Matt Appleman’s story is a little different than many of those featured in the Road to NAHBS series. Rather than approach the trade in the traditional way of studying under an established frame builder or taking a class, a college-aged Matt bought a bunch of tooling and built his first cyclocross frame in his dorm room and went for it. Entering his sixth year of building full time, Matt has refined his product and process to cater to any rider (though his product is most locally recognized as a weapon of choice among the elite men’s field). See how Matt’s bikes have evolved to be the Appleman of so many riders’ eye after the jump…
BIKERUMOR: Why did you first decide to build your first bike? Who did you build it for?
MATT: I had a knee injury in college. I couldn’t ride without knee pain. Eventually, I found that an ill-fitting bike was the culprit. There were no stock frames that fit me so I hacked my stock bike to provide the custom fit I needed. I was finishing up my degree in Composite Materials Engineering when I made an important decision. Do I buy a custom frame? Or do I put that money towards tooling to build myself a frame? I invested in tooling and built myself a cross bike.
BIKERUMOR: What is your origin story? How did your company get its start?
MATT: I started sticking tubes together with carbon fiber in my dorm room. While this certainly wasn’t frame building, I was able to do an immense amount of experimentation and development. I worked with all sorts of materials and all sorts of techniques and taught myself a lot about composites. After college, I worked as a composites materials engineer building wind turbine blades, airplane parts, and aerospace materials. I built frames and developed the process during my time off. Using my unique background, I developed my process sufficiently to the point that I couldn’t break what I was making! I moved back home to Minnesota and started Appleman Bicycles full time in 2010.
BIKERUMOR: How has your style changed from your first year? Are you still building what you initially set out to build?
MATT: Good question! I am still building in the style that I built when I started Appleman Bicycles, but my frames have become much more refined.
I’ve always wanted to show my engineering and materials approach to design and frame building so the extensive use of carbon in my bikes has been there since the beginning.
Working day in and day out with carbon, I’ve highly refined my techniques since my dorm room days. Surprisingly, many of those initial lessons are still built into the frames I build today.
BIKERUMOR: What gets you really stoked about what you do today?
MATT: Aside from building great bikes, I really enjoy working with my customers. I have the best customers in the business.
BIKERUMOR: What’s the cool thing you’re bringing to the show this year?
MATT: A fast finishing fat bike.
A great gravel grinding bike.
A ridiculously rad road bike.
BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?
MATT: Don’t quit your day job!