Once again we headed down to Stayer Cycles to catch up with Sam and Judith after a very busy year and a successful Bespoke UKHBS. We always love popping into their workshop to catch up, see what builds they have on and talk about all kinds of things from early twentieth century detective novels to classic MTB’s.
For those that don’t know Sam, he is a very humble chap, softly spoken with a keen eye for detail. With the vast array of frame builders, both professional and part time appearing, I had been keen to see for myself what he had been up to since we last visited in 2018.
As we chat in a very warm workshop (our last visit was in winter) I soon come to understand his work ethic and train of thought. “Frame building was something I needed to do, I wasn’t really inspired as such. I had bikes and needed to fix them, fix bikes for other people and for a bike shop. We (Judith and I) used to bring bike frames from Belgium into the UK, fix them up and sell them to pay for our studies and rent etc. Lots of stuff came with issues so I ended up fixing things first before they could be sold. It has always been a job, rather than a hobby. I have always had to make a living and there is nothing like needing to pay the rent to inspire you into making moves. At a certain point, I got into adapting 90’s MTB frames for disk brakes and fucking around with the geometry. Being in Belgium a lot also got me into cyclocross and a friend started raving about 650b ballooner tyres and I think a combination of all of those interests made me start building from scratch as I couldn’t find what I wanted within my means or among the second-hand stuff I was working with”.
While I am there Sam is working on another frame. That day they had appeared on The Radavist and things were a little bonkers to say the least. “We have had a ridiculous amount of hits already since Raoul’s 29’er Dirt Drop MTB went live, we’ve even had a few phone calls out of the blue asking if we have them in stock”.
You can clearly see why Stayer Cycles is starting to make its mark within the frame building fraternity. The high quality builds, testing and attention to detail have made sure that each bike leaving the workshop is going to last the test of time no matter what you throw at it.
As the day goes on the normal topics of being a frame builder come up, the lifestyle, pros and cons, never getting enough time to ride. “Making them (frames) is pretty straightforward as long as you work out if you are doing one off’s or trying to batch produce a little more. With the business, I have to pay the rent and overheads or I will not have a workshop anymore, so setting up a system to get things going a little quicker is important for us. The idea was always to work out how to make this a living and for me that is about maximising the time in the workshop and, once you have a good design, being as prolific as possible with the building. So I suppose getting those systems down so that I can go home at 6 and take some time to ride my bike is the biggest challenge for me at the moment”.
The Chigzag was your first batch built bike? “The Chigzag was always about making a frame for my local rides from Leytonstone up to Epping along the river Ching (I thought it was Chig at the time). The single track along that river is very twisty and full of roots and deep holes and thick mud and leaves in the winter. It is great fun but hard work and technical cross. I used to ride a Lemond Poprad which cornered like a pig (with me on board at least) and – although it is a great frame Greg – was a bit of a monster to ride those trails on and would get clogged up with leaves and mud every five minutes. I wanted something that cornered better was stiffer and had lots of tyre clearance without sacrificing the short back end so we ended up with the Chigzag frame design”.
Since then you have come out with the Groadinger (We will be testing one of these very soon). “This is our 650b Gravel bike purpose built for great handling and off road adventure. With tyre clearance for up to 50mm 650b the Groadinger is made for fat tyres and with a super short chainstay and thru axle carbon fork as standard, it performs like a monster truck and rides like an agile gazelle on any terrain anywhere in the world (FACT)”.
You can clearly see that both Sam and Judith have their heads screwed on and are working towards building a well established brand. “We (Stayer Cycles) have a lot of plans and we are currently working on finding a larger premises. Ideally I would like to take on another part time frame builder so that we can step up production of our bikes. We have so many ideas but it all needs backing and finding an investor or funding is proving to be the hard part”.
As the day draws to a close I leave Sam beavering away. He had four frames to finish before he and Judith can get away for some much needed holiday.