We always keep our eyes peeled for new and emerging talent in the industry. In the case of Kristofer Henry and 44 Bikes, it was Kristofer’s graphic design work that led us to this incredible story of how his custom bicycle fabrication shop was born. Graphic and industrial design talent, combined in balance, is a rare and beautiful thing! Over the last few months, I have to admit that I’ve become quite a fan of the work that I see coming out of Kris’s new studio. Take a look for yourselves and tell us what you think.
So tell us a little about yourself?
I’m an industrial designer by trade and training. I own a small design agency, Blackcap Studio. I’ve always wanted to be a framebuilder and build bike frames. Not too many people know this, but I started my design business in order to start my frameshop. But I wanted to do it on my own terms and at my own expense. So it’s taken me over 5 years to get to where I am now. I stumbled into an apprenticeship with Ted Wojcik. When that ended, I knew it was time to finally put the frame shop together. This past April in 2011 it was time to finally build out my frame shop. There’s a thread on Garage Journal that catalogs everything that I’ve done from start to present: So that took me a little under a year to complete. Along the way I had started building my own frame jig: And all of my own tooling: So basically there was A LOT of things to do before I even struck an arc or cut a tube! I was musing to myself, just yesterday, that this time last year…. none of this existed. It’s pretty incredible to be standing in my own shop. 44 Bikes has come so far in a relatively short time span and it’s been done on my own terms… which i’m proud of. The space is much more than just a frame shop actually as it will see dual duty as not only a place to build bikes but a place for me to think, create and ideate new projects and concepts. I have plans to prototype a bunch of furniture and some small camp stoves among other things. Basically this is my studio.
Wow!…Now what about 44 Bikes?
44 Bikes is a custom bicycle frame shop. Each frame is made to order, for the discerning client who has a specific need. My specialty is 29″ mountain bikes tuned for the rigors of east coast riding (Kid Dangerous). I have plans on building myself a road bike this spring so I can expand my offerings. I have a feeling I am only known to make mountain bikes to this point, which is not really the case. It’s just what has been my focus up to this point for some obvious reasons (I love mountain biking!). I also love point to point rides and offer up options for building out large tire adventure type bikes (Snake Driver). The names I have given bikes are more of nicknames than model names. The names gives me a reference point from which to build from.
Can you give us the low down on your ‘Big-Boy’ fat-bike?
During the winter I’m relegated to the dirt roads and pavement but I really want to be on the trails and in the woods. We snow shoe and cross country ski but it’s honestly not the same as being on a bike. This led me to the inevitable: build myself a fat bike. So what you are seeing right now is my fat bike proto build (The Big Boy). It’s my first fatbike I’ve built. I live in New Hampshire and we tend to get a lot of snow, except for this winter which has been relatively dry… naturally. I am committed to riding 4 seasons. Personally, I like a really low slung frame, lots of top tube clearance, you ride in the bike, it’s quick and natural to handle with lots of tire clearance. Some of those attributes naturally translated from my mountain bike builds to this snow bike. And building this snow bike proto has informed me of some interesting progressions for my 29″ mountain bikes. Is this the ultimate fat bike? I can’t say. As Ted has stated: “You have to kiss a few frogs before you can get a prince.” So it’s all about design, build, test, refine. Then do that all over again. I find it really important to get feedback from others but also to be experiencing the bikes through my own lens and deciphering feedback from others. It’s all a series of layers that as a builder, we need to translate and decode to make the ride that much better. So needless to say I’m very excited to get this bike finished and take it for a spin on what it was intended: snow. One thing that really made sense to me is having things truly centered. The off-set bikes are a really interesting solution utilizing existing components but to my own design sensibilities, that’s a serious strain on the manufacturing end of things. Bending tubes is tough enough by itself. So I went 135 front, 170mm rear. I realize you can no longer switch between front and rear but how much of us actually ride the Iditarod type races where we need that flexibility. If a customer comes to me with that specific request, I have the tooling to get it done. But for my own purposes, I went symmetrical. You’ll notice there are no water bottle mounts. I run a hydration pack personally, so there is no need for them, personally. Again, if the client wants bottle mounts and additional braze-ons, i can put them where they need to be. But again, this is my own custom bike so you’ll see what my own personal needs will be.
HT: 70.5* (built around a 450mm A2C 135mm spaced fat fork I built last year) – dedicated rigid /
CS Length: 16.5″ – Seat tube has a radius to achieve this.
BB Drop: 2.125″
ST Length: 17.5″
HT: 44mm (good number ironically…), Paragon Machine Works 5.125″
Dropouts: Paragon Machine Works Wright Dropouts w/ 6061 Al – Long replaceable hanger.
TT= 1.25″ diameter
ST=1.25″ (Sleeved to run 27.2mm Thomson Post)
CS=0.75″ hand bent + formed
SS=0.625″ hand bent
CS have 4.5″ of clearance, SS have 4.5″ of clearance with about .375″+ of clearance to either side of the tire with Surly Endomorph tire mounted to Speedway Uma 70mm rims
-100mm bb shell – Paragon Machine Works
-Dedicated 1×9 – I want to see what front derailleur possibilities are post build.
-TT length is custom to my personal specs. I build based on what I refer to as “The Cockpit”. This is basically where I want the rider to be in relation to the bike. It’s based on a few different measurements.
Component spec will be:
Speedway Cycles Uma 70mm, Paul Whub, Salsa Mukluk 170mm rear (NAHBS showed paul with a 170mm rear hub… oh well. Maybe next year!)
Thomson Stem 90mm stem, Thomson Layback post
Phil Wood BB
NOS Race Face Square Taper Turbine cranks (What I have on hand)
Avid BB7 Mechs (185mm front, 160mm rear) – full length housing for brakes/derailleurs.
Avid ultimate Levers
Custom 135mm Fat Fork – 450 A2C
Cane Creek Head Set with 44mm Adapter
Sram XO 9spd shifter / X9 Med Cage Derailleur
Shimano XT Cassette – I want to fiddle with chainline, cogs and cog tooth count
Nate up front / Endo in rear (what I have on hand)
YETI Speed grips
Race Face Diablo Handle bar, uncut (what I had on hand, but they are 25.4 so I can use my thomson face plate made by hope that is modified so I can mount my light)
Crank Brothers Mallets – I’ll also run a pair of flats depending on weather.
1×9 dedicated – I will use a e13 XCX BB mounted Guide. May have to make a custom part for this but I don’t imagine so.
The newest product Kris is developing is custom frame and seat bags, specifically designed to function along with his custom frame builds. Stay tuned to fat-bike.com for more on that on down the road.