Photos by Bobbie Turner
When the president of the Oskar Blues Brewery had his bike stolen, his solution was to start a bike brand. Why not, right? After a few prototypes were made, Chris Sulfrian was tapped to build bikes for the brand, essentially making it happen for the brewery. Coming into its fifth year with hundreds of bikes on the road, Reeb (beer spelled backwards, if you’re new to the game) has established itself with off the wall models and some of the most compelling implementations of gear boxes on fat bikes (or elsewhere) on the market…
BIKERUMOR: Why did you first decide to build your first bike? Who did you build it for?
CHRIS: I started my bike building journey at Black Sheep Bikes in 2003. I was in college at the time, and had absolutely no direction in my life. I ended up meeting the rad guys at Black Sheep and ended up having some great experiences there and learning a ton. After building a bunch of bikes there for other people, I built the first bike all on my own, for myself. It was natural after having a couple of Black Sheep frames that I took what I learned and changed things with the new frame to be the current embodiment of my “perfect bike.”
BIKERUMOR: What is your origin story? How did your company get its start?
CHRIS: Reeb started in 2011 after Dale (the owner of Oskar Blues Brewery, and a die hard mountain biker) had his bike stolen. Like many things in his life, the question of “Why are we relying on somebody else to do what we can do?” came up, and a bike brand was born. The DIY mentality is strong with the Oskar Blues family, and if we can see a goal, we’ll stop at nothing to make it a reality. The mentality is shown in the namesake of the Oskar Blues Beer “Ten Fidy.” FIDY is an acronym: “Fuck the Industry; Do it Yourself.” Reeb fully subscribes to this attitude as well. I came in after the first 10 prototypes were built, and I’ve built over 700 Reeb frames in just over 4 years!
BIKERUMOR: Why did you decide to make a living out of it?
CHRIS: I was approached by Spot Brand in 2011 about building some frames for them. I was currently working on an ambulance and had a very flexible schedule, so it was easy for me to build bikes on the side. The workload rapidly increased, leading me to quit my full-time job just 4 months later. I had often wondered how I would make frame building into a viable full-time job, but until the opportunity was made very clear, I had no idea how to make it happen.
BIKERUMOR: What gets you really stoked about what you do today?
CHRIS: I absolutely love coming up with solutions to challenges. That includes designing new, seemingly improbable frame designs, coming up with manufacturing techniques and systems to make things more efficient, and just in general seeing a progression in my skills. The progression of skills in all areas is what I really find the most rewarding. I try to keep everything under constant quality improvement; that drives me to keep thinking and it keeps everything fresh and engaging!
BIKERUMOR: What’s the cool thing you’re bringing to the show this year?
CHRIS: We’re bringing a very unique fat bike, our TyREEBdonkadonk. This one is extra special because it is equipped with a Pinion P1.12 internal gearbox, which is fixed to the frame where the bottom bracket would traditionally be. The frame is built to accommodate the newest 5″+ tires. A couple of other special features on this bike are the Lauf Carbonara fork, the Gates Carbon Drive belt drivetrain, the stealth dropper routing, and the Industry Nine/HED carbon wheelset. You’ll be able to check this bike out at our booth, #207. We also have another Pinion- equipped bike that we’ll be showing, which I’ve included a couple of pictures of as well.
BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?
CHRIS: Frame building can be a very hard thing to break into. The best thing I can recommend is to insert yourself into the world of the people you admire. Hang out with people who know the people you want to meet and learn from. Put yourself out there and make yourself uncomfortable. You’ll eventually meet who you want to meet, and that makes anything possible. It’s not about who you know, but who knows you and your skills. Skills… that’s another aspect; one that can be very frustrating and time-consuming. Buy the tools you know you’ll need. Make things. Bikes. Things that don’t appear to have anything to do with bikes. Fuck up. Lots. Learn from it, don’t dwell on it, and make something else. Do everything that you can to be prepared for when that opportunity comes knocking. If you’re prepared, then nothing can stop you.