Builder Profile – Ellis Cycles


The Neve at the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show

We featured Dave Wage’s NAHBS, Award Winning, Neve, fat-bike in a story written by mi primo, Sven, last month. You can check out more shots of this beautiful frame, before it was powdercoated there – Fat-Bike’s home base, here on earth, is located in South Eastern Wisconsin. The region is home to Trek, Hayes/Answer/ Manitou and even big box brands like Mongoose. Nestled among all of big bike companies is ‘the ghost of Schwinn past’, Waterford Bicycles, and right in the same, small, riverside town named….Waterford, our amigo Dave, hand-crafts, award winning bicycles in his cellar workshop, just about 15 miles from where I rest my head every night.


(click to enlarge)

Dave is originally from upstate New York and started his framebuilding journey at Serrotta in the mid nineties. He started at the ground floor and after 3 years got the opportunity to start to learn about hand fabricating bikes. Dave came in early and stayed late, on his own time, to work with Dave Kirk and learn the craft of building bicycles of the absolute, highest quality. The two Daves worked and raced mountain bikes together and remain good friends to this day. Kirk has his own bike company (Kirk Frameworks) and fabs frames out in Bozeman, Montana.

ellis details

After  five years at Serotta, Dave decided that it was time for a change and moved to Waterford, Wisconsin to ply his skills as a frame builder at the company of the same name. Waterford Precision Bicycles is where Schwinn used to hand fabricate Paramount Race Bikes and Waterford is owned by a direct descendent of Ignaz Schwinn. Waterford makes beautiful road/cross/track bike under the Waterford brand and sweet steel mountain bikes under the Gunner name plate. They also contract build for Fatback, Rivendell and others. Dave worked there for eight years and honed his metalworking skills like a master swordmaker….but instead of katana blades, he sculpted lugs like the one below and built classic bicycles that are as beautiful as they are functional.


In 2008 Dave decided to strike out on his own and founded Ellis Cycles. He attended the North American Hand-Built Bicycle show in Indianapolis, Indiana and won the award for “Best Lugged Bike” on his first try! Over the years he’s won several awards at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, racking up such show stoppers as “Best Lugged Bike”, “Best Road Bike”, “Best Steel Frame” and, in 2010, “Best in Show”!  So you can see why we jumped at the chance to share Dave’s framebuilding artistry, with all of our readers, in the form of his award winning Neve fat-bike.

P1130405I contacted Dave after NAHBS to congratulate him on his 5th award and to see if we could set up a time to shoot some pictures of his bike, after it came back from the powder coater. The Neve frame had to be kept uncoated for the show to be entered into the“Best Fillet Brazed Bike” contest (which it won!) Now that the show was over, Dave had sent it off to powder. Last week he let me know that the bike was back from the coater and ready to roll. We made arrangements to meet up for a ride at the John Muir Trails at the Kettle Moraine State Forest for some pictures and singletrack. Sven couldn’t make it, but we were joined by the Lizard King of the Tosa Local Mofo’s, Mr. Russell T. Jobs and my wife Bethany.

When I saw the Neve for the first time, I couldn’t resist giving Dave a little ribbing about his color choice for the new fatty. Dave reminded me that he prefers a very subtle and elegant finish on his personal bikes and that ‘pretty much’ shut me up. It also got me thinking….in addition to this story being a ‘Builder Profile’, it is also a Reader’s Ride article, since this particular custom bike was Dave’s! The color is called Satin Titanium and the decals are a nice deep red. Dave’s bike features a stock Salsa Beargrease fork (coated to match) and an XX1 drive train. The wheelset consists of HED’s Big Deal carbon rims laced to White Industries’ SnoWhite Hubs and a pair of 45NRTH Hüsker’s.


Dave took the Neve for a little shake down on the Skills course and I snapped a few fotos.




After the skills course, we went out and rode Kettle’s buff singletrack. I thought with the harsh winter that we just had, the trails would be pretty rough, but man….I was dead wrong. The trails were is great condition. We stopped and did one more batch of photos and with the evening light fading, decided to call it and just ride the rest of the loop for fun!


The evening ended with PBJ’s in the parking lot and another beautiful Wisconsin sunset.

The next morning, I visited Dave at his shop. I’ve toured and interviewed somewhere around a dozen, or so, custom bike studios and Dave’s is perhaps the smallest and the most devoid of big machines. He definitely puts the hand in ‘Hand-Built’ bicycles and he does absolutely beautiful work. If you’re wondering what an award winning, elegantly crafted, hand built, Ellis Cycles, Neve, fat-bike would run you, Dave told me right around $3,000 for the frame and fork.


Dave’s Bench


Elbow Grease and Artistry

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Just an old cat that rides bikes, herds pixels, ropes gnomes and sometimes writes stories. I love a good story.