In loving memory of Ewen Gellie: 1968-2022
A tribute to one of Australia's frame building greats.
A tribute to one of Australia's frame building greats.
That’s how I’d describe the small but thriving Australian handmade bicycle scene. The world-renowned frame builders such as Baum, Llewellyn, Prova, and Bastion may often compete for the same customer, but get them in a room together and there’s an undeniable sense of camaraderie, teamwork, and family.
The Handmade Bicycle Show Australia has always provided me with this close-knit familial vibe. Each maker is walking their own path, but in many cases, they’re doing it in stride with their fellow Australian builders. Bastion’s 3D printing prowess is also seen in bikes from Baum, Prova, Mooro and more. Baum’s extensive knowledge in tube selection and welding has helped raise other makers. And Llewellyn’s eye for detail has shown that the art of lugged frames is still well and truly alive for newer builders to follow.
I wholly expect the Handmade Show this coming weekend to be the usual showcase of Australia’s skilled and highly passionate builders, moving the needle yet another step. However, this year will be different with a member of the family missing. Ewen Gellie’s contagious smile was always present at the centre of the room – as were his unapologetically function-first steel bikes (first under the Yowie brand, and later under Gellie’s own name). His unexpected passing in March has had an enormous impact on all that had the fortune of knowing him.
Below are some loving thoughts from just a few of Ewen’s friends – friends who’ll be celebrating his life together at this year’s Handmade Bicycle Show Australia, a show Ewen was instrumental in the creation of.
Though incredibly more talented as a cyclist, craftsman, and environmentalist, I never came away from an encounter with Ewen feeling anything less than awe. Every time I adjust my disc brakes I am reminded of the tip he gave me, every time I’d approach ‘the plank’ at Plenty Gorge I am reminded of the tip he gave me for emergency dismounts. When I picture him now, he’s imparting more wisdom on me, in his distinctly Australian twang, generously sharing his knowledge that spanned a life dedicated to engineering, sustainability and form – doing it on his bike, pulling a one-handed wheelie.
Maddening as it seems, we rode together in earnest once. It was the annual Smiths Gully Christmas ride. Along a fast and flowy section I found myself behind Ewen’s wheel, enthralled at watching his gazelle-like style on the trail. Once was all I needed to see that he could back up any technical design claim with a grace and prowess that saw him win across multiple years and disciplines.
Both Ewen and Darrell McCulloch (Llewellyn) were the buzzing bees in my ear that drove me to host the first Custom Bicycle Show in Australia. They’d both talked about the importance of fostering the craft of handmade, and as someone passionate about documenting them, and broadcasting their talents to the world, it was an obvious fit.
Years later, a mutual friend would order a Gellie gravel bike, and wanted a touch more razzle-dazzle in the aesthetic than Ewen was known for and engaged me to assist. As an engineer first and foremost, I felt that a micrometer, stylised as a (hard) ‘G’ would represent his mantra perfectly. That design became a laser-cut stainless headbadge, and a staple for his future bikes and it’s a privilege to be woven into the story of his life’s work.
Though none of us have worked out how to live forever – his works of steel live forever, bringing their owners joy and delight.
Thanks for making the world a better place.
Andy White, Fyxo
I first crossed paths with Ewen many years before I started Prova when he did a repair on an old steel commuter for me. I later came to know him as someone who enjoyed and learnt much from the process of analysing and repairing failures on frames from the world over, while also ensuring people kept riding their bikes.
We connected years later after I had returned to Australia and had made my first frames, he invited me over to his workshop with a frame to shoot the breeze. His genuine and open attitude towards someone seeking to start a competing business in a relatively small market was incredibly nice to come across. From that point on we had many discussions about critical design in lightweight tubular structures like a bike. His passion was intense and he would never shy away from an opportunity to speak about the distribution of stress, and how tube butting was originally designed to achieve this and not save weight that has become the marketing spiel over the years.
I’ll remember Ewen as someone who was always willing to listen and consider the views of others without shutting them down. His many posts on frame building forums and Facebook groups were never preachy but rather encouraged people to think about why things might be the way they are rather than spoon-feeding the info. Ewen has had a wonderful influence on the custom bike industry, I know I will be flicking tubes to listen to the ring, and telling anyone who will listen about the importance of butting for many years to come.
Mark Hester, Prova Cycles
He could ride and he was cheeky in his own way.
In his early days of serious riding, he saw an opportunity to better engineer his equipment. And so he did. He modified and then built his own frames. He won two national titles on those frames.
From there he went on to develop and define his mechanical engineering skillset. From Uni he went on to Holden, Ford, and Toyota. And these experiences in his own development shaped his simple and honest approach to design.
He respected the land. He frequently broadcast his environmental and therefore political concerns. He shared his values, he wasn’t afraid to be vocal about what he believed in.
2006 is when Ewen followed his passions, and that was to engineer and build his frames, Gellie frames, Hard G, full-time. We know that Ewen did not do things by halves, so every step of his process was done by him.
In his workshop studio in the hills: Machining, fabricating, and even painting. He truly understood and loved his craft. And while he didn’t do shiny, nor bling as it were, he did adore the simple aesthetic of a nice weld. And his end product was, and always will, be beautiful.
His passion was deeper than that, he was never absent-minded. Being one of the country’s most fabled frame builders and one of the key instigators of what is now the Handmade Bike Show, he believed in the greater good – he shared that with us all. He was a generous friend, a lovely bloke, a mentor, an environmentalist.
Words don’t suffice. Ewen you will be missed. You are missed. Quirks, passion, last-minute bar taping that used to always drive me mad, shared cups of tea and coffee, and all. May the wind always be at your back.
Nathan Lorkin, Founder of Corporate Cycling (the events company that runs the Handmade Show).