Kent Eriksen Cycles: a winner with nothing to hide at NAHBS, except for one thing
The object Katie Eriksen calls “beauty with a bod” – meaning gorgeous without needing embellishment – won a prize last weekend in a unique kind of beauty contest.
Katie works with her husband, business partner, and custom bike creator Kent at the couple’s Kent Eriksen Cycles out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The “beauty” is an Eriksen unfinished titanium frame on a demo road bike. It won this year’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) Best Titanium Construction prize, the latest in a string of NAHBS prizes over the years for the builder.
The Eriksens decided to leave the frame unfinished – in effect naked, to expose their titanium workmanship.
Bead blasting is a common way to finish titanium frames after they are built. That process yields a matte-like silver surface. Katie explained that bead blasting hardens the metal and removes imperfections like scratches and scuffs. It also removes any residual color in the welded joints, basically disguising any instance of what Katie called an unclean or imperfect weld.
Only a builder who can produce perfect welding and mitering would display an unfinished titanium frame.
“Color in welds means not a clean weld. So to have a bike that is that clean – and that’s how all our bikes are – we just wanted to show off the skill of our welder, the skill of our mitering,” Katie said. “The guy who cuts the tubes, form fits it, squishes it – all of these joints have to be so perfect and seamless. If they are not then the weld fills in, you’ll get a dip. You just don’t get this completely clean line and you get colors because you overheat it.”
The Eriksen prize-winning bike’s joints, raw and unfinished, had nothing to hide; they shined only silver.
Ti and Kent strong together
Katie believes the bicycle industry has evolved to a post carbon-centric market where buyers are considering other materials. She also thinks cyclists want more than one bike, and when they reach for their reliable favorite, it will be one shaped from titanium.
“We like to talk about these bikes as your ‘forever bike’,” Katie said. “Frequently this is the go-to bike in somebody’s stable of bikes; it’s comfortable, it’s responsive, it’s stiff, you’re not going to crack it…So we do a lifetime warranty on our road frames; ten years on mountain bikes. That’s how strong that metal is. It doesn’t corrode, it doesn’t rust.”
Among those who trust the brand is cycling legend Steve Tilford, now a masters racer, and multiple national and world champion. The Eriksens hung the jersey he wore at his most recent cyclo-cross Worlds outing in Louisville last month near their winning NAHBS frame.
The couple also rides and races what they sell. Conversation about their endeavors revealed something that Kent had chosen to hide at the NAHBS.
As cyclists their strength resembles the strength of the titanium frames they build. In 2012 they finished the Leadville Trail 100 MTB event on one of their tandems. By finishing in less than nine hours they earned the larger size belt buckle prize. With 12,000 feet of elevation gain on that course, not even solo riders complete it in under nine hours.
Katie described Kent, having spent 35 years building titanium bikes, as more experienced in that realm than anyone anywhere. At the NAHBS Kent appeared to balance professional pride with humility in his personal athletic accomplishments. He hid the Leadville 100 belt buckle he wore under a tee and button-down Eriksen logo shirt.
Perhaps he didn’t want to distract visitors from the other, perfect metal that defined the Kent Eriksen Cycles exhibit space.