If you have been paying any attention to the hand-built bicycle scene over the last year, you likely have caught wind of Adam Sklar. His bikes are eye-catching and popping up all over the internet and trail systems around the country. Last year, Adam took home the award for best mountain bike at the 2017 NAHBS and with something special cooking for this year’s show, his name will certainly be in the running again. We had the opportunity to catch up with Adam while he prepares for this year’s show in Hartford, which will take place in just a couple of weeks (February 16-18).
For those that may not know, where are you from and how long have you been building frames?
I have been building frames since 2011, so seven years now. I wasn’t selling them to folks for a while though–the business just turned 4 years old. I am located in the mountain town of Bozeman, Montana, where I have also been since 2011. I grew up riding bikes in Colorado.
As someone who is quite a bit younger than your average frame builder, do you feel like you have to do more to prove yourself at an event like NAHBS?
I really don’t feel like I have anything more to prove than any other builder at NAHBS. As you might expect, I get the age question a lot, and I like to say that I think my work speaks for itself. Of course, anything you bring to the show gets a pretty large audience, so it’s good to bring work that represents what I build every day and that is what I try to do at the show.
Last year was big year for you at NAHBS, you won Best Mountain Bike; do you have something special in store for this year?
Yes, receiving the award for best mountain bike was really cool and totally unexpected. The bike that won wasn’t built to win an award, it was just a regular customer build. I will have some cool mountain bikes at the show this year–a rigid 29+ singlespeed, which I still build a lot of. I will also have a really fun trail bike built around a 150 mm fork and 29 x 2.6 inch tires that I am excited about.
I did cave this year and do a couple of “art bikes.” One over-the-top custom build for Benedict (aka Ultraromance) that is a super progressive geometry gravel bike for quick overnights and day rides. This bike has so many crazy features it’s hard to remember them all, but I am sure that it will turn heads. I will also have a more “traditional geometry” version of this bike in my booth that I built for my friend Billy. Billy’s bike more represents a lot of the gravel/all-road/monstercross bikes I am building these days.
Living in Bozeman, you are at one of the epicenters for outdoor sports. How does living there influence the way you build bikes?
Bozeman has a huge influence on what I do. We really are out in the middle of nowhere here in Montana; the closest city is a six-hour drive. We are surrounded by mountains and the access to outdoors here is insanely good. I think that is a big part of why there are so many outdoors companies and other entrepreneurs here. Though a lot more companies are moving here now, you’ve really had to provide for yourself to make life work here. There is a great community of entrepreneurs and artisans doing cool stuff to enable a great lifestyle in this town. It’s an amazing place and I have met so many talented, creative people here who have helped me get to where I am.
Are there other builders in the area you can bounce ideas off of?
There are. Bozeman might have the most frame builders per-capita outside of Portland. Dave Kirk lives up the hill and Carl Strong is an industry legend who I used to live just down the street from. Carl and Lauretta Strong have been so kind and helpful to me, there is no way I could be doing this without their help.
There seems to be an aesthetic theme to all your bikes with curved main triangles; do you manipulate the tubes in house ?
Yes, I do all the bending and forming in-house.
What are you building the most of these days?
These days it is a pretty even split between the plus tire hardtail with a 140-150 mm fork and gravel/all-road/monstercross bikes. It’s nice to see those two leading the pack–those bikes really represent the riding that I do the most. Most of what I build is steel, though I introduced titanium into the mix last fall and I am starting to see a trend towards ti.
How’s the riding in Bozeman? What you do in the winter out there?
The riding in Bozeman is amazing! We are in the middle of a valley surrounded by four different mountain ranges, each full of amazing real backcountry riding. Sometimes the options are overwhelming. The winters are long but the summers here are unlike anywhere else and they make it all worthwhile. I ride fat bikes some in the winter and stay in shape by skating and alpine skiing. I used to be a big backcountry skier but don’t do that as much these days. Winter is my busy season building frames, so it is a good time to get lots of work done.
If you were only able to own one bike, what would you build yourself?
That’s a tough one, and I’m sure my answer changes once a week. Right now I think it would be a rigid 29 x 2.6” bike with trail geometry leaning towards the XC side of things. That would be a great bike for riding trails, bikepacking, gravel roads… a real all arounder. I like riding to trails so it would be something efficient on the way there and for climbing, but fun and playful on the trail.
Any other builders whose work you are looking forward to seeing at NAHBS?
I don’t get to mingle with many of the east coast builders often, so there are lots of folks whose work I am looking forward to seeing in person for the first time. Brian Chapman and JP Wiegle are two whos super detailed work I am looking forward to seeing.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Adam if you are attending the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Hartford, Connecticut, February 16-18, and come say hello to us at the Dirt Rag booth as well!
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