Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, sits down this week with Nicolas Serrano of Scarab Cycles, based out of Colombia. This episode was recorded at the 2021 ENVE Builder Round-Up. We learn about the brand’s origins, ethos, and manufacturing process. Nicolas’ bike can be seen in this video from the 2021 ENVE Builder Round-Up in Ogden, Utah.
Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)
Craig Dalton: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I’m your host Craig Dalton.
[00:00:06]This week on the podcast. We welcome Nicolas Serrano from Scarab cycles in Colombia. I met Nicolas at the envy builder Roundup earlier this year and
[00:00:16]Was super impressed with the bike. They brought to the Roundup, the paint job, and even more impressed once I learned the story behind scarab cycles.
[00:00:24]This episode is brought to you by our friends at ENVE composites.
[00:00:27]ENVE has been a huge supporter of the gravel industry producing
[00:00:30]Products since the inception of this type of riding. Up of exceptionally quality. their seat posts. And of course their lineup
[00:00:39]Of gravel wheel sets. Envy across all social media channels.
[00:00:44] And check out envy.com for a dealer locator. I know it’s always great to go into your local bike retailer and get your hands on these products and even better yet,
[00:00:53] Maybe getting out on a test stride on some of these components.
[00:00:57]Out to all the new members from www.buymeacoffee.com/thegravelride.
[00:01:05]It means a ton to me that you’ve selected to support me with your dollars memberships, start at $5 a month. So big, thanks to John Rankin.
[00:01:14]Two. Nicolas Marzano, high Plains, drifter mark S just a few of the most recent members to the buy me a coffee.com program.
[00:01:24]And further, thank you to the one-time contributors.
[00:01:28]With that said let’s dive right in to my interview
[00:01:31] Nicolas: [00:01:31] hey, it’s Nicolas from Scarab cycles from Colombia,
[00:01:34] Craig Dalton: [00:01:35] Welcome to the show.
[00:01:36] Nicolas: [00:01:36] Hey, thanks. Thanks for inviting us. And we’re pretty happy to be here.
[00:01:40] Craig Dalton: [00:01:40] And I’m pretty excited to talk about that bike. I just saw downstairs here at the NV Roundup.
[00:01:45] It’s totally beautiful. But before we get into that, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about your background and what led to the formation of the company and a little bit about the company?
[00:01:55] Nicolas: [00:01:55] Of course. So, as carb cycles has started back in the day, six years ago our founder Santiago Toto, who started the company with a local frame builder, it used to have another name before.
[00:02:05]And then in migrated toward nowadays is described cycles in as the name, it started in 2018 with the name script cycles, but we’ve been building bikes since 2000 16, more or less. And tell us
[00:02:17] Craig Dalton: [00:02:17] about where the company
[00:02:18] Nicolas: [00:02:18] is located. So our company slug is based in in the outskirts of managing it’s Antioquia it’s a more or less 30 minutes from aging, which is the second biggest city in Colombia .
[00:02:29] Craig Dalton: [00:02:29] And does Colombia have a large bike building scene?
[00:02:33]Nicolas: [00:02:33] Not a bike building scene, but it’s home of the world known as kind of house, which is basically the we explored world-class cyclist. So we’ve been there’s not a strong bike building scene. There’s couple of our one or two or three frame builders in the country.
[00:02:48] But mostly what we have in our country is Cyclists. There’s a strong love for the sport. The bicycle itself, it’s a very strong object or thing for the Colombian culture. So it’s not only a way of transportation. It’s a, it’s not only a sport. It’s just a way of life, a way of being, and it’s an element, the bicycle that connects us all as Colombians, you can go to a road and meet you can be with us.
[00:03:12] With farm guy, a company CNO, which he’s just training in his Sunday ride and you can actually be writing with a pro. So these two guys are going to have the same own time, and they’re just like shredding their ass off a very high speed. Or you just can have on weekdays, a kid going from his very small town moving to a, another small town to go to school.
[00:03:32] So basically the bicycle is a very strong element in the Colombia.
[00:03:37] Craig Dalton: [00:03:37] That’s awesome to hear football and soccer, obviously big sports as well. How would you rank cycling? I mean, obviously like with NARIC and Tanya going back five, six years and all the emerging Colombian superstars today, was that sort of the generation where cycling really took hold in the culture or did it, does it date back further than that?
[00:03:53] Nicolas: [00:03:53] comes very, it comes back way that with a load, like when we started having a world-class cyclist . Going to two, two big races in Europe winning the winter. Spania for example, that’s when we started like getting a name of a cycling and that’s where. When they started starting calling us this kind of office, this climbing little box that goes up and up a hill without any problem he just is very good for claiming, so it go, it goes back to the eighties, nineties when everything started seventies, eighties, and nineties.
[00:04:23]But there has been a new hype since NATO containers, as you mentioned it since 2000 five eight but back before from that, it was we had another hype with, for example, cyclists, like Santiago taro, which was which was on our he was the Olympic champion for time trail, individual time trail.
[00:04:40] And then he won as well. The polka dot a Jersey and a tour de France. So there’s a lot of history behind cycling, but nowadays I believe it’s, as you asked at the beginning of the question if it was soccer or. I bet we’re having a very good and strong hyper on cycling. Not only because of the results, but the pandemic has moved people towards this sport.
[00:05:02] So nowadays everyone in Colombia has a bicycle and it’s riding around maybe four or five years ago. It was just like a couple of hundreds of people. Now it’s thousands. The streets are packed with cyclists in all of the levels. Like you see very good cyclists, like pro classes. And amateur cyclists and like everyone’s riding a bicycle from kids 10 years old to like people 60, 70, 80 years old, just sharing the road.
[00:05:27] It’s amazing. It’s crazy. And we also have another very good thing is that we, Colombia it’s divided by three mountain ranges, so there’s mountains everywhere. So there’s 86 kilometer climbs old paved, which is called Algolia. There was this well, a hundred kilometer, gravel appeal rights, which is called for example,
[00:05:46] So you go from almost zero meters above sea level to 4,000, 200 meters above sea level. That’s 12,000 feet. Incredible elevation just in one. Right? So there’s many aspects, a little bit of history, a little bit of good results with NATO Cantana egg and Bernard and all those cyclists doing very good in the cycling scene.
[00:06:05] And of course the topography of a country and the culture, which has very deeply embedded the bicycle in its culture. So tell
[00:06:13] Craig Dalton: [00:06:13] me a little bit more about the brand and when the brand came together, what type of bikes were you intending to make? What types of materials were you using at the time?
[00:06:23] Nicolas: [00:06:23] Yeah, so we’ve always used we’ve always been fan or we’re always been. Very happy with the results we can have with steel bikes. So we’ve always been using steel used to, we’ve always been using, for example, a Columbus steel, which is what we still use. Nowadays we’re mixing a little bit doing some blends, for example, Columbus and or Colombian sand Delta Chi, which is an Italian manufacturer of steel as well.
[00:06:47]And when it started we, our first bikes were mainly meant to stay on tarmac, but giving the conditions of the country where 90% of our roads are secondary roads. That means it’s a ground country. So it’s basically a gravel paradise where we used to ride our road bikes in gravel conditions take into account that they were very good steel.
[00:07:06] There wasn’t a problem with that. But then we started diving into the gravel section. And then our first model was born maybe three and a half year, four years ago. It was called MERITO. MERITO is a town that’s located in in in one of the, in the central mountain range, which is called the
[00:07:22]So it’s, it lays almost 4,000 meters above sea level. So it’s the town that you can only get there by. So that was our first model. And then it evolved to where this town is located, which is a Panama, Panorama is an ecosystem. That’s lies between 3000 meters, 3,200 meters above sea level to 4,200 meters above sea level.
[00:07:40] And that’s basically the source of all of our water or Edric sources come from the Panamas. So it’s a very fragile, yet unique ecosystem. You can only get there by secondary roads or gravel roads. So that’s where our bike came from. It comes more, it comes out of function and then function follows form, which is why we create a little bit, a big, bigger tire clearance a little bit more of responsive wheel base a little bit longer to have more fun when you’re going down.
[00:08:07] So then we had to do a little bit of twitches in the aspects of the frame. And then w Westwind the Paramo was board, which is our actual ground.
[00:08:16] Craig Dalton: [00:08:16] So the model name for the bike that I’ll show in a picture and linked to you in the show notes, which model
[00:08:20] Nicolas: [00:08:20] is that? So that’s the upper Buena, which is Santee likes to call it.
[00:08:24] It’s a road bike with a track shoes, trekking shoes. So it’s a road specific bike. Well, not, that’s not a road specific bike. It’s an old road bike, but it has the. Reactiveness the stiffness, the responsiveness, our road bike bad. It has tires. It can fit tires from 32 to 38 millimeters. So it’s very good.
[00:08:44] If you’re running on tarmac the time of ends, and then you want to go around for trails or a hard-packed gravel. You’re going to have. For example, this morning, we did some of the trails with the guys in that bike. And it was perfect. Well, not the perfect bike for that condition, but we did it and it was fun.
[00:08:59]So that we have three models at the moment, which are our road bike which is called it’s named after the longest climb in Colombia, longest paved climb in Colombia, which is 86 years. That’s a road bike, a proper road bikes, TAFE fun, reactive there’s this rim brake model, and then comes the in-betweener, which is the old road.
[00:09:18] It’s a mix between road bike and grab a bike. So it’s this in between, or that has a tight curious for from 32 to 38 millimeters. It’s called. Which it’s it means road in Spanish, in you know, an indigenous tongue in limitations language. So that’s where Poona comes from and then comes to Panama, which is a proper gravel bike men for like proper backpacking, shredding killing, getting the decents going uphill.
[00:09:45]Everything you want, that’s the undestructible bike. Let’s
[00:09:48] Craig Dalton: [00:09:48] talk about the tire clearance on that particular
[00:09:50] Nicolas: [00:09:50] bike. Perfect. Yeah, that one, since all our bikes are custom made, it depends on what the client needs. It can be optimized either for 700 C 700 by 48, or it can be optimized for 6 50, 6, 50 by 50 millimeters.
[00:10:06] And depending on SIM, in some case, we run bigger. It depends on what the client wants. So there’s, there comes some people with the specific requirements. Yeah. I want this. I’m going to fit six 50 bees by 55. We can manage to it. Or most of them like standards six, we recommended six 50 by 48. If they do
[00:10:23] Craig Dalton: [00:10:23] go to those larger sizes, 50.
[00:10:25] What type of modifications do you need to make to the frame in order to accommodate that kind of big tire on?
[00:10:30] Nicolas: [00:10:30] So that’s basically the change stays a little bit more of about a white capability and we will upgrade to the NB envy adventure fork, which has a bigger tire clearance for the front and for the back.
[00:10:42] Will you just have a bigger space for the, in the chain stays for the
[00:10:45] Craig Dalton: [00:10:45] You may not know this figure off the top of your head, but what is the chain stay length turned out to be for a 50
[00:10:51] Nicolas: [00:10:51] ish fish? No, I’ll tell you that. I’m not sure I kind of recall like the numbers for that specific geometry.
[00:10:56]But we usually have well, it depends on the customer. I rather have a short chain stays. It makes a little bit more of a fast bike and reactive by. Yeah.
[00:11:04] Craig Dalton: [00:11:04] Yeah. It’s been something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately because I just got a demo bike. Longer chain stays and the most sluggish.
[00:11:12] Yeah. I’m trying to internalize the personality of this new bike and understand it. So it’s been really interesting for me and now I’m keying in on. That length when I’m talking to other builders, just to try to understand what are you building around? And obviously, as our listener knows, when you go to the big tires, there has to be some compromises.
[00:11:30] You need to make the room
[00:11:32] Nicolas: [00:11:32] somehow to make the room somehow. And that’s that’s the first button. That’s one of the first questions we ask our clients, what are you going to use this bike for? But usually you don’t have a right answer for that because I might be doing some really fast trails when I buy this bike.
[00:11:46] But then I discovered by. Or backpacking races across the world, or just I don’t know, very long races or like very, I went to have something very comfortable with a bigger tire clearance, so it might change over the time but usually focus, always center on what the client needs and what you went and w and where do you want to take your bike to?
[00:12:03] Craig Dalton: [00:12:03] Can you talk me through the beautiful paint job on the bike? We saw downstairs,
[00:12:06] Nicolas: [00:12:06] just amazing thing of our bike. First we’re launching the Poona, which is the old road. And second, we’re launching our new pain ship called humbler, which means jungle. And it’s basically inspired in the Western part of the country. . We have a very deep jungle, which is called the Chaco and rainforest. And it’s one of the most biodiverse was there by libraries, places on earth. It’s home for lots of species found and flora. Many are endangered many and demic many are unique in that area. And there’s just, there’s just a couple of roads or basically one road that leads into the jungle.
[00:12:39] It’s a 120 kilometer gravel ride. Very muddy. It depends on the time of the year you go. But usually it’s very muddy because it’s rains a lot. It’s the place with most precipitation on earth, basically. So it’s rain, it rains every single day. Wow. So when you’re riding towards it, You just see a huge deep green sea, it just looks green and very steamy.
[00:13:01] You just see a big green shade. And were you sort of paling towards that? You start to discover there’s a lot of detail and there’s a lot of immensity into the jungle. And then you start to discover a lot of different trees. Lot of different leaves, a lot of different indigenous groups around walking.
[00:13:17] Maybe you don’t see them, but if you look close enough, you see people that are absurd. There is somewhere hidden in the path or in the road. Same as animals. You, if you stop by at a waterfall to fill your bottle up, you might not look carefully enough to see there’s a small, poisonous frog besides you.
[00:13:35]So you have to be very careful and look very deep into the forest and enjoy what you’re seeing to be able to discover what the forest has to offer you. So basically that’s a, it’s a whole much to that Shaquan forest. And that’s why when you look at the page you see a green by white bike with green panels, but if you look deep and close enough, you start discovering a little bit of animals flamingos here and there, turtles humbug whales, which do their mating season in this part of the world, in the Pacific ocean, the Colombia Pacific ocean in the Gulf of
[00:14:02]So basically that’s where our inspiration came from that, for that paint job. It’s a whole, much to that Shaquan, right?
[00:14:09] Craig Dalton: [00:14:09] It’s absolutely gorgeous. And I think your description did do it some justice, but I’ll put a photo up, please sign for people to see, because as you said, there’s just a ton of intricate detail in there.
[00:14:20] Little things you discover when you get closer and closer. Whereas as you said, if you’re, you know, 10 feet away and you just see this white bike with green panels, so it’s incredibly well
[00:14:31] Nicolas: [00:14:31] executed. Exactly. That was the idea that was the exact idea. And that was what we felt when we were peddling towards.
[00:14:37] Chuck forest, who were like, wow, this is a huge green in mirrors. See you just see green. You not is between one tree and another. And as soon as you start going in, you’re just like, wow, this leave is very different from this one. And there’s this animal and this and that. And there’s a lot of detail as soon as you get into it.
[00:14:55]So same when you look at the bike wide bike with green panels, and then when you look in, when dive in, there’s a lot of detail behind it and that’s one of our. One of the best things, that’s kind of cycles that we focus on, not on the painting, on every detail. Everything we do in scrub cycles is done.
[00:15:12] In-house so painting is done. In-house the welding, all of the parts everything’s done in-house so we have enough time to, to dedicate to every detail of the painting. So that’s one of our crazy ones. We have some, of course, a more sober ones with basic colors. Nice finishes maths glossies with a basic lettering from scrub cycles, but that’s one of our crazy details.
[00:15:36] Craig Dalton: [00:15:36] I love it. I love it. Chips. Yes. For the listeners who are getting excited about buying one of these bikes. Now, what does that process look like for a north American customer to work with you, to get one of these bikes built? Okay.
[00:15:47] Nicolas: [00:15:47] So basically we have a worldwide shipping. We have our shop in factory in Ethiopia, but we have of course shop as well.
[00:15:55] From Windstar shipping facility for worldwide orders. So if you happen to live in San Francisco and you want to order a bike, it’s just drop us an email. We have actually a 18 week lead time and that’s where all the process and the magic starts with an hi email quoting. And then we accommodate according to what you want, depending if you want a full bike or a frame set starts at 2,800 and full build start at 4,000.
[00:16:22] So depends on what you want. You can first select your model, and then we start to talk a little bit about what you need. What are you going to ride if you’re living in San Francisco, what kind of grabbing writing are you going to do trails or are you going to do just a hardcore gravel or bike packing or long trips or just aggressive racing?
[00:16:39]The first four to five weeks to decide a little bit of a, about the geometry we present to you that you are meant to, and we both decide what’s best for. Then comes the fun part or what I call the fun part, because it’s the paint part. So you decide one of our paint, chimps seasoned paint chips.
[00:16:54] For example, it can be a humbler can be achiever, which is an another of the over crazy pain teams or one of our stock, normal pain shapes. You just think a little bit about the color pallette. We’re sending some samples, some pictures of samples, then you decide the colors and then the process starts or in.
[00:17:10] For the fabrication in week 16, we get your bike ready. We ship it to Miami. And then from there, it ships to San Francisco
[00:17:17] Craig Dalton: [00:17:17] and with the customer, if they’ve ordered a full bike, will it get built up in Miami and then
[00:17:22] Nicolas: [00:17:22] disappear Miami? Yeah. And some assembled in Miami and then shipped very right to San Francisco.
[00:17:27] Yep. It’s just out of the box. Just put the front wheel, put the handlebars and just run.
[00:17:33] Craig Dalton: [00:17:33] Awesome. Well, as you know, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing one up close in San Francisco, one of our local riders, Patricia.
[00:17:40] Nicolas: [00:17:40] She has a very amazing bike. This white with pink, a pinkish or yes, a bike it’s.
[00:17:47] Craig Dalton: [00:17:47] Yeah, it’s very stunning.
[00:17:48] So if you want to say hello, she’s a listener. So you might
[00:17:50] Nicolas: [00:17:50] Patricia, we’re glad to have you there in San Francisco. We’re very happy that you’re shredding our bike the proper way. So we’re good to know that we have a happy side. Hi peas. It’s corrupt cyclist in San Francisco. Yeah,
[00:18:02] Craig Dalton: [00:18:02] absolutely.
[00:18:02] Well, it goes, thank you so much for the overview. Congratulations on this bike here at the ENVE builder Roundup, it looks phenomenal. And can’t wait to see more of them out
[00:18:10] Nicolas: [00:18:10] there on the trails. Great. Thanks for the invite to the gravel ride podcast. Keep, stay tuned for more upcoming podcasts about this show because it’s been pretty amazing what they’ve got here.
[00:18:20] No doubt. And we’re more than happy to help any, if anyone needs something about scrub cycles, we’re more than happy to attend your inquiry. Awesome. Great. Thanks again. Okay, man. Thanks.
[00:18:29]Craig Dalton: [00:18:29] That was amazing to get to know Nicolas A. Little bit and a little bit more of the story behind Scarab Cycles. I remember getting introduced to riding in Colombia back in episode 75. When Matt, Katie was talking about some of the bike packing routes that he had developed in that beautiful country. And he just relayed so many great stories about the off-road terrain.
[00:18:52] The mountains and everything else about the Colombian experience. So to get to sit down with Nicolas here in the United States, when he was over for the ENVE builder, Roundup was a huge pleasure. Definitely, definitely, definitely go out and seek some pictures of what scarab cycles does with their bicycles.
[00:19:11] The paint jobs are exceptional. The quality of work, just a lot of dedicated craftsmanship under the hood there. Huge. Thanks to envy for continuing to support the podcast. It’s been a pleasure interviewing all these builders and seeing the NV components highlighted. Across all these bicycles.
Until next time here’s to finding some dirt onto your wheels.
The Gravel Ride Podcast