Homegrown Builder's Camp: The Framebuilders do Bozeman

Photos by John Watson


Bikes - What do they mean to you?

Feelings of freedom come to mind, a place to reflect, a way to blow off steam from the daily grind, maybe just a way to pick up groceries or get around town. Take a step back though, and the thing that really stands out to me is community. Like many pastimes, bicycles can be the basis for all sorts or relationships between people and places, and for me I don't think anything has fostered those relationships like the bike.

When I began building frames I was introduced to a whole new network of talented and driven people who I honestly didn't expect. While riding was one of the main things that kept us motivated and excited, our shared enthusiasm for doing our own thing and building our own tribes really sealed the deal. Many of our interactions though, have been limited to conversations under the fluorescent lights of various convention centers across the US. Every year at NAHBS we have the same conversation with these friends - "we should be riding bikes, why are we doing this?". Those shows help our businesses no doubt, and talking tech can be fun sometimes, but do we really need to explain how we welded some part of a frame again? Do we really need to go over some silly new standards and minute differences in frame geometry in a hotel bar after we just talked about it all day? Maybe we can't help ourselves, but I sure don't want to.

Sklar camp bozeman

Anyhow, I decided to do something about it this year. I sent out an open invitation to some bike industry pals to come check out Bozeman and ride, and much to my surprise many agreed. Thomas from Horse Cycles, whose work I have admired since I first began building, made the big trek out from Brooklyn, NY. A handful of Californians made their way out as well - Cam Falconer the master of Utility, my pal Nicholas who's art you can find on a number of my products as well as the legendary Curtis Inglis of Retrotec bikes. The Squid Squad also joined us, it was so nice to have some folks who come at bikes from a different angle. I love what they are doing and those two can ride. Finally, we had Tony from Breadwinner, I was psyched to ride with him again after last years Grinduro, and Bryan from ENVE, who I order all of my parts from and it was so nice to put a face to a name. Bozeman local Carl Strong joined in as did Erik from Alliance Cycles down in Idaho. Last but not leas, John from The Radavist was there to document it all. Of course I couldn't have pulled this off without some help from my dear friends and neighbors at Alter Cycles.

Folks started rolling in on Friday, and we got to check out Happiest Hour at the shop, a nice warm welcome into the big bike community in our little town. We chatted and caught up and prepared ourselves forfour days of riding the best trails that Bozeman has to offer. We swam in creeks, ate baked goods from the Wild Crumb Bakery across the street and some genuine good times. For me the highlight was the final night of the camp. We got to take everyone out to the weekly Tuesday night shop ride. Bozeman locals came out in record numbers with nearly 50 people at the trailhead. We rode one of my favorite trails - Emerald Lake. The vibes were all-time and the scenery can't be beat. You could feel the energy in the air as we grilled and chilled at the trailhead enjoying the views and friends new and old.

When in Bozeman- Alter Cycles Supper Club Shred-63.jpg

I like being a newcomer to the bike industry, though that badge is fading quickly with Sklar's 5th anniversary close on the horizon. Ignoring the norms that I never learned has allowed me to get to where I am so much quicker and having the tools and skills available in this day in age, that my peers did not have access to when they started, has been invaluable. With those tools, small companies like myself and the folks I invited to this camp are able to make a real difference in the bike world and hopefully the world at large. It really is the small people like us who steer the ship that is the bike industry. Whether it be adapting new technologies in the products we build, the way we talk about what we do, or trying to make the cycling world a more inclusive place. Those are things that start here with us.

So will we all see eachother in a convention center somewhere this year? The answer is yes, almost definitely. Will we comisserate together on how we should be riding? 100%. But at least we can look back on riding and remember what is really important.



Lori's Titanium All Road

When Lori first got in touch about a new bike, she told me that she was looking for her "forever bike". A transition from serious Cyclocross racing into more riding for fun with the occasional gravel event was on the horizon and she wanted a bike that not only would let her move into those longer more variable rides, but also something she could keep forever. A trusty bike, for any occasion. Titanium was the obvious choice for this build for those reasons. Harder to dent, no worries about rust, more comfort for spending all day on the bike and not to mention the fact that a well-built metal frame will surely outlast all of us. 

To compliment Lori's new frame, we went all-out on some really nice parts. Wheels, cockpit and controls from ENVE, Bearings from Chris King - It's hard to miss that matte punch - and shifting provided by SRAM Force, my go-to for the 1x all-road or gravel bike set ups. This frame and fork use flat mount brakes, and for as much as I dragged my heels going in... it's here to stay and certainly provides a clean look to the bike.

Lori's Bike is headed to the Northeast and I can't wait for her to get out and spend some time on it. These are the type of bikes that become the one you always reach for, and I hope that is the case for her.

Learn more about Sklar Titanium All-Road bikes here

Bike Packing from Bozeman: A quick trip around the block

bikepacking Bozeman custom frame

The Past handful of summers I have travelled across the country to ride some well established bikepacking routes. The trips have always been well worth it, but it is always painful to leave Montana during our exceptionally short Summer season. Also, if the reason to live up here is great access to NFS and endless mountains, why not explore more in the back yard? Those were my thoughts this summer, but sometimes things get busy and it takes some friends from out or town to get you motivated for that trip.

Big Janet, the one and only, @ultraromance was the main instigator in this case. He was going to be up in Montana and connected me with Warren as well as Hubert from Madrian Cycles and his friend Bill, who's first bike tour this would be. No way to make friends like 4 days out in the woods.

Bikepacking Bozeman gravel grinder

The route took us from the shop in Bozeman, across a great dirt route - Trail Creek Rd. - into Paradise Valley where we camped on the Yellowstone River the first night. From there we refuled in Livingston before we headed East into the West Boulder River Valley and camped on the border of the Absorka Wilderness. The first two days proved to be smoky and hot, but not much less can be expected in the West this time of year. We pedaled up some winding, climbing roads, as the views of the Absorka mountain range egged us on ahead.

Day 3 started nice, with a flowy singletrack leading us back to Boulder Rd. We ripped some big descents before rolling once again into Livingston for a stop at the famous Mark's in n' Out. Here Warren and Sam had to roll the Highway back to work for Monday, but Hubert, Bill, Ronnie and myself got to push onward. Instead of the highway we routed around the Bangtail mountain range, up Willow Creek road. This climb is normally hot and exposed, but a cool breeze made it pass quick and the smoky grasslands only became prettier and more eerie as the sun set on our climb. We camped at the base of the ridge where we dined on ravioli and Poppi's house red. 

bikepacking montana sklar bikes

The next morning we awoke to grey skies. The rain threatened to come from time to time, but for the most part we were just hanging surrounded by a cloud. As we worked up the 3,000 ft of climbing the winds picked up and we decided stop for lunch and warmth in a nice sheltered spot. Once we were ready to keep moving, we hopped onto the Bangtail Divide, one of Bozeman's classic trails. Normally this singletrack is surrounded by breathtaking views of the Bridger and Crazy mountains, but riding it 10-50ft visibility mist gave it a whole new spin. We dropped through the bermed out woods onto Olson Creek road for a easy spin down Bridger Canyon back into town. 

Kipp's Titanium 29er for 2.6" Tires

First it was 2.2's then 2.4's then 3.0's then 2.8's but now the future is here and it is 2.6" wide!

I've been having this conversation with customers a lot. The plus tire craze took the hardtail world by storm and those massive 3" treads are really fun. We found out that low PSI is amazing and traction is good. But also we found out that heavy tires do make a difference and that much rubber leads to vulnerable sidewalls. Those reasons are why I for one am really psyched to see more 2.6" tires out in the world. This size offers just enough of that high volume to run a very pleasant tire pressure but still maintain a reasonable weight and durability of a tire. Expect to see 2.6" tires on all of my mountain bikes for the foreseeable future and if you are ordering a MTB from me, expect me to talk you into a set as well.

Anyhow, this post is more about Kipp's new ride. A sweet Titanium hardtail designed around 29x2.6" tires, a 140mm travel fork and 12 speed drivetrain. Kipp is tall and so this frame is pretty large. He plans on riding everything from rough singletrack to smoother jeep roads and the occasional gravel path. We went with a more "all day XC" fit for comfort and handling, and hung some parts on the frame that should last Kipp a really, really long time.

Anyhow, if I were to have just one bike, it would look a lot like this, albeit a little smaller. Can't wait for Kipp to get it out on the dirt!

Learn more about Sklar Custom Titanium Mountain Bikes here