tom-moffatts-garage-bike-170621-ajbarlas-07417.jpg
Mixing Metals

Garage Built: Tom Moffatt's Custom Made Bikes

Words A.J. Barlas
Photos A.J. Barlas
Date Jul 6, 2021
Reading time

New bike day is always exciting for riders. The anticipation that mounts after months of research and saving reaches climax, setting our excitement over the edge. Walking into a store – or clicking the "Add to Cart" button online – and wheeling away on the new bike is amazing but parting something to preference and bolting it all together goes one step further.

There's a sense of pride associated with building a custom bike, one with store-bought parts and a mass-produced frame. Designing, then manufacturing a frame from scratch takes it a step beyond anything most mortals can fathom. Tom Moffat, a fellow Aussie ex-pat, now knows that feeling well after completing his first custom-designed bike, which turned into three after his boss and fellow machinist wanted one each for themselves.

A machinist in Whistler at North Shore Billet, Tom's the driving force behind some exciting new parts for the company. But despite this, I was surprised when first learning of his desire to develop a bike of his own. In hindsight, I really shouldn't have been. Tom's the definition of a tinkerer and is constantly fettling with parts and setup to see what effect the changes have. Not everything works to benefit but so far, it seems his custom bikes have gone well.

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Tom's PB1 (Park Bike 1) dressed to the nines and ready to go.

Thanks to a background as a Fitter/Turner back in Australia – Tom informs me it's the same as a Machinist/Millwright in Canada – he's been manufacturing products and parts since finishing high school. He spent his apprenticeship working on custom boat parts, which results in heaps of stainless handrail fabrication and machining things from folding propellers to steam engines. He also has a trade in boat building and was fortunate to work with one of the best manufacturers at that time, McConaghy Boats.

His experience working with high-end yachts and the composite materials used in them leaves little to the imagination when guessing what his future bikes will be made with but for now, he's used what's readily available. The PB1 bikes are manufactured using a mix of metals; a steel-tubed front triangle, bent, formed and welded together by Tom, leads the alloy rear triangle created from CNC-machined billet.

Tomis quick to point out that his friend and colleague, David Davis, helped with the manufacturing process. Tom developed the bike's shape and suspension but a strong supporting cast is important and Dave helped ease the after-hours workload; he ran the machines for the rear end and custom cranks.

An impressive amount of work went into the development of the bikes, with Tom and Dave manufacturing everything they could. From custom lower shock mounts to bearing caps and nuts, the bike frame is close to 100% machined and built in Whistler by the guys that ride them. After starting on the design in September, Tom's now enjoying his days in the Whistler Bike Park aboard his own creation.

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Looks are subjective but there aren't many mixed-wheel bikes that look good to me. Somehow this custom build strikes the balance perfectly.

First off, what motivated you to design and build your own bike?

I needed something to do. I also find I need to tinker or make things. I’ve always wanted to make a bike since I started riding as well. Plus I wanted a rag-on-all-day, leave in the shed, super easy to work on, hassle-free bike.

All the bearings are the same except for the chainstays which use a larger angular contact bearing and all the hardware has seals to prevent the mud and dirt from finding their way into the bearings. I also used more common standards like a 73BSA BB and a 148mm hub width. The headset is EC/ZS 49, more to suit common DH bikes and to keep some adjustability. If I were to make it EC/ZS 56 the steel tubes would look small compared to the head tube.

Oh, and did I mention I wanted a water bottle on a DH bike?

You did now, haha. How did you arrive at the suspension design and kinematics used with the bike?

It all came from wanting a simple to maintain park bike, not a race bike, with ease of manufacturing. Plus it needed to look cool. I used Linkage, a bike suspension software you can get online to work out where to place the pivots and the geo.

What can you share about the suspension characteristics? Anything on the leverage curve, wheel rate, axle path etc?

It goes up then down with some squish in the middle, haha. 200mm front, 192mm rear. I’ll send over all the curves. (A.J: See below.)

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Tom and Dave's bikes produce 192mm of rear-wheel travel with a 225x75mm shock. Tom's shock has been custom-tuned by Vorsprung.

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The rocker links are machined beauties and use a trunnion shock mount.

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The rear stays and rocker are works of art. Tom and his friend & NSB colleague, David Davis, agonized over the details and it paid off.

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pb 469 225 trunnion 190mm travel_Anti-squat.jpeg

pb 469 225 trunnion 190mm travel_Anti-rise.jpeg

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What was the process like coming up with the geometry for the bikes?

It needed to be mullet as I feel it’s a nice blend and the best of both worlds after testing a few sets ups with and without. I’m sure you will have an article out on how you feel about this as well…

As for geo, basically just going off what I’ve ridden and tested, and taking the things I like and what I feel I’ll like. Now that Dave and I have ridden them, we think I got it pretty good for what I wanted.

What can you tell us about the geometry?

The park bikes have a 63.5-degree head angle, 64 on Chris's one. 438mm chainstays, 345mm B.B. height, reach is 490mm on Dave’s, 469mm (470 didn’t sound right) on mine, and 445mm for Chris’s and a 100mm head tube (110mm with the lower cup installed). Chris's trail version has a 78-degree effective seat angle. As for things like standover and stuff I can dig that up – it was a while ago now – but who realistically looks at that?

How did you draw up the frames?

It was all done on Fusion 360 from CAD to CAM.

Your bike and David’s are set up for park abuse but you mentioned being able to switch them over for trail use. How’s that work?

With a change to the lower shock mount and a different length shock. The park bikes use a 225x75mm shock and the trail a 230x65mm. And a 180mm single crown fork will give the same axle to crown as a 200mm dual crown, so it will maintain the geometry.

[It] Also just happened to turn out with my inseam that the effective seat angle with a dropper at my height was 77 degrees, so once park season is over I'll put on a dropper and single crown fork, then a drive train and try it out.

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The rear centres remained the same across each bike, despite the front centres growing. Tom had to draw the line somewhere for his first version. Dave's is the largest front centre of the three.

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Chris, North Shore Billet's co-owner doesn't ride park these days. His bike needed to pedal and has less travel to accommodate his needs.

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A different lower mount and shock size convert Chris's bike to 170mm of rear wheel travel. Chris had Ben Arnott at Alba custom tune his EXT Storia for the bike's suspension.

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The lower shock mount that can be changed to convert the bike between 192mm rear travel to 170mm. With the ability to custom make lower shock mounts, there are more possibilities available, too.

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Tom and David's bikes are setup with RockShox Boxxers but Tom custom painted his for extra flair.

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Chris is running a 170mm Formula Selva S on the front of his bike. With 170mm of travel front and rear, his bike has a half-degree steeper head and seat tube angle.

Working at North Shore Billet, you had access to the machines for the project. Do you think you would have built them if you didn’t work with CNC machines?

100% but probably a trail bike. Also now I'd do it a lot faster as we just got a new machine with more travel and a faster spindle.

Why would it be a trail bike if you weren’t working as a machinist in Whistler?

Anywhere else you don’t really need a DH bike (unless you're racing DH or live near a resort) and where I was in Aus you definitely didn’t need one.

How do you think they would differ if you didn’t have the access and the machining capabilities you do?

If I was still in Aus it would have been either full carbon or lugged carbon, with the hardware machined the old-fashioned way (manual lathe and mill).

You mentioned that heaps of the parts you machined yourself, including axles, bolts, etc. What didn’t you personally manufacture?

I didn’t do the rocker, shock mounts and stay braces. Dave helped with that to reduce my workload, which was appreciated. He also machined the crank arms and lock ring based on an old program and design I did.

As for [frame] parts I bought; I got the BB, seat tube binder, then got the steel shock plates laser cut as I couldn’t be bothered to make them and it was cheaper to buy. The cable mounts I grabbed when NSB made a batch for Chromag. Also, the axle is from Chromag as again, I wanted to cut some of the workload down. I didn’t make the standard M6 and M8 bolts either, that’s taking things too far.

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The headtube accommodates EC/ZS 49 headsets, better suiting DH bikes but also keeping some options for adjustability. Tom wasn't keen on the larger 56mm sizing with the slender steel tubes.

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An integrated seat post clamp is nice to see. Tom outfitted his with a colour-matched ti bolt.

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The rear seat stay brace is bolted in place. On Chris's smaller, trail version this and the seat post limit him from getting the full travel of the larger sizes.

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The seat and chainstay bolts thread into the stays. Tom says he'll change this in future.

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The chainstay brace is impressive but Tom would like to change it in future to simplify the manufacturing process.

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Running wild with the machines. It's an impressive looking rear end with all of the CNC work that's been done.

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Details…

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The machining really is impressive.

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Tom and Dave's bikes use single-speed setups. The frame was designed to work with a UDH hanger, a part the guys make during their work hours.

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The bearings are the same throughout the rear of the bike, with exception to the larger angular contact bearings in the chainstay.

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If you're making a bike, you may as well make a custom crank too, right?

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Machined perfection. Tom's are raw with purple anodized bolts.

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Dave didn't hold back when machining these. His bike also has raw but with raw bolts. Chris's have been anodized black.

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Running single-speed in the park is all the rage. The guys made their own single-speed driver conversion.

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Tom"went a bit overboard" on his build but why the heck wouldn't you when creating a fully custom ride. His custom painted Boxxer.

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Working at North Shore Billet, there's a healthy smattering of in-house parts on the bikes that the guys earn a living manufacturing.

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Each bike features different wheels and hubs. Tom chose the Factor hubs.

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Tom's Factor hubs are laced to We Are One Union rims. He's trying out the new Michelin DH22 (front) and DH34 (rear) tires.

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Dave's running a set of Chromag BA30 rims wrapped in full Cushcore Pro and Maxxis DHF DH tires front and rear.

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Tom's opted not to run a Chromag bar/stem combo. He's giving the ProTaper front end a try.

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The ProTaper DH Direct Mount stem uses a unique 6-bolt system instead of the eight bolts often seen on direct mount stems.

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Ti bolts are all over the place throughout Tom's build. What about the colour of those Dominion calipers, though?

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Tom's a big fan of the Hayes Dominion brakes for their lack of needed maintenance, consistency and power.

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The bike uses an IS rear brake mount.

Chris’s bike is shorter travel and a bit different. What frame changes were there to make his shorter travel version?

Chris’s is more of a proto for a proper trail bike so 0.5-degree steeper head angle and 1-degree steeper effective seat angle. It uses the exact same rear end as the big bikes but with a different shock and lower mount, it also uses a different front triangle to accommodate a dropper, to get the right drop and height for Chris. The only thing stopping it from going to 190mm rear travel is the seat stay brace with the seat tube.

I wanted to try and maintain the same chainstay and seat stay between bikes but ultimately a lighter rocker to suit non-trunnion shocks and a different front triangle will end up on Chris’s. All the suspension points, B.B. etc. stayed the same as the other bikes – just the seat tube and a bit steeper head angle changed.

I'll install an adjustable headset in mine, to play with reach and head angles, then I’ll settle on what feels good for here.

Aside from creating and riding a bike you designed and built, is there another goal for the project? I don’t imagine this is where it ends…

The main takeaway was to learn, and to do something cool, seeing I couldn’t travel due to covid.

I did the design with the goal of maybe producing it in a limited batch. Ultimately, I think it would be cool to start a brand and make locally made bikes, but that requires a lot of capital to do it right, plus with parts availability right now it's a lot harder. But who knows, let me refine it and we’ll see.

Yourself, Chris and Dave cover a wide height range. What changes are there between the bikes to accommodate and would you consider these, say, medium, large, and extra-large?

Just reach, for now. I was going to do adjustable chainstays though decided to keep to the simple ethos – I might just do a separate seat stay with either a shorter or longer wheelbase. As for sizing, I’d say it would fall under the medium, large, XL categories, though I like the way Specialized label their bikes with the ’S’ sizing. It allows you to go up and down a size as the head tubes are similar, which is the same as mine.

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Chris's smaller, murdered out trail spec'd build.

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The EC/ZS 49 headtube is the same as the larger bikes, measuring 100mm. Even with this size headtube, the size difference to the top and downtubes is clear.

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The seat tube of Chris's bike has been drilled for the dropper post cable.

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The rear end with gears. The current parts shortage caused a bit of a scare when building the bikes. Chris has ended up with a 1x11 Shimano XT drivetrain.

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David's bike is the longest of the bunch with a 490mm reach to fit his lanky height and high-speed riding.

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It looks equally good in black as it does raw. Dave's running a small amount of 3M mastic tape and an STFU to control the chain.

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You can have your carbon, give me metal…

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Dave's hard work displayed on his own bike.

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An ode to the past. This NSB front hub, removed from the dusty shelf upstairs, has finally found a worthy home.

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North Shore Billet's new Daemon pedal. Dave and Tom each played a large role in the development.

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Dave's bike has a healthy amount of Chromag parts and is perfectly finished with this black on black Overture seat.

Having ridden it for close to a week now (at the time of the interview), what would you change about it?

Just little things like the seat stay and chainstay bolts, so it’s not threaded into the stays, and the chainstay brace for ease of manufacture. Also, I’d add more room to the chainstay from the chainring as I forgot to take that into account, so I need a BB30 chainring instead of a Boost.

As for geo and suspension characteristics, I’m pretty happy with those.

What are you calling it?

Haha, no idea. I can easily think of a bike design but names I’m terrible at. I labelled it PB1 (Park Bike 1) on my laptop so maybe that.

How long do you want to be able to ride it?

At least 3–4 years of 70-plus park days, or until I break it. Though I’m sure I'll update it with revised parts along the way.

What’s next?

A trail-specific version that’s a couple of kilos lighter and maybe then a bike for N.A.B.S. which I think I’ve shown you the renders for (A.J. Yes, and it too looks incredible). That should push me, as it will be a mix of 5-axis machined parts, printed and composite parts.

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Comments

martin
+7 ManInSteel AJ Barlas Pete Roggeman mike cedrico shapethings Derek Baker
Martin  - July 5, 2021, 9:20 p.m.

Wow! Awesome project and results! As an as-much-as-I-can DIYer, that would be a dream project, but I clearly don't have the knowledge and ressources to do so. It's really interesting and inspiring to see other people's creations though.

Please let us know when the 170mm frameset will be for sale, it ticks all my boxes 😁 Great work, keep it up!

Reply

Jeff_Carter
+5 AJ Barlas Pete Roggeman cedrico Dan Derek Baker
Jeff Carter  - July 5, 2021, 9:46 p.m.

Incredible photos in this feature AJ, the detail needs a big screen.  Awesome looking bikes too, hope you make it to production Tom

Reply

xy9ine
+5 ManInSteel AJ Barlas Pete Roggeman mike cedrico
Perry Schebel  - July 5, 2021, 10:17 p.m.

ugh, so sick. nice work, guys!

Reply

DemonMike
+5 ManInSteel AJ Barlas Pete Roggeman Mammal Dan
mike  - July 5, 2021, 11:12 p.m.

Fellow machinist/fabricator/welder here. Freaking off the charts!!!!  Welds could use some work. But then again so do mine LOL. Love the use of materials. Steel frames are the shit!!! The paint colour combos on the 1st park bike OMG!!! Huge fan of the use of purple. One of my faves to smoke as well Hahaha. I will read more about the bikes and process tomorrow . Was too busy gawking at the bikes and differences!!!

Reply

MuscogeeMasher
+5 Bikeryder85 ManInSteel Pete Roggeman mike Lu Kz
MuscogeeMasher  - July 6, 2021, 4:19 a.m.

Incredible and really interesting.  Can't imagine all that goes into mass producing a frame, but hope NSB will give some serious consideration to manufacturing those cranks.  That seems a little simpler and achievable in the short term.

Reply

Bikeryder85
+4 ManInSteel MuscogeeMasher mike Dan
Bikeryder85  - July 6, 2021, 4:58 a.m.

This! Those cranks are sick!

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+4 Mammal MuscogeeMasher mike AJ Barlas
Pete Roggeman  - July 6, 2021, 8:51 a.m.

Agreed, I absolutely want a pair of those cranks in raw silver.

Reply

ManInSteel
0
ManInSteel  - July 6, 2021, 5:37 a.m.

Love the crankset!

Bring back the FreeLight, please.

Reply

BillT
+7 Konrad Metacomet AJ Barlas Morgan Heater Dan tashi Derek Baker
Bill T  - July 6, 2021, 5:42 a.m.

I find that straight line from headtube to rear dropout so aesthetically pleasing

Reply

AJ_Barlas
+2 Metacomet Derek Baker
AJ Barlas  - July 6, 2021, 8:42 a.m.

Agreed. There's something wonderful to the smooth lines formed when attention is paid to the visual flow of tt down to the seat stays.

Reply

cheapondirt
+1 Pete Roggeman
cheapondirt  - July 6, 2021, 6:17 a.m.

This is to normal bikes as a KoH race truck is to a Ford Ranger.

Reply

dbozman
+4 Pete Roggeman Mammal MuscogeeMasher ManInSteel
dbozman  - July 6, 2021, 6:44 a.m.

Those cranks, though. Take my $$$ …

Reply

mrbrett
+2 Pete Roggeman AndrewR
mrbrett  - July 6, 2021, 7:23 a.m.

Oh wow, that purple ...

Reply

craw
+2 Pete Roggeman ManInSteel
Cr4w  - July 6, 2021, 7:47 a.m.

Just incredible. Great work!

Reply

Onawalk
+4 AJ Barlas Pete Roggeman mike ManInSteel
Onawalk  - July 6, 2021, 7:56 a.m.

Amazing work,

The detail is incredible, as the finish is first class.

I’m a sucker for CNC machined parts, as I stare longingly at a Cascade link sitting on my desk as art…..

How can I convince you to spool up a set of those cranks in 165mm length, I’m deadly serious!

Reply

sanesh-iyer
+5 AJ Barlas Pete Roggeman Mammal Tremeer023 ManInSteel
Sanesh Iyer  - July 6, 2021, 8:02 a.m.

Someone take my money. Those are by far the most beautiful bikes I have seen in a long time... and made in Canada too. I was a little disappointed on how few made-in-Canada parts there are for bikes these days. I'd love a pair of Canadian made hubs and cranks. And a steel + aluminum trail bike speaks to me... I want.

Reply

xy9ine
+2 mike Sanesh Iyer
Perry Schebel  - July 6, 2021, 8:52 a.m.

i've a bit of nostalgia for the period back in the 90's when the local manufacturing scene was going off - you could assemble a build with frame / fork / headset / bar / stem / seatpost / bb / cranks / chainrings / hubs & cassette - all made right here. was an exciting time; very cool witnessing the evolution of the sport at the time (local manufacturers stepping up to build bits that functioned in our non-socal environment). 

fwiw, the rf carbon cranks are still made here. i like em, but other have (decidedly) mixed experiences.

Reply

DemonMike
0
mike  - July 6, 2021, 10:53 a.m.

Who made hubs back in the 90,s locally? The early 90's was a great time in MTB. My fave shop in those days was Mountain/Beach. Spent a bit of money in that candy store. Really wishing I had bought a OFF ROAD TOAD frame set.

Reply

xy9ine
+1 mike
Perry Schebel  - July 6, 2021, 12:58 p.m.

syncros. though quite scarce, and may have only been front hubs, now that i think about it. 

and yeah, M&B was mtb mecca for me. couldn't afford much there as a poor student, but went there to drool on a few occasions. so many cool cnc bits... i do recall buying an IRD switchback brake there. 

similarly, the fillet brazed team toad was one of my all time most lusted over bikes.

Reply

DemonMike
0
mike  - July 6, 2021, 9:43 p.m.

I think I remember it now. White Ind was one of the hubs I remember. All my wheels in those days where XT hubs.

Reply

DemonMike
0
mike  - July 6, 2021, 9:43 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

DemonMike
0
mike  - July 6, 2021, 9:44 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

sanesh-iyer
0
Sanesh Iyer  - July 6, 2021, 12:28 p.m.

Yeah, even in 2010s there were more brands locally doing things. I find myself spending  on boutique products (wolftooth, cane creek etc.) manufactured in the US or UK, and I can't help but wonder why those parts aren't made here. Where I can, I'm happy to pay a premium for Canadian made (Chromag stem, various chain rings...). Id pay a few bucks more for a made in Canada one-up guide. It would be nice to have more middle grounds, where you don't need to buy titanium to buy local.

Reply

sanesh-iyer
+1 ManInSteel
Sanesh Iyer  - July 6, 2021, 8:02 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

Golem
+1 ManInSteel
Guillaume Désy  - July 6, 2021, 9:08 a.m.

My mind is officially blown.

Reply

earleb
+3 ManInSteel Sanesh Iyer AJ Barlas
earle.b  - July 6, 2021, 9:09 a.m.

Beautiful work guys. The contrast of the CNC work with the steel front end works great aesthetically. The rear end work is the hardest to do in steel so doing it all via CNC was a smart move.

Reply

mammal
+2 ManInSteel AJ Barlas
Mammal  - July 6, 2021, 9:10 a.m.

WOW. Want. Incredible work, from top to bottom. And yeah, the cranks push it right of the ledge into the abyss of awesomeness.

Reply

rnayel
+1 ManInSteel
RNAYEL  - July 6, 2021, 10:24 a.m.

Great work. Beautiful.

Reply

DemonMike
0
mike  - July 6, 2021, 11:12 a.m.

Just spent some more time reading and gawking. Not a bike park rider, but I have to say Tom's bike. That makes me want one so much more now LOL. Sunpeaks is just over an hour from our new place. Closest I have ever lived to a bike park. Sadly all the good trails are an hours drive as well. Looking forward to seeing what the future brings. I expect a full write on the secret bike project once it's done.

Reply

AJ_Barlas
+3 Mammal Lu Kz mike
AJ Barlas  - July 6, 2021, 12:41 p.m.

Tom informed me this morning that he's already had a dropper in his and rode up to Dark Crystal. I sense the evolution of the trail version coming sooner than later.

Reply

mammal
0
Mammal  - July 6, 2021, 12:51 p.m.

Michael Jackson popcorn meme...

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - July 6, 2021, 4:01 p.m.

😆

Reply

Jotegir
0
Lu Kz  - July 6, 2021, 2:36 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

Vikb
+1 mike
Vik Banerjee  - July 6, 2021, 4:54 p.m.

I wish my garage had CNC machines in it. :)

Nice work on the bikes. :)

Reply

danimaniac
0
danimaniac  - July 6, 2021, 11:12 p.m.

AWESOME BIKES!

I've a question about those Factor Hubs. Did Factor Components just resell the old Novatec Factor Hubs that were first released around 2013?

Reply

cedrico
0
cedrico  - July 7, 2021, 6:55 a.m.

Gorgeous stuff. What type of finish was used for the bike with the grey front triangle?

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - July 7, 2021, 9:24 a.m.

Tom rattle canned it. It turned out great!

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - July 7, 2021, 9:34 a.m.

Beautiful bikes guys!! Amazing work!

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FAIRbicycle
+1 AJ Barlas
FAIRbicycle  - July 7, 2021, 2:22 p.m.

Mind blowing work on these bikes guys! NSB is such a historical, yet modern brand. Especially appreciate the declaration of where parts are made and where their material is from. Like with the Daemon pedals. Keep up the good work!

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tashi
+1 AJ Barlas
tashi  - July 10, 2021, 1:34 p.m.

Holy hell those are cool bikes. 

I cut my teeth on the CNC bits of the 90’s and these guys really keep that vibe alive!

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tashi
0
tashi  - July 10, 2021, 1:34 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

aShogunNamedMarcus
0
aShogunNamedMarcus  - July 10, 2021, 3:10 p.m.

Sooo when can I get one?

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