What can one say about Alex Cook?
Last time the North American Handmade Bike Show saw Minneapolis builder Alex Cook, he was building under his own brand, A-Train Cycles. A year or so ago, Alex began building under Northern Frameworks, a collaboration that allows Alex to up his game by tightening up his product, thematically, and providing better service to consumers.
BIKERUMOR: What are you bringing to NAHBS this year that you’re excited about?
ALEX: All of them — we’ve got all sorts of good stuff to show. Without tipping my hand too much, one has skinny tires and a couple don’t. If I had to pick one I was most excited about it would be the 29+ (well, +ish) hardtail trail bike.
BIKERUMOR: What are your current challenges in adopting and implementing new standards?
ALEX: It’s not so much a standard and is more of a trend but “plus” bikes with super short chainstays. The hardtail trail bike we’re bringing to NAHBS fits a 29×2.8″ tire with 430mm long chainstays. With chainstays that short the fattest part of the tire and the chainring are very close together and it is a real challenge threading a chainstay through that tight gap. There isn’t a stock chainstay that exists to get those clearances at that length. That’s why the back end of this bike is made from straight aircraft grade 4130 steel tubing that was bent and formed in house to get just the shape we needed.
BIKERUMOR: What new or upcoming standards are you excited about?
ALEX: Excited about? None. Usually the first time framebuilders hear about a new standard is when they read about it on Bikerumor. The big component companies invent something “better” and then BAM! a new “standard” is born. Grouchiness aside, as far as new (recent) standards I very much like T47 bottom bracket standard as well as 148mm boost rear spacing.
BIKERUMOR: What type of bike have your customers requested most in the past 12 months?
ALEX: We’ve been doing a lot of gravel bikes. Actually I don’t really like that name for the category. We’ve been building a lot of disk brake equipped drop bar bikes for long days in the saddle. Most of which are fitted with tires anywhere from 30-45mm wide. Maybe “all-road” is the better name for the category.
BIKERUMOR: What is the next bike you’re building for yourself?
ALEX: Although a little geeky the next bike I would like to build myself would be a flat bar commuting bike with the Shimano STEPS e8000 electric assist witchcraft.
BIKERUMOR: …and if someone else were building your next bike for you, which builder (of all time) would you choose and why? What would it be?
ALEX: A couple years ago I bought a frame from Chris Kvale. I bought it because when it comes to lugged frames with lugs that are filed to perfection he is among the very best. Chris is also a relative old-timer that is a little grouchy, resistant to change, and set in his ways. I respect him for that.
BIKERUMOR: What is your “blank check” bike?
ALEX: I would want a bike primarily for commuting but would also want it capable of doing time trials on Saturday and Crit racing on Sundays. Oh yea, one more thing. I would also want to be able to take it off road and do jumps and stuff. I’m not sure who is capable of building such a versatile machine but if you’re out there TAKE MY MONEY!
BIKERUMOR: If you could exist in another period of framebuilding, what would it be and why?
ALEX: I wouldn’t. There is a ton of competition from many talented builders. All that competition makes for everybody building at their very best.
BIKERUMOR: If you had to stop building in your current material, what new material would you choose and why?
ALEX: Titanium. Why? I really like the idea of building a frame in it’s entirety from start to finish. We are currently close but we do send frames out to be painted. Keeping the entire process in house would be awesome and it’s something we are working towards.
BIKERUMOR: If your shop was burning down, what one or two tools would you grab to save? Why would you save them?
ALEX: This is a tough question. The fact that I’ve had time to think about the answer is probably making it harder than if our shop were actually burning and I only had a few seconds to think on it. If I narrowed it to items that I could actually pick up I would rescue my Interapid dial indicator. It is a super accurate and well made little measuring device I use to setup tooling on the mills and to do final frame alignment checks. When you hold it you realize just how well made it is. It’s just such a nice little thing. The second item I would grab would be my Dynafile. The Dynafile is a pneumatic abrasive belt tool that is a huge asset to whomever’s hands it is in. It has different arms and takes different width sanding belts and it gets used to accomplish several tasks on every frame quickly and accurately.
The North American Handmade Bike Show will take place from February 16th to 18th in Hartford, CT. For more information, visit the NAHBS website.