Frances Cycles’ show collection focused on utility and did it with style. This yellow touring bike with custom trailer sat out front, but the two bakfiets-style cargo bikes behind it were every bit as interesting. Based in Amory, Mississippi, he builds only with True Temper steel using fittings and parts from Henry James and Paragon Machine Works.

Using handmade racks on the front for smaller loads, the touring bike’s capacity is multiplied by the large capacity trailer, which is designed to haul anything from groceries to surf boards. Check it, plus mountain, road, ‘cross and city bikes from them, Black Cat and Detroit Bikes, below…


The artistic detail in Frances’ lugs and smaller connecting tubes set this apart from any run of the mill commuter.



The trailers are custom made, too, and attach to any standard (metal, preferably) seatpost. The attachment point bolts to the post, but then has a pivoting quick release joint that allows the trailer to move with the terrain and also quickly come on and off as needed.


This small platform is for resting the tail of your surfboard while the nose is stuck inside the bag.


This abbreviated bakfiets bike uses a trailing head tube to bring the cargo basket further back and shorten the wheelbase. If you’ve ever tried to ride one of these, you’ll appreciate why this matters.


The steering on this and the bike below are cable driven, but this one’s routing is more circuitous.


This version keeps the steering system up top and more straightforward, though the cables are still run through housing to protect them from the cargo bags’ straps.


We’re thinking that post clamp in the middle would make a fine place to put a second saddle for your passenger.



Note the little shaping on the edges of the connection pieces between tubes.



Where France’s work are full custom one-offs, Detroit Bikes is building small batches for the masses. All of the bikes are handmade in Detroit, Michigan, from chromoly steel. Durability and simplicity is the idea, and these new $699 city bikes come with 3-speed hubs and coaster brakes.



Even with their utilitarian leanings, they’re not without a few stylish details…like the rack with logo relief, and the notched chain guard shown below.


It’s available in men’s and women’s versions.


They’ll have a new single speed C-type flat bar bike coming soon, and they’re making 2,500 New Belgium bikes to replace that red cruiser you’ve probably seen in beer, wine and liquor stores over the years.



Black Cat Bicycles always does a good job with paint and design, and this year’s no exception. Above is their plus-sized mountain bike set up for bike packing or off road touring. Boost spacing makes way for fat, comfortable Maxxis Chronicle tires.


Frame, bar and saddle bags are all from Bedrock Bags.


Rocker dropouts let you adjust chainstay length, either for improved comfort and stability while loaded, or to tension it as a singlespeed.



Gusset details and paint dress it up.



Another great paint job on another plus-sized mountain bike.




This cyclocross/gravel bike also gets some great paint, it’s just a bit more subtle. Note the ultra clean transition from headtube to fork.



One more…



This road bike brought it all together with nicely placed routing and a custom stem that’s painted to match the frame and fork.


Most builders use the same small parts for cable routing, so it’s the builders’ use of them that differentiates. Here, the brake and shift cables are all kept external, but the minimalist appointments to manage them are well placed and enhance the classic look of a steel frame.


Black chrome anyone?



  1. CowtownCyclist on

    The black cats are pretty, but the detail work on the Detroit bike is hideous. I understand they are supposed to be cheap and cheerful, but if they had spent a little less time on the custom logo on the rack and few minutes cleaning up the drop outs it would be a much nicer bike. As someone who has done a fair bit of welding over the years, I certainly wouldn’t bring something like that to NAHBS. The cable actuated linkage of those bakfiets also looks pretty sketchy. The two or three bakfiets I have ridden have all had rod driven linkages to actuate the steering and that makes a lot more sense given the kind of abuse these bikes can see.

  2. drew on

    Running cables to steer the bakfiets allows normal rider positioning. There is no cramped area with a 90 degree head tube like the traditional bakfiets, forcing the rider in a more upright position. And the cargo area is lower because there is no steering rod down there that needs clearance.
    You save weight too.
    However, the weight limit for cargo is about 80lbs. More than that and the steering gets too stiff. But for loads of groceries or a mid size dog, the small haul is perfect.

  3. Hank on

    Josh from Frances uses tubes from True Temper, which has a facility in Armory, Miss; the source of his tubing is mentioned on the Frances website, so I think the author here probably scanned too quickly when researching. But yeah, he’s from Santa Cruz .


COMMENT HERE: (For best results, log in through Wordpress or your social media account. Anonymous/fake email comments may be unapproved or deleted. ALL first-time commenter's posts are held for moderation. Check our Comment Policy for full details.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.