Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ellis Cycles in the Press

 Dave Wages, owner of Ellis Cycles, works on brazing a bicycle fork to be used on a street bike in his workshop in Waterford. A custom builder, he has frames costing as much as $6,000.
A nice shot of me brazing a fork by Mike De Sisti as seen in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

There's been quite a bit of interest in Ellis Cycles lately, and I've done a few interviews and had photographers struggling to set up their equipment in my relatively small basement shop. 

About a month or so ago, Tom Held visited from Wisconsin Trails magazine, they were doing an article about Wisconsin framebuilders and wanted to do an interview and photo shoot.  We talked for about 1 1/2 hours and I gave him my whole career history, not sure how much of that will make it into the final article.  I understand that folks with a subscription have already received their January issue, but I'm still waiting for it to show up on the newstand so I can get my copy!  (I hear there's a picture of yours truly on the cover.)  Here's a link to their website, I would imagine the new issue should be up any day now;  Wisconsin Trails Magazine

Next I had the pleasure of chatting with Diane Lees, (The Outspoken Cyclist) for their broadcast on Dec. 15th.  It was fun recalling the years I spent learning the craft at Serotta and Waterford and the last 5 years of Ellis Cycles as well.  You can check out this interview here;  Ellis Interview on the Outspoken Cyclist

Finally, I got a call earlier this week from our local newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, they also wanted to highlight some Wisconsin based framebuilders.  So, we did a quick interview over the phone, and then on Thursday I got a visit from a photographer who shot some pics of me brazing a fork and then we headed outside for a shot with me and my stainless rando bike from last year's NAHBS.  I picked up a copy of the paper this morning and I also found the article online at the Journal's website here;  Journal Sentinel Article


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stealth Ellis Road Bike


 This bike has had a bit of an interesting life, it started out as my blue DRB last year, and I had built it with clearance for fat tires and TRP CX9 mini v-brakes (see pic below).  Well, after riding for a good chunk of last season, I decided to explore a rando style build that would also accommodate fat tires along with fenders, lights and a front rack, and I was pleased to have that bike named as "Best Steel Bike" at NAHBS this past spring (see 3rd pic).  I really liked the DRB frame, but now it was searching for a purpose, so I decided to modify it for short reach brakes and this is the finished product.  Along the way, I added a slightly lighter rear triangle since the stays wouldn't need to support canti's or v brakes, and the finished frame tipped the scale at 3.5lbs exactly.  I made sure that the bridge is as high as possible with the short reach brakes, so I could still run 28c tires, and I also built a steel fork similarly, although in the picture above the bike is sporting an ENVE 1.0 fork.  

 The original DRB

"Best Steel Bike" NAHBS 2012
 (This one is handling all the fat tire needs these days, plus it's not a bad road bike with skinny tires mounted up!)

First ride on the Stealth bike tonight, can't wait!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Almanzo 100!

Lisa took this one right before I headed off to the start line.

I certainly wasn't expecting to "race" today, so I found a spot a ways back at the start line.  Probably at least 300 folks came out for the 100 mile loop, not sure what the final count was, and that's not including the ones who started the Royal 162 at 7:00am. 

You poor sucker, you've got no idea what you're in for!

There was quite a bit of fresh gravel on the roads, but usually at least one "line" where the gravel was either more packed down or where the fresh stuff hadn't quite made it.  Riding on the shoulder here reminded me of the pros riding the gutters at Paris Roubaix.

While I was taking the above shot, I figured I take a "panda" shot of myself, and I didn't even crash!

The first 30 miles were pretty easy, we enjoyed a tail or cross wind for the majority of that distance, but then we turned into the wind for most of the next ten miles into Preston and the scene above.  Looks like some folks are starting to feel it!  There were some nice folks who were providing water here, but they ran out just as I showed up, so we rode up into Preston's grocery store to find water and supplies. 

After we left Preston, I rode with a few folks and then settled into my own pace through a beautiful tree lined road only to emerge onto this stretch of southbound road with no shelter whatsoever.  At this point, folks were scattered all over the course in ones and two's, hard to find anywhere to hide from the wind. 
The bike performed flawlessly, despite the heavy coat of Minnesota dust it collected.  Here I'm stopped in Forestville State Park at about the 67 mark, and I was already feeling pretty empty.

To add insult to injury, the last 10 miles included 2 pretty significant climbs, here you can see some folks dismounting for the walk and another taking a rest or trying to massage out the cramps in his legs.  (I was already walking, so there's no shame there, imo!)

Looking up the hill...

After patiently waiting for an extra hour and half more than I expected, Lisa caught this shot of me creeping into the 25-35mph headwind that we enjoyed for the last 2-3 miles of the course. 

Some shots of the dust crusted bike and bag.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Little Bit of Everything.

 Polished stainless sleeved seat stays and brake bridge.

 I just finished Al's new Ellis yesterday, so I thought I'd include a pic here, it's a really cool mix of classic and modern aesthetics (I know, I'm beating that Modern Classic thing to death!), with a fillet brazed main triangle and a polished stainless fork and rear triangle   The shot above is a more simplified take on my sleeved seat stays than I usually do on the Modern Classic, but I think it should blend well with the smooth front end.  More pics here;  Ellis Picasa

Next, on to the riding! 

 Look at me, all kitted up in my Ellis duds!

This past weekend Lisa and I headed out to Western WI for the Dairy Roubaix!  The start point was basically in the middle of nowhere between Muscoda, Boscobel and Dodgeville, but that was kinda the whole point.  The ride took advantage of as many unpaved gravel roads as possible, many of which seemed to point either straight up or straight down!  Not to say that this area is mountainous, but the hills that is does have can be quite steep. 

A shot of the gravel as I prepare to head back down into on of the many valleys.  

This upcoming weekend should be another fun one, we're heading up towards Eau Claire for the Strada Fango.  There's a map of the course here, and it looks like it might be borderline mountain bike terrain in some areas, but I think I'll just put some cross tires on the DRB and run with it! 

I wonder if this guy will be there? 


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mike's Ellis

Mike's frame just shipped out yesterday, here's a cool shot of the lower head lug and fork crown.
This is one of my favorite details, note how the crown is cut to mirror the lower head lug detail.

There are a couple more pics of Mike's frame and fork on my Picasa page here; Ellis Cycles Picasa.

You can also check out the other projects I've got in progress there and watch for updates! Just started working on two upcoming Ellis' that will feature quite a bit of polished stainless.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reassembling My S&S NAHBS Rando

When I started planning this bike to display at NAHBS, I rather early settled on building it with S&S couplers so that I could easily pack the bike and travel with it without incurring huge airline fees. I had shipped my Di2 equipped DRB to California in late 2011, and it became instantly apparent how simple Di2 made packing a bike. Now I no longer had to deal with shift cables, all I had to do was break the chain with a quick link and then unplug and unbolt the derailleurs. Once I arrived, reverse the process and the bike is ready to ride with no adjustments at all.

In addition, since the bike features a dyno front hub, rack and light, I needed to have a way to quickly assemble and disassemble these parts to fit in the S&S case. Along the way, I made sure the brakes would also be easy to disconnect and reset up out of the case. When I arrived home from Sacramento, I figured I'd document the rebuild, so that folks could see the amount of time and thought that went into making this process as simple as possible. So, if you follow this link to my Picasa page, you can see not only some really nice finished photos of the bike, but about halfway through the album I start a sequential group of photos documenting the build and some cool features of the bike.

This bike was featured in a quick article on Bike Portland, and I managed to raise the ire of some traditionalists by suggesting that if Rene Herse or Alex Singer were around today, they'd be building bikes with Di2. Sure it's pretty speculative to guess what anyone who built 40-50 years ago would be doing today, but they were known as early adopters of technology like derailleurs and ultra lightweight tubing, so is it that hard to imagine them using the most advanced parts of the time? Another comment questioned whether my bike was truly "innovative", but I challenge that this (or Ultegra Di2) may be the most appropriate group for a travel bike, and I think my Di2 wiring must be somewhat innovative, it's certainly been copied enough since I first introduced it at NAHBS in 2009!

Judge for yourself.


p.s. Before I get inundated by folks reminding me that the Rene Herse and Alex Singer marques are still in business, I'm referring to the man, not what the current output of these brands are.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

NAHBS 2012!

One more day to go, but the awards worked a bit differently this year. At about 3pm on Sat, the majority of the awards were announced, and I'm honored to have my stainless rando bike chosen as "Best Steel Bike"!
Thanks also to Pete from COG magazine for these great photos, I've uploaded them all on my Picasa page here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why No Head Badge?

I've been asked this question often enough that I feel like I should explain my position on the matter. In fact, I've probably lost a sale or two specifically because I don't offer a fancy metal head badge!

My simple Ellis head tube logo, custom painted by Jason Sanchez, and since it's painted on, infinitely customizable.

Well, here's the thing, a head badge doesn't do anything, nada, nothing, ziltch! Sure they can look cool, and I'll admit that there are some that I like quite a bit from an aesthetic standpoint, but the fact remains that it's a purely ornamental part of the bike.

Now I'm fully aware that I build some pretty fancy bikes, and all those shiny stainless lugs and tubes are not necessary, but their beauty and aesthetics are integral to the frame, and in most cases they have at least some functional aspect to them. Stainless chain stays are a great example, why bother with a cheap stick on plastic protector or a contrived rubber strap to avoid chipped paint when a polished stainless stay is one of the best answers. Why did those vintage steel bikes sport a chromed rear triangle and fork? Well, for one thing, those areas were the most prone to chipped paint from wrenches and moving parts, so chrome was the best solution at that time. Nowadays, with thin walled, high strength stainless tubes available, I can build a frame with those same functional aesthetics and not have the rust worries that are inherent with chrome.

When it comes to lugs, there's much less of a functional argument to be made for stainless, but here's the way I look at it, if your frame is going to be constructed with lugs anyway, using stainless doesn't change or add anything to the bike, the aesthetic is still integral to the bike's design and construction.

OK, so back to the head badge question. Let me inject a bit of my history into my explanation. During my time at Waterford, we had more than a few die hard riders who insisted that we offer a head badge, and frankly, I was in agreement. It just seemed a no-brainer for Waterford, with their Schwinn heritage and all.

During that same time, and as more and more small builders started up, I noticed something, they almost invariably all had cool laser cut or cast head badges, and yet many of them had only built a handful of bikes and it showed in their workmanship. In many cases, the head badges seemed to me like a way of "dressing up" or trying to differentiate their mediocre work from one another. Here's the thing, I don't feel like an Ellis frame needs any "dressing up", whether its' my Modern Classic model with lots of shiny stainless or a "stock" lugged frame with none of the bling, Ellis frames are special because of every detail I build into them. Whether it's the subtle curve of a lug that I reshape , or the stainless washers brazed onto the brake bridge and fork crown to avoid paint chips, the beauty is built into every detail, and the end product is the culmination of my 15+ years of building high end steel frames.

A stainless washer for the brake mount, (and another cool custom head tube logo, this time in dark silver).

I'm really heartened when folks come by my booth at NAHBS two and three times to look at the same bike and then comment that the longer they look, the more details they see. You can be confident that no matter what part of an Ellis you're looking at, I've spent time thinking about that part and chosen to build the frame that way for a reason. Nothing is there by accident, or just because I saw it on some other cool builder's frame.

Here's a couple more details that some folks miss that I think make Ellis frames special.

A stainless fork crown with an integrated custom fender mount.

Since all Ellis dropouts are 17/4 stainless, I finish the "sliver" underneath each dropout to a point and then Jason masks that off so the area where your rear wheel's axle comes in contact with the frame won't have chipped paint.

Simple, elegant looks, with beauty that is integral, that's what makes every Ellis a "Modern Classic".

My two bits!