We love indie makers and, well, we love bikes. So here's a list of indie bike makers for you. Whether you are looking to get a custom steel hardtail or a titanium gravel grinder, these are the companies we have been crushing on lately. Enjoy.
Bike Gear Database is the project I never thought I would have. Up until a few years ago, I was at the height of my career as a design and innovation consultant. But deep down I was craving change—a reboot to start focusing on family, health, and to get back to the things I really loved in life. One of those things is—of course—cycling. I spent a year trying to land a gig in the cycling industry to less than zero success. No matter how I spun my experience, no one was interested in someone that hadn't worked in the industry. So, I ended up doing what comes naturally to me: I started making things. Namely, I started making Bike Gear Database.
While I have zero idea where this site is headed, I take huge pride in it being independent and free of corporate agenda. Indie creation is a state of mind that is rarely motivated by money or prestige. Indie makers do things because they simply CANNOT NOT do it. Since starting BGDB, I have met so many makers juggling careers, kids, and the pursuit of a dream. They are making everything from bike bags (see the list here) to apparel to the bikes themselves.
This movement of indie creators is an incredible shift for the industry. We can now find a builder on Instagram, open a chat to discuss details and have a custom or small batch frame delivered to our door.
The criteria for this list was pretty loose, and the list is far from comprehensive ;) It is composed of solo builders and small companies that do handbuilt, custom or small batch bikes. Above all else, the bikes need to be rad—something that I could imagine riding myself. All the builders here were open to being on the list and were super communicative. Personally, this is a major factor when choosing what to buy.
This list is dedicated to the people that pushed design, picked up a welders torch, and/or figured out how to build things overseas. I have always wanted to learn how to build bikes, so in a way this is a list of my heroes.
If you'd like to be featured on a future list let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Instagram.
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For almost 2 decades, Kristofer Henry (aka 44 Bikes) has been building custom steel and titanium bikes built for the dirt in southern New Hampshire. His hardtails are low and aggressive. 44 Bikes also builds stunning gravel and all-road bikes. These are some lean (and clean) machines that we are crushing pretty hard on. If you want one, get in line as there is a 2-3 month wait time.
Since 2008, Erik Rolf has been building steel and titanium bikes as Alliance Bicycles in Hailey, Idaho. Alliance crafts any machine that you might need including titanium and steel road and gravel bikes and some stunning hardtails and even full-suspension mountain bikes. If you want to get on an Alliance get in touch with Erik now as there is a 16-18 week lead time.
Atherton is the most mountain bikey company on this list. They hail from Machynlleth, Wales, in the UK and are focused on building enduro and downhill machines perfectly-fitted (with 22 standard sizes) for every rider. These handmade machines are top of the pile technologically and made to order. Atherton has us dreaming of trails in Wales.
Montreal has always been a home to the Canadian arts and maker scene. Coupled with an intrinsic love of bikes and you get one of the best cycling cultures (and infrastructures) in Canada. A huge part of that culture is CL Cycles in the Plateau who also build bikes under the brand name Bassi. Bassi bikes are built to the “tastes of and needs of the people of Montreal” with a solid selection of all-road, gravel and urban bikes.
With a background in design, William Bender hand builds his bikes in Fort Collins, Colorado. Bender Bicycles focus on custom hardtails, gravel and all-road bikes. Frames start at great prices and William will work with you to build up your ultimate dream ride. We love the simplicity and cleanliness. Also, the colors on some of Williams newer machines are spot on. Beauties.
Based in Pattani, Thailand Breton bikes is crafting touring frames and racks. Breton is also in the business of creating some stunning components including custom lugs, stems and framebuilding tools. I love the solid metal branding including a custom plate on the fork crown. Beauty.
Since 2004, John Caletti has been crafting custom steel and titanium bikes in Santa Cruz, California. His bikes are beautifully clean and somehow subtly aggressive. John offers a full range of road, all-road, gravel and mountain bikes but is currently not taking orders due to Covid delays. Doesn't matter, go check out his pretty, pretty machines.
From Austin, TX, Chumba is a family-owned operation that builds some serious double-butted steel and aerospace grade Ti bikes. They offer a full range of hardtails, gravel and all-road bikes designed for any type of excursion you might have planned. Chumba is one of our faves on this list. These bikes are absolutely smoking.
For the past 5 years, Chad Corbin has been living the dream building dream machines in Boulder, Colorado. He creates a full-range of Ti bikes including (in his words), “trail shredders, gravel crushers, ultra racers, and daily commuters”. He mentions that his process takes a little extra time and expense, but looking at his bikes, it very much seems worth it. Gorgeous.
In Gunnison, Colorado, Chris Besnia is doing things a bit differently. Where most indie builders are keeping things straight and clean, Chris likes to sculpt. Beyond a simple seat tube bend, Chris' machines have curves and joins in places you almost wouldn't imagine. We absolutely love the creativity in these bikes. They are more than functional and seemingly border on bike art.
Isen Workshop is an award-winning framebuilder from London, UK. These custom machines are 100% designed and manufactured in-house. With a full line of road, adventure, gravel and urban bikes, Isen Workshop can build anything you need out of steel or titanium. These are serious bikes and we absolutely love the branding and paint work. Beautiful.
Headquartered in Les Vosges, France, Khelys is creating gravel and cargo bikes that are designed to go slow. Khelys is an ancient Greek reference to a tortoise. The thought being that tortoises are slow moving, terrestrial creatures of wisdom. We love this idea for a brand and are loving the iconic design.
Deep in the heart of New Mexico, Cjell Monē is bucking pretty much every trend out there and creating some special steel machines. Whatever you do, don't ask for suspension when ordering, as Cjell maintains that his bikes come with massive tire clearance and free “pneumatic suspension” built-in. Cjell also creates stunning brass components including seat clamps, valve caps and bar-end plugs. This is pure craftsmanship.
Moonraker is the new brand spin-off from FARR Frameworks in Marin, California. As FARR will continue to be about tooling, Moonraker will specialize in custom builds. Moonraker's first machine is a monster gravel bike with impeccable details including a Ti headbadge, bronze stem cap and superb build kit. What a stunner.
Naked is BC's oldest and best custom bike builder. Since 1998, Sam Whittingham has been building stunning road, allroad, gravel and mountain bikes in his studio on Quadra Island. Sam has an end to end process that ensures his bikes are a perfect fit for their rider. These are special bikes and turn our heads every time you see one in real life. If you want one, get on Sam's list now, they have a wait period.
Over the past year, we have been following the feed of San Francisco based Neuhaus Metalworks pretty closely. Nick Neuhaus started handbuilding these clean machines when he wasn't satisfied with offerings from other bike companies. We are huge fans of what is happening here.
Panorama Cycles is also headquartered in Montreal, Canada. For the past 8 years, Simon Bergeron and his team have been creating adventure bikes with the backcountry in mind. They have a full range of mountain, gravel and fat bikes. What makes Panorama special is their full understanding of the overseas manufacturing process, the environmental impact and their dedication to being carbon neutral. We are big fans.
Pine (aka Kevin and Tyler) have been hacking bikes since the early 2000s. Their first Pine branded bike known as the Rasa, is named after the term Tabula Rasa which means starting from a blank slate. The Rasa is the swiss army knife of indie bikes and allows for endless customization. It allows for drop or straight bars and even the ability to swap between 700c, 650b and 26” wheels. If you dislike the N+1 joke and are into multi-modal bikes like we are, this is the machine for you.
Anything called Radical All Mountain is an immediate like from us. Since 2020, Radical All Mountain has been 'brewing' killer slack hardtails and components in Shropshire, UK near the Welsh border. We are blown away by what they have accomplished in 2 years. Keep your eyes on this.
Hailing from Lyons, CO, Reeb Cycles is building handcrafted hardtails, full-suspension, gravel, adventure and fat bikes. They also offer a klunker lovingly dubbed the Hooptie. Reeb reeks of authenticity with the bikes to match. Real people building real stuff. Love it.
Chances are if you are combing this list, you already know Rodeo Labs. However, did you know there is a new Flanimal and Rodeo Labs is accepting orders? V5 of the Flanimal comes in steel and Ti versions and is all about tire clearance. Its integrated carbon seat tube is a bit of a mind-melter and we can't wait to see one of these things in real life. Rodeo Labs is the tops of tops.
We love everything about Slug, especially the brand's name and slogan “Titanium bicycles made by your friends”. Slug currently offers two Ti bikes named the Gasser and the Beatnik. The Gasser is a stunning ATB/MTB/hardtail and Beatnik is its drop bar cousin. Clean and gorgeous.
From Bristol, Starling is handbuilding steel single pivot and hardtail machines. Starling was started in 2015, by Joe McEwan who was previously an aerospace engineer. These bikes were literally designed to fly…. and this stuff writes itself. Love. These. Bikes.
Tanglefoot's inspiration comes from synthesizing the past to help them design the future. They ask themselves “What if bikes were based on sustainable design and production? Bikes built 120 years ago were made to ride on bad, muddy, rough roads. How can we learn from this rich history of brilliant fabricators, bike builders, riders and inventors?”
Tanglefoot Cycles from Vermont is actually 3 brands in one. The first is Tanglefoot Cycles, which creates adventure machines that are built for literally anything and intended to last. The second, is Discord Components offering stunning top caps, brake mounts, stems and more. The third is Fifth Season Canvas specializing in handmade (and off-grid) bikepacking bags. We love everything about Tanglefoot.
Since 2011, Victoire has been building some of the best bespoke bikes on earth at their studio in Beaumont, France. Victoire bikes are created for people who are intimately tied to their bikes and want to experience the fabrication process. This is the custom fine-tailored suit of the cycling world. No words for how beautiful and thoughtful these bikes are.
Brad Hodges has been creating steel custom bikes for almost two decades in Rancho Cordova, California. Brad creates everything from long and slack hardtails to more aggressive gravel machines. One of his creations took inspiration from the 80s show Magnum PI's helicopter which we absolutely love. Good stuff here.
Why Cycles' Instagram bio is simply… Why not?! There's something about that simplicity that makes us go “Hell yeah”. Whys founders are veterans from the industry that started building made to order Ti hardtails and all-road bikes designed for fun and adventure. Like the slogan, Whys bikes are clean and to the point. We likey.
Wildwood Cycles is the moniker of Jesse Hildebrandt, one of Vancouver Island's best hand built frame makers. Jesse builds steel gravel, 29er hardtails and single-pivot bikes at his studio in Nanaimo. Wildwood also crafts aluminum bikepacking cargo cages, mounts and other components. These bikes are steel craftsmanship at a whole other level.
WZRD is another stellar framebuilder from Vancouver Island. WZRD's slogan Progressive Geometry, Progressive Politics stands-out in an industry famed for enduro-level nonsense. WZRD's custom hardtails are absolutely stunning machines with the paint jobs that are not afraid. Led by Em, WZRD also builds gravel, jump bikes, custom racks and components. Dang.