• Cyclocross is for Everyone, Including Girls from Jessica Cutler

    I will not claim to know everything (or anything, for that matter) about child development or perfect cyclocross pedagogy. I do, however, know the concrete and subtle challenges that women and girls in the sport of cycling can face when they are trying to achieve their goals. I have experienced first-hand the barriers to entry that women and girls face in a sport that can be so rewarding and empowering.

    I spent six short years racing the professional cyclocross circuit in the United States. While I certainly wasn’t among the best riders in the country, I was pretty good, usually landing a few UCI podiums every year and consistently floating inside the top 100 in the world rankings. However, despite my modest success, I struggled and fretted every year over being able to race just a small part of the domestic professional calendar due to lack of financial and equipment support. I was racing a full road calendar as well as a full cross calendar and could barely make ends meet. Myself aside, I saw female riders who were much better than me; who were younger, hungrier, and more talented unable to reach their potential due to lack of support.

    In addition, when I would hope into the occasional local race, I would always note that while junior fields were growing, there were still far more boys than girls.

    Cyclocross, CX, NWCX In my last professional race, the 2016 Cross Vegas World Cup.

    It was from my own experiences and observations that I decided, with the help of my husband Niels to create the Northwest Women’s Cyclcocross Project – a nonprofit program that would seek to help women, age 17-22, bridge the gap from local to national success while also seeking to remove barriers to entry and retention in the sport for all junior girls. I’m still no expert but here are some of the things that I have learned in my two seasons of trying to get more girls on bikes.

    1. Keep Cross Fun

    Winning races is awesome but what is more awesome is creating a lasting love of the sport for young girls. When our youngest girls are lining up to race, the team mentors and elite development riders go to the start line with them to give them high fives and last-minute tips.

    Cyclocross, CX, NWCX Me and my sister Lucy, getting two young riders ready for their race.

    We cheer for them during their races and even give them the occasional mini-cupcake handup to keep them motivated on cold and wet days.

    9-year-old Elsa getting a motivational cupcake.

    When the race is over, we have found it’s best to never ask “how did you do?” but rather “did you have fun?” or “what was your favorite part of the race?” Turning the post-race discussion from one that is results focused to one that is enjoyment focused always yields a positive result. I have seen girls who suffered and struggled on technical muddy courses absolutely light up as soon as you ask them about how much fun they had.

    Winning is also fun!

    So while it’s awesome to see girls win races and improve their skills it’s essential that they know that there are many measures for success and winning is only one such measure. For me, personally, working with a rider on a skill and then seeing her put that skill to use in a race is a huge win. Seeing every girl supporting her teammates and having fun both on and off the bike is another win.

    2. Create a culture of kindness and support

    I truly believe in the importance of creating safe spaces for girls and women where they can support each other, thrive, and grow as athletes and ambassadors. Having a strong mission-statement around which the team culture is formed is an important part of both removing barriers to entry into the sport and keeping girls motivated to race. For an 8-year-old girl who is new to the sport, she needs peers who will help her learn, grow, and feel welcome. We teach our riders to share their knowledge and care for their teammates and friends.

    Being both kind and a good ambassador in victory and defeat are requirements for all our riders.

    One simple thing that has worked for building this culture of kindness and support with the girls on NWCX Project has been to do group pre-rides at every race. Our elite development riders and I, often along with some parents, take all of the younger girls on appropriately paced pre-rides where at least one adult or elite rider leads and another sweeps so no one is left behind. Our group pre-rides are open to all junior girls regardless of whether they are on the team. The adults and elite riders patiently help the younger riders to develop the skills to tackle even the trickiest courses.

    3. Find sponsors and volunteers who reinforce the culture of support

    Every girl on NWCX Project knows that when she comes to a race she will have a warm tent to hang out under, a bin full of Clif Bar snacks free for the taking, a mechanic to look over her bike and help her with whatever she needs, and a big cheering section among other things.

    While I recognize that finding sponsorship can be difficult, many companies are more than happy to support junior development with donated or discounted product. In our case, we set NWCX Project up as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation which, I believe, made potential sponsors slightly more likely to donate to us.

    Niels helping get some little bikes ready to race.

    It’s a small thing to give some socks or water bottles to a young rider, but to many of the girls, these items become prized possessions. Having free nutritional and mechanical support reinforces the idea that they have an entire community behind them.

    Just a few of our elite and grassroots riders at a local race

    Every race I learn more and more about the best ways to grow the sport for young women as well as how to help young talent succeed both in our program and beyond. Helping girls connect with one another and their community to create the next generation of riders and ambassadors is so important in this sport and I hope that sharing my knowledge will inspire others to help get more girls on bikes.

    You can read more about Jessica and the Northwest Women's Cyclocross Project here. 

  • Six Secrets for Successful Cyclocross from Adam Myerson

    Believe it or not, after 30 years of racing ‘cross, almost 20 years of coaching, and who knows how many camps, clinics, and articles, no one has ever asked me to write down my six most important tips before. I’m almost hesitant to do it, because I’m essentially giving away information I make a living selling to people. But Ritchey is a great company and sponsor of mine, and since they asked, I’m happy to provide it.

    1. Start almost all dismounts by clipping out of the left pedal first and learn to ride unclipped.

    For those of us who started racing ‘cross on toe clips and straps, riding unclipped on the backs of your pedals was a normal, regular part of the sport, and the first step to any dismount. When clipless pedals first appeared, it was natural, then, for us to hold on to that skill, especially since many of the early clipless pedal versions were single-sided. As people came into the sport only ever racing on clipless pedals, the idea of riding unclipped seemed counter-intuitive, but it is still a critical part of most dismounts, and especially high speed ones. The idea of stepping off a bike at 20 MPH still attached to it with your feet seems crazy to me. Putting your foot forward between your body and your bike with your other foot still attached is even crazier. This is how people eat barriers. You never truly need to “step through,” but if you do, you should absolutely never do it while still clipped in.

    If you want to bomb at a dismount as fast as possible and without fear, you need to be able to do that already disconnected from your pedal, and resting on top of it with the arch of your foot pressed against your crankarm. This is easier if you shoe has a lot of rubber on the sole, but if it doesn’t, try super-gluing a piece of tire tread in that spot for more stability. Just click your heel out at the bottom of the pedal stroke and move it back in, without changing the position of your foot. Your pedal will naturally come up to your arch and you pick it up there. The rest of your dismount can then follow when you’re ready.

    Occasionally you may have to pedal hard all the way up to the moment of dismounting, and in that case need to stay clipped in. In that case, always make sure just to step around the back of the bike on the dismount and use the rotation of your hips to makes sure you clip out cleanly. Never, ever try to step through in this case, since you can’t use your hips to turn your foot, and in fact it makes it harder to do so, increasing the chances of staying clipped in and tripping over yourself as you step off.

    2. When you’re lifting your bike but not carrying it, always lift it with your elbow on the inside.

    So often I see riders jumping over barriers they’re tall enough to step over, simply because they can’t lift their bike high enough to clear the planks. The reason is almost always because they have their saddles in their armpits, with their elbows on the outside of the bike. Keeping the elbow on the inside means you can lift your bike over your head if you really needed to, and without having to rotate it out and away from you, away from the direction you’re trying to go, and into someone else’s space where it might get caught up with them. A good suitcase carry should start with a snap like a clean and jerk, allowing your bike to float through the air next to you while you run, not jump, over the barriers.

    3. When setting up for starts, rotate your open pedal so that it’s parallel with your crank. This will position it so that you’ll find it more quickly on that first ½ pedal stroke.

    All ‘cross starts are field sprints, and it’s tough to field sprint if you’re not clipped in. At the same time, you can’t sit down and look for the pedal while everyone is riding away. So it’s both crucial to try and catch the pedal on the first ½ pedal stroke, but also just to keep pedaling and try again on the next stroke. To increase the chances of catching your pedal on the first try, rotate it so it matches your foot position at the point you typically connect to it. For most people and most pedal systems, that means lining the pedal up so it’s parallel with the crank.

    CX, Cyclocross, Adam Myerson

    4. Prioritize exit speed over entrance speed

    An easy mistake to make when trying to push your limits is seeing how much speed you can carry into a turn, especially if that turn is preceded by a downhill where the speed is “free.” But free speed almost always has a cost, and that cost is typically blowing the exit of the turn, having to brake hard, and then having to sprint even harder to get back up to speed. Be cautious with your free speed, use entrances of turns to recover and stop pedaling earlier once you know the speed limit, ride a smooth turn, and use that saved energy to smash the exit.

    5. Always sprint after turns or remounts.

    ‘Cross may feel like a time trial in terms of perceived effort, but it’s more like a criterium in terms of applied power. Sprint, coast, sprint, coast, sprint. When you’re really suffering, it can be easy to try and turn the whole thing into a steady effort. But if you want to go fast, you have to grit your teeth and get in the habit of taking a few hard pedal stokes after every remount, and out of every turn, before you go back to your cruising speed. Pay back every coast with a sprint until it becomes second nature.

    CX, Cyclocross, Adam Myerson

    6. If you can’t do it 10 out of 10 times, don’t do it once.

    Bunny hopping barriers or trying to ride a steep hill or section of mud might be possible in warm up when you’re fresh and get all the room you need to find the right line, but in traffic, at threshold (or above) and 30 minutes into your race, it might not be so easy. If you hop the planks 9 times and then crash on the final, 10th time, then you should have run them every time. Laying on the ground during a race is never fast.

    There are easily 100 other tips I could give you, but these six are important and will keep you busy for a while. Some of these are spelled out in more detail, along with some training information, on the Cycle-Smart website.

    Good luck, and hope this helps!

    -Adam Myerson, Cycle-Smart coach

    CX, Cyclocross, Adam Myerson Adam rides Ritchey WCS 1-bolt post, WCS C260 stem and WCS EvoCurve bars
  • Tom's Gravel Ride at Eurobike

    A beautiful multi-surface escape from the hustle and hassle of the Eurobike show floor.

    (All photos courtesy of Eva Fünfgeld and Hirsch-Sprung)

    The cruel irony of the Eurobike bicycle trade show is the fact that tens of thousands of cycling industry veterans, media, distributors, manufacturers, and marketing personnel—all of them passionate cyclists—very rarely have the opportunity to ride a bicycle while at the show. Wheeling and dealing the latest cycling wares inside the cavernous trade show halls demands priority over actually riding bikes. And that's a pity since any ride that starts immediately outside the show halls is filled with exquisite rolling roads, challenging trails and beautiful countryside.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Not *inside* Eurobike.

    In an attempt to break free (even if just for a moment) from the rigors of a tradeshow tauntingly filled with decadently shiny bikes and parts so easily within reach, Ritchey decided to offer a bit of a respite to some ride-thirsty show attendees in the form of a ride. The idea was simple: plot a route that starts from the Messe and includes as much off-road riding and different surfaces so that a lucky group of riders could enjoy a bona fide beautiful bike ride after the first day of the show. Then we'd share drinks, food, and stories after the adventure at the 20th-anniversary party for Cosmic Sports.

    Oh, and we thought it'd be cool to have Tom Ritchey join the ride, and make this the official maiden voyage of the new Ritchey Outback gravel bike.

    Eva Fünfgeld of Hirsch-Sprung, a bicycle tour company based in the Black Forest area of Germany, was recruited to chart the route and guide our group on the evening of the ride. After a few recon missions in the preceding weeks, Eva produced a breathtaking 32km circuit. The ride started with a 500-meter singletrack bit immediately outside the front entrance of the Messe. It continued along a tarmac section, switching back and forth between double-track dirt roads, more paved sections, loose gravel passes, at least one lusciously twisty singletrack descent and some forest stairs curiously winding up one hillside.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Eva and Tom before the ride.
    Tom Ride Guides Some of our guides for Tom's Gravel Ride at Eurobike.

    Participating on the ride was a diverse lot of cyclists eager to break free from the show to enjoy some quality pedal turns. Coming from all parts of the bicycle community and several different countries, everyone was united by the incredible sanctifying ride we were all experiencing. Cycling journalists from Italy, Belgium the United Kingdom, and Germany rode along with the likes of Ritchey dealers from France and Spain, while fans of Tom Ritchey, friends and Ritchey staff happily pedaled along the apple orchards and rolling hills, taking photos when the opportunity presented itself, and enjoying a moment or two riding next to Tom. At least a couple of people donned vintage Ritchey kit, which did not go unnoticed by Tom.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Giving ride instructions to the diverse lot.
    Ritchey Outback Gravel Lee rocking the vintage Ritchey kit.

    And then there was the quiet guy wearing a Scott-SRAM MTB Racing team kit, humbly riding along with everyone. Turns out that legendary Olympic mountain bike silver medalist (among a long list of other plamares) Thomas Frischknecht fancied himself a nice Wednesday night spin, and the long-time Ritchey friend joined us.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Thomas (center) humbly riding along with everyone else, enjoying the spin.
    Ritchey Outback Gravel Obi and others enjoying a short break.

    Pace was moderate for the 40-person-strong group, and the bunch remained a cohesive unit, sharing smiles and yelps while descending a double-track dirt road that revealed a singletrack descent, or on the loose 500-meter gravel climb at the half-way point of the ride. A few log crossings forced all riders to dismount and scramble over the obstacles, while a 100-meter stepped ascent amazingly had riders giggling with joy as they remounted their bikes at the top of the trudge—even the riders with clumsy road cleats smiled as they carefully ascended the steps.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Descending with the Outback.
    Ritchey Gravel Outback Tom leads the charge up the forest stairs.
    Ritchey Outback Gravel Up and over some downed trees.
    Ritchey Outback Gravel ....and under.

    With such diverse and varying terrain, riders chose all manner of bikes for this ride. At least a couple of people chose mountain bikes, while some gracefully navigated proper road bikes (complete with 28c slicks) along the varying terrain. One particularly adventurous soul masterfully piloted his budget steel road bike along the whole route, wearing nothing more than casual khaki shorts, a button-down dress shirt, loafer shoes sans socks and a giant grin.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Guy (left) in his cycling-casual attire and Cory crest the steps.

    This unique group ride was also the prime stage for an exclusive collection of cycling journalists to experience the new Ritchey Outback for the first time. While these fortunate souls enjoyed the dirt, tarmac, loose rocks and grass while pedaling the new rig, the rest of us definitely endured a touch of jealousy—though that was quickly extinguished by all other aspects of the ride. As expected, initial reactions about the Outback were entirely positive.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Tom talks with Sophia during a break.

    A few journalists opted to take an Outback home with them in order to spend more time on them for proper testing. As the remaining Outbacks were dismounted at the completion of the ride, other participants swarmed over the bikes, handling them and snapping pictures…eager to swing their own legs over one soon. Fortunately, the Outback will be publicly available for sale in Europe in October and November for the United States.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Andreas keeping a watchful eye on the Outbacks before the ride.

    In addition to everyone drooling over the Outbacks in the parking lot outside the Messe, the atmosphere at the completion of the ride was festive, as participants swapped stories, downed local beers, and posed for photos with Tom. Slowly but surely, the dust-covered, smiling riders filtered back into hall B1 to dive into the chili con carne, Mexican wraps and golden yellow German beer at the Cosmic Sports booth for their 20th anniversary party—a perfect way to wind down an amazing ride and keep the celebration going until rolling back into the show for business on Thursday morning.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Food and drinks with Cosmic Sports (across the aisle from Ritchey) following Tom's Gravel Ride.

    Special Note

    We held a photo contest for participants of the ride. Everyone was charged with taking a couple of photos and posting them to Instagram with the #TomsGravelRide tag. Tom would then assess the photos and choose his favorite. The owner of that picture would receive a free Ritchey mountain bike frame of his or her choice.

    Beth Hodge shot this photograph, and she'll welcome a beautiful new Ritchey P-650B frame next week.

    Ritchey Outback Gravel Tom's choice for best photo of the ride. Photo by Beth Hodge.
  • NAHBS 2017 Builder Profile: Vlad Dolinsky

    Name: Vlad Dolinsky
    Years Building: 4
    Website: www.vladcycles.com
    Social media:
    What was your first bike- not the first one you built? How did it come to you?
    Cannondale Prophet, full suspension mountain bike.  I moved from Brooklyn, NY to Northern New Jersey about fifteen years ago, and discovered mountain biking.   This was before I learned that hard tail are better ride for me.
    What was the last bike you bought that you didn’t make, and why?
    Single speed, Steel Vassago Jabberwocky.  I was experimenting with different types of bikes.  I rode aluminum, carbon, titanium, and finally steel.  I discovered that steel bikes had superior riding characteristics.  In addition, I was trying out single speed riding, and really liked climbing on it.  There is no downshifting here when you approach a climb!
    When did you decide to start making frames of your own? What influenced you to do so?
    I was looking for a best ride, and turned to Ti before I tried steel bikes.  I actually bought a custom Ti frame from Black Sheep, and was really amazed by the craftsmanship of the bike.  Then I started following other frame builders and developed that desire to start building my own frames.
    What was the last odd job you held before frame building?
    I wish it was my last job! J I have a mechanical engineering degree that I received while I lived in Ukraine.  After moving to US, I obtained a degree in accounting/finance.  So, currently I am doing both, fabricate frames and work in the finance industry.

    Did you have a mentor when you started, or do you still have one?
    I discovered Metal Guru frame building school run by Carl Schlemowitz, aka Vicious Cycles located in New Paltz, NY.  So, Carl was my mentor, and we still maintain good relationship.  All my frames are powdercoated or painted in his shop.

    What do you listen to when you’re working?
    AC/DC, METALICA and Trance
    What’s your favorite tool in the shop and why?
    Anvil frame jig, Bridgeport mill and Bringheli alignment table.  I believe this a minimum that is needed to efficiently and precisely build frames.
    Every builder seems to have an “Ah Ha” moment where they figure out some way to do a weld different or set up a jig for that one type of braze-on, what was yours? And did it come easily to you once you figured it out?
    As bike wheels are getting fatter and chainstays are getting shorter, my important “Ah ha” thing was how to fabricate chainstays with appropriate clearances/bends to accommodate various demands.
    When designing or building a bike for someone, what is your thought process? What sticks out most about a build/design that you need to tackle first?
    Understanding how the bike will be ridden and making sure geometry and fit are correct for that specific build.  Second is aesthetics of the bike.
    What’s your go to bike when you go on a ride? (Provide a picture if you could)
    My go to 650b plus MTB!
    Last words?
    I ride primarily my 27.5 plus on the trails. The bike I showed during 2015 NAHBS in Louisville, KY. It was designed around 29er 100mm travel suspension fork with a little bit steeper head angle. I like the traction of the plus tires and being able to ride in all conditions. I keep a set of 29er wheels for this bike that I use on smooth and flowy single track from time to time. However, about five years ago I discovered road biking. So, I ride road bike a lot during Summer now and, finally, I built myself a gravel bike that I just displayed in SLC.  The goal here was to combine pavement, gravel and dirt riding in one ride so who knows may be that will be my favorite ride after all.

  • Vernor on traveling and riding abroad

    It's safe to say Brian Vernor has traveled his fair share of the world - often documenting his  experiences through photos in such a way that the viewer is compelled by the flowing landscape or moving city without the need for words. When he speaks of his trips, it's casual - not flippant or glib. It’s with an ease that one would suspect even the worst moments are worth more than their weight in gold. We were able to catch up with Brian after a trip he made to Chile in the summer of last year and hear his take on traveling and what lures him to keep moving.

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

    Chile has an allure. The land is stretched out in a way that just seems infinite. I was there once before, but not cycling. For this trip I really wanted the chance to see it from the saddle, and also camp out. I think when you sleep outside and move at a lumbering pace (like when you are cycling), you see a place's natural rhythm. Changes in temperature, light, all the natural ways a place changes throughout the day - you experience it in an intimate way. I like knowing a place through that kind of constant outside exposure. Chile feels a lot like my home in California, but amplified; the mountains are more abrupt (and sometimes exploding), the rivers are more raging, and the night sky a bit less polluted by city lights.

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

    We planned out our route, roughly, but I'm always stopping and doing photos and really we just never made it as far as we planned each day. I'd rather stop and do my thing, whether it is simple documentation or making something more creative. Traveling and taking photos along the way is really bad for making time and distance goals. My priorities are more on the photo side of the spectrum. Some people are good at charging hard and covering a lot of ground. That can be fun, too, but I usually look at my trips as a chance to be creative above all else.

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

    I thought my limited Spanish would go further. The cliché that, "Chileans speak Chilean, not Spanish," is real. 

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

    Our trip mostly consisted of dirt roads, and a little bit of trail. I like riding any surface, but the more rural the better, and Chile is mostly rural. Around every corner was a new view of a river, a mountain or volcano, or a lake. It was so idyllic. I can get really into riding in cities, but on this trip we never experienced that. Los Lagos, the Lakes Region, is a quiet, beautiful area in the South, and I loved it. Chile is so large, that if I make it back I want to explore some further South coastal regions.

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

    Despite what I said above about appreciating rural areas, I love cities just as much. So if I weren’t in Chile I’d be happy navigating a city. New York City is one of my favorite places to ride a bike. So are Milan, Cairo, and Bangkok.

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

    Having a camera and using it always pushes you into strange experiences. Also, simply deciding to take a photo, or not, is a conscious act which requires you to think about your place in the world. That's so important - reflecting on why you're there and what your relationship is to the people and place. I’m not a neutral presence so I have to continually reflect on it, and consider my impact. 

    I rarely use a connected/GPS device for navigation. It's understandable in truly remote areas, but in a place where you'll be interacting with locals, a physical map is a much better tool. Because everyone loves maps, people want to look at them with you and share knowledge. Maps are very practical, but also social.

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

    I never ride my bike with music/headphones, but if while in Chile I rode with music I'd want something on that came from Chile. Huaso (like a cowboy) tunes would be a good soundtrack. These were playing on a lot of radios, at markets and other public spaces. Huaso songs are about the land, and working the land, and love too (of course).

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

    My friends and I prepared food most days, so we were constantly shopping in small markets along the way. Chile is such a fertile country, so fresh produce was everywhere. I loved the tomatoes and avocados. Most markets had locally-preserved meats, which were mostly really nice. 

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

    Travel advice is usually too broad. Every traveler and trip is different, but when people ask me for advice I say to bring less. Anything you forgot you can acquire abroad and it will cost a lot less, usually. The less you need before you feel comfortable going, the better. I think over packing, hyper-planning of gear, that need we have to think we have all the right stuff, is usually just anxiety. Anyone who travels a lot learns that you need very little, and when you need something then finding it abroad is a lot more interesting than getting it at a suburban mall at home.

    Travel, Ritchey, Vernor, Chile, Adventure Bike, Cycling

  • NAHBS 2017 Builder Profile: Tom Donhou


    Name: Tom Donhou
    Donhou Bicycles
    Years Building:7
    Website: www.donhoubicycles.com
    Social media:
    twitter and Instagram and Facebook

    What was your first bike- not the first one you built? How did it come to you?
    My first bike was a little Mongoose Minigoose, raced my first BMX race on it and would jump ditches on the local building site until I was far too big for it. It even had a spell of being set up as a “speed” bike when I flipped and laid flat the bars for more aerodynamics! Was a Christmas present when I was young.


    What was the last bike you bought that you didn’t make, and why?
    Last bike I bought was a NS Snabb to replace my dangerously fatigued and over repaired 1999 Kona Stab, that I had been using since I raced downhill on it back in the very early 2000’s. I’d broken it and “made do and mended” it for 15 years. When I noticed a new crack forming during a downhill race last year I decided it was time I needed to replace it before I injured myself. Was super sad to see it go. The Snabb was the first new bike I’d bought in 15 years!


    When did you decide to start making frames of your own? What influenced you to do so?
    I was actually out on the road in China, riding from Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia to Singapore. I’d ridden out across the Gobi desert and on into to China. As I was riding I was redesigning the bike I was riding, essentially designing the perfect expedition bike. That led onto how I was going to make it/have it made and as I lay in my tent one night on the side of the road in China it came to me, I’d start building frames and build it myself.


    What was the last odd job you held before frame building?
    I was a product designer.


    Did you have a mentor when you started, or do you still have one?
    No, I’m fully self taught. If I had to say I had a mentor I would say that Paul from Burnham Auto’s was a key guy, he opened his doors to me as a keen kid. I used to hang around at his hot rod shop and picked up a lot of what its like to run a custom shop, that was a key inspiration for starting up Donhou Bicycles.


    What do you listen to when you’re working?
    All sorts, although it does tend to swing mostly between old time music or synthwave. For the darker days, a lot of punk rock gets played and when all else fails Swans go on. Right now I’m listening to Keith Lovett, a genuine travelling folklorist I met in Moab after the NAHBS show, we don’t get people like that in the UK and I was touched to meet him.


    What’s your favorite tool in the shop and why?
    I like my ten inch round second cut file. I use it a lot for filing fillets and I guess I just like its simplicity over power files, the control I get from using it.


    Every builder seems to have an “Ah Ha” moment where they figure out some way to do a weld different or set up a jig for that one type of braze-on, what was yours? And did it come easily to you once you figured it out?
    You get a few of these and it’s nice when they appear! The last one I had was during the design process of our new CX model, while designing the seat lug for it. I always thought it would be a cool idea to include a seat lug in the design of my bikes, but when I realised how many design problems it over-came in one go, it was a real ‘ah ha' moment!


    When designing or building a bike for someone, what is your thought process? What sticks out most about a build/design that you need to tackle first?
    The start point is always the customers fit details, that lays out exactly what we have to work around and then we go from there. Tune the geometry and tube choice for the type of use the bike will get and how the rider likes a bike to feel, then we can start adding some personal touches with paint or bi-lam construction or some of the things we can offer as a custom builder. It just happens with a lot of discussion with the customer, try and gleam as much info as possible and rely on my design background for reading between the lines, to be able to offer what sometimes a client can’t quite visualise themselves.


    What’s your go to bike when you go on a ride?
    Right now my go to bike is my 853 pub bike. Looks like a total beater but it’s a real sleeper and I love it. Single speed with CX tyres, it gets on/off road action, I will go out to the forest for a ride with the dog, commute on it and even race CX on it. Now the weathers getting better again, will start bringing out some of the other “better" bikes but its definitely the go to right now.

    Donhou Bicycles, NAHBS 2017

  • Overcoming a TBI

    IMG_5927My name is Ben Frederick. l rode bikes for Ritchey at the pro level in cyclocross from the fall of 2015 through the fall of 2016. I crashed heavily two weeks before the 2016 ‘cross season kicked off and have been recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury since. My hope is to tell you a little bit about my experience to help raise awareness of the (potential) effects of concussion.

    It was 6:15AM when my alarm buzzed for a 5.5 hour ride with trails. It was hot. Really hot. 95 degrees and humid. I wanted to get the bulk of the hard work done before the heat hit. Ate (lots), on the bike by 7:00. Woof, the legs were tired. The trails should fix that. Another hour ripping turns, going fast, getting rad on the cross bike. Flow. Another hour. A break. Eat. Drink. Easy spin to the next trail. The dirt was kind of sandy and wet …tire stops, head smacks the ground and digs in. No bounce, no slide. Like hitting a wall.

    That’s the moment things changed. A transitional trail, not getting rad, nowhere near my limit technically or physically.  It changed my life

    image008I didn’t lose consciousness and even rode 30 more minutes, attempting to finish my workout. I went home, took a nap, shook it off, “no problem”.  But I felt worse and worse.  A short car ride a few days later sent me into a fog so deep that I went to the hospital. The following 4 weeks became the same awful day on repeat. Stuck in a dark room. No screens. The effort of moving around the house to make food causing bad headaches, nausea, dizziness.  

    The 7 months since then has been a slow battle back to normal.  Not the normal of an elite athlete, but the normal of being a human being. The normal of completing simple tasks like driving. Sitting in a coffee shop. Listening to music. Reading a book. Holding a conversation in a room with other people talking. The list of things I took for granted and still struggle with goes on.


    Despite the trouble of existing, I held on to the hope that I could race. It was what I knew. What I loved. What I spent years of effort to do. Any attempt at a bike ride outside and or on the trainer reduced me to tears, and two days spent in bed.  The writing was on the wall, and it was confirmed by the doctors at the Cantu Concussion Clinic in Boston a month after the accident; no riding or exercising for another 4 weeks, with no firm end date predicted.  I was  told to avoid any sort of stimulation: physical, mental, emotional.

    “Well, doc,” I said,  “My career just ground to a halt, I have no way to make money now, my girlfriend dumped me while I was stuck in a concussion fog in a dark room, and I’m 500 miles from home. I’ll do my best not to think about any of that."  

    Back home, back to the dark room, back to isolation. "Okay, maybe I could ride at Nationals (3 months yet away), yeah, that could happen. Nationals. Then Europe. I can do this”, I told myself, laying in bed with my head pounding and the floor spinning from making lunch.  

    A month passed and I hadn’t show much improvement. I was told  to take  another month off.  There was no way I could race. Months and years of hard work, focused on this one season, was now slipping through my fingers. The support of amazing sponsors, investing in the potential for success, left unfulfilled. I had to let go of the season, let go of the pressure, and focus on just recovering to “normal".  

    Turns out, it takes much much longer to heal brain tissue than any other tissues.  You can’t use crutches on your brain; you can’t take the weight off until it heals enough to start walking on it.  When it’s trying to heal itself, the resources aren't there to help with processing noise, light, or other stimulus. I was told, very concussion is a snowflake: They may look similar, but each one is completely unique. I had a special snowflake of fluid built up in my head. Not enough for surgery, but enough to cause any sort of elevated heart rate in the first four months (even 100 bpm) to be hugely painful.  Headaches that felt like my head in a vise .  If I tried to do anything more than sit still, a sea of dizziness, nausea, and overwhelming anxiety were driven through the roof.

    Now, with no means to earn a living, I was stuck.  I couldn’t stay with family in Virginia - I needed the health care and insurance that was provided in Massachusetts.  I couldn’t drive, and the community I sought in the new town I had just moved to left me isolated.  I could barely navigate the world inside my head, let alone outside my room.

    IMG_4343It was at this moment, when I felt most alone, Christin and Colin Reuter & Maris and Cole Archambault  who didn’t know me but for a few short interactions in the cycling community reached out.  They came over and sat with me in my darkened living room for short dinners and asked how they could help.  They became a lynchpin in my recovery, helping fundraise, coordinating logistics, and introducing me to their friend group who have in turn become like family and an amazing support network.  They’ve all helped guide me out of what was a very dark place.  I will be forever grateful.

    It’s been seven months since the crash. I’m no longer held back by a dark room and 100BPM. For awhile, I could hike but would need to spend the rest of the day recovering, over-sensitive to every noise and light.  I’m building on that now, and went on a run for the first time last week.  I’m able to take photos and have been loving the creative process.  Riding and driving are getting closer.  My vestibular system still gets overwhelmed by stimuli at high speeds, but I’ve made it around the block now without having to stop.  My computer time is increasing, though combining screens with cognitive effort is a bear. (This essay that would have taken an afternoon before the concussion has taken a couple of weeks to get down).  I still struggle with being around lots of people/highly stimulating environments. Coffee shops, grocery stores, restaurants, and busy streets all become overwhelming quickly.  It feels like a wall of noise and movement that takes a huge effort to exist in. It’s getting better though.

    A friend told me awhile back that a brain injury takes between a week and forever to recover from.  That sounds about right. For some, it’s a week of headaches and feeling off, for some it’s a battle they continue to fight for years. Some people say they changed from who they were before the injury.  Some people understand the trials of an unseen injury, some never will.  

    Moving forward is a daunting proposition. I got very good at riding a bike in circles. That goal, drive, magnetic north was my barometer for all of my decisions. With that gone, it opens the world up wide with possibilities. It’s scary as hell, but I am hopeful.  My gratitude for new friends who have helped carry me through is high, and I have a new appreciation for anyone else who has struggled with unseen enemies.  To them I say: “it gets better, just hang on.”  

    Thank you all for reading

  • NAHBS 2017 Builder Profile: Mike DeSalvo

    Desalvo-1Name: Mike DeSalvo
    Years Building: 18
    Website: www.desalvocycles.com
    Social media:


    What was your first bike- not the first one you built? How did it come to you?
    The first bike I remember was a Free Spirit BMX – given to me as a birthday present


    What was the last bike you bought that you didn’t make, and why?
    Kona Explosif – I was working in a bike shop and we sold Kona’s and I was always a fan of steel bikes.


    When did you decide to start making frames of your own? What influenced you to do so?
    Growing up working in bike shops I was always interested in the US made bikes,  Bontrager stands out as a builder whose work I liked.


    What was the last odd job you held before frame building?
    Bicycle Mechanic


    Did you have a mentor when you started, or do you still have one?
    No mentor per se but lots of friends in the industry who share information.


    What do you listen to when you’re working?
    I was a kid in the ‘80’s so lots of the Clash, Social Distortion, the Smiths etc – I get accused of lots of bummer rock too.  Music is pretty key when you work by yourself all day.


    What’s your favorite tool in the shop and why?
    At the moment I really like my tungsten sharpener.


    Every builder seems to have an “Ah Ha” moment where they figure out some way to do a weld different or set up a jig for that one type of braze-on, what was yours? And did it come easily to you once you figured it out?
    Nothing comes to mind, but for me I think no matter how many bikes you have built there is always more to learn.


    When designing or building a bike for someone, what is your thought process? What sticks out most about a build/design that you need to tackle first?
    I think the 1st step for me is to listen to their needs to insure I build a bike that is what they want.


    What’s your go to bike when you go on a ride? 
    Lately my mountain bike sees a lot of use.

    My bike 1 (2)

  • Check out what Karl Scored...

    1984 Ritchey Team Comp with original Bullmoose!

    "Picked up this little gem off Craigslist today. Almost all original including the Dura Ace hubs.I cleaned it up a bit, removed the killed chain and broken front derailleur. She's almost all original. Dura Ace hubs, XT deer head shifters and derailleur. Four finger Shimano levers and twin down tube water bottle bosses. "

    10 9 86 5 4 3 2 1

  • NAHBS 2017 Builder Profile: Carl Strong


    Name: Carl Strong
    Years Building: 24
    Website: strongframes.com
    Social media:


    What was your first bike- not the first one you built? How did it come to you?
    I don't remember my first bike. I was too young. The one that really strikes me was when my Mom took me to Goodwill and we bought several Schwinn style balloon tire bikes. Then I got to switch parts around until I had a combo I liked. Not sure how old I was at the time but very young.

    Strong1 What was the last bike you bought that you didn’t make, and why?
    A DeRosa. At the time I was certain a better bike couldn't be had.

    strong3 When did you decide to start making frames of your own? What influenced you to do so?
    When I was in college and couldn’t afford good bikes. I read Hot Tubes in the back of Bicycle Guide and thought, I can do this.

    What was the last odd job you held before frame building?
    I transitioned from a good job setting up an accounting system in a chain of sporting goods stores to a part time gig welding aluminum frames for truck toppers. Then finally went full time building.

    Did you have a mentor when you started, or do you still have one?
    Nope but I do and did have a lot of builders who inspired me.

    strong6 What do you listen to when you’re working?

    What’s your favorite tool in the shop and why?
    I have an old alignment plate that was once in the Schwinn Paramount factory. I like it because it's really cool and very useful.

    strong8 Every builder seems to have an “Ah Ha” moment where they figure out some way to do a weld different or set up a jig for that one type of braze-on, what was yours? And did it come easily to you once you figured it out?
    When I finally learned how to align frame using a welding sequence vs cold setting. It took a lot of repetitiveness. Once I was finally building enough frames frequently enough the patterns started to emerge.

    strong9 When designing or building a bike for someone, what is your thought process? What sticks out most about a build/design that you need to tackle first?
    Understanding the customers goals and priorities. That's job one and they don't always know them. So that's the first thing we have to figure out. Once we know them everything else takes care of itself.

    What’s your go to bike when you go on a ride?
    My go to bike is a 7 year old tube to tube carbon bike. It was the first carbon bike I built. It's a cross bike and it's small because I made it to fit several riders. It just sort of became my own. I ride it with 37mm Rando tires, a hodgepodge of spare parts from around the shop and love it.

    2017-03-22 07.33.21

    Carl's TIG special features an elegant mix of WCS and SuperLogic.

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