Tucked away in a small village called Farleigh Hungerford, in Wiltshire, is the workshop of Curtis Bikes — a name revered amongst UK mountain bikers for their superb handmade steel frames. Their S1 SuperMoto is a single speed frame, and is as comfortable thrashing pavement as it is blasting trails.
Brian Curtis learned to braze when he was 17 and founded Curtis Bikes in 1972. He used to race motocross during the sixties and worked at Rickman Motorcycles, an independent motorcycle chassis constructor, making the famous frames. Then he started making his own frames under the Curtis Bikes banner, which supported Honda engines and running gear.
Around 1979, Brian was joined by Gary Woodhouse, who convinced Brian to start making BMX frames as the sport hit the UK, and the business boomed. Gary took over as manager in 1996, but Brian still brazes every Curtis frame — that’s about 44 years of torch-wielding experience, so it’s no wonder their frames are held in such high regard.
UK rider Brad Flynn had been riding mountain bikes since his mid-teens, everything from trails, dirt jumps and street, but turned to riding BMX after the local trails were bulldozed. “After a few years of BMX”, Brad tells us, “I started to crave the feeling of just going for a ride with your friends and doing whatever you liked along the way.
“I started to build a budget single speed cruiser based on a 26″ MTB. It was super simple: no gears to go wrong and only a rear brake (typical in the BMX world). It was exactly what I was missing, I really took to it and rode it whenever I could, to meet friends, visit people etc.”
Brad continues, “Back in my early mountain bike days, I remember seeing this Howies-blue Curtis jump bike at a spot about two hours from my home town. It was such an awesome looking hardtail, but ridiculously out of my reach of my pay as a Saturday boy at my LBS. The slim steel tubing on mountain bikes always appealed to me more than bulky looking aluminium.
“My memories of this bike were relit whilst I was at one of the early Bespoked Bristol shows. There were a couple of really clean, simple looking MTBs on the Curtis display with Gary Woodhouse. It got me thinking “I’ve always wanted a Curtis” and “I could have it done with none of the usual redundant gear guides etc”.
Another aspect of Curtis frames that appealed to Brad was the trademark raw finish, which shows off Brian’s skill. His brazing isn’t filed off to hide any lumps, it’s left unpainted to demonstrate the evenness of each pass. A couple of years later, Brad called Gary Woodhouse.
One reason that Curtis has such a loyal fanbase is due to Gary’s customer service. You can just call up the workshop to discuss your frame, and Brad did just that, arranging to visit the workshop to go over some reference material and discus some of the features he wanted. “I was pleased that he seemed excited to build it,” Brad says, “as we changed a few bits around which made it interesting, and because it isn’t really your typical bike.
He admits it’s not everyones cup of tea, “but I think when you build something bespoke you build it for yourself, not anybody else. It’s a bit of a confused MTB; with road tires and some BMX characteristics. Gary and I ended up calling it a bit of a ‘Super Moto’.”
He concludes, “I’ve spent time sourcing parts over the years and tried to support British companies where possible. Parts from Hope, Pace Cycles, Middleburn and Royce are all on the bike. Some bits I’ve tweaked myself, notably the flush bolts and housings on the rear hub and the White Industries chainring to fit Middleburn’s direct mount.”
Not to mention that it’s made from British tubing by a British frame builder in a little workshop in Wiltshire.
Huge thanks to Brad Flynn for the words and pictures.