While Curtis Inglis’ Retrotec style is often copied, it’s very rarely matched. Real curve connoisseurs will tell you that the lines he’s been refining since the early 90’s are the best in the biz. So it wasn’t a surprise that our friend Burnsey from Oddity asked to interview Curtis for this Builder on Builder series- Curtis has been one of Burnsey’s biggest influences. What’s fun about these two together is that they really help to demonstrate a range in form of the curvy bike segment of the small builder community.
While Burnsey takes the klunker frame and reinterprets it (think: free jazz) with every build, Curtis has been chilling out in Napa, perfecting the lines of the classic beach cruiser through dialing in his build style and tube forming processes. Before you really wrap your head around a Retrotec, it’s easy to take its lines for granted because beach cruisers come from such a mass produced, high nostalgia place. They are almost too familiar to make you want to stop and pay attention.
The genius of Retrotec is that when you actually are able to see the lines and how they perfectly pull though the length of the frame, from rear axle to head tube, they will forever ruin you for other curvy bikes… including the very cruisers they are derived from. You will look for those perfect arcs elsewhere and see only kinks and flats, and missed opportunities for more curves.
BURNSEY: First I’d like to ask you what are your design inspirations and influences?
CURTIS: I am inspired by early cruisers that had great flowing lines. I would say cars from the mid fifties to late sixties, but then I pretty much love most designs from that era. Find a blender or other kitchen gadget from that time and it will have amazing lines.
BURNSEY: Why do you build frames in the style that you do, that undeniably Retrotec beach cruiser look?
CURTIS: I prefer a nice flowing arc from the dropouts to the headtube without too much clutter or fuss to mess up the flow.
BURNSEY: You hosted Single Speed Worlds in Napa some time ago. Tell us about that experience as a whole and how is relates to your current choice in riding style.
CURTIS: Having people from all over the world come to Napa and show those people some of the best things Napa and the Bay Area have to offer was an amazing thing. The week of putting that race on was pretty magical. The toll it took on my productivity as a bike builder and stress on my relationship with my wife was not so great. Putting on SSWC08 had no affect on my riding style.
BURNSEY: If you could ride any bicycle, any place on this planet for a week with your favorite humans, what and who?
CURTIS: I have a great group of friends that I get to ride with pretty regularly. We are all in the same ballpark fitness and ability-wise. Not positive where I would want to go, but wherever it was, I am sure we would have some good times riding our brains out.
BURNSEY: Lycra or Carharts?
CURTIS: Lycra with a splash of Dickies for good measure.
BURNSEY: You use several joining methods in the construction of your frames, i.e. TIG welding and Fillet Brazing. How do you choose when to use which technique?
CURTIS: I love the look of both fillet brazed and tig welded frames. I feel both joining methods are equally strong and good-looking in their own way.
(Awaiting horribly opinionated comments on that statement)
My fillet brazed frames take way more time for me to produce, and for that the price is higher.
BURNSEY: If you had to choose one over the other, what path would you take?
CURTIS: 26 year old Curtis would choose fillet brazed. 48 year old Curtis chooses TIG welding with a little fillet mixed in for good measure.
BURNSEY: Would you ever be interested in doing a frame build in collaboration with another framebuilder? If so, who and why?
CURTIS: Sure. Jeremy Sycip and Oscar Camarena. I know you asked for one, but the three of us could come up with something pretty rad and instead of making just one, we could hammer out quite a few.
BURNSEY: What drives you every single day to be who you are?
CURTIS: The fear of not staying afloat in an industry that looks nothing like it did when I started. I want to build bikes for the next 20 years.
BURNSEY: How do you use that drive to influence the future of your business, Inglis/Retrotec?
CURTIS: Not sure. I just try to keep building bikes that people want to own.
BURNSEY: What is one aspect of what we do as framebuilders that you would like to be able to do better?
CURTIS: Type faster. I see my friends that grew up with computers hammer away on the keyboard and it makes me jealous. If I was a better typist I would be done with this interview and be heading back out to the shop to get more building work done.
BURNSEY: In brief, define your brands and the user group(s) you market towards, even if that marketing is done unconsciously through just being you?
CURTIS: I would like to think that my brand is quality bikes with a nice aesthetic, built by a guy that enjoys building and riding bikes. I tell myself that tinkering with cars, motorcycles and scooters helps the brand as well. This might be wishful thinking, but it’s me.
Tune in tomorrow for when Curtis Inglis interviews Alex Clauss of Portus!