3 MTB Frame Builders Who MADE Unique Full Suspension Steel Bikes

We caught up with three custom framebuilders at MADE Bike Show in Portland to find out what the craft is all about.
All photos: Katie Sox

The bicycle is a simple machine, in its very essence. Humans are simple machines, too. We’re made of a frame, some components to propel us, a few squishy bits to absorb the bumps and all sorts of paint jobs decorating our outsides. Both are tools with the capability to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. The MADE Bike Show in Portland, Oregon not only offered a space for a whole bunch of flesh-covered frames to come together, share in community, and ogle at gorgeous, hand-built bikes; it served as a reminder that both machines – the human being and the bicycle – are, most importantly, conduits for experiencing joy.

Held in the historic Zidell Yard Barge Building, an iconic decommissioned ship breaking and manufacturing facility that also housed Tube Forgings of America, the 2023 MADE Bike Show was right at home in the post-industrial venue nestled along the waterfront in South Portland. During its debut event, this handmade bike show hosted hundreds of frame builders and makers from around the globe, with both industry-only and public facing show days. Needless to say, an endless supply of ingenuity, artistry, craftsmanship and one-off bike nerdery was available for the taking. Amongst all that eye candy and innovation, we found a few note-worthy hand built full suspension bikes we thought you’d enjoy, along with a bit about the humans behind the torches that made them.

Rosario Bike Co. Full Suspension

Kevin Foss of Rosario Bike Co. showed a beautiful fillet-brazed, single-pivot, full-suspension steel MTB frame at MADE. Built for his 12-year-old daughter – a capable but non-aggressive rider that currently prioritizes the magic of the woods and being with her friends over the thrill of the ride itself – the bike is a solid short-travel platform perfect for the tight, rooty trails in the builder’s hometown of Anecortes, WA. 

“The goal was to make a bike that helps her clean more climbs, tackle more roll downs and is just more comfortable to ride than her old hardtail,” said Foss. He built his first bicycle frame in 2020 and has loved riding bikes for as long as he can remember. From his childhood rides around the campground to enduro racing as an adult and finally finding passion in coaching MTB, Foss came into frame building out of frustration with off-the-shelf bikes. 

He’d find himself wanting to adjust the bike’s geometry when coaching, saying “I felt like I’d get a rider to be balanced and moving well on the bike, but their weight wasn’t really balanced between the wheels on the terrain they were riding. I just wanted to start moving the position of the axles, bottom bracket, seat, and handlebars.” 

Foss spent some time working in his uncle’s welding fabrication shop in his earlier days and after about five years of knowing he wanted to build bikes, he finally picked up the hacksaw and torch. 

“I fell in love with the process of building and really enjoyed riding the bike I’d made,” he said. Foss was also motivated to spend time in the shop with his dad whose hobby is metalworking.

“We now share a space and I can be working on a bike while he’s puttering on a project.”

The Rosario full suspension is a steel frame that looks super clean. Its elegant single pivot rear suspension design lends 120mm of rear travel and is set up with a Cane Creek Inline Air shock. It’s paired with a RockShox Pike Select 130mm fork, and built up with a Microshift Advent drivetrain, SRAM Dub BSA bottom bracket, an Industry Nine Classic Trail wheelset with a 29- inch wheel up front and a 27.5- inch wheel in the rear. She’s a beauty with the matching Industry Nine headset and stem.

Rounded out with Wren Carbon bars and a sure-to-be-comfy Reform Tantalus saddle, Foss’s daughter is one lucky rider. Geometry for this classy and functional machine includes a 65° head tube angle, a 78° effective seat tube angle, 420mm reach, 603mm stack, and a 1,164mm wheelbase.

Foss said his goals with Rosario are multi-faceted at this point and he wants custom framebuilding to be a sustainable portion of how he supports his family.

“The challenge right now is to just get more exposure and find people beyond my local circle of friends and family who are looking for what I offer. The dream is to be able to make something I’m proud of, get paid fairly for it, have time to ride and hang out with great people in cool places, and contribute to a thriving local cycling community. I also want to do more pumptrack and bikepark design and continue helping riders and coaches develop. In my mind, it really all works together.”

Fabbro Industries Type 57x BC Mark II

This is not your typical full-suspension MTB, and it left some of the more linear minded folks at MADE scratching their heads. Born from a motorcycle frame, the Type 57x Bicycle is something along the lines of a hybrid commuter that is at home on mellow trails as well as the paved path to work. Designed and built by Terence Musto of Fabbro Industries, an upstate New York metal fabricator with a diverse background in manufacturing everything from tables to motorcycles. While Musto doesn’t have deep roots in the bike industry, his unique full suspension bicycle frame sort of found its own way to the surface in 2021. 

“During my time in the motorcycle industry, we would build hardtail (rigid) motorcycles and pour 1,500-2,000 hours into these bikes, and they were beautiful, but punishing to ride.” 

So, he dreamed up a frame design that maintained the look of a rigid motorcycle but had a modern rear suspension system, not just a bit of elastomer to take the hit. 

“I knew the suspension had to be tunable, serviceable, and replaceable,” he said. “And I wanted to keep the front triangle open.” 

Once he had a prototype and proof of concept, he hit the ground figuring out how to make his patented Type 57x® Motorcycle frame a market-ready product. Turns out tuning a handmade motorcycle suspension system is quite difficult and when doing customer discovery, he had similar conversations about suspension with 12 potential customers. The same reference to bicycles kept coming up – they’d chosen hardtail bicycles for the simplicity but would prefer a softer ride. Most full suspension MTBs on the market seemed like overkill for their needs, but they still desired some form of rear suspension for riding over a big crack in the pavement while maintaining a casual, seated riding position.

They wanted to both ride the bike lane and hit that bit of urban cutty trail on the way to the coffee shop in capable comfort. Musto decided that since testing and tuning his Type 57x® Motorcycle frame was complex, perhaps he could apply the suspension design to a bicycle frame and fill this niche in the market. With that, the Type 57x BC Mark I arrived. Now in its second iteration, the Type 57x BC Mark II turned heads at MADE. The system has the ability to be applied to a step-thru frame and great potential to become an e-bike offering.

The SRAM-equipped prototype that was on display at MADE features 75mm of travel via two lower extension absorbers in the chain stays, and two upper compression absorbers in the seat stays. Threaded into the receivers of the frame, the shocks are removable and serviceable. The lower shocks are tuned for large bump compliance, the top for small bump compliance. The DeCarbon style gas-over-hydraulic coil shocks have fully tunable valve stacks. Each has a coil spring, a valve stack for both rebound and compression, and a Nitrogen charged floating piston to prevent cavitation of the fluid. 

“We mount accelerometers on the seat tube and run a course, same rider, same speed. Compared to a hardtail, the peak acceleration experienced on our prototypes was 40% lower than that of the hardtail. Which means that we are absorbing/damping 40% of the impact in just 75mm of travel.”

The Type 57x Mark II has a 70° head tube angle, a 72° seat tube angle, 14.25 inch reach, 19- inch stack, a 47-inch wheelbase and is running 27.5-inch wheels. Equipped with 1×12 SRAM GX Eagle group set, SRAM Guide T hydraulic disc brakes, a RockShox Judy, BSA Threaded SRAM Dub Bottom Bracket, and Range handlebars from PNW Components.

“We have a patent for the splined connection between the axle cap, axle block, and rear axle,” said Musto.

“This entire assembly is splined together to avoid one axle block tipping/rocking independently of the other. It turns the rear axle into a torsional member, essentially. If torque is applied unilaterally (let’s say, braking, for example) while just the brake side will have the urge to rock/tip, that torque will be transferred to the drive side via the axle to keep the two sides in unison,” Musto explained.

With all these unique design features, the Type 57x was certainly thought provoking for mainstream bicycle industry brains. Though it may not be every major bike enthusiast’s next addition to the fleet, the bike aims to be the one-bike owner’s do-all rig that also looks good next to the custom Harley chopper in the garage.

“Even though I may not have started this journey in the bicycle world, I’m stoked to be here,” he said. “I’m excited about the prospect of what our Type 57x integrated suspension frame can add to the industry, and hope that we can build out a robust product to deliver real value to riders. That’s what it’s all about for me.”

Acoustic Cycles High Pivot FS V2.0

Growing up in Colorado Springs, Zach Gellar holds his dad responsible for getting him on a mountain bike at an early age. They’d ride local trails on the weekends which led to Gellar dragging his dad up to bike parks in the mountains and eventually racing downhill then working as a bike mechanic in high school and college. After years in commercial construction as a project manager, he decided to use his engineering background to make bike frames and launched Acoustic Cycles in 2019. He loves a good collaboration, and has worked closely with Ignite Components, Pinner Machine Shop, and his lovely wife Angelica who makes the gorgeous Mouse Metalworks head badges that adorn Acoustic Cycles’ custom head tubes from Cobra Framebuilding.

The Acoustic Cycles High Pivot FS V2.0 was “made for the trail and enduro crowd,” said Gellar. The high-pivot suspension platform makes for a great descending bike with the horizontal axle path. However, with very strategic pivot placement, I was also able to make a very capable climber. At 150mm of rear travel, this frame can tackle the bigger roots, rocks and drops on your techier trails but will still be at home on your slightly tamer trails,” he said.

On display were both a medium full suspension frame dressed up in olive green with a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate Air shock and a size large frame looking classy in ivory with a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate Coil in the rear. Showing off a few head-turners at various booths around the show, Acoustic Cycles was a popular stop for the suspension hungry at MADE. 

Gellar’s full-suspension frames use the High Pivot, 4-Bar, Horst Link Suspension Design. Aesthetically, these bikes will halt you in your tracks, from the custom Ignite T-type 32 tooth chainrings, custom Ignite Catalyst cranksets to the matching rocker links and pretty Industry Nine and Wolftooth bits, all tied together by stunning paint jobs from Dark Matter Finishing. Both have 150mm rear travel and 160mm of squish up front via RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 44mm offset forks. They’re equipped with custom T-47 bottom brackets, SRAM XO Eagle Transmission and SRAM AXS T-Type Pod shifters, SRAM Code Silver Stealth brakes, and custom 29” custom Industry Nine EN300 wheelsets.

The ivory size large Acoustic Cycles High Pivot FS V2.0 has a 482mm reach, 631mm stack height, a 64° head tube angle, 78.1° effective seat tube angle, and a 1,248mm wheelbase. The green medium frame has a 464mm reach, a 622mm stack, 64° head tube angle, a 78.5° effective seat tube angle, and a 1226mm wheelbase.

“Each frame I build is designed and made solely by me in the mountains of Pine, Colorado,” said Gellar. “Every detail is scrutinized from water bottle placement to suspension kinematics to ensure a well thought design and function. I strive to have a client engaged in their frame from conception to hand-off to ensure they have a real bond with our creation. Additionally, I want to be able to point to each piece of raw material and each part to know exactly where it came from. My goal is to use as many domestic parts and pieces of a bike as possible. Getting an email or text from an ecstatic customer who loves the way their bike fits, rides and looks is the ‘WHY’ when I think about building bicycles,” said Gellar.

“It seems that when people talk of handmade, smaller bike builders, that it only means hardtail or rigid bikes. Acoustic Cycles is proof that you can have domestic, handmade frames and still charge the gnarly trails in your area.”

The 2023 MADE Bike Show at Zidell Yards was an amazing showcase of art, community, and the beauty of the simple machine that is a bicycle. There are a lot of ways to design, build, and use a bike, however, the string that weaves us into a community is the joy we get from pedaling, the simplicity of propelling ourselves forward on wheels. There is something extra special about products made by hand and the humans who choose such endeavors. Shout out to the MADE Bike Show staff, volunteers and all the craftspeople and brands that showed up – we can’t wait for the next one.

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