Dave Wages is an award-winning bicycle fabricator and the man behind Ellis Cycles. Ellis Cycles is located in Wisconsin and I visited Dave’s workshop back in 2014 in pursuit of a story that we published titled – Builder Profile – Ellis Cycles. Dave and I ran into one another out at Kettle last summer and he mentioned that he was building himself a new fat bike. That got us talking about how fat bikes have evolved from the earlier days. I was in the middle of testing a couple of next-generation fatties and I thought that it would be interesting to share a bit of what Dave was building for himself and how his new bike would evolve compared to his first fat bike. His first fat bike just happened to win Best Fillet Bike at the 2014 NAHBS show.
G – Tell us about your fat bike lifestyle Dave – Like what’s your favorite trail?
D – I’d have to say the Winman Trails up in Northern Wisconsin. They are literally the first place that I experienced groomed fat bike trails, and machine-built trails as well. I love some old-school technical mountain bike trails, but I have to say that their trails are some of the most fun I’ve ridden in quite a while. Winman also holds a special place because it’s where my wife really had her love of fat biking and mountain biking sparked. We had ridden the Muir Trails at Kettle Moraine and she was just struggling with the technical bits and just her overall confidence on the bike, but after an autumn trip to Winman last year she got a bunch of trail miles under her and she gained a ton of confidence, which has continued to grow. We just got back from a week in Bentonville, AR, and we both had a ball riding the trails down there on our fat bikes, (with skinnier plus tires and wheels).
G – Groomed vs. Panked?
D – If the answer above didn’t give it away, I’m a groomed trail guy. I came up in cycling as a roadie, so I’m always looking to go faster!
G – Racer? – Explorer? – Pathlete? – Conquistador?
D – Former racer, mountain, and road, but over the last few years I’ve become more of an Explorer. My wife and I did a cross-country tour in 2018, and we try to do some type of tour at least once every season, whether it be around Lake Michigan, around the state of Wisconsin, or a quick trip from MLPS back to MKE a few years back. I’m learning how to slow down and explore more than always racing to the next destination.
G – Since you just fabricated your second (personal) fat bike, I thought that it would be interesting to learn what you upgraded going from your Legacy Fatty (built in 2014) and the bike that you just finished.
D – (some stuff remained the same and some stuff evolved because…)
Frame Material; I stuck with what I know, a lovely fillet brazed steel frame. It’s a combination of Columbus and Dedacciai tubing, with Paragon Machine Works dropouts, bottom bracket, and head tube.
Wheel Size; For a tall guy (6’5″), it seemed like a no brainer to upgrade to 27.5 fatbike wheels from the 26 that I ran on the original fatbike back in 2014. It also means when I switch to 29+ wheels there’s less of a change to the overall wheel diameter. In fact, the 27.5×4.3″ Terrene Yippie Ki Yahs that I’m running are actually bigger than the 29×2.8″ mountain wheels I built for MTB riding. Those big 27.5 fatbike wheels roll over EVERYTHING! I’m really liking them.
Stack Height; The stack height has only changed about 6mm from 646mm to 652. My contact points on the bike haven’t really changed that much, but the way that I connect the dots between them definitely has.
Geometry; Because I’m a tall guy, 6’5″, I’m always weighing the pros/cons of a super long bike with a gigantic front center. If I went super slack with my head angle and a 700mm top tube I’m not sure my bike would still fit on a rack or make it around corners…. I kept the 74 degree seat angle that I used back in 2014, but I lengthened the top tube from 645mm to 680mm, and I slackened the head angle from 70 down to 69 degrees. I’m still running a 90mm stem just to get my handlebars where I need them, but I didn’t want to go all the way to a 700mm top tube just to run a 70mm stem. That said, the change in geometry has had a dramatic influence on the handling and weight distribution on the new bike. On the snow, it was not as dramatic, but riding the trails in Bentonville with the 29+ wheels I could tell it made a big difference in the stability both going up and down the hills.
Componentry; Here’s the rundown.
Ellis Cycles Neve (snow in Eye-talian) fillet brazed frame.
Lauf Carbonara fork
Wolf Tooth Premium headset and seatpost clamp.
HED Big Half Deal carbon fat bike wheels.
Terrene Yippie Ki Yah studded tires 27.5×4.3″
Truvative Stylo carbon crank, 30T, 175mm
SRAM DUB bottom bracket
Shimano XT 12 speed RD, shifter, and chain
Shimano STX 12 speed cassette, 10×45 (only because XT was out of stock and XT 10×51 was even more out of stock!)
Shimano XTR brakes ( had some old BL-M988 levers kicking around, and mated them with a new XTR rear flat mount caliper and a XT post mount front)
PRO Tharsis carbon bar, 740mm
Ergon grips, they’re purple!
PRO Tharsis 160mm dropper post (I was a bit skeptical about the dropper post, but a week in Bentonville changed my mind, I’m a complete convert now!)
PRO Griffon 148mm saddle.
The 29+ wheels are;
Whisky No.9 36W rims
Teravail Coronado 29×2.8″ tires
G – You’ve been on the new bike for a month, how do you feel about your new creation?
D – I’m definitely liking the longer top tube/shorter stem coupled with the slacker head angle which gets me farther behind the front end of the bike. It’s more stable at speed, and easier to control on steep ups and downs. The thing that really surprised me is the Lauf Carbonara fork. I originally got one for my wife’s fat bike because I wanted something dead simple, no adjustments or tuning needed since she was so new to the game and I honestly wasn’t sure how much it was going to get used. In the wintertime, on snow, I’m not sure that the Lauf makes much difference at all, but once the trials dry out and you’re riding dirt, it’s a whole different matter. As we rolled into Bentonville it was pretty clear that my wife and I were some of the only folks riding hardtail bikes, but the Lauf forks really set us apart from the crowd. I was not sure what to expect on the trial, but having ridden traditional telescoping forks, I can say that there were only a handful of instances where I felt like the Lauf was getting overwhelmed. On a few rocky downhills, I’d hit multiple rocks in succession, and it struggled a bit there, but 95% of the time, the leaf springs, combined with my 2.8″ tires performed beautifully. I especially like how it feels when I’d get out of the saddle and push on an uphill or flat section. While I’m sure I was bobbing a bit, it didn’t feel anything like the pogo effect I’ve experienced on my 29’er with a RockShox fork.
G – If one of our readers/listeners wants one of your fabulous fat bikes, what does that process look like? How can they order an Ellis for their very own?
D – Most orders start with a phone call or email to get the conversation started. Since I don’t have any “stock” geometry every frame I build is made to measure with only one rider in mind. All the details are up to you, so if you want a fat bike with lots of mounting points for gear, I can do that. If you want the stripped-down racing rig, that’s no problem either, or anything in between. Once someone decides to order, I take an initial deposit of $500 to get you a spot in the build queue. At that point we discuss all the details, I produce a CAD drawing of your future bike along with a list of materials and parts so that everything is finalized before I ever start mitering that first tube.
For more information about Ellis Cycles visit – www.elliscycles.com
Great interview. As a guy who is 6’5” tall also, It is great to know that there are companies that can build bikes for guys our height.
I definitely know where to get the loooong tubes! 😉
Dave’s a great guy. Top notch builder.