The route Kris Henry took to get into framebuilding was circuitous, but has given him undeniable superpowers. He went to school for metal smithing. He’s got 2D chops from his time as a graphic designer for Bicycling Magazine, after which he went back to school for an industrial design degree at Rhode Island School for Design. While designing shoes, he pursued framebuilding after hours. Five years into building bikes in 2012, he decided to leave his day job and start his own brand – 44 Bikes.
It feels like Kris has really hit his stride, now. The lines of his frames flow… in three dimensions. Every curve (all formed in-house at his shop in New Hampshire) is there for a reason; everything else has been stripped away. “Nothing is excess,” according to Kris. After spending some time with his bikes, we have to agree…
Even the routing around his seat clusters is highly deliberate; it works with, rather than against, the stays. The internal routing ports are angled perfectly to facilitate these routing paths. The details in the joints between tubes and frame elements all underscore Kris’ metalsmith background – beads where there should be, creases where they are able to be to accentuate lines.
What’s striking about his complete builds is that they are expertly put together, as though there were a team of designers behind them. The potential in negative spaces between the frame and components are clearly taken into account in the frame design. It is this attention to detail in the frame and even the complete build, on the elemental and overall scale, that really sets the bikes apart.
Several models were shown at the Philly Bike Expo, including his fat bike – the Snakedriver. Though he has models Kris stresses that, “my job is to listen to and translate what [the rider] needs.” The fat bikes are made to measure, depending on each’s purpose. He has a tuned strategy for “snow-clusive” setups and another for four season models. And each frame is designed for a specific tire and drivetrain.
This one shown has interesting flattened chainstays, as well as a seat tube that gracefully wraps around the tire for a shorter overall wheel base.
Next up is Kid Dangerous, a machine designed with East Coast technical trails in mind.
Sharing 44 Bikes characteristic devastating curves, this Kid Dangerous was shown built for a 1×11 drivetrain, 29 x 2.4″ tires, and a 120mm fork. This is Kris’ personal machine, developed for his terrain and fit and handling preferences, but any rider purchasing one of his bikes would receive a similarly ride-tuned set-up.
Next up is the Marauder, Kris’s interpretation of the traditional East Coast off-road vehicle. It features a lower bottom bracket and shorter stays (16″ length) than it’s knobby brother, the Kid Dangerous, and is designed for the aggressive, rocky and rooty technical terrain that his part of the world offers up. It’s years of experimentation and refinement that allows him to offer and tune these two machines per very different rider. “Anything with knobs that touches dirt, that’s what people come to me for.”
This particular model, another of Kris’ personal bikes, was set up single speed with Paragon dropouts to be a “super rat machine.” And again, clearance for 29 x 2.4″ tires – as any mountain bike coming out of his shop can minimally accommodate.
Last but not least is the 44 Bikes Huntsman. With clearance for 40mm tires, this bike is designed to do everything. It races. It commutes. It bikepacks. And it does all these things with the same attention to the individual rider’s needs of the rest of the line.
Despite Kris’ emphasis on the off road, the Huntsman is his most versatile, popular model.