NAHBS-2016_Matt-Conrad_Journey-Cycles_Second-Carbon-Frame

Photos by Matt Conrad

After leaving the corporate world, and armed with years of experience in composites, Matt Conrad saw an opportunity in the frequency of damaged carbon bikes coming into his bike shop. After repairing frames for a time, he decided to take the plunge to establish and pursue Journey Cycles full time. Though it would initially be a vehicle for his carbon repair business, his goal was always to move fully into frame building…  and 2016 is his big NAHBS debut.

BIKERUMOR: At the beginning why did you decide to build your first bike? Who did you build it for?

MATT: I built the bike for myself. For some reason buying something just doesn’t seem to provide me with the same satisfaction as building it myself.
I had purchased a brand new Quintana Roo Seduza TT bike, and I just didn’t ever feel right on it. It was a really nice bike, but there was just something I didn’t like about it; I just felt slow on it. For some reason, I began to search on the Internet to see if others had built their own carbon frames, and was surprised to find, for the most part, only rudimentary builds that I felt looked poor and would probably not be overly safe to ride.

First frame

First frame

I was the owner/operator of Phoenix Race Works, LLC here in Phoenix so I had many years of composite experience building race cars and parts for those cars. I still had all the vacuum-bagging equipment and several yards of carbon fiber fabric and thought all I needed was some carbon tubing, a set of stays, a rudimentary jig, and I could build my own. To make it more challenging, and my desire to have something a bit different than everyone else, I decided to build a “funny bike”. For those that don’t know what a “funny bike” is, it’s a TT frame that has a smaller front wheel than the rear. Many older TT bikes had 24” front wheels, but I chose to go with a 650c front and the standard 700c rear.

The bike wasn’t the lightest or the most beautiful, but it was a really fun bike to ride. And I’ve ridden it in some local duathlons, as the differing size front wheels make it illegal for most sanctioned events. It now hangs on my shop wall and always reminds me of how far I’ve come since then.

BIKERUMOR: What is your origin story? How did your company get its start?

MATT: I worked for 3 years at a local bike shop while attending Eastern Montana College in Billings, MT and always loved my job. But after spending 20+ years in the corporate world, and being in a better financial position, I chose to go back to working in a bike shop. I spent several years working my way up and ended up managing a shop here in Phoenix, AZ. What I started to notice was the amount of customers that had damage to their carbon fiber frames, and I could find no local source for their repair. I was forced to refer them to out of state providers.

Seeing the frequency of these requests starting to rise, I thought that it would be worth my time to repair some frames on my own. I felt with my composites background, and having built several frames myself, I knew I could do this. I purchased a few broken frames from other local shops, and a few off online sites and began to repair frames. Just to be safe…all of the initial frames I repaired were my size so I could ride them and make sure they were solid.

NAHBS-2016_Matt-Conrad_Journey-Cycles_3K-Tubes

I began doing customer repairs on the side, but it didn’t take long before word got out, and I began getting referrals from friends and those former customers. After a few years I was busy enough that I felt it was time to quit my full-time bike shop job and “officially” open up a dedicated business. I secured a website www.carbonframefix.com and began my new cycling “journey” in August of 2014. The company is legally called Journey Bicycles, LLC and the primary focus was carbon repairs, but I always planned to begin building custom carbon frames at some point. And that point has now come.

BIKERUMOR: What got you excited about building bikes when you first started out?

MATT: As I am still a “New Frame builder” and just getting starting on building custom frames for “real” customers I’m just excited to get more bikes out on the road. I’ve ridden these frames, and I feel they are as good or better than many out there on the market… custom or production. Every time I ride one of my frames, I really get excited for others to experience them too!

BIKERUMOR: What gets you really stoked about what you do today?

MATT: Truthfully, helping people achieve their cycling “journey”. Whether they’ve had a mishap and broke their carbon frame… or they’re in a place in life where they want me to build them a custom carbon frame that they can say was built and designed just for them… I can help them and that feels really great. I take a great deal of pride in my work and truly enjoy when a customer is satisfied with their purchase so I get pretty stoked when I can help someone else enjoy cycling as much as I do.

NAHBS-2016_Matt-Conrad_Journey-Cycles_Journey-Desert-1

BIKERUMOR: What’s the cool thing you’re bringing to the show this year?

MATT: Because I am a “New Frame Builder” I can only show one complete bike or one frame at the show. My thoughts were to bring one of my custom carbon road frames and let people judge me on my core offering. After quite a bit of thought I felt that might be a bit boring, so I decided to do something a bit different….a custom urban carbon frame for the show. I guess you could refer to the bike as a “Retro-Mod” design as it has some retro touches, but is modern as well. It has elevated chainstays…like the old Richard Cunningham-designed Nishiki mountain bikes (my first MTB was a Nishiki Ariel with elevated stays) from the early 90’s, Aerospoke 5 spoke carbon wheels (yes they still make them), but it’s a handbuilt carbon frame with a Gates belt drive. It’s totally custom so I had to source a few tubes I normally don’t use, I had to cut most of my unidirectional carbon lay-ups by hand, and even had to modify my jig slightly for it to fit. I’ve named the bike “Urban Elevated”. I think it’s pretty fun… and cool too.

NAHBS-2016_Matt-Conrad_Journey-Cycles_Customer-Frame

BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?

MATT: Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to make mistakes… because you are going to make them.

JourneyBicycles.com

9 comments

  1. Veganpotter on

    Well, I guess nothing is wrong with being utilitarian but there’s nothing special here that belongs at the bike show. Hopefully he brings something more original than these things

    Reply
    • N on

      New frame builders should probably stick to tried and true designs and methodologies at first, so they can master the fundamentals, before they start branching out into trying new things. Especially working in newer materials like carbon. I wouldn’t trust a frame builder to build something special if they haven’t proven themselves with high quality builds of standard frame types. A regular road bike or mountain bike frame design, hand built with precision and high quality, is a piece of art unto itself, even if it is otherwise nothing special. You have to do the same thing over and over again many times to master a skill, only then will your one-off custom work stand out as a masterpiece and not an attempt at reaching beyond your skill level.

      Reply
      • Veganpotter on

        Agreed but to get into this bike show, you should bring something unique. It’s not hard to throw down a little foam, sand it down and change some tube shapes while adding strength

        Reply
          • Veganpotter on

            I did, but seeing is believing. There’s a small chance it’ll look original in terms of the frame. He’s just picking the parts that go on it…some of the jankiest carbon wheels on the market with elevated stays. Nothing that hasn’t been done and he’s using very basic tubing

            Reply
      • Matt Conrad on

        One more thing for all of you “Critics” that seem to know everything….

        “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

        Teddy Roosevelt

        Reply
    • pmurf on

      So I guess everyone doing lugged steel should stay home also? Because they wont be better than Sachs or Bishop? What a terrible attitude to have about NAHBS. The show is for anyone willing to show their craft, even if it’s generic. It’s not the North American Totally-Unique Handmade Bicycle Show.

      Reply
    • Bill on

      I don’t understand this viewpoint. Actually, I barely understand NAHBS. I love small builders, and I love super cool bikes, but what’s wrong with a guy who makes a few bikes at a time that aren’t particularly special or amazing, but are built on sound principles? If this was the standard vs. buying something from one of 4 big name manufacturers, our hobby would be awesome! If you travel to races a lot, you see the kind of thing I’m talking about in wheels all the time. Different areas have a different local wheel builder that lots of people in the area love. I would kill to have a frame builder locally that just made good quality stuff for reasonable prices, especially in carbon.

      Reply
  2. Matt Conrad on

    What is generic about a custom carbon urban commuter bike with elevated chainstays and a Gates Carbon Belt Drive? I guess I could have brought a standard carbon road frame….but as a new frame builder I wanted to showcase my skills building something a bit different. I felt NAHBS is a place for innovation and creativity and I saw much of that at the show.

    Reply

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