Handemade Steel Mountain Bikes

The European single speed championships were recently held in sunny Belgium, on a fine weekend deep in the heart of Wallonie.  Single Speed Belgique, a group of francophone single speeders, put on a pretty fantastic event that attracted the usual single speeding riff raff from all over the continent, and even a few from the US.  Yes, it was a beautifully orchestrated chaos.  The race promoted, Bruno, had his shiny new Blue Bronto there to show off.  It glistened in the sun.

Bronto was a sponsor and showed up just in time for the after-party.  Yes, for reasons we won’t get into here, we missed the actual “race” part of the weekend (who puts races on Saturday?? seriously).  But that’s ok because the ever-important drinking that followed was really important.

There was a crazy Belgian band, the Blind Horses, no shortage of Belgian beer, and good times had by all.  I was instructed to look for a certain Mike Yarnall who rode in only white briefs.  Alas, he had passed out before dinner.  Weak americans.  Compatriots Gary and Josh stood tall in his absence though.

mike yarnall - champion drinker

Fast forward to next day.  Taking down camp and also a 30km fun ride with a Belgian lunch in the middle.  Many of you think Belgium is flat.  You are mostly right.  But down in the south they have some hills.  Mean, nasty hills that laugh at you.  Luckily for me, I hadn’t just finished a race the day before, so I felt better than the guy who had passed out at 8:30 the night before.

So we rode up and down hills.  The Bronto rode tough, as always.  It was a gorgeous day, views of little Belgian villages and fields of yellow flowers.  At about the 2/3 point, we entered an old castle-type coutyard and sat down for some more beer and cheesy bread.  Mmmm…cheesy bread…..

And then pedaled the last 10km back to camp, packed up and hup! hit the road to find the nearest frituur.  Yes, good riding and good times with good friends.  Congrats to Bruno and the SSBE crew for putting on a fantstic event.  Next year they say it’s in the south of France.  I guess that means we’ll be bringing beer with us.

Belgium is not the best country in the world for mountain biking (although it is better than the Netherlands!), but it is a pretty special place when it comes to road biking.  Road racing is the #1 sport here and there is a very high level of participation amongst the general Belgian population.  And every April, that all comes to a sort of climax when the most important one-day bike races take place in or around its borders.  And since April usually means huge volumes of mud on the trail, we take that opportuntiy to do some pretty cool road riding.

First up these days of the major races is the Gent-Wevelgem.  This was our first time to ride the course (myself and Bronto racer Peter T).  The GW is pretty famous for having some terrible climbs like the Kemmelberg, but in fact, it’s 80-90% flat as flat.  You basically ride for a long time on really flat roads, then do 5-6 climbs (that are reasonably terrible), and then a bunch more flat riding until the finish.  But, this corner of West Flanders is seldom visited and has character.  And the Saint Sixtus abbey is only 20 minutes away, so I decided to go pick up a case of beer.  Satisfaction.

Peter T rocks the Kemmelberg

The focal point of the Flemish sports calendar is the Tour of Flanders.  The bergs.  The cobbles.  The history.  The beer.  Yeah, it’s a good time.  There is an organized ride the day before – this year it was above 70/23 degrees and that meant hordes of people – more than 20,000.  This made it quite difficult to ride up the more narrow, steep climbs such as the Paterberg and Koppenberg, but still a good day out.  A good day out followed by fries and beer.

more climbing on cobbles

Paris-Roubaix is not so much fun to ride so I took that weekend to go do the main Liege-Bastogne-Liege climbs – the Cote du Wanne, the Stockeu, the Rosier, La Redoute.  LBL is the oldest major professional road race and it’s basically endless, undulating climbs.  All of these classics have so much character but LBL feels the most like a real bicycle race.  Each of the climb takes on a different personality (damn you Stockeu!) as you roll along.

Top of the Cote du Wanne - terrible climb!

And while we skipped Fleche-Wallone this year, Peter, Stijn, Sarah and myself rolled out to Valkenberg in the Netherlands to ride 150 glorious kilometers of the Amstel Gold.  Perhaps the most fun ride of the season.  Keutenberg, you dirty little bitch!  I had a borrowed bike courtesy of www.velosdeluxe.be and the owner Michael had put 27mm tires on.  Not cool!  But we rolled anyway.


Road bikes and beer and Belgium, they all go together so well.  Now it’s back to mountain biking – European single speed championships here in BE, 24hr of Finale in Italy perhaps….but we’ll be doing some more Belgie road rides come next April.

Over here in Euro-land, the summer hours come a few weeks later.  If there’s any silver lining in that, it’s that we get a few more weeks of winter hours for night rides.  It was the first season to do semi-regular night rides from our Bronto dealer in Benelux, Chaos Bikes.  And while it was always a small group, we ended up doing 10 rides or so and slowly got the word out.  2 fresh new riders showed up out of the blue for the ride, one of them on a single speed of all things!  Single speeds in Belgium…as rare as bar-ends in Oakridge.

So we saddled up with some new blood, fantastic weather, and dry trails.  What could go wrong?  Right?  Well, it had been a bad week for Michael.  His “29er” frame came in with 26″ chain stays.  And the chain on his loaner bike fell off a couple times.  It was just one of those evenings…trails had been bulldozed.

And to top it all off, we got hopelessly lost.  For about 40 minutes.  Like stopping to check smartphone on 3 occasions lost.

Yeah, the winter loop was almost perfect but that last 1/3 always got us riding in circles… But never mind all that, a good time was had by all and for sure the Bronto winter night rides will return next fall  Next up – summer!

The show

Well, it’s finally over and we’ve just about recovered – the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.  Not to mention, Bronto’s first time to display our wares.  And, it was a good one!  Great response, good media exposure, and a little bit of texan sunshine.

The build-up to the show was moderately insane.  Building the frames, painting them, ordering parts, scrambling for parts that did not show, assembling, and then getting everything down there.  Luckily for me Todd did most of this….he also made some pretty bad ass wood-burnt signs with welded metal frames for all the bike models – hot!!  Austin is far for us, and it was a monumental effort to get everything down there on time.  And while we weren’t able to take our own bikes down to ride, we were able to wear short sleeved shirts for a bit.

So, Todd and our racer Douggie T got down there, checked in, and got all the boxes.  Meanwhile, the last minute banner printing and bike stand building was going on in Holland, as well as a coordination of multiple shipments to Eli’s house (thanks Eli!) in Austin.  Hay bales were $9 at Callahan’s general store and fit perfectly into the back of the rental car.  Last minute snafus?  How about the wrong axle end caps for our sexy Cole Massif Enduro wheels on the Paycheck!  But that was fixed with a couple QRs.  Then the bike stands were just a wee bit too wide to hold the bikes upright - doh!  But we fixed that too.

NAHBS is a pretty interesting scene.  We were worried that it would be too urban-ish, and in fact there were a bunch of urban bikes, but it was definitely not a fixie crowd.  And in fact, people seemed interested in the bikes.  Still quite a few mountain bikers out there!!  We saw plenty of cool stuff, our neighbor Jeremy at Gallus Cycles in fort worth had a couple sexy bikes, the Eriksen mtbs are always hot.  Demon was a couple from the UK who loves hay and had a copper-plated dirt jumper.  Felt good to still get excited about sexy bikes.

That and a couple good evenings at the Jackalope bar, complete with bacon-wrapped deep-fried hot dogs and death-metal playing bartender.  All in all an excellent trip and (we think so far) money well spent.

Let me start by saying, I still have yet to finish all my show preparations! The countdown is killing me! Lots to think about and lots to do. Logistics are key. I need to thank my buddy Eli for letting us ship stuff to his house in Austin. Dude you kick ass. Also Ivan at FSA for just being Ivan. Bad Ass Dude. The Hive for their ChUb.

The Hive

Great products. You will see a lot of their stuff in our booth because they are Rad fellas. Gotta deal with dudes who are lookin out for ya. Joe at Seattle Bike Supply, for instance, is always trying to get the small builder prices that help our bottom line. Important when you need to eat and pay for the electric.

Now for product, Bronto will be bring a race 29er with chainstays that are in line with their 26er cousins. Just a scooch under 17″. Really tight. Now you can climb like you want to on your geared 29er. NO Compromising. Douggie T. will be racing this bad boy as part of our Bronto Pleasure Squad. Real dudes ride Bronto and the ladies know it.

17" 29er Stays. Geared. Period.

We are also shaking up the tree with an all mountain hardtail in the mix. The Paycheck.


Graffix brought to you by Kung Fu himself. Dude grinds coffee by hand… well nearly by hand…. well OK, after he grinds it by machine but still hardcore. Really Hooking Bronto up too. You rock Troy.

We Believe in Rigid (Despite the fact that I am a new convert). Bronto is bringing two rigid MTBs down. With our new UDO forks in force. Style is key if you are rollin rigid. Bring it.


Lots to do as I said but I just wanted to touch base.

The Torch

David Greenberg reports in after a recent trip to southern Utah.  And sent us some more awesome photos that remind us it that wherever he is riding is less muddy than either Oregon or Belgium.   Damn you rain!

So at the end of last week, to my great surprise, I found out I had Monday off due to MLK day. Sweet.

Courtney had to work all weekend/Monday and cut me loose to “do what I want.” Double sweet.

As it turns out, St.George, in Southern Utah, was predicting 60+ degree sunny days and newly dried trails. Triple sweet.

So I bombed down there early Sunday morning for a two day winter training camp with the Rev.

Did back-to-back 3 hour rides covering Barrel trail, Bearclaw Poppy, Church Rocks, Dino Cliffs, Prospector and several connecting dirt roads.

The riding conditions were excellent, trails were dry and the sun was throwing down the Vit.D.

Some of the rocky technical stuff had me and the Rev on the ropes, but once I turned him loose on the flowie-flow, he got to preachin’. It was fine, real fine.

Great trails. Will definitely head back later in the spring. Wasn’t able to ride around Hurricane, those trails hadn’t dried out yet.

Attached are a few shots from the weekend.

Hope everyone is surviving the winter.


Logging into the Bronto Blog page, I see it’s been a shockingly long time since we tapped at the keyboard here.  The snow and holidays are long gone, it’s the 2nd half of January, and I’ve just put in only my second ride of the year.  But, sometimes slow starts lead to great things.

For the umpteenth time, I’ve decided to “do some racing” this year…now that’s not exactly a clearly established goal, and lord knows I’ve said those exact words before, only to find myself in November wondering where the year went.  But this year, I think it’s going to be different.  Case in point – I’ve stopped (at least temporarily) bitching about the mud and have learned to wash my bike.  Painful, but necessary.  And, I’m registered for both the Euro and the World single speed championships…ok those aren’t exactly races, but some level of fitness is required.

So, Bronto rider/racer Peter and I decided to go put in some “base miles” last weekend.  There was a MTB ride-event in nearby Tessenderlo, and the last time I did this one about 4 years ago, it had some pretty fun trails.  Potentially a good day to sit in the saddle for 3-4 hours as the rain had stopped for days and spin the legs.  PT was on his brand new, just built Reverend, full of shiny new 2011 XTR and foam grips - this was to be his innagural ride.  And a good ride it was – lots of pretty ok trails for the first 2 hours.  A little boring after that but the year’s first real training sufficiently completed.  2011 watch out…

First tracks

Nothing like a little snow and some cabin fever to get me out on the bike.  With the trails frozen solid there would be no mud to spray off the bike.  The downside?  30 minutes to get dressed.  Whatever, it was beautiful out and traction was fantastic.

 It was also the first time for me to take our new Udo fork on the trail.  The result?  Fan-frickin-tastic.  Super nimble, handing like a dream. 

Riding on snowy trails is fun.  Slow and arduous at times, but fun.  There were plenty of tracks out there, clearly there are more than just me with cabin fever.  Could be much worse, could have to race in this like these poor bastards:

Kalmthout world cup

And now for some old-timey photos:

There I was minding my own business listening to a great album

when in walked a fast talking fast walking Belgian looking for bike frames.

Belgians are attracted by Gold so try to keep your Performance underware on the DL

I wasn’t sure what to do but hand them to him and send him on his way… I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to get photos of him in the shop. Damn. HOWEVER, I did collect some evidence of his visit:

For those of you not in the Know Belgians, much like their Garden Gnome cousins, leave waffle shaped droppings slathered in yummy fruit sauce! A little messy but totally worth it! However, and a strong ALAS…., not the beer one might assume would come from the Belgian species….(proof of his import status?????)

Little leggy to be Belgian....

Imagine if St. Bernardus from Abt 12 was featured as above….

Sexy Abbott

I guess when your beer is as good as Belgian beer there is no need for the whole “Sex” thing.

Word UP,
The Torch

Started the day with a goal of getting two tube sets ready to weld and I got pretty darn close. Good to have time to focus with no distractions… No distractions save the massive wall of vinyl that is…. Vinyl can be a serious time suck to the undisciplined mind looking for a reason to explore. No explanation necessary for the fact I am working late tonight. That being said I did get within sight of my stated goal for the day.

Ahhhh to the choice play-list! I find it really easy to work to Jazz as long as it is fast and somewhat avant garde but not too much. My first album was:

Charles Mingus. Love Mingus. Great artist. Next:

Track 1 on this album is out of the park cool.

Roberta Flack. Wow. But a little too powerful so I had to roll in some laughs with the next artist:

George Carlin = funniest man (no longer) alive.

Too bad we lost his voice.

Dylan’s too… but Holy Crap Young!

Jimmy Page is always current.

Should have seen the sketches for our unreleased Ghetto bike called the D.L.R..

Word To Your Mother.

Too bad we lost Joe as well.

Poison IVY keeps me up at night.

See what I mean…

So does Brody…. OK, Change of pace,

Great Drinking Music

Irish Music at its best. Produced by Elvis Costello. Buy it. Now for the Willy namesake,

The album, “Pancho and Lefty” is a close second behind this album, “Willie Nelson Live”. Abrupt left here to Good Dub Mix:

And finally a Really, Really Fantastic Dub Mix.

Don Letts is off the hook cool.

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