form cycles

A Visit To Form Cycles: Get Your “Ti” On.- by Grannygear

When we gathered for the first trail ride on the rocky singletracks of Sedona, AZ, for the 2013 Magura Press Camp, I noticed the trail leader was a seriously fit looking guy.  I further noticed that he was riding a shiny 29″er singlepeed.  I, and most of the others were on at least a 120mm FS.  Hmmmm.  When you see that in a trail leader…super fit…SS…worry.

It turns out that was Daryl of Form Cycles, now based out of Sedona, on that stainless steel 29″er singlespeed.  I had talked to Daryl when we highlighted Dean and his new race hard tail (Dean recently got 4th at the Nationals in his class on a super, super tough course and conditions).  After the Sedona rides were done and the beer was consumed, we arranged to spend some time talking about Form and what they are up to.  So here, without any further delay, meet Daryl and Form, purveyors of fine custom frames for all kinds of stuff.

form cycles

TNI – Tell us a little bit about where Form came from and the talent involved in the company.

FORM:  FORM Cycles was created at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009 when Titus Cycles began to experience many changes.  Three of us that were in charge of building Titanium (and small amount of steel) frames there, decided we would start this together.  The idea has always been to create a completely customized ride.  It gives people the opportunity to not have to “settle” for something that may not be what they want or need to be riding.

TNI – What sets Form apart from other builders, custom or otherwise?  Why would I choose you over someone else?

FORM:  FORM works toward one goal with each frame design – make the perfect bike for the customer without trying to manipulate components to get there.  By this design philosophy, we are able to take in valuable information from each customer and work with them to build the bike they want and need.  This is not to say that other people/companies are not trying/doing the same, but with our added work to help each customer spec their dream-bike with whatever they want their “dream” bike becomes even more of a reality.

TNI – You have a competitive cycling racing background and you still compete.  Does that influence your products?  You seem to be a pretty hardcore single speed fan.

FORM:  Racing is definitely an interest of mine.  Single-speeding has become my preference of riding over the past 2 years partially because it is the hardest on the bike frames and a really good way to test what we are making.  Racing started later in life for me and I did the Texas Mountain Bike Racing Series for about 5 years before moving to Arizona (7 years ago).

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A stack of headtubes waiting for your call.

TNI – We’ve seen some builder’s waiting lists and they are long! How long does it typically take you to fulfill a custom bike order? Are there stock frames available for those not wanting to wait?

FORM:  We do our best to not make our customers wait, but it is inevitable at this day in age – especially when they go custom.  Our typical wait period is around 6 months or 20 weeks at this time.  We do not stock frames primarily because when we first started and built stock frames nobody wanted them and we wasted time and energy on building stock when we could have focused on custom.

TNI – Why go custom at all?  What does a person really gain from the time and money invested in a handmade bike?

FORM:  Sizing a bicycle frame for a specific person is the first step in making a bike they will fit and be happy on.  Many bike shops feel this can be done through a different stem, saddle, seatpost or handlebar.  Truth be told, the frame is the heart of the bicycle and when it is not correct the ride will never feel right.  Many people may need a longer cockpit while keeping the standover low.  29″ers tend to have higher front ends on the bicycles due to larger wheels.  Custom design can create a frame design that lowers the front end for a better fit.  Stock size frames typically do not consider this.  Other specific reasons for a custom frame are medically related for someone with back issues that needs to fit their bicycle in a position not replicated on a stock frame.  Last reason to go custom is all the neat little add-on options you can choose to do (i.e., BB choices, bottle boss locations/additions, specific cable routing, etc…) 

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NAHBS bike sans saddle

TNI – You guys build MTB, road, commuter…quite a variety of genres and wheel sizes.  How much of the MTB stuff is rolling on 29″ wheels? 

FORM:  Yes, we build a large variety of bike frames with all of the current wheel sizes.  99% of the mountain frames we build are done with 29” wheels.  It is interesting to see how the 29” wheel has taken over the market with mountain bikes.

TNI – Are you seeing requests for 650b?

FORM:  650b is starting to make noise, but still not really building many frames with that wheel size.  We have built them before and I actually raced one in Durango, CO at Singlespeed Worlds 2009, but upon returning I was quickly back on my 29er.  The 29” wheel just works better in a rocky area like Sedona, AZ.

TNI – Ti seems to be what you are most known for, but I was pretty struck by the bike your were riding in Sedona, a stainless steel single speed.  What is the attraction or benefit to this material for a bike frame?  How does it compare to Ti or ‘normal’ steel in ride performance and cost?

FORM:  Stainless steel is an interesting material for bicycle frames.  It works best in road frames where stiffness is key and you want a frame that has significant pedal acceleration.  It is hard to beat Titanium in a mountain frame because of the durability and compliance you get from Titanium.  Titanium is the most comfortable material that you can get for a hardtail mountain frame and I have honestly spent a lot of time on all of the major frame building materials (i.e., aluminum, Titanium, steel, stainless steel, scandium, carbon fiber).

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Stainless beauty

TNI – Is there a bright future for anything NOT made of carbon fiber?  Carbon is making some real progress in performance and reliability although the cost is till high for the more premium products.  For instance, carbon pretty much crushed any other material for road bikes in the larger consumer market.

FORM:  Yes, Titanium has seen a huge resurgence in the market with mountain frames.  We have specifically replaced over a dozen people’s carbon frames with a Titanium frame because of a broken carbon frame.  In almost all cases, the carbon frame was not considered a “warranty replacement” by the manufacturer because of one reason or another.  If a carbon frame falls on a rock, due to an accident or just riding along, the chances of the frame receiving significant damage are extremely high.  With a Ti, steel or stainless steel frame, the frame can withstand the abuse and you can keep riding your bike with minimal frame impact.  It is also much easier to repair any frame damage on a Ti, steel or stainless steel frame than carbon.  Not to mention the cost being less than half to do so.

TNI – So there are all kinds of innovative bike types coming into the market now.  Fat bikes, 29+, longer travel hard tails…what intrigues you right now and what are you playing with?

FORM:  The 29+ platform is intriguing.  It seems to be something that gives the purest (hardtail, rigid single-speeders) something to soften the ride.  Yes, this is only a very small percentage (probably less than 1%) of the riders but it is a neat concept to stick a 3” wide tire on a 29″er size rim and ride through rocky terrain.  I believe this will become some peoples “do-it-all” machine when they can only get or afford one bicycle.

TNI – Every morning you get up and decide to be in business for yourself hand building bikes for select customers.  You could just ‘get a real job’, so to speak.  What drives you…motivates you to to do this when I know it has to have its challenges?  I am pretty sure it is not fame and fortune.

FORM:  Ahhh, yes – you could not be more accurate when you say this.  The LOVE of bicycles is what drives our work.  We look to build the best bike we can possibly build for each customer.  Seeing the look on their face or a picture of their completed “dream-machine” is almost better than the financial return of building the bike.  Knowing that we can build a bike that helps someone to achieve their goal of becoming a more frequent rider, a faster racer or having a bike they customized for themselves specifically drives us to keep going.  There is no limelight in custom frame-building and we (builders) are such a small part of the bicycle manufacturing world that it is hard to make a “living” at it, but I am sure I am not the only one who could not possibly imagine doing anything else. would like to thank Daryl and Form Cycles for their time and we wish them the best of everything.