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Following just a couple of weeks after the inaugural Handmade Bicycle Show Australia, a small group of frame builders hosted their own show in Sydney, named The Makers Show. Situated behind an inner-city candle store in Newtown, maker Sean Killen opened his workshop to the public, sliding up the garage door, moving all his equipment out, and occupying the street corner on a rainy Saturday.
Where the Melbourne-based Handmade Bicycle Show was a commercially run event in a rented space, the Makers show was noticeably more casual. Most of the invited builders knew each other through a private builders forum, where they collaborate and share knowledge, experience, and even materials. These makers had met casually the previous year, and for 2018, decided to make it a public affair. With a mix of bikes displayed and with free beers in an esky (cooler box) sitting in the street for any interested parties, this small group of young builders came together from across Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide.
Below is an introduction to a number of new names, along with a look at a couple that you may know already. With handbuilt wares from Rogers Bespoke, Killen Bike, Tempest Bicycles, Vale Bikes, Chimera Frameworks, Egress Bikes, The Lost Workshop, and Skunkworks (wheels), these are the bikes of the 2018 Makers Show.
Missed out on the action from the 2018 Handmade Bicycle Show Australia? See our first gallery covering the bigger and more established builders, and also check out our second gallery featuring the newcomers and part-timers of the scene.
The host of the party (show), Sean Killen of Killen Bike had just a couple of bikes on display. Pictured is a bikepacking rig built for one of the mechanics at the local Omafiets bike store. “It has quite a short trail to make the bike handle more quickly. I like my bikes to just change direction in a corner, and actually be fun,” said Killen with a sly grin. “With a bar bag on, and a load on the front, too many bikes go like a slug. The head angle is a steep 73-degrees, with a 55mm fork rake. This will take up to a 650B x 2.5in tyre, with a conventional width bottom bracket.”
The cut-out head tube is a signature of Killen’s bikes. “I’ve been building for three years. I was a licensed builder and cabinet maker prior to that. I was doing a lot of bicycle maintenance with an angle grinder because I was past that point of just fiddling around with what you’re supposed to do, and I thought I really want to start joining stuff to my frames. I went to the States, I did the fillet-brazed course at UBI (United Bicycle Institute), and loved it so much I came back and thought, you know what, there’s probably a market in Sydney. A lot of the guys that were doing it have moved on and retired, and I thought, I’d have a crack.”
Another hand cut detail is seen at the seat tube, and the Killen logo is starting to better recognized. “Business is growing,” Killen said. “I’ve been full-time for the past twelve months. I’m still offering repairs, but custom builds are starting to come in. I’ve got one bike on the East Coast of the US being toured at the moment, and I’ve got another bike being ridden between the UK and Switzerland at the moment. There’s probably five bikes out on the roads, three on the wall, and two in the wait list.”
“A frame like this would cost about AU$3,800, including the full segmented fork,” said Killen. “All the lines are internally routed; even the brake hydro line is internal.”
Plenty of custom mounts were added to this bikepacking rig.
While the pictured bike is painted, Killen explains that he’s since found a good powder coater, and that’s the path he’s now taking with his frames that are typically going to see some rough and demanding usage.
“Within Australia there’s six of us, and we’ve got a closed forum that we help one another out with technical issues,” explained Killen about the online forum that ultimately brought many of the displaying makers together in his workshop. “Dumb questions are encouraged. It’s to lift all of us up with our technical skills and what we’re doing. The forum is private, but if you’re trying to build or are building frames, contact us and we’ll invite you in.”
Based in Adelaide, South Australia, Rogers Bespoke is arguably the more established brand in this collective. Builder James Alderson (aka, Jr.) explained that there are thirty Rogers Bespoke bikes in the wild, and that’s with a less-than-productive last year with moving workshop.
“I met Rob (Benson) at the Melbourne custom bike show in 2015, and we were the young guys there,” Alderson said. “[The Makers Show] is creating a community amongst the local frame builders.”
“I moved into a new workshop last year, and I’ve got a spray booth going in at the moment,” said Alderson. “It’s just myself, but I’m bringing in a guy who’ll be doing the painting. I’m working more on getting handmade parts, rather than importing it from the (United) States. Obviously, the tubing we’re never going to manufacture here, but for example, all my head tubes are machined locally, seat collars as well. I want to do a lot more of that. I’m working on some dropout designs at the moment.”
The bike pictured belongs to a Sydney-based customer of Alderson’s, and is a SRAM eTap version of his Ronin signature series. “The Ronin came about because I needed a new road bike, and it was built as the bike that I wanted to ride,” Alderson said. “Essentially, I wanted a fast, quick-handling road bike that I could fit up to 30c tyres in. It’s a performance bike with a little extra cushion.”
The Ronin officially fits 28c tyres, but a 30c will squeeze in there, too.
Having been in the game for a few years now, Alderson is becoming a master of the brazing torch.
A Rogers Bespoke Ronin frame will cost you approximately AU$3,300. Showing his demand, Alderson is dealing with an approximate eight-month lead time.
Rob Benson learned his craft in Canada, but moved to the wine region of Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, with the goal of starting his own bike company. It took a few years to get Tempest Bicycles going, but things have worked out.
The bike pictured is a super-commuter Benson built for customer Tom Wood, who now owns two Tempests. The fit on both bikes was done by Dan Lovegrove of Newcastle-based Cycle Fit Physiotherapy, who was also at the show.
Benson is an avid bike collector himself, with a bewildering collection that he brought across from Canada. Such a collection gives him a broad amount of inspiration for frame design. Yes, I have plans to take a closer look at (part of) the collection myself, and yes, I’ll share it when I do.
Benson is a fan of clean aesthetics, preferring to use internal cable routing on many of his bikes. Speaking of clean, this bike uses a Shimano Alfine Di2 internally geared rear hub and hides a bunch of trickery in the stem, which allows it to recharge from the front dynamo hub.
This commuter features a custom brass top cap made by Bentley Components in Yorshire, England.
This fork is made with a biplane crown, Reynolds blades, and reshaped dropouts. There’s also internal cable routing for the front dynamo hub wire. While he’ll build just about anything, this type of bike is not the usual for Benson; most orders are road or cyclocross bikes.
Based on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Tristan Tucker spends his days repairing carbon bikes under his “Carbon Bike Doctor” business. A former builder of racing yachts and designer at the now defunct Teschner Bikes, Tucker has been slowly setting up his own custom carbon bike brand, Vale Bikes. “Repairing all of these production frames, you see the issues, and then you start to think, I wouldn’t mind building my own.”
Tucker works with famed bike fitter Steve Hogg for geometry and fit guidance. Frame designs seek to keep everything in proportion, with tube sizes and complete geometry adjusted between every bike. “Being a tall guy myself, I needed custom geometry, and so tube-to-tube construction allows for that,” Tucker said. “We’ve got a builders account with Enve, they make the tubes for us.”
“We are based in Mona Vale, but the name didn’t come from that,” Tucker explained of the Vale brand name. “Vale means Valley. In Latin it means farewell, farewell to production cookie-cutter frames. And it also means be well, be strong. It’s kind of why you ride.”
Having done carbon bike repairs for a number of years, Tucker is his own painter. We plan to take a closer look at this bike, and Tucker’s workshop, in a Bikes of the Bunch feature in the near future.
Tucker showed off an unfinished frame at the Makers Show, joking that as a carbon frame builder, it’s like walking around with your pants down.
Another look at the raw carbon of an unfinished Vale. “They are for sale. We’ve got all the stock ready to go, but at the moment, they’re very labour-intensive for me to build. Frameset cost is AU$10,000, including an Enve fork, stem, handlebar, and seatpost. There aren’t too many people doing custom carbon, and we hope to be that Aussie brand.”
The show doubled as an informal launch for a new Australian frame brand, Chimera. These Australian-made off-the-peg steel bikes are a collaboration between Sean Killen of Killen Bike and Rob Benson of Tempest Bicycles. Pictured is the first prototype, a road racing crit bike. It’s a bike we may soon get our hands on to test.
So what is the plan for Chimera? According to Benson, “Sean and I are going to be building off-the-peg road bikes, cyclocross bikes, and bikepacking rigs. They’ll come in at a lower cost to a full-custom frame build and have standard sizes in 2cm increments. They’re still fillet-brazed and built to a really high standard. Finer details are to be worked out, but I’ll likely build the road bikes, while Sean will build the bikepacking rigs. Some will be made in Newtown, some in the Hunter Valley. I have a local painter near me, and we’ll have stock paint, with an option for custom paint.”
“Rob has more experience with the road and track side, although he lives where you should be bikepacking, and I live in the city,” said Killen, who is more of a bikepacking specialist himself. “This collaboration really meshes quite well, with our interests in what we’re building.”
This crit racer prototype uses Columbus MiniMax tubing. “It’s stiff and light,” said Benson.
“It has the new T47 Chris King bottom bracket standard,” said Benson. “It’s good because it allows you to run the cables internal.”
Columbus Max oversized tubing is used to keep the rear end stiff, while slim wishbone seatstays are said to keep it compliant.
A 44mm-diameter head tube is chosen to allow plenty of fork options, including a tapered steerer (pictured).
This prototype is set up with interchangeable cable ports to allow for either mechanical or electronic drivetrains.
The frame features clean cable routing, which is said to be guided for easy assembly.
While unconfirmed, tyre clearance appears to allow for modern, wider, standards.
Originally from Sweden, Jimmy Röstlund of Egress Bikes is fresh on the scene. “I’m not quite ready for commercial building yet; just building for myself currently. I’ve been designing BMX parts and frames for a number of years, and figured I want to get into working with my hands. I got my own jig built and a very basic setup in my garage. I’m doing everything by hand, cutting by hand, and filing by hand. In addition to this gravel bike, I’ve also done a 29er rigid single speed, and I’ve built two BMX street frames.”
“The future is to get set up to take some orders from people, and build a handful of frames every year,” said Röstlund, who is based in Point Cook, Melbourne. “[I’d like to] do it as a part-time job.”
The frame is kept fully raw, even down to the lack of a head tube badge. Röstlund explained that this frame was only just finished, and he plans to clear coat it once he’s done with the detailing.
This chainstay bridge is Röstlund’s own take on asymmetrical design. His theory (for which he admits he hasn’t got any data on) is that doing this should add a minute amount of stiffness to the driveside stay without hindering tyre clearance. At the very least, it looks cool.
Röstlund explained that he prefers fillet brazing as it gives him more freedom than lugs.
Based out of his garage in Doncaster, East Melbourne, Ian Michelson runs The Lost Workshop. Pictured is his second track build ever, made for a friend who runs Cycle Fixation. The fillet-brazed steel racer should have seen its first race yesterday with Brunswick’s Tuesday night racing now back on.
Like all the builders using steel in this group, Michelson builds his frames with fillet brazing. “The cost of entry is easiest to get started with. The first road bike I did was lugged, but the clean lines you get with fillet brazed is so nice. A lot of people look at that and question whether it’s actually steel because of the transitions between the tubes. Also, it keeps it a lot lower temperature than TIG-welding.”
Michelson had his own laser-cut 4130 dropouts produced for the build, stating that commercially available track dropouts can really hamper frame design with forcing certain seat and chainstay angles.
The paint is done by Bikes by Steve, who also paints bikes for Bastion and Prova. Michelson suggested that his brand, The Lost Workshop, may be changed in the near future, although it’s not yet known what it’ll be changed to.
Zak Smiley of Skunkworks in Bondi, Sydney is a notorious connoisseur of weight weenie parts. In addition to making his own Di2 junction ports and SRAM eTap remote shifters, Smiley is well known for his wheel builds. According to Smiley, his favourite lightweight clincher at present is built using Curve’s 35mm carbon rims and Extralite’s Cyber hubs, with the 2:1 lacing design on the rear. “I’m a big fan of the Extralite 2:1 hub; it’s actually something I helped Extralite develop. This hub was always let down by the low non-driveside tension. This change means the tension ratios on the non-driveside go from 45% to 75% (of the driveside tension), which also means you don’t need to push the drive side (tensions) as hard. You now end up with a nice, well-balanced, and stable wheel, and no chance of having zero spoke tension (on the non-drive side, during riding).”
Built by Skunkworks, a set of clincher wheels built with the Curve (G4) 35 rims and Extralite hubs should weigh approximately 1,250g and cost about AU$3,300.