I first met Chris McGovern a year ago at NAHBS where he was displaying as a new builder. By the time I chatted with him, it was probably Sunday and I was all biked-out. He was an interesting builder to talk to even then, as a carbon framebuilder who had recently transitioned from metal frames. In a row of many new builders nervous of how they would be received, or if they would be noticed, Chris was nonchalant and cool.
A year later, Chris is killing it with beautiful and smart frame designs. This show was an opportunity to witness the beginning of his transition into custom tooling for his bikes with a new chainstay assembly…
To understand what’s going on here, there should be a little background on Chris himself. As he came from metal framebuilding, he was used to having an infrastructure of tubes and frame parts through companies like Paragon or Nova.
When he changed mediums from metal to carbon fiber, he discovered things would be a little less simple for him. “I go to build these bikes and there are no bits!” There weren’t companies making and selling carbon fiber frame parts for the small builder market, and tubing was far less available. This means that there are certain chainstay or seatstay assemblies that you see used repeatedly throughout the small carbon builder segment from companies like Dedacciai. As a result, carbon frames can look similar. They can also be bound by the same functionality, or lack thereof, from Chris’s perspective.
“I’m a bike rider guy trying to build a bike. I don’t consider myself a framebuilder.” As a result, Chris has his eyes on a final product and rider experience. How he gets there is how it just needs to happen. As a coach for USA Cycling’s Junior Cyclocross program and a racer himself, that performance experience is always on his mind.
When he was unsatisfied with the available chainstays he could find through carbon suppliers (they did not allow for the rear triangle shape, tire clearance, and rear-center he was was trying to accomplish for a fast cyclocross bike), he made his own. “I wanted a sweet carbon chainstay for a cross bike,” with a 425mm rear-center. “There wasn’t anything out there- nothing jived with what I wanted to do.”
But it wouldn’t be cheap. “You have to understand, for me to make a stay, even if it works, is two thousand dollars. But you have to commit because no one is going to do it for you.”
In order to accomplish this, he collaborated with actual composites experts. “I’m not a composite engineer. I don’t pretend to be.” The result is ultra functional and it jives with the rest of the frame as well as the purpose of the bike.
Also for this show, Chris made a custom integrated stem-handlebar because apparently some plucky member of the media gave him shit for not doing so last year (me). As you can see, the system is clean, sleek, and the bike is definitely deserving of it.
The dropouts are, as they were last year, made by Chris in house and designed to interface with Paragon hangers. You can see a bit of Chris’s metal influence in these parts of the bike as the bike resembles steel or titanium. Chris says that he’s gotten feedback that he needs to stop building like it’s a steel bike.
Other bikes in the booth were bikes of friends and family, each having been ridden and raced hard (and immaculately maintained). However, the bike shown in this piece is the only one of the group to foray into custom tubing.
All the bikes shown here were painted by John Slawta of Land Shark. “He’s fascinated by me. I don’t know why.”
Well, I’m fascinated too. I can’t wait to see what Chris brings to the table in years to come.