Not long after The Sea Otter Classic made a reappearance, we’re getting closer to the return of the Philly Bike Expo! After being postponed in 2020, the show is scheduled to return on November 6th & 7th, at the PA Convention Center in Philadephia. To celebrate, we’re leading up to the show with our ‘Road to PBE’ interview series, kicking off with Casey Sussman who happens to be a part of the Junkyard Cats collaboration with PBE Founder, Stephen Bilenky.
2015 and 2019 NAHBS People’s Choice Award winner Casey Sussman brings expert-level knowledge of modern bicycle geometry and Bicycle Acadamy bonifides to both his brand Mars Cycles and his collaborations with Stephen Bilenky (Junkyard Cats). We chatted with Casey prior to Philly Bike Expo to get a peek into his background, process, and inspirations.
Bikerumor: What’s your name, your bike brand, and where are you based?
Casey Sussman: [I] split my time between Norwich, Vermont, and Philadelphia. I build Mars Cycles all alone in Vermont and work with Bilenky in Philly on Bilenky branded bikes and Junkyard Cats. I started building frames in 2013.
Bikerumor: What’s your preferred frame material and building technique?
Casey: Lightweight steel, raw, un-filed fillet brazed construction.
Bikerumor: What sets your bikes apart from other custom builders?
Casey: I build bikes from my heart first. I live this. It’s a real honest passion. This leads to something fresh and original, and my color schemes accentuate the builds themselves. This creates something that is modern but timeless.
My knowledge of modern bicycle geometry is vast and I really feel that I can nail the ride and fit the customer’s wants and needs. Having Steve Bilenky by my side with his genius-level artistry and infinite machining knowledge really kicks it up a notch, to say the least.
Bikerumor: How did you get into this? Who inspired you to get started making bikes?
Casey: I was a bike mechanic for way too long. I needed to do something more creative with bikes. I saw the fillet brazing technique of the Bicycle Academy on Instagram in 2013 and instantly knew what was next. Also, I wanted a custom bike and couldn’t afford one so I figured why not make my own. I still ride #1 today.
Bikerumor: Who inspires you now?
Casey: Stephen Bilenky, Brent Steelman, Cyfac, my amazing customers, and my son, Mars.
Bikerumor: How was the COVID era for you? Good, bad, about the same? How did it change your business and business model, if at all?
Casey: My queue is the longest it’s ever been but it’s mostly orders for frames or framesets rather than complete bikes. Parts are really hard to get right now in general but I have found some creative ways to outfit bikes with parts, as it’s really nice to take the journey from metal tubes in a box all the way to rideable bicycles.
Bikerumor: What’s the most interesting bike you’ve built over the past year?
Casey: Wait till you see this Junkyard Cats tandem we made [for] the winner of our raffle, which raised over $16,000 to donate to Philly for Real Justice. Some very fancy parts were supplied by sponsors of the project. It is a fully modern gravel tandem equipped with wireless shifting for both riders and hydraulic disc brakes. It is fully fillet brazed and features a custom, tapered steer tube, and our pierced design. It’s amazing that we could help an organization doing great work and make an absolute dream machine for not one but two people to ride. Either position is swappable due to their similar heights.
Bikerumor: What are you bringing to Philly Bike Expo this year? Any teasers or sneak peeks?
Casey: Stephen Bilenky and I will be unveiling our new brand, Junkyard Cats. We will use this name for any collaboration bikes that we build together as well as a five-size, five-color run of handmade, fillet-brazed tracklocross bikes. They will be more affordable than our customs, and include a whiskey carbon fork.
Bikerumor: If you had to do a multi-day bikepacking adventure with anyone else in the cycling industry, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Casey: Stephen Bilenky. We’ve become good friends but don’t spend much time together outside of the shop because we don’t spend much time outside of the shop. Wouldn’t it be nice to just get away with my boy for a week? Talk about the trees and the weather and what’s for lunch and where will we stop to chill. And cats. Not miter angles and ordering parts and emails and lists. So many lists.