Interview: Titanium maestro Kent Eriksen

By Marcus Farley | Thursday, January 24, 2008 10.00am

In the early 1980s Wisconsin native Kent Eriksen founded Moots Cycles from scratch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Moots went on to become one of the most respected titanium frame builders in the industry after switching from steel in the early 1990s.

But Kent decided to switch gears in 2004. He left the company he founded five years after selling his share. He took life easy, rode his bike more, and planned for the next phase.

By February 2006 Eriksen started from scratch once again, creating a new venture, a bespoke titanium custom frame and component shop, also based in Steamboat Springs, where he and two others now craft titanium road, cross, and full suspension mountain bikes.

And so Eriksen Cycles was born. It’s a small operation, which means products are designed, tested and raced by Kent and his wife Katie Lindquist, the former 24-hour solo World Champion. They are joined by framebuilders Chris Moore and Bo Randolph. What Mountain Bike contributor Marcus Farley spoke with Eriksen for BikeRadar.

BikeRadar: Was it a big decision leaving Moots and setting up on your own?

Kent Eriksen: The decision to leave Moots was about wanting to work with the customer again. I had lost that small frame builder feel at the production level. Today I answer the phone, take the order, draw the designs and build the frames, working with the customer every step of the way. I enjoy helping people develop the bike they not only dream of, but are a part of, wheel to wheel.

We hope to make the experience of getting a custom frame fun, easy and exciting. We strive to deliver a product our customers are proud of to call their own. In fact, most of our customers have their named etched onto the frame.

BR: How many frames do you think you'll be putting out each year?

KE: We plan to make 200 frames maximum per year. We're actually building up a lot of complete bikes for people, in addition to framesets. We plan to keep the business small and manageable. Hopefully I can take some time to enjoy life, and maybe ride my own bike a bit more. I don't plan to out-source my own job; I plan to be the main framebuilder here. That's why it’s called Kent Eriksen Cycles.

BR: The Eriksen full-suspension frames have Yeti, Maverick and Ventana rears. What made you choose these companies?

KE: Why re-invent the wheel? These companies are already doing a great job with rear end suspension designs. Yeti, Maverick and Ventana are gracious enough to let me utilize their creativity, so I can work on mine.

BR: You're still working in titanium. Any plans to work in other materials or is titanium still the best material to use for your purposes? What do you think about Reynolds 953 or carbon fibre?

KE: Titanium is my signature material. It welds, shapes and bends beautifully, lasts forever and needs no paint. It’s light, strong and resilient. Why use anything else?

BR: Moots were renowned for some of the finest welds in the business. Do the Eriksen bikes have the same attention to detail?

KE: Nothing but the finest is produced from our own welder Chris Moore. He's a craftsman like no other with exceptional precision and consistency. As far as I'm concerned we have the finest welder in the industry.

BR: What are your views on the singlespeed and 29er phenomenon?

KE: Ahh, well I like gears, but I'm getting beat by a singlespeed guy in the local race series. That’s all I have to say about singlespeeds!

Twenty-niners, however, are more than a passing fad. In fact, they're all I ride. I no longer own or ride a 26-inch wheeled bike. I also have a full suspension 69er for the tough stuff.

BR: How often do you get to ride? And, can you tell us about the Tour de Steamboat?

KE: I ride at least 3 to 4 times per week. We're racing in our local race series this year and having a blast with it. I"m over 50, so I'm up against the local youth. They keep me honest, and fit!

The Kent Eriksen Tour de Steamboat was once a local road race and is now a 110-mile, one day, non-competitive ride(like a sportive ed). We have a very scenic route, coveted by locals, traversing three mountain passes. After the ride we have an open house and BBQ at the shop. It’s a lot of fun for locals and visitors alike!

BR: How did it feel being inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1996?

KE: Wow, that was over 10 years ago…I felt 10 years younger!

Related links

BR: I hear the Eriksen head badge design was inspired by your dad, Leif.

KE: Our head badge design is in honor of my dad, Leif, who passed away as we were starting up this new venture. Wanting to memorialize him, we used his surname for the company.

We also are able to symbolically represent my heritage in our head badge design. Researching the history of the explorer Leif Eriksen we found many interesting leads on potential designs. What we came up with is a conglomerate of the various sail designs found on Viking ships.

These ships were used to sail into battle over heavy seas. Sails were colored with red stripes to symbolize blood, intimidating the enemy upon approach. The bird in our design is a rendition of the bird also found on many of the Viking sails. We have modernized this bird to give it life, flight and movement. The bird species we have created is yet to be classified. Around the shop we refer to it as a “crow-magpie”.

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