A serial entrepreneur and visionary, Marc Christensen, would step up and decree “Let’s build a world-class distillery in Salt Lake City … and if we never make a dime, at least we’ll know one thing…we will forever drink only from the finest hand-crafted spirits from Utah.” (L–R) Karina Soriano, Marc Christensen, Mike McSorley, Chazz Gustin and Channalyn Tek. Photo: Tyson Call

The history of Dented Brick Distillery reads more like a Western novel rather than the founding of one of Utah’s fastest-growing purveyors of fine spirits. A series of events set in motion over a century ago during the Mormon-pioneer era culminates on a “piece of land that was destined for whiskey,” says Dented Brick’s VP of Outreach & Engagement, Karina Soriano. Starting with the drilling of an artesian well that accesses some of the purest water—an essential ingredient in quality liquor—to the construction of the small brick house whose porch would be the scene of a gunfight with the police, the property on 3100 S. Washington has a sorted past. It’s well-known that booze is a major contributor to the economic development of Utah since the mid 1800s. Pioneers loved their libations and it’s an interesting coincidence that this very same land provided the water for the state’s first distiller on record, Hugh Moon. Even ole Brigham Young would wander onto the premises to procure a bit of hooch for “medicinal purposes.”

Flash forward to the year of our Lord 2011, to a group of drinking and skiing buddies throwing back a few drinks and telling stories. A serial entrepreneur and visionary, Marc Christensen, would step up and decree “Let’s build a world-class distillery in Salt Lake City … and if we never make a dime, at least we’ll know one thing…we will forever drink only from the finest hand-crafted spirits from Utah.” Through trials, tribulations and the divine acquisition of the land on 3100 South, the roots of Dented Brick began to proliferate. Christensen and his partners demolished the old house and saved the dented bricks to include in their 21st-century façade that now houses the latest distilling technology.

Under their new roof, the top-shelf talent at Dented Brick collaborates to produce a wide variety of products and cultivates a “grain-to-glass” ethos that’s core to their brand. “Spirits bring the community together,” says Channalyn Tek, VP of Business Development and Investor Relations. From the raw materials of regional grains, artesian water and yeast starters to the hand-crafted barrels for aging on through the bottling process, these folks have their hand in every stage. That level of quality control is responsible for the amazing flavor and tasting notes that characterize the various liquors that come out of this facility.

You can try any of the Dented Brick products in their tasting room. Photo: Tyson Call
You can try any of the Dented Brick products in their tasting room. Photo: Tyson Call

Catching up with Head Distiller Mike McSorley between batches, he takes us through the intricate process of distillation, and it’s evident that this truly is an antique art form. If the machinery were an accompaniment of symphonic instruments, McSorley is the maestro who teases out various melodic harmonies, ending in a crescendo that pleases the taste buds and relaxes the mind.

The mashing process is the starting point, and its contents are then pumped over to the continuous column stills where the useable alcohol components are captured. The resulting low wine is sent to the batch still. Dented Brick’s is a work of metallurgical art from Vendome Copper & Brass Works, or as McSorley says “the Rolls Royce of American still manufactures.” This is the portion of the process where the real work begins. “We collect the best ‘heads’ and take the ‘tails’ and put them in for redistillation to then collect later,” says McSorley.

Mike McSorley is the Head Distiller with the creative mind behind the different flavors. Photo: Tyson Call
Mike McSorley is the Head Distiller with the creative mind behind the different flavors. Photo: Tyson Call

Understanding the vast nuances of the machinery is just the beginning. A head distiller needs to understand not only the mechanical and electrical components of the equipment, but they must have a firm grasp on the physics that goes on throughout the process. It’s evident that McSorley has a robust background in the inner workings of these aspects, owing his tutelage to working in distillation strongholds from Washington to Hawaii.

“We also allocate some of our product to aging, roughly half. The quality of the spirits we produce dramatically impacts what comes out of the barrels later. The alchemy component of what occurs in the barrel is interesting. The organic elements are not fully understood, but there is increasing insight into how to speed it up,” says McSorley. Accelerated aging would allow distillers to effectively recreate the same product that would take years of barrel or cask-aging to produce. Shortening the process has incredible monetary incentive, and McSorley admonishes that there may be a day when the tastes would be virtually indistinguishable—maybe. To him, the challenges of creating products like the Hugh Moon Whiskey are what keeps the profession engaging.

“Distilling 100 percent-pure rye from entirely unmalted cereal grains is quite a technical challenge, and I view that as my greatest triumph as a distiller here in Salt Lake City,” says McSorley. Taking the product through the aging process is already underway at the facility. Dedicated drinkers can actually adopt-a-barrel through a program where they invest in a signature barrel that will produce up to 200 bottles of whiskey in the next two years. An attractive return on investment exists financially and spiritually, not a bad use of funds in this tumultuous economic climate.

While the whiskey may prove to be his spruce goose, McSorley is truly a lover of gin. That comes from his background as a globe-trotting craft-cocktail maker, and he loves combining myriad flavors to create a concoction that really wows. He is particularly proud of their well gin, a passion product that strikes a chord with bartenders around the nation. In a creative context, that is the spirit that he’s gotten the most mileage out of. After trying the Dented Brick Gin, it jumps out as my new favorite, especially at its price of $11.99 for a fifth.

If you are intrigued in Dented Brick’s people, process, and product, you owe it to yourself to make your way down to their tasting room. Set among the inner workings of the distillery, you can learn more while imbibing some of SLC’s finest. Don’t forget to check out their latest Antelope Island Red Rum, aged in cabernet barrels from Hell’s Canyon, Idaho. Cheers!

Photo: Jim Mimna

A procession of pink-bottomed clouds marches across the valley and rises up and over the foothills of the Wasatch.  A gentle breeze blows the smell of sage through the air as the lights of the city begin to flicker and we gaze across the venue towards the stage. The Red Butte Garden Concert Series is winding down from an exciting summer of top-tier acts that fill the expansive lawn with eager listeners.  From our seats in the concert club section near the middle of the natural amphitheater, gentle acoustic guitar melodies float past our ears as Robert Ellis opens up the evening.  A jovial Texan with a quick wit, Ellis plays bluegrass-y tunes about his days growing up in a small southern town. His short set creates a relaxed atmosphere that is the perfect precursor of what’s to come.  As the stars begin to twinkle and the half-moon pops out from behind the clouds, a man and woman take their positions at center stage.  Fog machines kick out a mystical vapor that is backlit by fiery-red lights as Rodrigo y Gabriela open their set with classical Flamenco guitar rhythms.  Within a few minutes, the pace of their picking quickens and they break off into rock-inspired chords reminiscent of earlier albums like 11:11.

This dynamic duo, made up of Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero, is a force of nature that combines traditional Spanish guitar with pulse-pounding instrumentals inspired by an affection towards heavy metal. Their roots intertwine from growing up in Mexico City, playing for metal groups like Tierra Acida (Acid Land), to traveling across the Atlantic to Ireland in an effort to uncover new genres under the tutelage of master guitar players.

The sound emanating from the stage draws the crowd closer and they kick out a few new tunes they’ve been working on perfecting.  “We are happy to be here again … being musicians on the road, we are always trying to come up with new ideas and music, but sometimes it’s tricky. We are testing the waters with this material, because we need to put out a new album,” says Gabriela in a thick accent as she addresses the crowd after the opening acts.  It has been four years since their last release, 9 Dead Alive.

In addition to their blend of original music, Rodrigo y Gabriela are known for some blistering covers of perennial favorites like Metallica’s One and Led Zeppelin‘s Stairway to Heaven. For tonight’s performance, they deliver a transcendental version of Pink Floyd’s Echoes. Creative nuances incorporating nuevo-flamenco with Pink Floyd’s prolific chords produce a unique sound that stuns the senses. Taking it deep into the stratosphere, Rod picks-out some psychedelic rhythms that resonate across the ramparts of the surrounding mountains. A dramatic tempo change follows and classics like Diablo Rojo uplift the crowd from their trance. Quintero dives into an incredible solo with all the trimmings of her traditional upbringing as the palm of her hand belts out percussive beats against the body of the guitar in between string-melting, bridge-filleting melodies that are best described as “muy caliente.”

A standing ovation from the crowd draws out an encore peppered with new songs and experimental notes that illustrate their dedication to constantly re-inventing their sound. Axes crossed, face-to-face, Rod and Gab strum out their final tune and thank the crowd one last time.  “For some reason we were given the opportunity to play guitar for many hours since we were kids.  It is important for us to share that gift, which was probably earned more than given, and hopefully this music serves a purpose to inspire you in whatever you do,” says Sánchez.

Certainly a memorable evening from an act that never ceases to amaze.  You can experience the music at any one of their nation-wide tour stops this fall and find more info at Rodgab.com.

DPS Skis designs their product with the end goal on the mountain in mind, always.

The Wasatch Mountains are truly a place to admire. Incredible vertical relief and glacier-carved canyons placed right in the path of incoming Pacific storms make the range a unique place to ski and ride. Stephan Drake, founder of DPS Skis, realizes the vast potential of the area, and his dedication to building quality, hand-crafted skis exists to this day. Catching up with Drake, it is apparent that his love for design is only overshadowed by his love for the mountainous regions of the world.

SLUG: Take us through the early years of DPS.
Stephan Drake: In the late 1990s and early 2000s, my whole life was centered around chasing the perfect turn on the perfect run. It also meant a seriousness related to developing my own skiing technically as an art—training, drills, mountain craft, dialing in and modifying equipment—all to prep for those fleeting special moments when conditions lined up. It was a serious type of ski bumming. As I pushed myself forward as a skier into new places, I began dreaming of equipment that the race-centric manufacturers simply didn’t make. The way we were skiing mountains and wanted to ski mountains demanded a whole new type of ski that didn’t exist at the time. Without even a thought of selling or marketing, I began custom-painting and modifying off-the-shelf skis. One day, I looked down, and thought about the energy I was putting into customizing my own ski and thought it was a good time to share that via the creation of a company.

SLUG: Why did DPS choose Utah for its headquarters?
Drake: During the early years, we had utopian vision of all working remotely from laptops, chasing snow around the globe. It turns out that was a bit of a naïve idea. We needed a headquarters, and at first debated locating in a mountain town like Jackson, Wyoming, [over] Salt Lake City. In the end, it came down to the ultimate convenience that SLC offers to a ski company: the short, triangular distance between factory/powder/airport, the workforce, available resources and the relatively inexpensive costs of running a business versus being in a mountain town.

SLUG: What were the biggest challenges DPS faced early on?
Drake: Production and research and development started out in China because it was the cheapest way to get going in a bootstrapped mode. There were issues with production and delivery. Because of those early days, we are committed to the SLC factory, developing and controlling product under our own roof.

SLUG: How does a ski design go from idea to reality?
Drake: All design projects, whether a radical new idea or an iterative riff on an existing concept, usually involves [me] and Peter Turner (DPS’ Head Engineer) meeting to explore it. We will flush it, draw it, sketch it and define it. Peter then makes it come to life via computer programming, and the tooling/parts are generated. Then we build it and head to the mountains to test it!

SLUG: What drives innovation at the company, and how do you capture and retain creative people and ideas?
Drake: Innovation is driven by a strong passion to evolve our practice and understanding of the art of skiing. The resources available to us to attract and retain talent are constrained due to our size—which can be frustrating. On the other hand, it forces us to be scrappy and creative. So while you would always like to attract more talent, ultimately, our group consists of smart, dynamic people that are attracted to an entrepreneurial environment.

SLUG: How many skis does DPS sell in a given year, and what does that say about the “artisan-made and craft boutique” aspect of your brand?
Drake: We are a medium-sized ski company. Because of that, there is still a lot of room for us to grow while retaining our craft nature, and that’s our intent. I feel like being medium-size and owning your own production is a nice place to be; generally, the smallest garage brands don’t have the necessary machinery or technology to really hone top-tier product, and the big brands don’t necessarily have the focus and drive to truly innovate. Our relative size has been one factor that has allowed us to be progressive.

SLUG: How does DPS differentiate itself within this ever-changing competitive environment?
Drake: We are always exploring technological boundaries in terms of materials and shaping, and I think we have always been known for that. Our brand, I think, is also unique in its identity; visual design across the board is simple and clean—reflective of the simplicity and power of the powder moment and in contrast to much of the industry. It’s a core principle that we stick to.

For the future, the team at DPS will continue to leverage its position in the marketplace and remain nimble. Cultivating a culture of innovation and pride in its creations allows DPS to retain a unique foothold in the industry and create exceptional products targeted at the core skiers out there. For more info, check out dpsskis.com.

Photo: Sean Zimmerman-Wall

Some things in this world were just meant for each other. You can probably think of a few of your favorites, but one we can all agree on is whiskey and skiing. Born of two of America’s favorite pastimes, The WhiSKI Series is handcrafted to bring a “small-batch experience” to a few select mountain towns this season. The brainchild of Teton Gravity Research comes to fruition over the fall with the help of sponsors like Charles Schwab, REI and Yeti Coolers. While many folks think of a ski movie premiere as a raucous auditorium filled with belligerent ski bums frothing at the mouth to see their favorite ski heroes shred the gnar, the WhiSKI Series is a bit different.

The final installment of the tour lands at the venerable High West Distillery in Park City, just under the iconic town lift. Bearing the title as one of the world’s only ski-in, ski-out distilleries makes High West a jewel in the crown of the Wasatch. This artisan enclave has made quite the name for itself over the last decade by purveying some of the finest spirits this side of the Mississippi.

The night starts off with a warm welcome of hot potato and elk sausage soup, served out of a huge cauldron, paired with a tasting of two premiere whiskey and bourbon staples, Campfire and American Prairie. Settling in for the night’s entertainment, we are greeted with a very casual seating arrangement of no more than 100 people under the wooden rafters of the saloon. The crowd is distinctly different from most ski films I have attended, but everyone is friendly and more libations are spread across the room. Our hosts serve us a mellower and cleaner tasting whiskey called Valley Tan, a throwback to the Mormon pioneers who enjoyed a few sinful delights now and then. TGR cofounder Steve Jones greets the audience and shares the backstory of all the hard work that goes into making a high-caliber film like tonight’s showcase, Rouge Elements. He is joined by perennial TGR athlete Dash Longe to answer questions for those interested in learning more. Longe and Jones met years ago and have shared many experiences across the globe. Longe continues to be a part of the core team and spends his time working for Rising Star Realtors when he isn’t on the road. It is interesting to hear all the pieces that go into making a film and how the athletes make it all work both on and off screen.

As the lights go dim, we are handed yet another delicious treat, the Mid-Winter Night’s Dram, a unique twist on the High West Rendezvous Rye finished in French oak port barrels. Master Distiller Brendan Coyle shares his excitement: “A big part of our company’s heritage is located in ski country, and to have a partnership like this with TGR is a huge thing for us,” he says. “We try really hard to connect ourselves with the local community and want to promote our town to the global community.”

The film opens with another stellar performance from local wonder Angel Collinson slaying huge peaks in Alaska. Her stature as a skier continues to amaze, and her enthusiasm for the mountains might only exceeded by that of her younger brother, Johnny Collinson. The duo visits some of the most extreme terrain home and abroad as they go turn for turn with other local powerhouses Tim Durtschi and Thayne Rich. Come to think of it, nearly 50 percent of the Jackson-based filmmaker’s roster calls SLC home. Throughout the movie, teams of world-class athletes head across the globe chasing snow and the raw power of nature. From the heights of Bolivia to the lowly streets of Duluth, there is something for every genre of skier. Jeremy Jones also makes his mark on the screen as one of the most prolific snowboarders of this generation. His heel-side slash is true inspiration for all mountain sliders near and far. Rounding out the film are a cavalier bunch of mountain bikers chasing skiers through the iconic terrain of Jackson Hole at speeds not approved for all audiences. TGR brings the noise in this film, and it will definitely find its way into my personal collection.

Ryan Moore, our emcee and local ski-business man, deserves a lot of credit for bringing the rogue elements of the community together to share in an incredible evening and build the stoke for the coming season. We truly are blessed to live in this beautiful landscape and our tribe is one of a kind.

For more info on the WhiSKI Series or to download the film, check out tetongravity.com. Cheers.

John Koutrouba of Sixth Law Cycles. Photo by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com

The creative talents of the greater cycling community convened in Salt Lake City this spring for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) to showcase works of rideable art. Motivations and designs differ greatly across builders, but their passion for the sport is as hearty as the materials they choose for their stately steeds. Riding through the streets of SLC, it is often difficult to spot a handmade bicycle from afar, so take a closer look with four locals—Sixth Law CyclesSaltair CyclesReynolds Cycling and Métier Vélo—who are constructing these two-wheeled dream machines.

Sixth Law Cycles
John Koutrouba

"These projects are deeply personal to me," says Koutrouba. "They're not just transactions." Photo by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com
“These projects are deeply personal to me,” says Koutrouba. “They’re not just transactions.” Photo by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com

SLUG: Briefly describe the backstory behind your brand. Why did you decide to choose Salt Lake City as your home base?
Sixth Law Cycles : I’m a corporate refugee. While I’ve been a “bike guy” for a long time, I was a rider and tinkerer, not a builder. I flirted with the idea of making bikes many years ago in school, but then settled into a regular corporate job. Sure, I was the weird one who rode a bike through summer and winter, but once I changed my clothes, I was like everyone else in the office. I enjoyed making things, but my outlet was glassblowing, which I did a few times a year at a local public access studio.

Then one day, my wife got a call from the University of Utah. They were looking for someone to come out here and do some pretty cool new stuff. Rachel grew up in Santa Fe, and I spent lots of summers on the eastern slope of the Sierras in Northern California, so the Mountain West was comforting and familiar to us. In 2014, we packed up our house in Pittsburgh and headed west. That meant that I had to part ways with an employer I’d had for more than a decade. When I started looking for a new job, everyone asked, “So what would you do if you could do anything?” One day, I decided that I would build bicycles. I had lunch with Matthew Nelson [of Saltair Cycles], who told me about his journey into bike building. I went home, had a long conversation with my wife, and made arrangements to attend bike-building school (and later welding school). In almost no time, I went from being a guy who likes and rides bikes to being a guy who makes them.

SLUG: How do you engage with the local cycling community in SLC?
Sixth Law Cycles: I’m a totally anonymous member of the cycling community here. I shouldn’t be—it would be better for business if more people knew who I was. But I’m fundamentally an introvert, so my interaction with the local community consists of being more respectful of cyclists than most when I’m driving a car, and being just another black helmet on the streets when I’m on my bike.

SLUG: How many people work within your company and how do you plan to grow your business?
Sixth Law Cycles: Right now, I am Sixth Law Cycles. I aspire to put people to work some day, but that’s a long-term goal. For now, I am working to get as many bikes with my logo on the road as I can. Along the way, I try to engage as many local resources as I can. The community around bike building is really remarkable. In the process of building my last bike, for example, I hired a local rack maker to build a custom rack for me (Peter Barrett, Carrion Cargo), a local bag maker to sew the panniers (Drew von Lintel, Spinner17), an artisan woodworker in Bend, Oregon, to make fenders (Cody Davis, Woody’s Fenders), a local machinist to help fabricate some custom tooling (Dylan Neyme) and a local company that makes wheels (Chris Modrigan, Mercury Cycling in Ogden). And that does not include the small companies that I sourced parts from (White Industries, Nova Cycles Supply, Framebuilder Supply, Ahearne Cycles, King Cage, Spurcycle, Paragon Machine Works). I’ve met almost all of these people in person. I don’t own anything else that intimately involves this many people who are part of my community.

SLUG: What is the most difficult part of building a bicycle or components by hand?
Sixth Law Cycles: For me, the most difficult thing is checking my ambition. I don’t have fancy tools or precision equipment. I work with modest hand tools, mostly files and saws. But I have visions of making lots of awesome stuff. Sometimes, I’ll spend hours or days making a tiny trim piece from scratch. I really have no profit margin on the bikes I build, even under the best of circumstances. A two-day diversion to make cool cable routing bits makes earning a living that much harder. On the other hand, my bikes wouldn’t be the same without the little touches that set them apart from the offerings at your local bike shop. In the end, it’s worth it, but I have to be careful about how much I plan for each project.

SLUG: What have been some of your biggest triumphs as a builder?
Sixth Law Cycles: My biggest triumphs are, without a doubt, the smiles on the faces of the people who ride my bikes. That’s what it’s all about, in the end. Seeing the delight in the eyes of customers makes the whole thing worth it.

SLUG: How do you attract potential customers?
Sixth Law Cycles: This is hard. First, I am not naturally outgoing. I knew before I started that I am not a good sales guy. I’m passionate about my work and can talk about it for hours, but put me in front of a stranger, and I tend to shut down. My strategy is to deliver so much value to my customers that they become my sales force. When people who ride my bikes go out and engage their friends with a very positive story, it does much more than any sales pitch that I could ever hope to make.

SLUG: How do you set yourself apart from other custom builders in the area and abroad?
Sixth Law Cycles: I tend to build bikes that are a bit quirky. I use materials that are a little unusual in the industry. For example, I used a piece of rectangular tubing for the chainstay yoke that I built for the cruiser. I like to solve problems in unusual ways. In the end, however, none of that matters—there are tons of awesome builders out there who make extraordinary bikes. The reason to buy a bike from me is the experience of buying the bike. My customers and I need to have some sort of connection, something to bond over. These projects are deeply personal to me; they’re not just transactions. I meet some people and establish a deep rapport. Those are the people who will buy a bike from me. If you don’t feel the magic when you talk to me, your dream bike will probably be built by someone else.

SLUG: Tell us about your 2017 NAHBS experience.  Was it your first show, or have you been going for a while?
Sixth Law Cycles: I attended NAHBS last year as I was just getting the business up and running. This was the first year I exhibited bikes at the show. It’s an amazing place to be a bike guy. At the same time, it can be overwhelming. The whole place is full of absolutely amazing work. It’s how car enthusiasts feel at a custom hot rod show, or maybe how people feel at Outdoor Retailer. It’s a truly incredible show. No matter how many times I walked around the floor, I always found something new that I didn’t see before. I see new things even looking at pictures from the show. The people I spoke with were very positive about my work. It was gratifying—and exhausting.

SLUG: What kind of processes do you use to build your frames, and why does that particular method suit your business?
Sixth Law Cycles: I use hand methods to build my bikes. Whether it’s files, saws, oxyacetylene or TIG, the tools in my shop are wielded by my own hands. I choose the tool that gets the job done the best. “Best” is a subjective term. Sometimes the aesthetics drive a technique. Other times,  I just do what I’m good at. I don’t have the volume to support a large workshop or fancy tools at this point. I do some things by hand that I would rather do with a power tool, but I’d be out of business in a hurry if I spent the money on every tool I’d like to have. Building by hand keeps me intimate with my work, though. Even with an unlimited budget, I would not find it fulfilling to program a bunch of robots to do the process for me.

SLUG: Who are the builders out there that you draw inspiration from, and how do you engage with them?
Sixth Law Cycles: Someday, I’d like to build bikes like James Bleakley of Black Sheep Bikes. His pieces are equally at home rolling down the road or hanging in a museum. I’m far too shy to actually talk to him, but his sense of style just blows me away.

It’s funny—I recently set up an Instagram account, and my eyes have been opened by the number of small builders out there, filling tubes in their garages. I have a huge amount of respect for all of them. If you’ve got the passion to build a bike with your own hands, I am drawing inspiration from you.

SLUG: Are there certain styles of bikes that you prefer to build?
Sixth Law Cycles: I am ambivalent about style. I strongly prefer to build unique bikes, however. I want every bike to be a little different. I try to design things in ways that stand out from the crowd. I want people to go out and show off their bikes. I think that’s easier to do when you have something that no one else has.

SLUG: What are the most challenging parts of the overall build process and how do you overcome them?
Sixth Law Cycles: Before starting the build, there are so many choices to make. Sometimes, cutting the first tube is the hardest part. Once you start on the bike, you become more and more constrained. In some ways, the process gets easier as you go along. I think of it as inertia. It takes a lot of energy to get going, but once you are working, it takes a lot of energy to stop. I sometimes have to shuffle around the shop for a few hours before I drill the first hole or cut the first tube. Sometimes I will do a practice project first, just to make the first bit of mess to disrupt the dust on the bench.

SLUG: If you could find a way to work with any material for frame construction, what would it be?
Sixth Law Cycles: I’d like to be able to work with wood. There were some stunning wood bikes at NAHBS. I will not give up metal, but the look of some of the wood frames was simply gorgeous. A hybrid design would be phenomenal. And to get really out of bounds, I would like to find a way to incorporate glass into the design.

Matthew Nelson of Saltair Cycles. Photo by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com

The creative talents of the greater cycling community convened in Salt Lake City this spring for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) to showcase works of rideable art. Motivations and designs differ greatly across builders, but their passion for the sport is as hearty as the materials they choose for their stately steeds. Riding through the streets of SLC, it is often difficult to spot a handmade bicycle from afar, so take a closer look with four locals—Sixth Law CyclesSaltair CyclesReynolds Cycling and Métier Vélo—who are constructing these two-wheeled dream machines.

SaltAir Cycles
Matthew Nelson

SLUG: SLUG writer Jordan Deveraux highlighted SaltAir Cycles in last May’s Bike Issue, and we learned a bit about your background.  We are still curious about how you moved from architecture to frame building and what parallels exist between the two. Could you please elaborate?
SaltAir Cycles: Practicing architecture for two decades had led me to a place in my career where I had to make a decision to either continue climbing the ranks of a corporate firm as a project manager or follow my heart to becoming a small independent bicycle constructeur. It was becoming harder for me to envision the next 35 years behind a desk, staring at a computer and having a job description that felt like “assistant problem solver.” It was a far cry from the creativity and artistry that drew me into studying architecture in the first place. The process of designing and building bicycles had become much more engaging and offered the opportunity for me to forge my own path and grow my brand to its full potential. There are parallels between bicycle framebuilding and practicing architecture—the final product seeks to be both highly functional and aesthetically provocative. As the builder, I get to experience the making of the product by my own hands and ensure that the final outcome is in accordance with my vision.

SLUG: Tell us a bit about your shop space and how it suits your particular design process.
SaltAir: My workshop is a bit rustic, to say the least. It’s dimly lit, freezing in the winter and scorching in the summer. At the moment, the space and location, at the back of my residential property, is dictated more by convenience and budget. As my brand grows, I hope to upgrade the space to something more suitable.

SLUG: As a builder, what challenges you most, and are there constants project to project?
SaltAir: I approach each new frame with the goal to improve upon the last one that left the shop. That is the challenge for me—to make each one just a little bit better, building upon the experience of the last. The process of building a bike, starting from a pile of steel tubes, lugs and some machined parts, to a fully functioning bicycle that can carry its rider swiftly to other destinations under the power of his/her own pedal stroke is quite a transformation. It’s a process of measuring, cutting, filing, brazing and shaping to make the best frame I can make. The constant from frame to frame is that each one needs to be true to its centerline. In other words, if it’s not a straight frame, it isn’t very functional.

SLUG: How does your local connection to SLC improve your work?
SaltAir: I can’t say for certain that having a local connection to SLC improves my work. I can say, however, that the brand I’ve built and the character of my frames is uniquely rooted here. My builds are influenced by the folks I ride and race with and the types of climatic conditions shaped by cycling in this region. The majority of my customers to this point are cyclists I ride with, which means my work benefits from the personal feedback I receive from them—grassroots R&D, I suppose.

"I approach each new frame with the goal to ... make each one just a little bit better, building upon experience of the last," says Nelson. Photo by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com
“I approach each new frame with the goal to … make each one just a little bit better, building upon experience of the last,” says Nelson. Photo by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com

SLUG: Would you briefly describe your perspective on the SLC cycling community?
SaltAir: Yeah, the SLC cycling community is amazing—it’s a very broad spectrum, from the hardcore, year-round, cycling commuters to the ultra-competitive racers and every type in between. There is a strong advocacy movement that has made great strides in presenting SLC as a top contender for “Bike Friendly Cities,” and we are all benefitting from the infrastructure that has resulted over the last decade. I’m pretty excited about that and look forward to it only getting better.

SLUG: How does Utah stack up as a state when it comes to a venue for handmade bicycle builders?
SaltAir: I guess I’m surprised that Utah doesn’t have many small frame builders. With all the cycling that occurs in this state, its a wonder to me that there aren’t more. In perspective, I suppose it is a relatively smaller market (population-wise) when compared to Oregon, Colorado and California, where a great deal of small frame builders seem to hail from in the West. I have a feeling that 10 years from now, there will be a resurgence here in Utah.

SLUG: What innovations in the cycling industry are most appealing to you at this time?
SaltAir: Off the cuff, my perception is that the bike industry keeps pushing innovations that don’t necessarily improve the experience of riding a bicycle, and that which is driving these developments is motivated by selling more product. Not to say that there aren’t a handful of exciting new offerings out there, but it appears to me that this has become the MO of the industry at large. I will say this: The “drop stop” or “no drop” chainring and clutch derailleur systems do make racing cyclocross in Northern Utah a whole lot better. It’s a bigger benefit than changing your rim brake cantilevers to disc. That’s right, I said it!

SLUG: Which builders out there do you draw inspiration from, and how do you engage with them?
SaltAir: I’m excited to say I finally got to meet Dave Kirk (Kirk Frameworks of Bozeman, Montana) at this year’s show. His fillet brazing work has been the benchmark for which I aspire to have my fillets measured. I went to the ENVE HQ Open House the Wednesday evening before the show and was introduced to Sacha White (Speedvagen/Vanilla Workshop of Portland, Oregon). Seeing examples of his work with his brands near the end of the last decade was a defining inspiration, which got me into frame building. I’ve reached out to Rob English by email to learn a few of his tricks, and he was very open to imparting his knowledge. Richard Sachs has been very supportive over the years, as I’ve ordered lugs and his own proprietary Columbus tubing from him—he always sends a little something extra when I place an order. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Joseph Ahearne, who was my instructor at UBI—although he wasn’t exhibiting at this year’s show, he was in attendance, and it was good to briefly catch up with him. Another highlight was being congratulated by Mark DiNucci after accepting the “Best New Builder” award—DiNucci is a straight-up OG of American frame building!

SLUG: If you could find a way to work with any material for frame construction, what would it be?
SaltAir: Steel. In my book, it’s as good as it gets. I know a lot of folks will “poo-poo” that answer, but it’s such a versatile and easy-to-work-with material—there’s a reason that the majority of bikes ever created are steel. ’Nuff said. … Oh, and stainless steel.

SLUG: The 2017 NAHBS was held in SLC. How did it feel to attend the show on your home turf?
SaltAir: Honestly, it was an incredibly timely thing to happen for me. I’m definitely at a point where I need a boost in orders, and for NAHBS to come to Salt Lake was probably the single biggest opportunity I could wish for. Once I registered as an exhibitor, I knew I had to make the most of it. Obviously, I had the advantage of extra time and no added expense, not having to travel, so it was a no-excuses proposition—I just had to focus and deliver.

SLUG: This also marked a historic moment for SaltAir Cycles, as you took home a win.  Which categories were you entered in, and what emotions were associated with the victory?
SaltAir: Yeah—I still can’t believe it. There was some impressive work on display from the all the “New Builders” this year. Technically, I was automatically entered into the competition for “Best New Builder,” as were all “New Builder” exhibitors (first-timers). I had entered the Di2 Purple Road Racer into the “Best Columbus” (Columbus Tubing) build category and had a Lugged Disc Randonneur (exhibited in the TRP Booth), decked out in Campagnolo Record 11 drivetrain, so that went into the “Best Campy” build category. I really never felt I was in the running for “Best New Builder” until I noticed the two judges stopping back in front of my table, together (from a distance), and whispering back and forth. Once I had observed that, I thought perhaps I was a contender. It wasn’t until the end of the day when I was watching the final awards ceremony and I got tapped on the shoulder from behind and asked to go get my bike from my table that it hit me. I couldn’t believe it—nervous excitement, elation, but most of all … validation. That’s probably the emotion I feel strongest, based on the fact that the community of industry experts deemed me “Best New Builder.”

SLUG: What do you think you did that secured a victory for yourself and your build?
Saltair: As a “New Builder” exhibitor, we were judged on the one bicycle and frame set we were permitted to display at our tables. I had the Road Racer, painted in a pearlescent lilac by Spectrum Powderworks and all decked out in ENVE glory from Fairwheel Bikes with streamlined/minimal electronic shifting cables and a stealthy, integrated seatmast. It looked incredible and got quite a bit of attention. The frame set I displayed was a fillet-brazed bike-packing rig with S&S Couplers for breaking down and packing in a suitcase. It had a segmented fork with internal brake cable routing and spaced for a 135mm disc hub. As a late-coming change to my preparations leading up to the show, I opted to leave the frame set unpainted and in the raw, showing what the fillet joints looked like naked and exposed. In hindsight, that probably helped set me apart as a new builder.

SLUG: How will you use this momentum to continue honing your craft and attracting clients?
SaltAir: Yeah, I’m riding the wave of media coverage all over the internets and taking a moment to improve my website before I plunge back into the shop and starting the next build, post-NAHBS. The experience has charged me up and inspired me to build some amazing bikes going forward. I’m already in the planning stages for some upcoming opportunities to exhibit my work, such as the Build Fest at the Leonardo Museum in late May.

Ryan Hanseen, Service Tech. Photos by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com

The creative talents of the greater cycling community convened in Salt Lake City this spring for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) to showcase works of rideable art. Motivations and designs differ greatly across builders, but their passion for the sport is as hearty as the materials they choose for their stately steeds. Riding through the streets of SLC, it is often difficult to spot a handmade bicycle from afar, so take a closer look with four locals—Sixth Law CyclesSaltair CyclesReynolds Cycling and Métier Vélo—who are constructing these two-wheeled dream machines.

Reynolds Cycling
Jon Reese and Mike Riley

Ryan Hanseen, Service Tech. Photo: ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com
Ryan Hanseen, Service Tech. Photo: ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com

SLUG: Briefly describe the backstory behind your brand.
Reynolds Cycling: We started out in the 1990s and revolutionized the world with the high-end Ouzo CarbonFork. We also brought to market the first carbon clincher wheelset. Reynolds Cycling’s designs, molds, production techniques and processes have created an industry and continue to lead it.

SLUG: Why did you decide to choose Salt Lake City as your home base?
Reynolds: Salt Lake City has it all, with an educated workforce, reasonable costs and amazing access to the mountains. Living at the base of the Wasatch Mountains is a huge benefit to ensure we employ a team that not only builds carbon wheels but uses (tests) them too.

SLUG: How do you engage with the local cycling community in SLC?
Reynolds: Reynolds loves to support the local athlete as well as the everyday cycling aficionado. We participate in Utah trail preservation groups and local cycling tradeshows as well as sponsor a number of local athletes. We are cyclists living in Utah, riding in Utah, and tout the many beauties and benefits of this state.

SLUG: How many people work within your company and how do you plan to grow your business?
Reynolds: We have about 40 people at our headquarters in Sandy; this office focuses on engineering, R&D, testing, production, sales and marketing. Company-wide, we have about 300 employees in cities around that world, including: Maastricht, Netherlands; Hongzhou, China; and Taichung City, Taiwan.

SLUG: What is the most difficult part of building a bicycle or components by hand?
Reynolds: Laying (building) carbon fiber, particularly cycling wheels, cannot be automated. It is a very time and labor-intensive process that our employees have crafted from many years of experience. Each wheel actually takes many hours to mold, bake, cool, drill, assemble, true and test.   

SLUG: What have been some of your biggest triumphs as a builder?
Reynolds: We have led the industry on engineering, durability and wheel-design since the ‘90s. Our wheels are included on some of the best bikes in the market and often replicated.

SLUG: How do you attract potential customers?
Reynolds: When potential customers test our wheels, they become customers. We have a great program called Ride-to-Decide that allows customers to take our wheels out for a spin from one of our retail dealers. Once customers put our wheels on their bike and feel the difference, they take them home. It’s as simple as that.

SLUG: How do you set yourself apart from other custom builders in the area and abroad?
Reynolds: Our legacy of building the best wheels on the market has been our differentiation. We have refined and tested our wheels so many times over the years that it would be hard for other wheel builders to replicate. Engineering, engineering, engineering—we have amazing NASA aerospace engineers that design AND ride our wheels. Makes for some amazing, technologically advanced wheels.

SLUG: Tell us about your 2017 NAHBS experience.  Was it your first show or have you been going for a while?
Reynolds: We had an awesome time at NAHBS this year. It was in our backyard! We hosted a taco party and fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Institute at our HQ, and we were able to raise over $3,500! It was a nice evening to hang out, talk about bikes and raise money for a great cause. We have been a part of NAHBS in the past, and I am sure we will be in the future. The bikes that are shown at this event are nothing short of amazing.  

SLUG: What kind of products did you showcase at this year’s NAHBS?
Reynolds: We had a mix of our current wheel line and custom bikes from builders in our booth. Having those custom bikes is a great way for us to highlight some of our relationships with various builders.

SLUG: How has your local connection sustained your brand over the years?
Reynolds: Utah is an amazing market and the unofficial capital of road and mountain biking in the U.S. The local Utah connection has far-reaching advantages. Focusing our efforts on local cyclists has been a great area of growth for us.

SLUG: As a larger company in a niche market, how do you use your production capabilities to your advantage?
Reynolds: Again, history and legacy. We’ve been around for a long time, and this aspect is hard to replicate. Our carbon layers and wheel builders are some of the best there are … period. We’re always looking for new ways to refine, build and test our wheels to accommodate the ever-changing cycling industry. Reynolds is able to respond quickly to the market because we’re cyclists that also happened to work at NASA.

SLUG: What innovations in the cycling world are most appealing to you at this stage in your company’s life cycle?
Reynolds: Carbon fiber technologies are always evolving, which has forced everyone in our industry to keep pushing further and harder. It is very exciting to see new developments and how we can continue to build the best wheels.

SLUG: How do you foster creativity as a company, and how does the design process take shape from prototype to production?
Reynolds: We are a bunch of bike nerds, so we don’t consider a lot of this work, but pursuing our passion. Staying on top of industry movements is both exciting and critical to producing a product that people will want. Most of the time, we are thinking about products with our bike partners 2–3 years down the road. It really is great to work in an industry that you love!  

Jamie White of Métier Vélo. Photo by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com

The creative talents of the greater cycling community convened in Salt Lake City this spring for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) to showcase works of rideable art. Motivations and designs differ greatly across builders, but their passion for the sport is as hearty as the materials they choose for their stately steeds. Riding through the streets of SLC, it is often difficult to spot a handmade bicycle from afar, so take a closer look with four locals—Sixth Law Cycles, Saltair CyclesReynolds Cycling and Métier Vélo—who are constructing these two-wheeled dream machines

Métier Vélo
Jamie White

Founder Jamie White is motivated by enthusiasm to continue building unique and quality frames. "It is really motivating to implement new ideas for cool bicycles to build and ride," he says. Photo by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com
Founder Jamie White is motivated by enthusiasm to continue building unique and quality frames. “It is really motivating to implement new ideas for cool bicycles to build and ride,” he says. Photo by ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com

SLUG: Briefly describe the backstory behind your brand.
Métier Vélo: After 11 years and thousands of applications looking for a job in my field (molecular and cellular neurogenetics), I decided to make my own job.  After much consideration, I decided framebuilding fit my meticulous personality and passion for cycling. I founded Métier Vélo in 2013, and I began to develop frames constructed with 3D-printed titanium lugs (joints) and carbon fiber tubes. I began full-time production in 2015.  Making frames with titanium lugs and carbon tubes is still a novel construction technique; to date, I am the only builder using it to craft full-custom bicycles in all styles.  My frames are unique in that they are not just made-to-measure for each rider, but entirely designed from the ground up, down to the smallest detail.  

“Métier” means  profession, in the sense of craft or calling. “Le Métier” is how professional cyclists refer to the total commitment required to race for a living: The Profession. The name of the company—Métier Vélo LLC—refers to me finding my calling, pays tribute to the racing heritage of my frames, and recognizes the total commitment required to be a professional bicycle designer and framebuilder.

SLUG: Why did you decide to choose Salt Lake City as your home base?
Métier Vélo: I was waylaid after coming to the University of Utah for a postdoctoral fellowship. SLC is an easy place to get stuck, especially living in Emigration Canyon.

SLUG: How do you engage with the local cycling community in SLC?
Métier: I race with Cicada Racing Inc. and I ride a lot. The phrase “cycling community” makes it sound like cyclists are a homogeneous bloc. In reality, there are all sorts of different types of riders and different reasons for riding. I see every type of rider in Emigration Canyon from clear beginners on their first ride to seasoned, famous professionals. If you’re passed by a rider in the Canyon, she could be an Olympic medalist. 

SLUG: How many people work within your company, and how do you plan to grow your business?
Métier: One human (me), two cats (office and shop), and two dogs. I might get another cat. My goal is 24 frames per year. I won’t expand beyond that. The best builders work alone.

SLUG: What is the most difficult part of building a bicycle or components by hand?
Métier Vélo:

  1. Finding clients.
  2. Designing. My frames are designed from scratch for each client, and the 3D printed lugs leave little room for error. Each design needs to be completely accurate, and I need to model every detail before the final print.  
  3. Bonding. The joints between the titanium lugs and carbon tubes need to be meticulously prepared and executed. The epoxy must completely coat both surfaces (lug and tube) and penetrate the bond. My scientific background was helpful in establishing protocols for maximum bond strength.

SLUG: What have been some of your biggest triumphs as a builder?
Métier: Triumph might be an overstatement. Just running a small business is hard, regardless of the business, so I am proud of myself for sticking with it.

As far as framebuilding goes, I’ve established a great collaboration with Tim Crossman in Ukraine. He is a framebuilder who also fabricates custom tubes. Tim had done some exclusive designs for Métier Vélo and we should have more cool things coming up in 2017. 

Professionally, showing at NAHBS was a significant achievement. The overall level of craftsmanship and professionalism at NAHBS is high and gets higher every year. Being accepted to exhibit frames as a builder at the show validates my work and effort, and is recognition of my assembly methods, fabrication skills and designs.

SLUG: How do you attract potential customers?

  1. Directly through my website: metier-velo.com
  2. Media attention from the NAHBS and Bespoked U.K. handbuilt bicycle shows. Don Walker, NAHBS founder and president, is almost single-handedly responsible for the renaissance in  custom bicycles made by small, independent custom builders.
  3. Social media: Instagram @MétierVélo, FB: MétierVélo and I’m on Twitter @MétierVélo. Info from Métier Vélo is collected under #MétierVélo.

SLUG: How do you set yourself apart from other custom builders in the area and abroad?

  1. Construction: No other full-custom builder uses 3D printed titanium lugs and carbon tubes with the toughened, bonding technology I employ.
  2. Aesthetic: My lugs have flowing curves and custom artwork printed right into the lugs.   My lug designs have shapes that can only be fabricated by 3D printing. Tim Crossman’s tubes have a unique woven look. Together, the 3D-printed parts and custom tubes create a look that pays tribute to classic lugged frames.
  3. Design: I don’t just cut tubes to measure; I design every aspect of the bicycle from the ground up in 3D modeling software.
  4. Versatility: I make all styles of bicycle, limited only by what a client and I can envision.
  5. Durability: My frames have a lifetime, no-questions-asked guarantee. Well, I’ll probably ask some questions. And the lifetime is my lifetime, not yours. 

SLUG: Tell us about your 2017 NAHBS experience.  Was it your first show or have you been going for a while?
Métier: NAHBS 2017 in SLC was great. Métier Vélo had a primo location and we had good media exposure. Because I was local, I ended up being interviewed on KRCL and the KSL morning show. I’ve been going to NAHBS since the 2014 show. Don Walker and NAHBS are largely—maybe entirely—responsible for the resurgence of custom bicycles built by small independent builders like Métier Vélo. Don and NAHBS set the bar very high for the level of craftsmanship and professionalism, and because framebuilders are a competitive bunch, the average level of framebuilding at the show increases every year. 

SLUG: Why did you decide to use 3D printing as a fabrication solution for frame building?
Métier: 3D-printing lugs is really well-suited to building custom bicycle frames for several reasons:

  1. Scale: The unit of economy is a build volume—the maximum volume a 3D printer can print in one go. The parts for a single frame fit efficiently into a single-build volume. Beyond one volume, there is no economy of scale, so 10 frames cost 10 times as much as one. Since they can all be different at no cost penalty, they might as well all be different, which means full-custom is the only strategy that makes sense.
  2. Tolerances: 3D-printed parts are amenable to hand finishing, one part at a time, because they have lower tolerances than machined parts. The lower tolerances mean that it is does not make sense to manufacture large batches of uniform parts. The flip side is that I am not at a disadvantage hand-finishing one frame one at a time, so I am not competing with high-throughput assembly-line manufacturing. 
  3. Design freedom: 3D-printed lugs can have smooth, continuously variable shapes with no internal structures (or, alternatively, complex internal structures). 3D-printing frees me from the manufacturing constraints of machined parts.
  4. Value: 3D-printing is relatively expensive, but the high cost is justified when it is used to produce a bicycle unique for each individual that will last a lifetime. 
  5. Toughness: The 6/4 titanium used in 3D-printing is aerospace grade and will outlast the carbon on the frame. And probably the rider. And definitely the builder. 
  6. Repairability: In the case of a crash, I can cut the carbon tubes apart and re-cycle the lugs. The carbon tubes are relatively cheap, so this repair strategy makes sense.
  7. Ride: The lugs are very strong and stiff, so the ride quality of one of my frames is determined primarily by the carbon tubes and the way they are bonded to the lugs. For the bonds, I use epoxy with a bit of elasticity, so high-frequency vibration does not propagate through the frame to the rider. The resulting ride is really smooth.
Photo: ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com
Photo: ColtonMarsalaPhotography.com

SLUG: Has this always been your method, or have you used other techniques to build a frame?
Métier: Always. I have only built frames with 3D-printed titanium lugs and carbon tubes. 

SLUG: How many bicycles have you built since starting your business, and which one stands out as your favorite?
Métier: Eight. I was severely injured by a hit-and-run driver in 2016, so I am a bit behind where I would like.

The best frame is always the next one. Although the last one is pretty nice: It is a classic rim-brake road bicycle with some custom tubes developed in collaboration with Tim Crossman. I call it the Super622.  If you are a chemist who owns a Cannondale, you’ll get it.

SLUG: Your shop is your art space. How does this influence your design and process overall?
Métier: Most of my framebuilding time is spent designing in CAD software on the computer.  I have a nice office space with a desk companion (Sophie the cat) and the dogs. When contemplating a new career, the first and often the only question you need to ask is, “Can I have my dogs at work with me?”

When I am fabricating a frame, I need calm and quiet in order to concentrate.  The  workshop provides a tranquil space that lets me focus on the task at hand. Framebuilding also requires problem-solving, and the peaceful setting of the shop encourages contemplation and clear thinking. From one window I can see memorials to two friends that died in 2016.  They catch the afternoon sun and remind me of the transience of existence.

SLUG: What motivates you to continue building frames, and what changes might you implement in the future?


  1. Enthusiasm. I am really excited about cool things. It is really motivating to implement new ideas  for cool bicycles to build and ride. Back when I first started riding, there was one type of frame—road—and two kinds of components—Shimano or Campagnolo. Now there are so many different options for a bicycle, only a few of which you can buy from a shop—disc brakes, wide tires, fat tires, road bikes, gravel bikes, all-road bikes, cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes, fat tires, plus tires, small wheels and so on—that a custom build really makes sense. And if you can’t make sense of it all, a custom builder can really help.  You can have a bike made just for you in so many ways—not just the frame, but in style and function.
  2. Riding. I am fond of my bicycles—not just the ones I’ve designed and built, but the ones I’ve ridden over the last 35 years—because of the places they have taken me and the experiences they have allowed me to have and the ways riding has enriched my life. Riding is therapy as much or more than training. It is really rewarding to make something that enriches someone’s life, and make him or her healthy and sane.  
  3. Fear. Total, utter, all-consuming fear. Failure is not an option. I am on Career Plan Z. At this point in my life, there is no fallback option. No one will ever hire an over-educated, middle-aged white guy with dubious social skills. 


  1. Tech. There are design improvements enabled by 3D-printing and improvements in CAD software that I would like to implement. The improvements I have in mind involve designing lugs with internal lattice structures inspired by nature. 
  2. Decoration. I’d like to add a bit of color to the tubes and lug details. I am not a fan of paint because riders worry about chipping it and so avoid riding on some really great roads. I’m experimenting with different surface treatments of the lugs and tubes. 
  3. Cost. Because of the initial cost of the 3D-printed lugs, my first frame cost over $12,000.  In the past two years, I’ve managed to decrease this by optimizing my designs and working with several different prototyping companies. Currently, my least expensive frame is $5750 when purchased with a full bicycle, a price lower than many other high-end builders. I hope to continue to work on costs to bring better value to my clients.