The curved tubes of Curtis Inglis’ Retrotec frames aren’t for everyone, but their sweeping lines are reminiscent of the decorative forms of the ‘Yank tank’ cars of the 1950s.
The latest from the Napa, California builder draws further inspiration from that era, in particular the 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air colour codes of 688 — Pinecrest Green, and 690 — Sherwood Green.
The Retrotec marque was founded in 1992 by the Reverend Robert Seals, one of the most colourful characters of the early MTB scene. Bob is quite a visionary — an inventor, mystic, environmentalist, musician and healer — not to mention inventor of the Cool Tool multi-tool and the Kleen Kanteen.
One of the first models of Retrotec was the Dirt Craft, which consisted of a single tube, drilled to reduce weight, and a Slingshot-style rear end of cables that formed the seat and chain stays. The design afforded a small amount of flex that was more ‘compliance’ than suspension.
While the Dirt Craft was the main Retrotec model, Bob was riding around on a curvy frame reminiscent of Schwinn cruisers from the 50s. In 1993, he employed Curtis Inglis to help build frames, and Curtis took over the business a few years later when he moved to San Francisco with Jeremy and Jay Sycip.
Inglis Cycles was launched in 1996 but Retrotec was kept as a sideline when there was an odd order for them. Nowadays, the curved-tube frames form a mainstay of Curtis’ business, and this one is heading to the 2015 NAHBS in Louisville, Kentucky on March 6th-8th.
It was built for Matt Larson and there’s a few details incorporated into the finishing that make for a very special and personal story. To start with, the bar ends are two Winchester shells that shot the ashes of Matt’s late grandfather into the woods.
Matt wanted a bike that he could take “nasty B-road riding” so there’s clearance for tyres up to 45mm. Three water bottle cages will ensure he’ll have plenty of hydration, and the new Whisky No. 9 CX fork will dampen the blows from the front end.
The hydraulic Di2 groupset handles braking and shifting duties, coupled with a set of Middleburn cranks. Whisky also provide the bidon cages, seat post and No. 7 ‘cross rims, promising a surefooted stance over those gravel paths. A Brooks Cambium saddle will also ensure a comfortable ride.
The grandfather of Matt’s wife fought in the Korean War, and the pouch that used to carry his ammunition has been recruited as a seat pack underneath the Cambium. Both the Winchester shells and the pouch will serve as reminders for Matt of his “badass grampas” and that he should “keep pedalling past the hurt”.
Keep an eye out for it at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Louisville. Special thanks to Marty Woods for the photos.