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The inaugural Handmade Bicycle Show Australia proved not only a perfect place for prospective customers and fans to meet the best-known builders, but also get to know the passionate part-timers and eager next generation in Australian frame building.
Some see frame making as a way to share their passion with like-minded folk, while others are looking to carve out a career like local bigwigs Darren Baum, Darrell Llewellyn McCulloch and Ewan Gellie. Taking a look at work from Prova, Goodspeed, Devlin, Mooro, Richard Walker, G.Duke, HTech, Bikes by Steve, TOR and Damu PlyCycles, these are the Australian newcomers.
This is part two (of two) of our Handmade Bicycle Show Australia coverage. Part one takes a look at the better known and established local (and not local) builders.
Mark Hester of Melbourne-based Prova is certainly one to watch. The mechanical engineer was doing composites engineering for a V8 Supercar team when he found his passion for cycling, and three years ago, the first Prova bike was built at the Bicycle Academy in the UK. Today, he shares a facility with Bastion Cycles and has 29 frames out in the wild. This Ripido 29er “party” hardtail recently won the best mountain bike award at the Bespoked show in Bristol – not bad for someone in their early 30s.
Italian for test, develop, and push, Hester says that the Prova moniker came from the license plate of a car in a hardcover Ferrari book he had as a kid. “I kind of always knew that if I had a brand, that would be the name. It relates to the brand in terms of my desire to keep testing and trying new stuff. The models keep the Italian theme going.”
Hester had three of his personal bikes at the show, and all were built using 3D-printed stainless steel parts. “Bastion’s lattice technology has allowed me to do thin-walled, non-round complex shapes. I’m only printing parts where I need a particular technical solution. Flat mount brakes, for example, are usually quite difficult and labour intensive, so by printing it, it’s not only lighter and more accurate, it’s also more efficient.” Pictured is a printed chainstay yoke that is used on both his 29er hardtail and gravel bike for superior tyre and chainring clearance.
A look inside reveals the printed lattice design that Bastion created.
The rear dropout is 3D-printed stainless steel and offers a direct post mount for a 180mm rotor.
Bikes by Steve is the painter for Prova. Here Steve shows a progress photo next to the finished product.
By the numbers. Hester spoke of geometry with progressive insight. “It’s not about how slack it is, but rather the weight distribution.”
Hester says his new Mostro gravel bike is effectively what cross-country mountain bike geometry was five years ago. “Relatively wide bars, shorter stem, longer front centre, bigger tyres. A lot of gravel bikes become sketchy with big tyres. Without enough weight on the front, they’re not stable enough. This type of bike is designed for doing gnarly rock stuff (such as the Mawson Trail) and dirt roads.”
Just as with the award-winning Ripido, Hester’s Mostro gravel bike makes use of a 3D-printed stainless steel chainstay section, which drops down below the chainrings for extra tyre and drivetrain clearance. Doing so allows a 700 x 45c or 650b x 2.1” tyre to fit with a standard road double crank.
More detail from Paint by Steve.
“This is my take on the ultimate steel road disc bike,” said Hester of his new Speciale prototype.
The Speciale features Hester’s own carbon seat tube creation with a 3D-printed lug where it intersects the top tube. “Weight and compliance are hard to match in a steel bike compared to the industry-leading carbon bikes. By going to my own pre-preg seat tube, it saved 400g and matched a modern carbon bike in terms of compliance. Traditional lugs lock you into specific angles and sizes, but no two lugs will ever need to be the same with this 3D-printed method.”
“Being an engineer, I take testing really seriously,” Hester says. “I’ve done structural testing on the example bikes, and I’ve done ISO fatigue tests.” Apparently, the seat tube design of this new road prototype is going in for testing next week.
“This model really creates something desirable…. and it combines some of the best aspects of carbon fibre with the durability of steel.” Framesets will start at AU$6,900, including headset and Enve disc fork.
The 3D-printed titanium seatpost topper is also included with the frameset, and uses Enve’s two-bolt cradle.
More 3D-printed goodness. The frame is claimed to handle tyres up to 32mm-wide.
That’s the polished stainless steel tube peering through the candy apple red paint. I wasn’t there to hand out awards, but if I were, it would go to this prototype bike. I think I’m in love.
Sitting proudly on the Prova is this new Moskito watch / bike computer. It works with your phone’s GPS to give you important cycling metrics and can be removed and worn as a watch, too. It appears to be a more refined (and expensive) alternative to the OMATA One, but relies on the phone to do the heavy lifting.
Travelling 3,400km from Perth was fresh titanium brand Mooro, founded by Chris Morgan and Stuart Dash. The two have known each other for nearly a decade: Dash is an experienced welder, and Morgan has been his chiropractor.
Mooro only started building in 2016, but the brand is already creating its own head tubes and bending its own seatstays. Hidden inside the bottom bracket shell is a secondary sleeve that keeps the internally routed brake hose shielded from the crank spindle. On display were bikes number seven and number eight, but they have built others since. The paint seen here is by local Aboriginal artist Rohin Kickett. The Enve carbon fork is painted, but the logos on the frame are anodised; there are no decals here.
Mooro is an indigenous name for the Perth region where the workshop resides. Indigenous artwork is a common theme on many of their bikes, with this bike, belonging to owner Chris Morgan, telling a story of the brand’s journey to date. The logo represents the meeting and journey of riding.
Paragon Machine Works dropouts feature out back, as is the case with many titanium frames. The welder, Stuart Dash, has a long history working with titanium in other industries.
Mooro were also displaying a customer’s cyclocross bike. This one really shows off the impressive frame anodising and paint work. This bike is called the Wagyl (rainbow serpent), with paint done by artist Bradley Kickett, the brother of Robin Kickett, who painted the bike above. Photo: Chris Morgan, Mooro Cycles.
At just age 20, Hayden Francis of HTech shows an amazing amount of skill and dedication to his craft of wooden bicycle frames. Pictured is the Aeriform frame made out of mahogany; jarrah is the usual wood choice. The hollow wood structure is given its initial shape with a CNC machine, before Hayden does the finer details by hand.
SCR stands for “Selective Carbon Reinforcement.” Carbon fibre is used to reinforce the wooden structure in key places, such as the seat tube. Bonded with the wood, the bikes are claimed to be stiff and strong, but with the ride quality benefits of wood. The frame pictured here is claimed to weigh 1,900g.
The HTech road frames are available with stock geometry and feature internal cable routing.
The pictured frame is made up of 38 different parts, all interlocked with Isoloc joints. A series of different industrial expoxies are used depending on the frame area. Hayden had created a variety of bikes, including a Bosch-equipped e-bike, and is currently working on a hardtail mountain bike for another customer.
Press-fit bottom bracket, aero tube profiles, internal cable routing, asymmetric chainstays, and carbon fibre reinforcement. These are not terms you expect to see with a wooden frame.
“His year 12 woodworking teacher said it wasn’t possible to make a bike out of wood,” said Hayden Francis’s father. “So when he left school, that’s exactly what he did.”
Sean Doyle of Devlin Custom Cycles is a newcomer to the frame building world, but showed off three bikes in prime position at the show – a significant number given there’s only eight in the wild. Doyle was a design draftsman (mostly power stations) and a long time passionate cyclist, having raced all sorts of bikes since the 80s. “I’ve got a background in design process, being able to start with a concept and work my way through it. I’ve always made things, so mid-2005, I went and had a chat with Darrell McCulloch [of Llewellyn Custom Bicycles]. He’d probably seen a thousand guys who also wanted to build frames like I did, and I don’t think he took me seriously. I went away, read as much as I could on the matter. I bugged McCulloch with questions wherever possible, and slowly started building things.”
This bike belongs to Doyle’s painter, Ben Wallace. Doyle says that most of the lugs are from Llewellyn, but the tapered one at the head tube was made from scratch, taking three full days. “I’m keen to push lugs in a new direction, and really push what you can do with them. To me, lugs do lend to the way a lugged bike rides versus a TIG-welded bike.”
“I work in the same factory unit as Peter Spencer from Gold Coast Bike Fit,” said Doyle. “He’s one of the best fitters in the country. He’s quite progressive and forward thinking, and I’m able to learn a lot from him in terms of fitting.”
The paint on this bike is impressive, and depending on the light, shines green or purple.
The rear brake cable runs through the top tube and exits out the back of the seat tube.
Doyle built this bike with segmented seatstays.
Much of Doyle’s design influence comes from growing up racing in the 80s. “I had guys like Hillbrick, Perkins, and Hopkins in my area [when growing up]. So the idea of a custom steel frame was always normal for me.”
More lugs from Llewellyn feature on this classicly-styled disc road bike from Delvin.
TOR bikes is currently creating custom steel hardtail mountain bikes out of a workshop in Beechworth, Victoria. On display is TOR’s sixth and latest build, a 27.5” Plus trail hardtail bike that’s ready to race by swapping in a shorter-travel fork and 29er wheels.
The frame features mostly external cable routing, but still accommodates internally routed dropper seatposts.
This TOR frame features a 67-degree head angle and 440mm-long chainstays that were picked for high-speed handling. “I’ve been down to about 425mm for the chainstays, but I felt it got too twitchy at high speed. I personally like the more stable feel. I’ve played with going very low, but I’ve come back up in bottom bracket height, too. It’s stuff I’ve learned by building previous bikes.”
Based in Canberra, Goodspeed is a collaborative effort with a number of local makers, including Luke Laffan (who also works with Fikas Bikes). The brand isn’t all that new, but its classical “Type One” street-going 4130 chromoly steel rigs may not be all that known beyond the nation’s capital. The brand is now getting into road bikes, with a number of local pros having offered feedback in the new SL road bike design pictured here.
Goodspeed’s founder, Myles Chandler, says the new SL road bike is an example of how the brand seeks to reinterpret the cantilever-type frame, which used to be seen with older Schwinn, Malvern Star Skidstar, and similar bikes. “This is our take on the idea. It’s a unique look, but there is a unique, dampened ride feel from it.”
Each frameset uses a Columbus Futura carbon fork and starts from AU$2,500. Goodspeed is busy at the moment, with lead times of approximately four months.
The SL is made of Columbus Zona tubes. It’s available in sizes from 52-60cm. Currently the bike is only available in a rim brake version, but a disc brake version is in progress.
Geoff Duke of G.Duke is a fitter and laboratory technician, and got into frame building after having raced for some 20 years and realising the classic lugged steel frames were a dying art. “It’s proved to not be entirely true”, he joked, as lugged construction is seemingly making a comeback. As a part-time hobby, he spends most of his spare time repairing vintage steel bikes. The frame at the front is Geoff’s own and uses customised Llewellyn lugs. His workshop is in East Brunswick, just outside of Melbourne.
Pictured is a recreation of an Australian stem from the 60s. The original was made by “Australian Tubing Products”, a company that had the license to make Reynolds tubing locally. With the plastic cap on the back, these were known as Raygun stems. Geoff says he often makes replica stems for the vintage bike crowd.
G.Duke makes other stems, too. Pictured is an assortment of quill and lugged stems to fit more modern threadless steerer tubes.
Based out of Blacktown, Sydney, Richard Walker is a part-time hobbyist builder who spends his weekdays designing (and making) products at a scientific test equipment company. As Walker explained, all the classic builders in Sydney had stopped making frames, and the geometry of stock bikes just didn’t suit him. He was already doing a lot of brazing at work, so he thought he’d make bikes.
All the component touch points are done in stainless steel. Manganese bronze is used for brazing the Reynolds 853 front triangle, with silver solder used elsewhere.
Walker likes to stick with standard down tube stops for the classic look. A custom frame, fork and headset sell for AU$2,500.
Built by David Murphy in Newport, Victoria, these custom wooden bikes are made of Australian timber, marine ply, and flax. Murphy, under the brand of Damu Plycycles, has been building these hollow wooden bikes since 2016.
“This frame was recently put through the relevant Australian standards tests and passed with flying colours,” Damu Plycycles state on their web site. “220kg of force was put on the frame from front axle to rear axle, deflecting it 21 mm before it sprung back into shape undamaged.”
The unconventional handlebar shape, where the brake hoods are pointed toward the ground, is said to be comparable to drop bars, but in a shape that’s more suited to being made of timber. Wood you buy one?
With some 23 years as a painter in the automotive world, Steve Gardner realised his skill set could earn him a living where his passion was: cycling. After first meeting up with the guys at Bastion, and then more recently Curve Cycling and Prova, Bikes by Steve was born. As pictured on the Prova bikes above, Steve’s skills and attention to detail are impressive.
Pictured is a Trek Speed Concept Gardner painted for a customer that wanted their bike to match the graffiti-style art of their jersey.