Absent from the show since Sacramento in 2012, Black Cat Bicycles will make a grand return to NAHBS with several stunners. A cross monster with curvy stays and a dynamite cubic paint job, and a carbon/steel mash-up build with hand-carved art-deco lugs. Caution: Naked lug pictures after the jump…
BIKERUMOR: What are your main building materials?
Todd: The majority of Black Cats are steel. I’ve added Enve carbon tubes to steel bikes for the past 5 or so years, but the vast majority of them are fillet brazed steel.
BIKERUMOR: What’s new with your company since NAHBS last year?
Todd: This will be the first return to NAHBS since the Sacramento show for Black Cat. I had an injury a couple years ago that took me out of the running while I tried to catch up on the build queue. This year is a last-second decision to go with a couple good friends (Curtis from Retrotec and Jeremy SyCip [HELLA TRIFECTA!!]), keep it casual, and have a good time. I’m really looking forward to what Don’s got up his sleeve for this year. It’s always fun to go and talk to people at the show. Most of us solo framebuilders are toiling away in our shops all year, so it’s great to raise our heads, take a breath, see what our friends have been up to, and connect with other bike riders out there.
BIKERUMOR: Any killer custom bike builds in that time?
Todd: I got the opportunity to build a bike for a good friend and riding partner of mine who gave me a pretty loose idea of what he wanted and I was allowed to fill in the gaps. The bike is what you might call a stage-race-style road bike. Slightly slacker, slightly longer, a bit more stable and ready to handle the miserably paved roads we have here in Santa Cruz County. The bike is made with some Enve carbon tubes for the top tube and the seat mast with handmade lugs throughout. The lug designs are kind of an exaggerated French constructeur bike, but with the proportions and surface areas needed for the ultra modern tubing diameters and gluing carbon tubes. Building a bike this way is incredibly labor intensive, but I think it came out pretty sweet. He paid me the biggest compliment when he kept the bike in the living room instead of the garage with the rest of all his bikes. The best part is that I get to ride with that bike all the time! Maybe I should have misaligned it so I could have the upper hand… Hindsight…
BIKERUMOR: What were some of your newer inspirations for recent bikes?
Todd: For the frame’s construction designs, I like to let the parts kinda dictate the aesthetic of the bike. Repetition is one of the basic tenets in great design. If you can mirror the lines of what gives the bike its potential energy, the wheels, you’re halfway there.
I also get to do a lot of paint work on my bikes, so I get an art project every couple weeks. It makes it fun and challenging to come up with new designs for the bikes and their paint jobs, that’s for sure, so I’ll take inspiration where I can get it! Sometimes it’s album art work or show posters, sometimes it’s fine art or ’50s Swiss graphic design. Who knows where this stuff really comes from? A couple weeks ago I was riding in Watsonville and saw a corrugated metal farm shed that had been painted tan, tagged, painted, tagged, painted, tagged, and painted again. All the layers of tan with the silver and grey metal poking out just struck me. Gotta use that at some point. A guy named Tim just got a ‘cross bike a month or so ago and his paint design hit me like a bolt out of the blue while in the shower. As I said, I’ll take it where I can get it.
BIKERUMOR: What are you building this year that’ll draw a crowd?
Todd: Man, I hope I can be so lucky as to draw a crowd! As I mentioned, this year was kinda a last second decision, so I’m bringing bikes that were already built. These are a good representative of what I build day in and day out as opposed to the show ponies that may be on display elsewhere. Both bikes are pretty subdued. Nothing too flashy. We’ll see if that draws a crowd or not. It’s always hard to tell what will strike a chord. In the past, details I’ve labored on for days seemed not to get noticed, and other things I didn’t give a second thought to went over big. We’ll see, I guess.
To me NAHBS has always been about challenging myself to build something I’m proud of. I took myself out of the running for awards years ago, so the only person I have to please is myself. I’ve never seen much of a point in the competition aspect. Removing myself from it takes all the worry and anxiety from the show, lets me stay in the booth more, and just have a lot more fun. I like to think of the show as a way to connect with people rather than win bowling trophies.
BIKERUMOR: If you had to build a bike for a Kentucky Derby style race (think short, all out effort on deep, loose dirt), what would you build and why?
Todd: Probably a fat-recumbent-trike with a giant cooler of mint julips, an umbrella, boombox, a couple extra seats, and a hat rack. See y’all at the finish line, suckers…
BIKERUMOR: Bourbon or beer?
Todd: Yes, please.