As far as handmade aluminium bike frames go, one name rules them all — or rather, three letters: FTW. They stand for Frank The Welder, who is responsible for countless early Yeti, Turner, Barracuda, and Easton frames. But Spooky Cycles is the brand he is synonymous with, which is back with an FTW-built road offering called the Mulholland.
As it turns out, this is the third iteration of the Spooky business but it looks the strongest yet. Spooky led the ‘mid-school’ MTB revolution during the late 90s with their dirt-jumping Metalhead frames that rode like a real mountain bike, created by a group of straightedge punks… and Frank ‘The Welder’ Wadelton.
The first version of Spooky ceased operations in 2000. However, it seemed the original fans of Spooky had moved on to riding bikes with skinny tyres, and it was reestablished in 2008. The Skeletor road frame was released to a devoted fan base, as well as the HavocStaff. Road bikes were seen getting air over dirt jumps.
Spooky 2.0 stopped working as well, for various reasons. Now Brandon Elliot has taken up the mantle, with a refreshed brand, direction and logotype courtesy of Grayson Smith. FTW is back on board too. The market has changed, and it looks ripe for raw, US-made aluminium ‘all-road’ frames.
Brandon had this to say: “Like many others, I’ve drooled over Spooky for years. I owned some retail bike shops but never carried Spooky, so I never bought one. In 2014 I sold my shops only to realise Spooky was no-more, and though I had some bikes I loved, I craved a Spooky made by Frank the Welder.
“Time passed, I moved to the West Coast, and the itch got worse. One day I stumbled across contact info for a dojo in NY owned by Adam Mitchell — one of the original dudes at Spooky. After 5-6 emails and a half-dozen attempts to get him on the phone I finally pinned him down and got a solid hour of his time telling me all about the past internal workings of Spooky. It was such a rad call, he openly answered so many questions I had and gave me information on things and people I wouldn’t have even known to ask about.
“Adam hooked me up with Kevin Hopkins, another of the Spooky originals, who is now practicing law. They wanted to know my intentions, and while they signed off with their approval of me doing my thing with the brand, they wanted to be sure my vision aligned with where they wanted it to go in many ways. They weren’t ready to let the brand go in just any direction, so it was a sign that my head and plans aligned with what they started so long ago. After a number of calls and emails with those guys they set me free.
“One call to Frank was all that it took to get him on board. He had some really good and a few bad times with Spooky over the decades, but all things considered, Spooky held a warm place in his mind. He and I clicked, we talk a ton. He took on the Mullholland Project at the drop of a hat, and every step he takes he feeds back to us, it’s like we’re in the building with him.
“We had a lot of tubing chosen based on bikes we loved, but Frank had some feedback as well. He also wanted to make some alterations to the stock tubes to give it his touch, which we were completely on board with. I hear from Frank essentially every day, even on weekends. Some days it’s 2-3 emails of just photos of his work. Some days it’s to talk about other projects he’s working on outside of Spooky; various little bits he’s machined that he’s really happy with, new tools, whatever.
“We were lucky enough to get Richard DeFrancisco on board with supplying dropouts. He may or may not be a household name to the custom bike world, but he’s been involved behind the scenes with quite a few builders and with Spooky for years.
“So with that, we have Kevin and Adam pulling for us, Frank welding, and Richard helping with parts. The new Spooky has a ton of the original cast behind it. I’m new to the brand but I’ve been in the bike industry for the last decade.
“A friend of mine, Grayson Smith, is handling the lion’s share of the design of new stuff. He’s super talented and blows me away with some of the things he comes up with, much of it we’re bottling for future releases.
“Our first Mulholland in these pictures is mine. Frank was kind enough to pull a single 58cm frame from the batch early to get to me, which was really rad because it cost him some extra time out of his day to hammer a single one out. I think he knew how excited I was about the project and seeing it through.
“Up next will be our CX bike. I hate to talk about it since the first batch of Mulhollands is still in transit, but it’ll be special. We’re working on some new touches that haven’t been seen outside of our inner circle, all of which will add up to a wicked race bike.
“There’s also steel. Tubing options have come a long way recently and we’re always prototyping stuff there. Stay tuned for some new bikes on that front, currently being done as one-offs testing some dropouts and chain/seat stay combos.”
What about a new Metal Head? “We’ve talked about it. I can’t say whether or not one will come. If the demand comes, we’ll make it. What would it be now? The 26″ steel bike is kind of dead here. A 29er hardtail? 27.5 FS? We’re open to suggestions!”
Brandon — and Frank — have been busy over the last ten weeks, but it looks like the time for a reinvigorated Spooky has arrived. What do you think of the Mulholland? What else would you like to see from Spooky and FTW?