Every year, coverage of NAHBS provides bicycle enthusiasts with an insight into the world of beautiful hand crafted frames and bicycles. The vast majority of which are some variation on the road/track/cyclocross/ or cargo design. The guys at Bicycle Fabrications, located in San Francisco, create something completely different. In a sphere dominated by lugged frames and custom wooden racks, Hank Matheson creates bikes meant to rail berms, pop lips, and float over the nastiest downhill descents.
The frame designs may not be traditional, and their suspension platforms may raise eyebrows, but they’re built to shred. Spend one day choking in Hanks dusty wake as he tests one of his prototype rigs, and you’ll understand my enthusiasm for his booth at NAHBS.
BikeRumor: What have you been working on since NAHBS last year?
This past year at Bicycle Fabrications we’ve been working on several different suspension bikes to meet different market segment needs. We’re currently working on a top secret bike which will utilize a revolutionary suspension design created by John Heim, our resident engineer. I can’t leak too many details because we’re still in the patent stages…
BikeRumor: Any killer custom builds?
Yes, but unfortunately, they aren’t available to the public.
Over the past year we’ve been focusing on the future and perfecting our next generation of frames. The last 6 months have been dedicated to building and tweaking a new prototype DH bike, built specifically for John Heim, which we call the 7 up. This frame incorporates two mechanical interfaces to allow the axle to move vertically, and horizontally, independently of each other.
Technically, we began walking down this path nearly two years ago. At that time, the mainstay of our lineup was the SWD racing bike. This was (and is) a great bike, but the main disadvantage was its weight. In order to drop weight, I set about redesigning and testing a lighter swing arm, and in the process my riding style changed. As I became more comfortable and aggressive on the bike, leaning way over the front to initiate turns, I decided I wanted to play with different pivot locations.
With the Candy man, I’ve pulled the pivot back 3’, and changed the tube set. This bike is nearly 2 lbs (without shock) lighter than our previous DH bike. My dream, once our new prototype is ready for production, is to drop the frame weight to about 6-7 lbs, without shock, by using stainless steel. This should also increase the rigidity of the frame by three fold.
BikeRumor: Did you see anything last year that’s inspired you?
Last year, I saw a lot of amazing bikes, but the bike that really attracted my attention was a track frame created by Shin Ichi Konno. I was very impressed by his level of craftsmanship.
BikeRumor: Can you give us a teaser of what you’re bringing to NAHBS 2012?
This year at NAHBS I’ll be focusing on a new 4″ travel bike called the Pocket Rocket. I wanted to develop a slopestyle bike which had the traction and cornering abilities of a suspension design, but didn’t compromise the gate start ability of a hardtail. We eventually settled on a unified rear triangle (URT) suspension, although along the way, we considered a myriad of options, including a softail. The URT platform, which has fallen out of favor with major manufactures in recent years, provides amazing power transfer and has efficient peddling characteristics. This is because the bottom bracket is placed inside the swing arm. As a result of the bb placement, there is no chain growth, and you can run this frame as a single speed without the use of a chain tensioner.
We’re really proud of this little bike. It’s an extremely versatile frame, constructed entirely of 4130 chromoly, and weighs roughly 7.5 lbs with shock (that’s nearly ¾ lb less than the Black Market Killswitch).
BikeRumor: If you had to race all the other builders, who would you want to inch out for the win right at the line?
Without a doubt, I’d want to beat Doc from Super Co in a down hill race!