To­tally rad

Stin­ner Frame­works is the epit­ome of Amer­i­can frame build­ing cool: born in Cal­i­for­nia, raised in steel and hooked on cycling’s flam­boy­ant side

Cyclist - - Me And My Bike - Words JAMES SPENDER Pho­tog­ra­phy DANNY BIRD

When I started I was too scared to build bikes for any­one but my friends, think­ing they’d be the only ones dumb enough – I mean happy enough – to ride them,’ says Aaron Stin­ner.

‘I guess I had a pretty usual path­way into frame­build­ing. I raced as a ju­nior un­til I was 18, went to col­lege to do sports medicine, took a break to work in a bike shop as a wrench, and then set up this bike-fit­ting pro­gramme there. That’s where the frame­build­ing started – I just wanted to find out what made a bike work so I could un­der­stand fit and ge­om­e­try bet­ter.’

At the time, Stin­ner was not the sur­name Aaron was us­ing. ‘It’s my grand­fa­ther’s sur­name. He had a huge im­pact on me – made me me­chan­i­cally minded. I was go­ing through some per­sonal stuff, so I changed my sur­name when I was re­ally get­ting into build­ing and it all just clicked. I started Stin­ner.’

That year, 2012, Stin­ner took Best New Builder at the North Amer­i­can Hand­made Bi­cy­cle Show, and hasn’t looked back. Now his adopted sur­name adorns every down tube on every frame he builds, in­clud­ing this, one of the loud­est bikes Cy­clist has seen in some time. Well, 26 years and one Team Z to be pre­cise.

‘That’s right,’ chuck­les Stin­ner. ‘This bike is a homage to that Craig Calfee­built bike Greg Le­mond rode back in the day. Un­like a lot of peo­ple of my gen­er­a­tion I came to build­ing from a road rac­ing back­ground, and as a 15-year-old kid those early 90s Tours were my era, so this project made per­fect sense.’

How­ever, this bike wasn’t just Stin­ner’s idea. Rather, it was a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort with Sean Talk­ing­ton, a de­signer who was the cre­ative force be­hind South Pasaden­abased cloth­ing brand Team Dream, one of those new out­fits mar­ket an­a­lysts like to throw the word ‘dis­rup­tor’ at, but which most cy­clists would prob­a­bly just de­scribe as hav­ing fun.

‘Sean’s done loads of amaz­ing de­signs, in­clud­ing a La Vie Claire kit homage, so there’s that Le­mond thing again [Le­mond rode on the La Vie Claire team from 1985-87]. The head­badge is the Team Dream’s mas­cot – the chubby bob­cat – and the ‘Cub House’ de­sign is his shop logo. Oth­er­wise we’ve kept it as true to the orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble. This one is steel, though.’

The orig­i­nal best

It’s odd to think of a retro-in­spired bike made us­ing a more tra­di­tional ma­te­rial than its in­spi­ra­tion, but that’s ex­actly what Stin­ner has done, as the Le­mond bike was car­bon fi­bre – the first of its

kind (full car­bon, not metal lugged) to be rid­den at the Tour de France.

‘We do steel, ti and stain­less, but when I started it was just fil­let brazed or lugged steel. I made the switch to TIGwelded in 2013 and now that’s re­ally all we do as it al­lows us to be more flex­i­ble with ma­te­ri­als. So this is True Tem­per S3 with a Plat­inum OX top tube, one of the few tube­sets left.’

It’s a big point of dif­fer­ence for a lot of US builders that while we Brits are wed­ded to Reynolds tube­sets, and the Ital­ians to Colum­bus, many US frame­builders go for True Tem­per – or at least they used to.

‘We were build­ing a lot in S3, so when Sean found out True Tem­per was go­ing out of busi­ness last year he was like, “We gotta do this bike be­fore S3 runs out!” It builds up to prob­a­bly the light­est steel frame you can buy, at just over a kilo. The whole bike weighs around 7kg.’

It could have been even lighter. Talk­ing­ton specced 30mm Chal­lenge Strada Bianca tyres (which Stin­ner says push the lim­its of clear­ance to the point where the front tyre rubs un­der the brake bridge if it’s in­flated past 65psi) and Mavic’s rein­vented 32-hole Open Pro rims laced to Chris King hubs.

‘The new Open Pro was the thing that got us jazzed about build­ing this bike, be­cause back when I was rac­ing, the Open Pro was the rim. Not just for train­ing, for ev­ery­thing. This new one is such a great rim, dou­ble-eye­leted, 19mm wide, this fin­ish just like the old ce­ramic coat­ing but with the an­odised Ex­alith coat­ing. It would have been nice to go a touch wider, but that’s very French, y’know: the hes­i­ta­tion. They get 80% of the way and then stop when you’re urg­ing them on!’

Purists will note Le­mond’s bike rolled on Cam­pag­nolo hoops, but then as Stin­ner says once more, this isn’t meant to be a replica.

‘It’s funny, as soon as we put the bike on Instagram ev­ery­one was like, “It’s like a Fat Chance Yo’ Eddy,” or, “It’s like a Klein.” We’ve got the Campy stuff on here like Le­mond had – it’s Su­per Record, the best – but this was al­ways a homage to an era more than any­thing else. Hence the tan­walls – they’re def­i­nitely back, aren’t they?’

Look around your next club run (or on p132 of this very mag­a­zine) and you’ll see Stin­ner’s prob­a­bly right about the tyres. So here’s hop­ing he’s right about a re­turn to eye-pop­ping paint too. We can all get jazzed about that.

‘We’ve got the Campy stuff on here like Le­mond had but this was al­ways a homage to an era more than any­thing else. Hence the tan­walls – they’re def­i­nitely back, aren’t they?’

Right: Aaron Stin­ner grew up hooked on road rac­ing in the early 1990s and that pas­sion still in­spires him

Prices start from $2,499 (ap­prox £1,850), stin­ner­frame­works.com

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