By Vernon Felton
The Brevard/Asheville area is home to a slew of framebuilders, machinists and innovators--many of which are building innovative product right here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Frames By Stickel and Industry Nine Wheels are just two examples of this.
Frames By Stickel
Steve Stickel's beautiful, handcrafted hardtails are a great example of the area’s homegrown talent. Stickel TIG welds the frames from double-butted TruTemper, Reynolds, Columbus, and Dedacciai tubing and his bikes are loaded with thoughtful details such as a customizable picture-frame headtube badge, burly headtube and bottom bracket gussets, cleverly -bent seatstays (for extra tire and heel clearance), Breezer-style rear dropouts and, well, we could keep going on and on here, but you get the picture....
We took Stickel's personal bike hostage for a week (sorry about that, Steve) and were impressed on the whole. While the lightweight 26 and 29er full-suspension bikes tended to crank up the rocky climbs with greater traction and less front-wheel wandering, the bike felt exceptionally stable and dialed on the rocky downhills and held its line like a champ. The short (for a 29er) chainstays measured about 16.75 inches and gave the bike a fairly maneuverable feel.
Industry Nine Wheels
You can't ride a mile around here without running into a set of Industry Nine wheels. I9 are the hometown heroes of all things hoop-shaped. While they source the rims and bearings from abroad, the hubs and spokes are built from scratch in their Asheville shop.
There's no denying the aesthetic appeal of the wheels, which feature cleverly-machined 7075-T6 spokes, a buzz-saw sexy hub with a whopping 120-points of engagement, and a stout-as-hell ride quality. Oh, and these wheels hold up damn well to the pounding that Pisgah dishes out. After hitting God-knows-how-many rock gardens in the past two weeks, I can attest to the beat down these trails inflict on wheelsets. The I9s are light, yet burly. Sweet.