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Made in New Hampshire

44 Bikes : Made in NH

I’ve been attempting to get my top mount decal art sorted. These will be printed by none other than SSSink. The logo and logo font have been finished for some time. The one piece that has had me a bit stumped was the “Made in NH” art. I’ve been working on and off for a few months now when inspiration hits me, and in between other design work or between frame builds. But this has one just seems to be evading me for some reason. Nothing felt right… Or “Just So” as Poppy would say. A good majority of the time, when I create graphics like this I have good direction, inspiration abounds and things come together. For whatever reason, things were just not clicking for me on such a simple piece (and maybe that was the problem?). But like all things I do, it has to have meaning. Nothing I do can’t for some reason, and perhaps that is my attention to detail oriented personality. I think it’s part and parcel to the knowledge and training passed along to me that everything should be considered and nothing left to waste or not to have meaning. If it’s a detail in the design, it must have a purpose otherwise it’s just a kind of tinsel.

I was working on this again this past week, again getting no where fast when it occurred to me the parallels between artifacts and bicycles. Both are tools, purpose built with specific intention. Materials are chosen and used. Methods perfected and hopefully passed along to the next generation to be once again, perfected, honed and perhaps from repetition and use, new methods or advancements are made. It’s a really interesting cycle. And it’s a cycle I find many parallels with when it comes to building bicycles. And I only just realized it this past week when sitting back looking at these artifacts I found as a kid and teen.

Where I grew up, if you know where to look, Native American artifacts abound. I was lucky enough to have a Father who at a young age, took an interest in all this and began arrowhead hunting in the fields surrounding his house in Red Hill, Pa. Back then, from his back door (and later that same backdoor of my grandparents), he could take to wide open fields which dotted the Perkiomen (a local stream). This was later the home of a large reservoir which was created as a feeder to Philadelphia I believe. But as I grew up, he often retold stories of his adventures by himself walking the farmers fields which dotted our valley and followed the Perkiomen. Many of which when I grew up, had been surrendered to the lake and thus these stories of these special places now locked under several feet of water were retold.

My Dad’s actually a great story teller. He has a special way of telling something simple that captures the imagination. At least it captures mine and I am all ears when he begins a story. One particular place was the old Judge Knight Farm. When the lake is low due to a drought, we’d “sneak” out and rake the exposed beach in time before a summer rain. This acts much like a plow would in a farmers field and brings any chips or pieces to the surface to be washed clean. So this habit of his carried through to adulthood and as a kid, he would take me out to specific sites/farmers fields to hunt arrowheads. He taught me about the materials used, what to look for in a potential site, where in the site to look, and “how” to look. That’s an important piece of information passed on mind you. Anyone can look, but it takes a discerning eye to actually SEE what you are looking at. This carries over into many things I do I have found. Looking is one thing, but to truly see is something very different and very subtle.

Anyway, one of my first points I found was the Perkiomen Broad Point. A specific piece to my region where I grew up that has a distinctive shape. These are points roughly 5000-6000 years BP. AKA possibly older than the dirt they’re sitting in. I have one piece that’s is close to 13,000 years old. Makes you feel kind of trivial when you hold this piece in your hand. But those in the know, it’s kind of a right of passage to find one I think, or at least that is the impression my Dad gave me when I came home with said point. The day is kind of etched in my memory. I remember I had ridden my bike to a field out by the Perkiomen Heights and spent the better part of the day picking up chips throughout the newly plowed field. It was getting late in the day and I figured I’d give one more row a once over before heading back home. Patiently walking, hands behind my back combing the dirt, I saw the end sticking out. This is the moment you spend all hours waiting for actually. If you don’t know what to look for, you’d pass this up. Often, pieces like this are broken and rare now complete. So you pick them up with a bit of hesitation. Could it be a perfect point? Often they are not, which this one was not (the very tip of it was knocked off making it a touch over 10cm in length and 7.5cm in width). But my heart raced and sank all at the same time at finding this one:

Perkiomen Broad Point

So thinking on this, I had some direction. I know my home is in New Hampshire now, but I can’t help but think about where my heart will always remain. That’s outside in those fields and woods of the Upper Perkiomen Valley. I have fond memories of exploring those hills just outside of town both with my Father, his best friend Marshall and later on my own as a young teen either by myself or with my best buddy. So that’s what this little piece is all about. Made in NH. But the “X” marks the spot where my heart is. The arrowhead / artifact at the bottom is a nod to where my heart is but also to all those times exploring which now ties into the creation of bicycles as tools. I’ve taken a little liberties to stylize the art a bit more based on other similar pieces from my collection so it’s not an exact copy of the piece above but more a take on several for the record. But that’s the story and once printed, these will adorn each frame at the base of the down tube just above the bottom bracket. Kind of the heart of the bike, so a fitting location for this little simple graphic up above. Here’s the finalized decal kit ready to be sent off to SSSink:

44 Top Mount Decals

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Why Taper Matters

Patrick's 29er : Detail #3

Every now and again, I find a discussion online that on the surface has points to consider but when you dig deep… something is missing. That recent discussion about Paragon’s Tapered Steerers started simple enough, then veered off only to discuss the “perceived” or implied notion that the move to taper was not necessarily a good one and I have to say left one massive question unanswered: WHY a tapered steerer over a straight steerer? Yes, taper comes from the road side of things and early carbon forks being terribly under built. Yes Paragon’s Taper steerer is terribly over built as it’s original purpose was for a Tandem 29+. But, in my opinion, when we look at a tapered steerer for mountain bikes it’s one of the single best improvements “forced” on us in a long time. It’s one of the times that a new standard is better. Let’s look a bit deeper.

Here’s a close up of Paragon Machine Works 9″ long Taper Steerer, PMW Part No. MS2009 (It comes in both 9″ lengths and 12″ lengths, and in a 1.25″ taper as well).


The above is a fork I made at a later date for a client who I built a fat bike for in Switzerland. At the time, I did not have the tooling ready to build forks, and not many build custom Fat Forks, so we decided to go with a off the shelf option until I was ready. The above is that fork I built for this build. But, that’s not the point. The point I’d like to make is WHY taper is a much needed improvement. But to understand a tapered steerer, we have to discuss what is happening INSIDE the head tube when you’re hauling on the brakes.


We all know that feeling: Fork flutter. You yard on the brakes, you get some flutter. Some times a bit, some times a lot. Sure the fork legs are moving a touch, but what you’re not seeing is that the fork’s steerer is moving too. It’s pretty basic: The fork’s legs are the lever arm. The axis of rotation is the crown race / lower headset assembly. You apply the brakes, something has got to give since the fork is fixed at the head tube. The front wheel moves backwards. The 1.125″ (~28.6mm) O.D. steerer flexes. If a suspension fork, chances are your stanchions are 32mm, 34mm, or 36mm’s perhaps. Last I checked, 32mm’s is a larger O.D. than 28.6mm’s… We all know, or rather some of us know, that when you increase the O.D. of a tube, strength and stiffness go up by a factor of X (That’s TERRIBLY simplified I might add). So if your fork’s stanchions are larger than your steerer, chances are you’re looking at your steerer flexing before those fork legs give. Most rigid mountain forks made of true temper blades are in the 1.25″ O.D. range up by the crown. Again, larger than 1.125″ O.S. threadless steerers. Ever have your headset loosen up on you after a lot of hard braking or tackling gobs of tech? Here’s what’s going on when the steerer is flexing. In order to flex, one side of the tube is under compression, while the other is in tension. This makes the steerer push UP on the upper head set assembly and push down on the lower head set assembly. This forces your stem UP and if enough cycles happen, you have a loose headset. The bearings are also doing the same thing. For example, the bottom bearing on the crown race: The front of the bearing is rocking downward, while the backside of bearing is rocking upward. Do this enough and mix in some grit-n-grime and you’ll be packing your bearings again with grease or replacing the whole assembly. Chris King also seems to agree with me here on page 6 of their headset’s explained…

Joe's SS 29er - Head on

This basic example is WHY tapered steerer’s matter. Fork manufacturers like Fox Racing Shox pretty much only offer all their forks in taper. This places the required structure and meat EXACTLY where the rider needs it. And this is a major reason why I don’t see my own headsets on my own mountain bikes needing a little love or tightening now and again: That taper helps to cut down on the amount of flex that a fork’s steerer will go through under heavy braking and seeing aggressive riding in tech. Strength AND stiffness where you want and need it. They have effectively raised those numbers for the rider. Couple that with a 32 or 34mm fork, O.S. 1.375″ O.D. Top Tube and a 1.5″ O.D. top tube and throw in a 15mm TA on your fork and you have one strong and stiff front triangle on a steel custom bicycle. That’s how I build all of my mountain bikes. This translates to a more “sure footed” feel out on the trail, you’re able to hold your line when the going gets tough and you’re yarding on the brakes or tackling those tough sections at speed. That “washy” feeling of the front end on a 1.125″ straight steerer are relatively a thing of the past. First ride out on this set up and I KNEW deep down inside that not only was taper a great step and advancement in mountain bike technology, but I also knew that this was the new way moving forward.

Gordon's 190mm Fat Frameset

As far as Paragon’s part: Yes there is a weight penalty. Yes it’s terribly overbuilt. But presently, that is the only steerer available to custom builders. I hope to work with Henry James to fix that in the coming months, but for now, Mark Norstad had the vision to see that part become a reality and answer a much needed call for custom builders looking to offer their clients a solution and build matching forks to compliment their custom frames. Suspension correction is a tricky subject. Personally, I do not build anything taller than what a 100mm fork would be with sag for that rider. Most times I’m hovering in the 425-460mm range for axle to crown length which is on the conservatively safe side. Most times if a rider wants to run a suspension fork and swap it out for a rigid fork on occasion, I recommend heading in the carbon direction of ENVE or Whisky and build around a 100mm fork (I’m talking about a 29″ mountain bike here).

Jon's 29+ : Front

I’ve even steered (pun intended) clients away from a rigid option because of their style of riding and the terrain they frequent. That is the job of the builder: Listen to the rider. Hear what their conditions and requirements are. The answer is to recommend and build the best bicycle given those parameters set forth by the rider and their terrain/riding style. If you’re a custom builder and you’re reading this, you’re doing your client a great disservice if you are not listening to your client with open ears and mind. It’s our job to deliver what the client needs. And sometimes, a rigid fork is not the answer. If a rigid fork, build the frame appropriately too. I recall a time not too long ago when bikes made the switch from rigid with the advent of suspension forks and you saw a lot less reports of snapped crowns and buckled down tubes. You are seeing that again as more and more riders rediscover rigid but still ride like they are on a full suspension or front suspension mountain bike. All that hammering, something will give eventually. Nothing is unbreakable. But none the less, there you have it. My opinion on tapered steerers and why they matter. Strength and stiffness where the rider needs it by increasing the steerers diameter exactly where the structure needs it. Taper IS the standard moving forward and all of the above is WHY I think taper is just that good.

44 : Mountain

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Rohloff 29er

Rich's 29er Rohloff Build

Up above is Rich’s baby “Miss Jenny”. Rich came to me with a bunch of requests, insight and ideas. Actually, he wanted a fat bike. After a bunch of conversations and asking some detailed questions about what Rich intended to use his new bicycle for, I carefully persuaded that perhaps a Fat Bike was not really what he “needed”. A 29er was a much better match for what it was he was after. The above is the result, with a mix of components to wrap around that internally geared Rohloff hub. Jay Nutini performed the expert paint application and transformed Rich’s requests for color and my concept drawing into reality. (It’s always a pleasure working with Jay I will add!) Right around this time when all the components were arriving we were getting slammed by snow storms, and Rich was very patient with the delays that ensued. But once everything was at 44HQ, the build was dialed in and a date was set for Rich to swing by the shop, do final fitting and take her for a test spin. That smile from ear to ear on Rich’s face when he rode by me was all I needed to see. Job done. Customer satisfied. That’s what it’s all about. Few more pics for all to enjoy:

Studio : Clean


Paul Comp Love Levers


BMX Roots

Rich's 29er Rohloff

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Huntsman Out the Door

This is Julie’s Huntsman commissioned as a 1×11 to cruise dirt roads and have room for 40mm tires. Unlike most builds that seem to go through the doors, this one was liquid paint by Jay Nutini. Julie originally requested white with matching bands of Sour Apple Green to highlight the matching Chris King headset, bottom bracket and hubs. In a way, I was relieved to have a client excited about paint. It gives me an opportunity to add some flair and create refine the language that is unique to 44 Bikes. I had Jay work in some pearl and candy the green a touch. The bands wrap around to have a nice “dart” or point at their peek while being smooth a they wrap around the bottom of the tubes. Little touch of black to go with the green/white as well. And last but not least give those bands a little forward lean to add a layer of speed to the mix. Here’s the results:

Huntsman Frameset


Huntsman Frameset

Huntsman Frameset

This one will be living life around the Boston area. Be sure to give a “HEY HO! LET’S GO!” to Julie should you spot her cruising…

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Back in the Saddle…

With all that time on the lathe, it’s time to get back to making some bikes. First up is a hard tail 29er…

BACK in the Saddle

Oh, that felt REAL good...

Ready for final prep

I had not welding in about a month. Things can get rusty when you don’t persist. I found it was a little like riding a bike? But I’m glad I didn’t forget anything…


Let's get in Close


I have to admit I love welding. I’ve said it a bunch of times I know, but unfortunately it’s the shortest task in the whole process. So I get all jazzed when it’s time to weld. Getting ready to tack up the seat stays:

Ready for HEAT

And adding some heat after the jig was removed which held the stays in place while tacking them in place:


This build is the first to use the new 1.375″ O.D. radius seat tube set up. I took my time on purpose with this one to see how everything jives as it goes together. It will take a few builds to refine the overall shape and how much the radius needs to be carried through it’s bend. It does however, manage to give you short stays but a monster amount of tire clearance too because of the new bend’s radius.

We’re currently getting MORE snow. Once I deal with that… again, I’ll be back in the shop to weld this sucker up. Part of running your own business? Sweep the floors, make the coffee, make the bikes and shovel the snow. Hope everyone’s staying warm where ever you are. Till next time, enjoy!

Joe's 29er

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I like ‘em Round…

That's more like it...

So the South Bend Heavy 10 is in the shop and she’s been put back into service. “Rescued” as I like to say. She’s been making chips. First couple projects were updating a bunch of purged heat sinks. The more I build, the more I look to refine my process. These are the result of building, using tools and then modifying them or creating work arounds in the mean time. Well, now that I have a lathe, I can start expediting these process refinements. First up was a set of head tube heat sinks, purged and meant for 44mm head tubes. I use Paragon Machine Works head tubes which come in a variety of lengths. I have one existing 4″ heat sink but that only really goes up to 4-4.5″ head tube lengths. So these two new ones are for 5″ and longer. They meet in the middle, and then can be moved apart from each other. Their lengths allow for good heat reduction and argon coverage where the tubes sit. Here’s a few process shots.

I like my parts round...

A drilling I will go



Moe, Larry, Curly...

And some assemblies:


Keyed in place

44mm Head Tube Heat Sinks

Call these done.  Finally

As can see the two which sit flat are keyed simply with a small socket head cap screw which locks the stainless cone in place. The Acme threaded rod has a machined and tapped end cap which is brazed in place to accept a small air hose fitting. The acme rod is drilled with well placed vent holes to allow the argon purge to flow. The smallest of the three which you can see in the above “exploded” view, is a Tapered Steerer heat sink for unicrown forks. Last but not least was making a true 100mm bottom bracket heat sink.

Slow progress today...


It’s kind of comical. Now that I do have a lathe, I find myself constantly using it. Heck just yesterday I had to modify a tapered plug purge fitting as it was a tad to big for a seat tube. Determine the taper, set up the lathe, chuck up the part and take down the taper a touch so it would fit. It’s little stuff like that which keeps the ball rolling but I couldn’t have done it quickly without a lathe. Makes me wonder how the heck I was doing all that I was without one! Next project? I’ve always wanted to make my frame jig standoff’s longer so I have more room around the bottom bracket area and seat tube/head tube joints when tacking. Material is on the way. I’ll be down for about a week but I think modifying the jig in this fashion is worth it. Till then…

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And Thus the Search Ends…

South Bend Heavy 10

Ever since I opened the doors here at 44HQ, I’ve been on the hunt for a lathe. Specifically a South Bend Heavy 10. The reason for this machine is first they are readily available in New England, replacement parts and tooling are relatively easy to source and among other things: I just love the looks and feel of the lathe itself. The very first time I put my hands on a metal lathe, believe it or not, was in and around 6th or 7th grade. My middle school, Upper Perkiomen located in East Greenville, PA, exactly 1/2 mile from my front door, had a full wood shop and a darn near complete metal shop along with a small foundry. I donned a giant heat proof suit, gloves and helmet as I was one of the taller kids and helped pour aluminum sand castings with the shop tech, Mr. Raspen. He had us also doing slip castings as well as silk screening. This was also the first place I picked up a welding torch. Well, along that back wall lined with big windows were a row of lathes. I INSTANTLY fell in love with this machine and took to making projects on it with enthusiasm. Formative years to say the least and this is truly where I first got my taste of metal and made my first chips.

Fast forward to my days at PSU and again I found myself across the street from our studio’s on a small tooling room lathe in the machine shop spending long hours making of all things bicycle hubs out of 6061. I anodized these myself (the jewelry department there had a anodizer). Taking them to a bike shop, I’d have them laced up to test. I had not yet learned how to lace / build bicycle wheels. That would have to wait few more years! From here, and upon graduation I found myself back in school at RISD who has one of the best machine shops I’ve had a chance to work in. This is where I definitely worked with a slew of South Bend lathes. South Bend Heavy 10’s, South Bend 13’s… It was glorious and firmly set the hook for good old fashioned American steel. One thing that really stuck was cast iron’s ability to soak up the machine’s “noise” and produce a really fine finish. Something that is a little on the tough side to produce with newer gear head style lathes. The extra mass, and porosity of the older machines just can’t be beat (in addition to their belt style under belly motor drive’s too). They really reflect American production capabilities at the height of our days as a manufacturing based society.

So when I opened the doors here at 44HQ, a lathe was in order and it had to be a South Bend Heavy 10. Not to big, not too small: “Just So”. Sure I will admit that a South Bend 13 is most likely one of the best lathes I’ve worked with since it is on the larger side and is very stable due to it’s size and mass, but I simply do not have the space for a machine of that size. The trick though is finding one that is “THE ONE”. If you’re going to buy a machine and really put it into service, you need to know what you want, what you are going to use it for and understand it’s capabilities. So a check list is in order and the SB Heavy 10 or “10L” is just the right size. Sure there are better lathes out there, but I really enjoy working with that specific machine. So there you have it…

Fast forward to 1.1.2015: I got an email from Mike Flanigan simply stating “You need to check this out”. Hot tip in hand, I gave the fellow a call and through a little happenstance of someone else ahead of me being on the fence with no commitment to buy, I found myself face to face this past Friday with my lathe:

And Thus the Search Ends...

It had been pulled from a basement from “Someone who didn’t know what they were doing with it”. I call that “RESCUED”. To get it out of the basement, it had to be disassembled and subsequently the entire machine had been broken down, gone over with a fine tooth comb, painted and rebuilt. To say a lot of love went into this lathe isn’t doing it justice. One look and it was sold. Deal Sealed. She’s a Heavy 10 with a 1.375″ I.D. bore. Comes with a thread dial, 3 and 4 jaw chucks, dead and live centers, lathe dog and back plate, assorted tool holders/post (I have a Phase II wedge style tool post on the way) and has a taper attachment. Single tumbler gear box and the large direct read compound and cross feed knobs. The lathe is about 30″ between centers and sits on their older style cabinet. Truth be told, I would have preferred it to be on a bell with cast iron legs and chip tray but the fact that it was in this good of shape, had been completely torn down and had the thread dial and taper attachment, that checkbox was ok being “unchecked”. Sometimes, it’s ok not to have EVERYTHING you want. But this had everything I wanted so it’s AOK. The seller also had rewired the switch and motor and installed some vibration dampeners on the motor to keep things running smooth/quiet. Turn this on and let her hum. Single phase too so there is no need to do any phase conversion on my end. Just plug her in and go. She’s from the 1940’s, and once I have her back in place at the shop I’ll be able to get the serial no. and do a little research on her history. I was too excited to even take a measurement of the length or get the serial number when I was sealing the deal. So it goes…

With weather coming in Saturday through this Sunday, getting her here to 44HQ is a no go. Although it doesn’t look to be doing anything yet, I most likely could have swung it, but to be on the safe side (and knowing my luck sometimes), I’ll be picking it up most likely this upcoming week when the weather has definitively passed and the roads are dry. I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally, FINALLY be getting a lathe. This will really put some things in motion that have been taking some time to get rolling. There’s a lot of tooling projects that seriously need attention and this South Bend is going to be making some serious chips over the next few months. Really going to put her to work. A 5C collet draw bar will be in order too when I find one. But till then, I’ll be losing sleep over my excitement to pick up my lathe and get her in place in the shop. I’m going to spend a little time this Saturday rearranging a few things next to the Bridgeport to be ready when she arrives. I already had built up the shop and laid things out in this way so when the time was ripe, things would just shift and all would go into place. Basically it will be at a 45* angle next to and slightly in front of my Rinnai heater. So the Bridgeport and South Bend will be near a heat source which will keep them regulated in terms of temperature swings and help to prevent flash rust from forming. Not to mention if the machines are held at a relatively constant temperature, it also helps keep the shop regulated too (and keeps them accurate so they don’t have temperature swings too).

So there you have it. More when she arrives. Even more when I’m making chips!