the tight gaps (for me) but ended up doing the job.

Next, just have to weld the stays to the bike, add the disc brake mount, slot the seat tube collar, ream/face, paint…and then done.  Hopefully, Heyride will be riding this in the CB100 in a couple of weeks!


My influences are those people that changed the way I saw the world of bikes. Although I have had many influences in my 25 years of riding mountain bikes, I point to these people below as the ones who helped make me who I am today – as far as cycling goes. I’ll keep coming back to this, or do a new post, to add people when I think of them.

Tim Koehler: I grew up riding Mt. Tam with TK and learning the wily ways from his older brother Richard and his friends. I have so many good memories of this time, since it was all new – exploring Tam and all its trails and beautiful nooks and crannies. TK and I got into MTB’s at the same time and he is one of the funnest people to ride with. He was and is one of the fastest and most ballsy guys on a bike too. He showed me what it’s like to ride downhill with no holds barred, and laugh and get up no matter how bad the crash.

James Franzen: A true wily I met in Boulder who didn’t own a car and rode his bike everywhere, including back to his cabin in the woods several miles up 4-mile Canyon after a night at the bars. He “trained” for racing in the Colorado Off-Road Points Series (CORPS) by just riding everywhere and could climb like few people I knew. He lived simply and was one of the happiest-go-lucky people that I’ve ever met, and a real hammer on the bike. He showed me that it can be done – living without a car – and I tried it after having met James.

Kent Eriksen: My first “real” race team was Moots, circa 1995.  I met Kent in the back of the Sore Saddlery Bike Shop in Steamboat Springs to pick up my frame and components and see what goes on with custom framebuilders.  I have never been the same since.  Kent was and is known for his perfect miters – which it turns out makes the welding that much easier to do – and stronger.  Moots welds are some of the best.  Kent is somewhat of an eccentric guy, a bike genius, and this is evident with his development of the YBB suspension system (which showed up first on a steel frame i might add that they still had at the shop!).  Kent epitomizes the ingenuity that I hope to emulate, from riding what he creates.

Travis Brown: No one has more passion for all things bike than T. He has more creative ideas floating around in his head about how to change/convert/better/tweak bike stuff than anyone I’ve met. Sitting down and brainstorming with T at the coffee shop was one of the most inspiring times of my life, when I realized that creating something unique was something I wanted to do eventually.

Grant Petersen: I was probably one of the younger retro-grouches out on the racing circuit and definitely in Boulder County. I’d always look forward to reading the (now defunct and somewhat digital) Rivendell Readers. The words of Grant just made sense to me and I’ve always wanted a Rivendell All-Rounder but never pulled the trigger. Rivendell makes beautiful bikes that are multi-functional and last forever, which is what I hope to do too.