It was great to finally catch up with Sam from Stayer Cycles the other week. We have been chatting for several months about meeting up, talking bikes and to see what he has been up to.
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 weekend builders appearing, I had been keen to see for myself what he had been up to.
As we chat in a very chilly workshop 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 amongst the second-hand stuff I was working with.
While I am there Sam is working on a short batch run of single speed cyclocross frames using the new Bear Frame Supplies. One thing they have become known for is their Cross frames and wheelset (More on those to follow).
only have a cross bike so there is just about everything else to do
right. There are some cool plans for a track bike at some point next
year. Lots of single speed cross stuff as well this winter. I also have
been gifted a rather natty WI eno rear wheel with a 26″ x 3.3 tyre on
there which I reckon needs a home pretty soon. There is also a cargo
bike project that I am doing with a good friend and bike designer which
is going to be great as I will get some company in the workshop and a
regular drinking partner for a bit”.
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 is 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”.
As the day draws to a close I leave Sam beavering away. He had four frames to finish before he and Judith take a tour of Belgium and take in the Gent Six Days. Lucky for some I say.