ENVE Builder’s Roundup, Part III

The more I dig through the photos from ENVE’s Builder’s Roundup, the more impressed I am with the state of contemporary frame building. When I think back on what the top builders were doing in the late 1990s and compare that to what we see here in this collection, I can tell you for certain that there is no better time in history to order a custom frame than today.

There’s never been more creative work done in steel. Yes, in the 1970s they had to work harder to make a great frame, and some builders succeeded, but the tubes, lugs and jigs weren’t as good. Similarly, titanium frames are better than they were in the 1980s and today there are more choices in tubing and fittings than there ever were before. Same goes for aluminum. And carbon fiber? Well the beams of custom and carbon fiber didn’t even cross until well after Don Walker founded the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, which is the spiritual forebear to this event.

This Naked reminds me of the mashup of Led Zeppelin and The Beatles in Whole Lotta Helter Skelter. We begin with a cruiser frame design, dial in modern geometry (that’s one slack head tube) and then take the advantage of that extra tubing and add in braze-ons like Keith Moon had drums (that might be a mixed metaphor), resulting in a bikepacking rig I expect would corner really well under full weight. And that custom frame bag? Genius.
The gold ano BB, headset, HS cap, seat binder, hubs and bolts add a terrific splash of color to an otherwise understated bike and serves it well by highlighting just how versatile this bike is.
Don’t forget the dropper post, but you might not notice it for all the cool work done on the frame itself, like the flattened top tube.
Of all the custom lines I’ve written about, No. 22 is easily the most underrated. Not only is the design and construction of their bikes primo, but visually they are among the most striking. Part of the reason their bikes are so visually appealing is that they devote more effort to the graphic design of their bikes than most brands and their fenders are perfectly radiused, exactly matching the arc of the tires themselves.
Here’s a great example of No. 22’s attention to detail. First, we have welding that someone could be forgiven for coming from Seven Cycles or possibly even Brad Bingham. Sheesh. Pastry chefs wish they were this good. Then there’s the fact that the brazeons for the fenders are positioned so close to the dropouts that you don’t end up with the cluttered look so many fendered bikes have.
The combination of black and brass hardware draw your eye away from what an elegant dropout this is. Rather a pity.
There is literally no detail too small for No. 22 to jusitfy delivering their A-game. The welds on this chainstay bridge are as consistent as any others on the bike and the tiny piece of brass tubing that serves as a stand-off for the rear fender is attractive, but also functional in that it doesn’t cause the fender to be mounted out of round.
And then they both painted and anodized the fenders, which, by the way, are made from titanium. Rolling titanium into a shape with two different arcs is just stupidly difficult. Peter Weigle is literally the only builder I’ve ever seen give anything like this kind of attention to fenders. Put another way, No. 22 is the Eddy Merckx of fenders.
Pine showed this versatile gravel bike they call the Rosa. They are located down the road, so-to-speak, in Salt Lake City. The Rosa can handle multiple wheel sizes. And in an unusual move, Pine offers the Rosa in stock sizing, which means shorter lead times.
Due to the dropouts that Pine selected, the Rosa can be run with gears or as a singlespeed.
Integrating the disc brake mount into the droupout makes for a cleaner looking frame and a more dialed presentation in general.
The workmanship on the Rosa is surprisingly good for such a new brand.
Australian builder Prova showed off this remarkable titanium/carbon fiber road bike, called the Speciale. The top, head and down tubes, as well as the seat- and chainstays are made from titanium, while the seat tube is made from carbon fiber.
The Speciale uses the carbon fiber seat tube to increase rider comfort first, by decreasing the amount of vibration that reaches the rider’s saddle. It also increases rider comfort by increasing flex due to the lack of a traditional seatpost. The titanium fabrication around the carbon seat tube is sexier than a bed covered is rose petals.
The svelte dropouts that Prova created avoid the bulky, overbuilt look common to many castings and should contribute to a more comfortable ride than those beefier versions.
The use of a mast-type design allows for a thinner-walled tube to be used because it doesn’t need to withstand the clamping force of a seat binder.
The Satyr is a titanium gravel bike from Ritte, and sports geometry by Tom Kellogg. It is intended to be able to handle bikepacking excursions on logging roads.
The Satyr can run up to a 700Cx50mm tires, which will decrease the chance for flats when running rough roads with a full load.
Ritte has long worked with contract builders, which gives their bikes a quality of construction that’s difficult to find with some similarly sized brands.
SaltAir is another Salt Lake City-based builder. Their bent is fillet-brazed steel, which allows lots of flexibility in design when creating gravel bikes like this one.
The small-diameter seatstays will help the bike track better in rough turns and will offer the rider more comfort than some designs.
By running the rear brake and derailleur cables out of the down tube and then back into the chainstays, SaltAir makes maintenance on the bike significantly easier and likely improves both shifting and braking performance by reducing how sharp the bend is at the bottom bracket.
I’ve encountered custom frame builders from all over the world: Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and, of course, North America. Scarab is the first custom bike brand I’ve encountered from South America and this bike makes me wonder why I’ve never heard of them.
The Apüna (which means “path” in the Wayuu tongue) is a steel gravel bike.
Of the many nice touches on this bike are the dropouts, which aren’t just another casting seen on dozens of other bikes.
The paint scheme for the bike is called Jungla and is meant to showcase the biodiversity of the Chocoan Jungle.
Spooky was one of just two builders to display a bike made from aluminum. Their gravel bike can handle bikepacking duties as well.
People will wonder how comfortable an aluminum gravel bike can be, but it’s important to remember that most of a gravel bike’s comfort is determined by tire inflation. I can change a bike’s ride quality more by letting 5 psi out of the tires than by changing tubing.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen bare aluminum welds that show such precision.
Jeremy SyCip showed off this head-turner of a bikepacking machine. It’s an ebike, which is a remarkably smart application for the technology. Yes, I wonder about recharging the battery in the back country, but given how steep some climbs are in California, I can’t think of a better way to get up an 18 percent pitch at 5000 feet of elevation while riding a 60-lb. bike.
Fitting a bag and bottle in around the battery could not have been easy. The carrying capacity on this bike is reasonably impressive.
In addition to using some minimal and stylish dropouts, SyCip created small stand-offs for the rear rack so that it mounted level with the ground.
SyCip chose Shimano’s EPB ebike motor.
Weis is a Brooklyn-based builder known for using an asymmetric seatstay design. On this bike he approaches the trademark a little differently by passing a carbon fiber seat tube through the aluminum seatstays, which are never actually joined together.
The Hammer Gravel SL sports a BB yoke to increase tire clearance. The bike can handle up to 700Cx45mm or 650Bx2.1″.
The welds are filed smooth, and the seatstays and chainstays are joined to custom CNC-machined dropouts.
I’m not convinced that this results in a better riding bike, but visually, the seatstay design is striking.

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