Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, interviews Adam Sklar, founder of Sklar Bikes. Adam shares his journey into cycling, starting with his entry into mountain biking through his ski friends during his childhood in Boulder, Colorado. He talks about his early experiences in bike racing and how he discovered his passion for frame building during his time in college in Montana. Adam discusses the challenges and joys of building custom bikes for his friends and the process of transitioning from custom bikes to smaller batch production.
He also talks about the design philosophy behind Sklar Bikes, which focuses on creating versatile and fun bikes that offer different riding experiences. Craig and Adam touch on various topics, including the materials used in frame building, the process of designing and manufacturing custom bikes, the popularity of gravel bikes, and the unique features of Sklar Bikes, such as the adjustable dropouts and external cable routing.
Throughout the episode, Adam’s passion for building bikes and creating unique riding experiences shines through. Listeners are encouraged to check out the Sklar Bikes website and reach out to Adam with any questions or inquiries.
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Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)
[00:00:01]Craig Dalton (host): Adam, welcome to the show.
[00:00:03]Adam Sklar: for having me. I feel like I’ve been
[00:00:05]Craig Dalton (host): I feel like I’ve been admiring your bikes from afar for a while, so I’m excited to have this conversation and just learn a little bit more about the origin story of the brand.
[00:00:15]Adam Sklar: Cool. Yeah, I’m excited to talk about it. start off with,
[00:00:18]Craig Dalton (host): Let’s start off with, uh, just learning a little bit about you. Where’d you grow up and how’d you discover cycling in the first place?
[00:00:24]Adam Sklar: Cool. Yeah, so my name is Adam Lar. Um, People know me for my bike brands, car bikes. Um, so yeah, I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and I guess my entry to bikes was through my ski friends. I grew up ski racing and then in the summers all my ski friends were into cross country mountain biking, like mountain bike racing as you were if you were a kid who grew up in Boulder.
Um, and so after a couple summers of them, Like begging me to go mountain biking with them. I finally tried it and it, um, hooked. I guess I got hooked super hard. It was sort of the thing we could do where we went outside all day and our parents wouldn’t bug us, um, or like ask questions about what we were doing.
So we would go up in the mountains and pack our lunch and go on these big long rides. Um, and that was, so that’s sort of, yeah, what my entry point into cycling was. Um, amazing.
[00:01:21]Craig Dalton (host): Amazing. And then did you catch the racing bug from your
[00:01:24]Adam Sklar: Not really. They, I tried to make it, make it go. Um, I definitely, my last year of high school was the first year of Nica in Colorado, and that was cool.
And I thought I would get into racing, but I moved to Montana and they didn’t really have bike races there. Um, so I never, I never really got super vacy, but I, I wanted to be for sure. And what, what
[00:01:52]Craig Dalton (host): And what, what led you to move to
[00:01:53]Adam Sklar: Um, I came to Montana for college, so I went, I went to engineering school at Montana State in Bozeman, and yeah, that’s how I ended up in Bozeman. Gotcha.
[00:02:04]Craig Dalton (host): And in the course of your education there, did you learn to weld?
[00:02:08]Adam Sklar: a little bit, yeah. So I, I built my first frame, winter break of my freshman year of college, so I was, um, or well built as, Maybe a generous word, but I, I got some tubes and stuck ’em together with like, stuff from Home Depot. And at, at the end of my time in Boulder, I’d met this guy Walt, who does, Walt works.
And uh, he built me a fork for my mountain bike. ’cause we were all into rigid 29 ERs, single speeds, you know, very bolder. And, uh, I showed it to Walt and he felt bad for me, and so he gave me a brazing lesson and taught me how to do it. So then I, I did a couple more on my own and then, yeah, went back to school.
I got a job in the machine shop on campus and it just so turned out that the guy who ran that shop had built frames in the seventies and eighties, and so he really took me under his wing. And so I was working in the machine shop helping engineering students with like their senior projects, machining stuff, and then, Some nights there would be no one there, so I would just machine bike tools or work on bikes and that’s sort of how I built up a lot of my, my shop and experience. Amazing. If you had
[00:03:24]Craig Dalton (host): amazing, if you had to guess, how many bikes did you make while you were in school? Cool
[00:03:28]Adam Sklar: Oh, probably, I bet like 20. I ended up, I think I met Tom, like I, Tom Youngs, who was the shop guy. I think I built seven when I met him, and then I probably built another 20 or something. Sort of like the, the business started ’cause I was spending all my money building bikes for friends and, which is, you know, it’s how it goes.
Like you build one and it was really fun. It’s so cool. You ride it and you’re like, wow, I made this. That’s amazing. And then your friends see that and they want one. And I also wanted to build more bikes, but I had enough, you know, I can’t, I couldn’t just keep building myself bikes. So I got my friends to buy ’em.
And then, um, I was like, why do I have no money? I need to make one bank account that’s just bike stuff and if that’s zero, then I’m not making money. And that was kinda the start of learning how to do a business as well. What
[00:04:22]Craig Dalton (host): And what type of bikes, I think you might have mentioned this, but what type of bikes were you making for your
[00:04:27]Adam Sklar: then?
It was, yeah, that was still in our rigid single speed 29 or days. So pretty, I think like out of the first 20, I bet 15. Were those. Yeah. Did you have an
[00:04:39]Craig Dalton (host): And did you have an opportunity to kind of explore the different characteristics of the various steel tube sets available?
[00:04:46]Adam Sklar: I think that early on, yeah, I was still learning about that stuff. Um, a lot of experimentation, a lot of, there were some frames, nothing was ever wildly unrideable, but you know, you build one and you’re like, okay, that’s super stiff. That feels bad, or, you know, that bottom bracket’s way too high. Like, I won’t do that again.
Um, so luckily my friends were very forgiving with some of those first ones. Um, but I think, yeah, I mean the, the understanding of materials really happened over time. I think, you know, you’re, you’re starting and you’re just working on the actual fabrication craft. So like, it would come in phases. Like at first it was like, I need to get good at welding and be really focused on the welding.
And of course you’re always looking at materials and things like that. But I think after I had nailed down the craft a little bit more, I spent a lot of little dove into materials a little deeper. And I guess being an engineering school also helped with that. ’cause you learn, there’s a lot of in the bike world, you know, interesting rumors that get spread around about materials.
But having a scientific background in that stuff. Kinda helps you see what parts are true about those things and what might be made up Interesting.
[00:06:06]Craig Dalton (host): That’s super interesting along the way. Just ’cause I’m curious, like as you were learning the craft of frame building, was there an area of the frame that was the trickiest to kind of master? I mean I, in my mind, I’m thinking like around the bottom bracket seems to be the hardest place to get the welds
[00:06:25]Adam Sklar: yeah. I mean, Uh, yeah, I mean, still the hardest thing with like the big tires, big tire chain ring clearance. You know, you’ll see all these very creative chains day yolks out there these days. And it’s funny, bikes are, bikes are so simple, but, uh huh. Recording can, oh, can you hear me Still?
[00:06:54]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah. Yeah,
[00:06:55]Adam Sklar: Oh, you went away.
Oh no. Okay. What was I saying? Oh yeah, chainstay. Yos. Yeah, threading. And like the cool thing about that era, so this was like 2012 ish, and so the first big tire era I got to go through was like plus mountain bikes, but also gravel bikes. Were kind of just starting to be more popular than I think, and. At that time we were like, how do we fit a 40 C tire in here with a road double and stuff like that.
So that was, um, yeah, it was fun to be figuring out those problems and maybe figuring ’em out. Before companies, like big companies had to, you know, they, they have to make sure that works for the run of a thousand bikes they’re gonna do, but I was doing one at a time, so we could make. These cool big tire bikes before they came out commercially, which was pretty cool.
[00:07:54]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah, I think that’s, it’s been such an interesting journey the last six years or so, just around that specific challenge of.
[00:08:01]Adam Sklar: clearance. Mm-hmm.
[00:08:02]Craig Dalton (host): clearance and how to make that work with gravel bikes. That’s interesting to hear you kind of attacking that early on through your exploration of the mountain bike first and then later transitioning like, oh, I already figured out how to do that for super big tires.
Now I just need to downsize it a little bit for this gravel and road crankset
[00:08:22]Adam Sklar: Totally. Yeah. So you
[00:08:25]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah. So you graduate from college, you’ve made, you know, twenties, 20, 30 bikes. At that point, did you immediately kind of say, Hey, this makes sense for me to pursue as a business, or was there something you were doing along the way at that time as well as you were doing this
[00:08:40]Adam Sklar: Yeah, I, um, no, I. I was pretty hesitant to do it as a job. I had talked to a lot of builders and pretty much all of them said, don’t do this for a job.
Um, I really wanted to do it. I mean, I was, so, it was all I thought about and I literally like jumped out of bed on the weekends, excited to go build bikes in my garage and it was what I wanted to do. But I was, um, during, it must have been my junior year of college, I met. A guy at a Cycl cross race who owned an engineering firm.
And so he ended up giving me a job and I was working there. My last, so I was in school and I was working at the engineering firm and doing bikes. Um, but the firm was like sort of product design stuff. We did a lot of, we’d call ’em like electro mechanical devices, like kitchen devices or, I worked on some drones.
Um, some like three D camera mounts for Google was a big thing I did. Um, That was fun. I learned a lot about complex like CAD modeling and working with engineering clients, which was, it was a really cool experience. Um, and then, yeah, a year and a half or so into that. So I did that for half, I don’t know, a year or something, and then graduated.
And then that summer I went and rode the Colorado trail with some friends and I took like, I took like three weeks off for that and before like the phone was ringing more and more for bikes and I came back and my boss sat me down and was like, you have to choose this or choose that. And so I ended up choosing bikes and he ordered a bike from me, was the first thing he did.
So it was, it was a very gentle push off into the world of that. It was nice. I love it. I
[00:10:24]Craig Dalton (host): I love it. I love it. Silly question, but did you, did you design your own bike for the Colorado Trail, and if so, what
[00:10:31]Adam Sklar: Oh yeah, yeah. I did it with, so that was actually really fun. It was like four or five of my good friends from high school who, the nerd, the cross country racing nerds who got me into bikes and we were all on bikes that I built.
So, um, think two of us were on rigid. We all had gears at that point, but two Rigids three I think had 140 mil travel hard tail, like 11 speed. But yeah, we were all. On Lars, which was pretty cool.
[00:11:04]Craig Dalton (host): That’s awesome. So talk about like sort of the early years of the brand and how when you, when you went full-time,
[00:11:11]Adam Sklar: year was
[00:11:12]Craig Dalton (host): what year was that?
[00:11:13]Adam Sklar: I think that was 2016 that I went full-time.
[00:11:16]Craig Dalton (host): Okay.
[00:11:17]Adam Sklar: Yeah, the, so I was sort of just figuring out, I mean, I was building really, I was, I was super psyched to build bikes and I had my shop space that I’m still in. That’s the year I moved into the shop space. And, uh, yeah, I was psyched and orders were starting to come in, so I was building custom bikes, so I’d get, you know, an order for custom mountain bike, custom gravel bike, touring bike, and then that process.
By that point, I had probably built 50 or 80 ish spikes and develop that process a little bit more so, With a customer when they come to you, on average for the custom bikes, it would be 60 or 80 emails per bike. So it’s a pretty involved process where they tell you their needs and you know, I’m asking, it’s not just like, what are your measurements?
It’s like, what, where do you live? What’s the riding like? What goals do you have with like, do you want to do a big bike tour on it? Is it to win cycl cross races? Is it, you know, there’s so many. And then you’re sort of teasing out what the things people tell you mean, because, you know, you can say all sorts of things.
Like, my favorite one is people say like, I want a bike that rides like a big B M X bike. But they’ve never actually ridden a, like B M X bikes are scary to ride. You know, you don’t, you don’t want, that’s not what they mean. But I know what they mean when they say that, but it’s not, unless they’re an actual B M X rider, I would never believe them.
When they say that, what does that, what does that
[00:12:51]Craig Dalton (host): What does that, what does that translate to you? That they want the bike
[00:12:55]Adam Sklar: To me, it’s like playful, nimble, I think is a word that I would use and like lofty, like easy to bunny hop and stuff. But yeah, beer mix bikes are
[00:13:03]Craig Dalton (host): that makes sense.
[00:13:05]Adam Sklar: You don’t want that. Um, so yeah, big really involved process building these custom bikes that were yeah, from the ground up all the way custom.
Um, yeah, and I did that for a long time for. Eight, I guess the next eight years, just building 30,
[00:13:25]Craig Dalton (host): And, and were you starting to go to like the handmade bike show
[00:13:28]Adam Sklar: Yep. I went to the Handmade bike show, I think that was 2016 was the year I won Best Mountain Bike. I was. Which, um, those awards are a little silly, but that definitely put me on the map for a lot of folks.
Um, and yeah, I think after that my, my lead time went up to two years and it really didn’t ever go down from there. Which was an interesting journey in itself. It’s gets some
[00:13:57]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah, to get some perspective, like how long from beginning to end, obviously you’ve got the massive number of emails in advance of actually welding anything, but how long would it take you to manufacture a custom bike?
[00:14:09]Adam Sklar: yeah, so most of the time is definitely in the design process.
I mean, that’s typically once we started it, it would be about. Six weeks to get everything dialed in. And that would include like build kit and paint colors and all that stuff. But once I have the design in hand ready to go in the shop, it’s usually like I can, in two days of work, I can get it done. So like 15, 20 hours.
Um, yeah. And that got faster and faster over the years. But
[00:14:40]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah. Got it. And when did you start to see gravel bikes become more of what customers were asking for? I. And were you kind of prepared for that transition to designing drop
[00:14:52]Adam Sklar: Totally. Yeah, I think that must’ve, so I was big on the, the mountain bike big award thing happened, and that’s my background as well is in mountain bikes. Um, and then it must’ve been right around then, yeah, maybe 2016 ish, 17 in there. Um, I definitely noticed. Something that I liked, well, I had built myself a couple.
I was a hesitant gravel rider, just ’cause I was like, I’m a mountain biker, you know, road biking’s lame, which is dumb. But, um, you know, here in Bozeman, the trails, if you, if you, there’s amazing gravel riding. We’re in this big valley that’s like a hundred miles across one way, 30 miles across the other.
And there’s, it’s just full of sweet gravel roads and. If you have a gravel bike, it adds four months to the riding season. ’cause there’s like two months on either end that the trails are snowed in and that. Um, so I had built myself some gravel bikes and I was getting super into it and I noticed that my friends were mountain bikers.
It was a way for them to have two more months of riding and my friends were road bikers. It was a good way to like, get them to go do actually fun riding. And um, it just seemed like such a fun way to bring. All the bike people together. And then at the same time, what we were just talking about where big companies were kind of figuring it out.
I think it was, it was a time like the, the coolest part about the custom stuff is that interaction, getting to hear what people are looking for. And it was really cool with gravel bikes because you know, I got to talk to hundreds of people who were like, this is the gravel bike I can’t find out there and this is what I’m looking for.
And through, you know, That six week long process with all those people. Um, I think I got some pretty cool ideas about what people are actually looking for in a grapple bike. Um, so I think that
[00:16:52]Craig Dalton (host): Given your mountain bike background, when you first designed your own personal gravel bike, was it on the rowdier side?
[00:16:59]Adam Sklar: yeah. Well actually, you know, I think the first, well actually the very first bike bike I built was. Kind of a, it was like a cyclocross. We were still calling ’em cyclo cross bikes then. Um, but yeah, I did, I think the first, yeah, they definitely leaned mountain bike year. They had that mountain bike ego to them.
Um, yeah, and I did a lot of experimentation. Um, I remember, I don’t know, I probably built myself like 15 of, maybe not that many, 10, but, um, ranging from, yeah, full. Drop our mountain bike to big tire road bike. Um, and that’s been, that’s been part of the journey too, to realize what I like in there and also to help me understand what people mean.
You know, hearing about their background as a cyclist, what, what they’re used to. I think that’s a huge part of design. People might come to you with an idea of what they want, but also. There’s, there’s something, you know, muscle memory of riding a bike. And if you’re used to riding road bikes and you hop on one of those rowdy mountain, like mountain bikey gravel bikes, most of those people aren’t gonna like it.
And I think the other way is true too. If you’re a mountain biker and you get on a really steep road, road bike with big tires, that’s gonna feel unnatural. So the custom bikes are kind of weaving in. Like, what are your goals? Like do you want to, are you a road biker who wants to get on single track?
Like how do we make it familiar enough that it feels like home? You know, it feels like something you like, and how do we make it capable enough that it can make you feel confident to, to do those things? You want to push yourself on that. That’s sort of the balance I’m always, I’ve been trying to do. Yeah.
[00:18:54]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah, it’s such an interesting journey. As the listener may remember, I went through my own custom bike design experience, and it’s easy to go in and say, I want two, two tire clearance and I want this, that, and the other thing. And then as you get the design out the other side, You start to see the compromises, the longer chain stays, the different things that they need to do, particularly when working with a metal to achieve those dimensions.
And for me, it was like I needed to be more realistic and say, okay, I need to knock it back a little bit because I don’t wanna entirely lose,
[00:19:29]Adam Sklar: the notion
[00:19:30]Craig Dalton (host): you know, the notion of a road bike feel. I don’t wanna turn this into a, a mountain bike. And there was an interesting just give and take in my own personal journey to say, okay, you know, 700 by 50 is plenty big as a tire.
Let’s go with that as a max and let’s see how things fall. And we can get a design that is still playful enough, but accommodates everything i, I realistically need at this point in my custom bike.
[00:19:56]Adam Sklar: Yeah. It’s so easy to want it all. But that’s kind of part of the fun of these bikes, I think is like they’re, they’re, you’re not supposed to ride on Montreals, but that’s why they’re so fun. And mountain biking is so
[00:20:11]Craig Dalton (host): exactly. And
[00:20:12]Adam Sklar: and it’s so fun on a mountain bike and like, don’t make your gravel bike, mountain bike.
Go, go mountain biking if you want to do that.
[00:20:21]Craig Dalton (host): yeah. Yeah. I know you’ve spent enough, you spent time in Marin County, so you know how rowdy the trails can be out here, so,
[00:20:27]Adam Sklar: is
[00:20:28]Craig Dalton (host): Mine is probably definitely way closer to a mountain bike than a traditional gravel bike, but I I, I am conscious of,
[00:20:35]Adam Sklar: have a mountain.
[00:20:36]Craig Dalton (host): I have a mountain bike, so I don’t wanna get too close to that chassis.
It needs to feel good when I’m on the roads and still be, you know, zippy enough to do all the gravel bike things.
[00:20:47]Adam Sklar: Yeah, you, I don’t. I don’t think everyone needs like 12 bikes. I mean, personally, like I have three bikes I ride, so I, I like there to be some, yeah. I don’t wanna like be confused about if I should ride my heart tail or my gravel bike. You know? I guess sometimes you still are, but nice to have ’em be a different, different vibe.
[00:21:12]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So as the, as you’ve kind of continued to develop the brand, it sounds like you did a ton of these custom bikes with a lot of analysis about what people were needing.
[00:21:24]Adam Sklar: there,
[00:21:25]Craig Dalton (host): Was there, how, how has the brand evolved at this point? I mean, I know we have a, a model we wanna talk about that’s being done in a smaller batch production, but kind of how did it get from custom bikes to, to where you are today?
Was there a midpoint where you started to do like size runs of models and things like that?
[00:21:43]Adam Sklar: Yeah. And in 20, I think it was 2018. I did my first non-custom model, which is a Hardtail mountain bike that I called the sweet spot.
And so that was similar story like with the mountain bikes for, for probably most of the time we’ve talked about so far. It was split between like 50 50 custom gravel bikes, custom mountain bikes, and this was in mountain bike. Sort of the era of like figuring out this whole new long front end, like. Long front center, steep seat tube thing, which has definitely bled into gravel bikes and similarly to the soup or something, which we’ll get to.
I was just seeing pretty much everyone came to me because of the style of bikes I was designing. You know, they see pictures of the bikes I built and they’re like, that looks like what I want, which is cool. And I was building them a fully custom bike, even though it felt like a lot of the time they were just defaulting to like, I think you should build me what you think is right.
And so it felt like, I’m not gonna say a waste of time, but it felt like a lot of customers could be better served by a more off the shelf product and it would save time and money for them and be a product that I believed in. So that’s why the sweet Spot came about. Um, and that was cool. And I built probably 50 of those over the next few years.
Four sizes, three colors. Sorry. Is that noise bad? Okay. Um, yeah, and that was, that was more successful than I thought it’d be. It was a scary leap. I mean, I, I, I talk about that like when we get together at nabs and stuff with all the handmade builders. Like, everyone’s like, I can’t believe you’re doing that.
Um, not custom. It’s crazy. But, oh, sorry. Go ahead. What?
[00:23:39]Craig Dalton (host): What did that actually look like for you as a builder? Is that just a matter of, okay, now I’m gonna buy 10 sets of tubes at a time, I’m gonna cut ’em, I’m gonna weld them in a batch process. Does it, how did it change kind of how you were approaching it? And I mean, part of it obviously is like a financial commitment, buying all that tubing and putting your energy towards welding something that isn’t sold already.
But yeah, maybe just describe like what you went through to get to that
[00:24:05]Adam Sklar: Yeah. I mean, it was a, it was a whole new process to really develop a product, whereas, I guess this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about, like the custom stuff.
You’re, you’re solving different issues every time. Um, so from a branding perspective, right, the product is different every time, which is not really good for building a brand. Um, so doing the, the sweet spot, which is the same every time, um, I think it gives a stronger message. It’s like, here’s what I believe in for a mountain bike.
Um, as far as the logistics of it, they all have the same rear ends, so I. Which is one of the harder things to do, that chainstay part. So I would weld like five at a time of the bottom bracket to chainstay, to dropouts and just kind of keep those around. And then there’s a couple other things like bending and slotting and putting a dropper port in for a seat tube.
So I’d keep around a C tube. I was, when I did one, I would do four or something. And so I’ve got a box of them around and someone orders one and I can like throw the chain stays and the jig, throw the C tube on, and from there it’s like four or five hours to finish the frame. So it made it Yeah, really quick to do those.
[00:25:23]Craig Dalton (host): Got
[00:25:23]Adam Sklar: nice. And then my painter keeps the paint on hand, so it makes paint go faster. You know, we know all the hardware that we need to have to build it up. Bolts and stuff like that. So I just really streamlined everything and that was cool. People got to get the bikes. Instead of waiting two years, it was three months, which is, I think, more reasonable.
I never intended to have a two year wait. That was, yeah.
[00:25:49]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah.
[00:25:51]Adam Sklar: Yeah. Maybe take a
[00:25:52]Craig Dalton (host): and maybe take a moment, Adam, and just describe there, there is something visually unique about the bikes you put out there in the world. I particularly key in on the, the sort of top tube, and that seems to be like a hallmark of the brand at this point. Is that true or do you build bikes with straight, top
[00:26:10]Adam Sklar: yeah. The curvy top tube I started doing very early on. It was, it was mostly because I wanted to alize the tubes, which they’re all, they’re curvy, but they’re, they’re pretty ized.
Which, you know, I was in engineering school and we were learning about beams and stuff, and so the, you know, the wider cross section is the ultimate and, uh, Laterally, stiff vertically compliant as they say. So that was sort of what I was going for. But then I also was building frames that looked like that, and I thought, yeah, I mean, what we’re talking about with the brand, like I wanted a bike that you could tell without paint was one of my bikes.
Um, and so I think I’ve achieved that, which is nice. Uh, yeah, it’s nice to have
[00:26:53]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah, it’s super clever.
[00:26:54]Adam Sklar: was a way to be consistent, even though I was building different custom bikes every time, it was still a slar. And I like that.
[00:27:04]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah, that makes sense. Well, let’s, let’s jump onto the, the latest model. You’re releasing this super something, the gravel bike. I’d love to hear just about some of your design philosophy.
[00:27:14]Adam Sklar: that bike and the
[00:27:15]Craig Dalton (host): With that bike and help the listener understand, you know, who’s the intended rider and what are some of the things you considered when designing this bike?
[00:27:23]Adam Sklar: Yeah, so the super something has been exciting. We, um, The first batch went out earlier this year, and the second batch is on a boat from Taiwan right now. So that’s exciting. Um, that that project started, yeah, two years ago. It takes about a year to design that bike, but as we’ve been talking about, it’s sort of that culmination of the hundreds of people I’ve talked to about what they want in a gravel bike, and then that paired with also all these friends who.
Especially during pandemic times when everyone was getting into gravel biking, it felt like I had all these friends, like, what bike should I buy? And I should mention that the custom bikes were, in addition to being a really long wait, were very expensive. And I kind of got bummed, just telling my friends over and over, like maybe.
Like the salsa is really nice. Um, so I wanted to make a bike that in like good conscious, I could tell my friends who are newish to cycling or, you know, maybe an experienced mountain biker, experienced roadie. Like this is a super nice bike that you can build up to be a really cool gravel bike. Um, and yeah, I, experimented, you know, with the rowdy, the rowdy mountain bike ish geometry.
And didn’t love that. I love more the experience of riding a bike, like not, you know, engaging, still an engaging ride. So it’s, it, it leans a little bit more on that traditional geometry end. Um, it definitely takes into account some elements of new school geometry. So they’re designed around a little bit shorter stem.
They’re higher offset, um, which allows for a bit of a longer front end, but the trail is still similar to. Like road a little bit more than a road bike. Kind of similar, um, yeah, a little bit more than a road bike. What, what tube
[00:29:23]Craig Dalton (host): And what, what tube set did you end up deciding
[00:29:26]Adam Sklar: So it’s our own tube set that we developed there. It’s all really nice air hardened, like double butted cro Molly.
It’s, it’s the good stuff. I mean, I know a lot of brands like slap a label on there and say it’s some. Have a name. I don’t have a cute name for it, but, um, it is, it’s really nice. Um, and it rides super well, so I should, I should come up with a name for it, if anyone has an idea. Yeah. It must have been a pretty
[00:29:55]Craig Dalton (host): So it must have been a pretty heady decision as a custom frame builder and having so put so much energy into your craft.
[00:30:03]Adam Sklar: in
[00:30:03]Craig Dalton (host): A vendor in Taiwan to manufacture this for you? What was that process like to give you the confidence to put your name on this bike with it being produced offshore?
[00:30:13]Adam Sklar: it was huge. Um, I have a great trade partner in Taiwan and you know, in our first meeting he rattled off the companies he works with and it’s pretty much every reputable metal bike company that you’ve heard of, um, does one, which is maybe an industry secret I’m not supposed to reveal. But, um, it’s.
They, you know, still hesitant, but we got samples, you know, that process, it took a long time. So four months in, I found I got samples and then I, you know, we checked ’em out, tested ’em, and they’re all good to go. Um, they’ve been really nice to work with. Yeah. The factory, those are made in Max Way, which if you’re a big nerd, you’ve probably heard of, they made, you know, surly salsa all city. I bet you, you know, all the rive Dells and, and then they make, they make so many people’s bikes. So very reputable company.
[00:31:11]Craig Dalton (host): Got it.
[00:31:12]Adam Sklar: But yeah, it was a big investment. Huge investment, huge change. Scary for the brand. Um, yeah, big decision for sure. Yeah, for sure.
[00:31:21]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah, for sure. I mean, if you think about it as a listener, you know, to bring in 15, 20 complete bikes in one fell swoop, that’s a big financial investment. But Adam, I mean, it sounds like you’ve developed a confidence in your consumer base for the demand for this bike to kind of take that leap. And even if you have to hang onto some frames for a few months while they sell out, you know that they’re gonna
[00:31:46]Adam Sklar: Yeah. Yeah, it went really good. We did, I did a little pre-sale, so about a year ago we did a pre-sale on the first batch, and those sold out in like 20 minutes, 250 frames. So that was pretty exciting. And then, The next batch works I’m excited to have in stock. That’s cool. And it sounds all good, but from a business perspective, it turns out it’s nice to have stuff for people to buy.
So I’m excited. We’ll actually have some in stock this time and that’ll be nice. Can you.
[00:32:16]Craig Dalton (host): Can you, can you talk through, since you know, obviously in the, in a audio podcast, it’s a little difficult to see. I’ll definitely be putting links to your website on the show notes, but can you describe kind of the dropout and break mount on the rear end of the bike?
[00:32:32]Adam Sklar: Yeah. So the, the, so the, for the super something dropouts, they use the Paragon Machine Works rocker system. So it’s an adjustable dropout. So you can, you can loosen two bolts and you can change the chainstay length, which does a few things. Um, The first is it allows you to run a bigger tire, so slammed all the way forward.
It’ll clear like a 700 by 40 feet I think, but if you put them all the way to the back, you can run a 29 by 2.1 inch tire. Um, which is pretty fun. That’s what I run on mine and I really like it. Um, also you can kind of tune in. I mean, it’s a pretty minor difference, but you can tune in the ride quality a little bit more stable all the way back, a little bit more snappy, all the way forward.
Um, and then, yeah, you can also swap that out. Um, if you wanted to run single speed, you can put in an insert that has no hanger, or now you can do one that’s u d h if you wanted to do that. Or you can switch between a post mount or a flat mount break as well with those inserts. So it’s really versatile. I wanted something that,
[00:33:42]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah.
[00:33:43]Adam Sklar: yeah, after the really unattainable custom bikes for so long, something that was approachable and. you have like a bike you wanna swap the parts off of or do a part spin build, like that’s been fun to see people building ’em up in all sorts of different ways. So it’s really versatile in that way. And then
[00:34:04]Craig Dalton (host): And then it looks like you might be routing some of the cables externally
[00:34:08]Adam Sklar: Yeah, I’m a full external routing always kind of guy. So they they’re they’re fully external.
[00:34:18]Craig Dalton (host): Got it. Yeah. It sounds like, and you sort of expressed this on the website, that depending on what the rider’s desires are, you can really configure this
[00:34:28]Adam Sklar: a lot on, you know, on
[00:34:29]Craig Dalton (host): a lot on the, you know, on the spectrum of, um, 20 niner
[00:34:34]Adam Sklar: pouring bike,
[00:34:35]Craig Dalton (host): touring bike, gravel bike kind of style, mountain bike style, all the way to something a little bit r or on the other end of the spectrum.
[00:34:42]Adam Sklar: Yeah. I mean, it really was, it was designed, I mean, my, my gravel bikes typically look like 4,700 by 40 C with a decent amount of like, saddle to bar drop. I, I wouldn’t say racy, but maybe more traditional road bike fit. And so that’s sort of what I had in mind in that. But it turns out that that geometry is really similar to like, The rigid 29 ERs that I was riding in 2008.
And so they’re really fun set up that way. And we’ve seen people do, you know, flat bars or like a sweat back bar. Um, I also, it was fun. I built up a 60, so I ride a 58, but I sized up to a 60 centimeter frame and that’s the bike I just rode on the tour divide. So it was like much more stable. I had a ton of room for my frame bag.
That was so, I had so much fun on that set up too. So it’s been cool to experiment with it and have, instead of, I’m so used to being able to, you know, change every millimeter, but it’s been fun to be like, oh, I’ll just do a different stem, like a normal person.
[00:35:50]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah.
[00:35:51]Adam Sklar: Yeah.
[00:35:53]Craig Dalton (host): That’s amazing. Now I have to geek out on do, were you on the tour divide
[00:35:57]Adam Sklar: Yeah. I left at the Grand Apart, um, from Banff with, with everyone.
[00:36:03]Craig Dalton (host): Amazing. Like without, I feel like we could go another half hour if
[00:36:07]Adam Sklar: Oh yeah.
[00:36:08]Craig Dalton (host): the questions. I would wanna ask about
[00:36:10]Adam Sklar: It was fun. If I wrote a, I rode a super something on it and it did. It was, yeah, it was so fun. Wouldn’t, wouldn’t have taken a different bike. But tour divide was hard also, I’ll say that. Yeah. It sounds
[00:36:21]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah, it sounds like everybody got caught with some pretty tough weather conditions and it’s a pretty tough year to do
[00:36:28]Adam Sklar: it was. It was a little wet.
[00:36:32]Craig Dalton (host): Did it, um, did it dramatically change, end up changing, like how long it you thought it was gonna take you to complete?
[00:36:38]Adam Sklar: And you know, I, I didn’t do the whole thing. I should be clear about that. But, um, I, yeah, I rode, I rode home from Banff. Um, I thought I was gonna make it to Denver, but yeah. Um, I made it, I made it back to Bozeman. Um, the weather, we missed that. The real money part I think was that great base in section in Wyoming.
And. We were also, there was a section right by Yeah. Where I stopped and it was 40 degrees and raining and my friend had a, his family has a ranch right there with good food and a creek to sit in and I couldn’t help myself but peel off, so, but it was beautiful. I mean, it’s such amazing riding all the way through there.
It’s, the Canada section was so beautiful.
[00:37:29]Craig Dalton (host): And were you were, did you set your super or something up with a drop bar or were you
[00:37:33]Adam Sklar: I did a drop bar. Yeah. Big. The crust towel rack is that 670 millimeter bar and it’s so, I love that bike. It’s, I, I love it so much that I sold my two other drop bar bikes. ’cause I just, I, I’m having so much fun on that bike.
[00:37:53]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah. Amazing. Well, I’m glad. I’m glad you dropped that at the last minute. I’m such a tour
[00:37:58]Adam Sklar: Oh, really
[00:37:59]Craig Dalton (host): I’ve thought about it on a number of occasions to do it and just trying to carve out that right moment in my life to be able to
[00:38:06]Adam Sklar: Totally. It’s a commitment, but I would recommend it if you have ever wanted to do it. It’s, it’s really cool.
[00:38:15]Craig Dalton (host): Yeah. Yeah, no doubt about that. Awesome. Adam, any anything else you’d like the listener to know about the brand while we have you?
[00:38:25]Adam Sklar: What would I want them to know? Uh, bikes are fun. We make fun bikes. Check out the soup or [email protected], production mountain bike coming next year. If you do those two, uh, send me an email if you have any questions.
I’m happy to chat. Okay,
[00:38:45]Craig Dalton (host): Nice. I love it. Adam, thank you so much for the time. It was great to get to know you a little bit and, uh, I can’t wait to see more of these bikes out there. I find ’em just so visually appealing and I like what you’ve described as the vision for how these bikes are created and conceived and what their intended uses are.
So keep up all the good
[00:39:05]Adam Sklar: Craig. Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun.
Until next time here’s to finding some dirt under your wheels.