nahbs 2013 carl strong frames

Carl Strong is one of the few builders that routinely builds with all four materials: Steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber. How he got to that point is laid out on his website with a nice little retrospective. Although he’s not doing much with aluminum anymore, he is still making a wide range of bikes, from road to cyclocross to mountain bike and anything in between. Here’s what he’s been up to lately…

Bikerumor: What materials do you build with? Which is your favorite and why?

Strong: I build with steel, titanium and carbon fiber. If I have to choose, and I really don’t like to, I’d chose steel. I probably like it best because steel is what I started with and it’s what I’ve done the most. All materials are great as long as they are applied correctly, so I don’t favor any for performance reasons just the emotional attachment.

Bikerumor: What have you been working in since NAHBS last year?

Strong: The biggest news is that this year is our 20th anniversary. It’s hard to believe we’ve been at it so long already.

We missed NAHBS last year because we had just sold our location and were moving to a temporary shop while we built a new one. We have just finished up our dream shop and moved in late December 2012. We moved from a commercial space downtown to our new shop behind our home in a beautiful historic neighborhood right in the middle of Bozeman. The purpose of the move was purely a lifestyle choice. Because Loretta and I no longer have employees, we were able to move to a location that was less commercial and a lot more inspiring. Rather than being open to walk-in traffic and facing an asphalt parking lot and busy commercial street, we now work among our gardens in a great neighborhood with mature trees and our dogs. And of course as an added bonus, we have no commute.

Bikerumor: Any killer custom bike builds?

Strong: Unfortunately, due to our move we didn’t take pictures of anything last year. One bike we did shoot right before our move had it all. It was a titanium frame with Di2, and tapered Enve fork and Enve wheels. I always love to build those “no holds barred’ bikes.

nahbs 2013 carl strong frames

Bikerumor: What are you bringing to the show this year that’ll have every other builder standing slack jawed in awe?

Strong: We don’t really do anything special for the show. I prefer to display frames that represent what we build on a daily basis. I know it’s probably a good idea to do something that will create some buzz, get people in the booth and get press, but it’s just not our style.

This year we will be bringing only one bike. It will be our limited edition 20th anniversary bike. We will make 20, two of which we’ll keep for ourselves and the other 18 we’ll make available for sale just prior to NAHBS. The frame will feature the elements that over the years I’ve come to favor. It will be steel and they will all share the same purpose, paint and a cast silver 20th headbadge that’s amazing, but will be custom sized.

Bikerumor: Scenario – A customer commissions you and one other builder to create the ultimate bicycle using the same parameters, same base material and same budget in an Iron Chef style competition. Who would you want to build against that would push you and elevate your game?

Strong: That’s hard to say. I think we’re all so different I’m not sure competing would do much to elevate my game. My goal in life, every time I go into the shop is to raise my game. In a sense I’m always competing against the last frame I built.

nahbs 2013 carl strong frames

nahbs 2013 carl strong frames

nahbs 2013 carl strong frames

nahbs 2013 carl strong frames


  1. Barry R. on

    Carl is making a steel road frame for me. Carl will spend as much time as you like in the discussion and design of the frame. The eight month lead for a frame ensures you have time to talk and gives comfort knowing you will get a bike made by him and him alone…not by a factory of workers. His credibility as small business owner is on the line with each frame he makes, so he doesn’t cut corners and doesn’t compromise. I spent a good three months deciding on a builder and I don’t regret my decision. The only problem…the wait is torture…but will worth it in the end. I have roughly 140 days left until he starts welding.

  2. Funtooley on

    I like Carl a lot, but I think his bikes have gotten progressively less unique over the years. Seems to happen to a lot of builders. As they mature they seem to lose some of the character that made them stand out when they were getting started. The only notable exception I can think of is… well, no one.

  3. Erik on

    I’ve got a 7 year old Strong going in for a conversion to disc brakes. It’s been my most ridden, most fun, most all purpose, happiest bike for 7 years. It isn’t “outlandish” looking, yet every time someone recognizes it as a Strong it generates compliments. He’s one of the best in the business, both by product, and just who he is.


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