Zach Small makes steel-framed bikes out of Nashville, TN, where he’s inspired by the vibrant music and art of his friends and fellow creators. We got the chance to chat via email in advance of the Philly Bike Expo, where Zach will be introducing a rowdy new adventure-focused frame.
Please enjoy this interview with Zach Small of Amigo Frameworks.
Bikerumor.com: What’s your name, your bike brand, and where are you based?
Zach Small: I am Zach Small of Amigo Frameworks in Nashville, Tennessee. I have been building bicycle frames as a hobby since 2012 and professionally since 2020.
Bikerumor.com: What’s your preferred frame material and building technique?
Zach: My preferred material is currently steel and I prefer to TIG weld or fillet braze my frames.
Bikerumor.com: What sets your bikes apart from other custom builders?
Zach: I think I try to have a goal that if you stripped the paint off my frames you would be able to still recognize it as an Amigo. I use a variety of manufacturing techniques to achieve that including CNC machining, laser, and water jet cutting to create frame parts and embellishments that I think are uniquely my own. Also, despite trying to create a bicycle that can stand on its own merits without paint, I have an appreciation and understanding of how paint and decals really finalize a product and I always try to achieve a high-quality finish that even when simple is bold and reflects the Amigo persona.
Bikerumor.com: How did you get into this? Who inspired you to get started making bikes?
Zach: My first job as a little San Diego hood kid was at a bike shop called Mission Hills Bikes. They sold Dario Pegoretti frames and that kind of opened my eyes to the concept of the single-person custom frame builder. Really though it wasn’t until years later when I was 21 that I met Joe Bell and started working for him. Rob Roberson (Masi and Ibis) was JB’s frame repair guy and after some begging, he reluctantly helped me build my first frame in Brian Baylis’ shop.
Bikerumor.com: Who inspires you now?
Zach: I’m really inspired by other artist friends and music. A good buddy of mine, Ben Houtkampt, is a second-generation stained glass artist and has really made the classic art form into his own style. His bold use of colors and simplistic shapes really inspires my use of color and play, I find myself always looking at his stuff for color combinations. I am also a huge music fan, specifically weirdo punk bands, I think some of my best ideas come when I am spazzing out to local Nashville rippers like Snooper or Omaha’s BIB. As far as frame builders that have inspired me to take my own approach to the craft I’d have to say, Rob Roberson and Rick Hunter, each build bikes that are so uniquely “them” that it’s impossible to imitate.
Bikerumor.com: How was Covid era for you? Good, bad, about the same? How did it change your business and business model, if at all?
Zach: I’d say overall COVID has been good for me. I lost my jobs at the start of the pandemic but that was really the push that lead me to put out my shingle and go after making stuff full-time. I have been extremely fortunate and while I do pick up other side work I have been able to have the time to develop my own products and chase my craft. It has also made me realize what I am capable of and how I want to tweak my business model away from one-off custom builds towards a more production-oriented product. The parts availability has been tough, but I can’t complain, I don’t have crazy overhead like many struggling small bike shops right now and for that I am grateful.
Bikerumor.com: What’s the most interesting bike you’ve built over the past year?
Zach: I think the two most interesting things I have built have been components. I had an idea that’s been kicking around in my head for a long time about creating a back pedal-actuated hydraulic disc brake similar to a coaster brake. It was a really fun engineering experiment, I built it as cheaply as possible to prove it all out and it works really well. I have plans to refine it but not really to bring it to market, I don’t know how well it will sell nor is it something I really want to chase but the ball is in the field for anyone that wants to improve on it or get it to the masses.
The other component was an homage to Hunter’s Super Crown fork. I’ve always really dug that fork and wanted to try my hand at making something similar with my own spin. It was extremely challenging and hats off to Rick for making it look easy, that was a one-time thing for a good buddy who bought that frame from me though so I won’t be attempting it again.
Bikerumor.com: What are you bringing to Philly Bike Expo this year? Any teasers or sneak peeks?
Zach: I am bringing two custom frames I built this year and introducing a stock model I have been developing over the last several months called the Amigo “Bug Out.” The Bug Out is going to be the only frame I will be offering for the time being as I move away from one-off custom build[s]. I will be taking a limited amount of pre-orders at the Philly Bike Expo and then offering them to the public after that.
As its namesake [implies], it’s an adventure dirt cycle that you can just load up and bug out of town on. They’re going to initially be available in three sizes (S/M/L), include an Enve Adventure fork, and have a single color (Light Sandy Tan) powder coat with decals designed by Casey Robertson. Other features include, optimization for 700 x 50c tires, 31.6mm dropper ready, custom CNC yoke, Flat mount 160 ready (postmount available as well), and sliding dropouts to change the rear center of the bike from 415-435mm depending on tire and fender options. Framesets will be $2400 with build kits available as soon as the supply chain woes settle.
It’s been a ton of work to design the bike and dial in all the details so I am very excited to bring it to the public and start producing them.
Bikerumor.com: 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?
Zach: That’s hard. Having been in the industry for just over 15 years at this point I’ve met tons of great folks that I’d love to catch up on a bike with, but I think if I chose one person it would be Seth Gretlein of Gretlein Cycles. He’s known me since I was about 14 and first walked into Mission Hills Bikes. I think he knew I needed some guidance and took me under his wing and we’ve been close friends since. He’s also the first person to introduce me to the idea of bike touring and inspired a lot of my youthful long hauls. He builds beautiful bicycles and is [an] absolutely awesome person all around, check him out.