Anyone can take a photo of a bicycle. But one ingredient that is sure to set excellent photos of bicycles above average photos of bicycles is, invariably, that the photographer actually rides bikes themselves. Jeff Curtes is an incredibly skilled shooter, whose work we’ve enjoyed on these pages many times over the last year.
Jeff loves riding, and loves beautiful bikes. An ex-pat Portlandian, now living in Sydney with his family, he is the Australian Speedvagen ambassador; racing ‘cross and riding roads on their bikes, yet he still has an immense passion for handmade American bikes. So when he desired a machine to hit the vast amount of single trail that Australia has to offer, he sought out an American favourite: Seven Cycles.
One of Jeff’s first favourite mountain bikes was a Ti 26″ hardtail made by Rob Vandermark of Merlin Metalworks, Inc.; that legendary Massachusetts marque founded in 1986 and commonly referred to as the Lamborghini of bicycle frames. Jeff obviously found it hard to get the taste of titanium out of his mouth, as he’s currently riding a rigid single speed Ti 29er built by Mike De Salvo of Ashland, Oregon.
De Salvo was one of the early Speedvagen collaborators, TIG welding many of their first frames. Jeff and Mike became friends and, upon request, Mike built him the race bike in 2009. Jeff still rides it today, loving “the forgiveness and ride quality of ultralight Ti and the roll quality of a 29er”. Rigid single speeds have their place, but so do spongey front ends and gears, especially on Aussie trails.
A love for the handmade bicycle was instilled within Jeff as a result of living in Portland during the first decade of the third millennium. That, combined with the appreciation for the steel Speedvagens he’d been riding Down Under since 2011, lay the parameters for a new geared hardtail that was destined for Aussie soil — literally.
Jeff got to talking Dan Sharp, a fellow photographer, about some of his recent off-road adventures for his Benedicto blog, who planted the backpacking seed in Jeff’s mind. Dan hooked him up with the guys at Seven Cycles, another legendary Massachusetts shop, coincidentally founded by Merlin’s Rob Vandermark in 1997. Jeff’s dream Seven Cycles 622M SLX was born.
The build came together through various contacts of Jeff’s: the cutting-edge, inverted Rock Shox RS-1 fork with Predictive Steering and SRAM XX1 group via his mate, ex-pro racer Joe Parkin; and the carbon fibre ENVE M Series 50 wheelset as a result of the Speedvagen Family Racing partnership. Jeff’s sponsor, Kogel Bearings, supplied the bottom bracket, and it was all put together by the masterful Joe Dodd at Sydney’s Summit Cycles.