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April 29, 2024 4 min read

Step into the captivating world of bespoke frame building with 44 Bikes as we embark on an exclusive interview with Kristofer Henry, the creative force driving the brand's vision and craftsmanship. From humble beginnings in TIG welding to the realization of a lifelong dream, Kristofer shares insights into the meticulous process, signature techniques, and future aspirations that shape each 44 Bikes creation. Join us as we delve into the inspiring journey of a frame builder dedicated to pushing the boundaries of possibility in the cycling industry.



How long have you been building frames and what inspired you to start?

I embarked on TIG welding in 1995, ventured into bike building in 2007, and formally established 44 Bikes in 2012.

 

AVT Frame Builder Feature - Custom Bike by 44 Bikes

 

Can you describe your frame building process? 

My process begins with a thorough discussion with my clients, where we delve into their specific terrain preferences and intended use. This dialogue informs crucial design decisions and component choices, ensuring that each frame is tailor-made to meet the unique needs of my customers.

Once the design direction is established, I proceed to create detailed drawings and component specifications. Custom drawn and butted tubing is selected, cut to length and mitered to the drawings specifications. Next, any necessary forming or bending of the tubing is expertly executed before all tubes undergo thorough preparation and cleaning. This meticulous preparation sets the stage for the argon purge and TIG welding process, ensuring impeccable welds that meet our exacting standards of quality.

For steel frames, all small parts undergo brazing as a final step, followed by face/chase of all critical areas. The frame is then primed and readied for powder coating or painting. In the case of titanium frames, all small parts are welded, and the frame is prepared for anodization or bead blasting, depending on the client's preferences.

As a finishing touch, graphics and badges are added to the frame before it undergoes final assembly and a rigorous quality control check. Depending on the client's location, I either ship the frame/complete build or arrange for convenient pickup. My clientele spans globally, with a recent focus on customers from New England.

 

AVT Frame Builder Feature - Custom Bike by 44 Bikes

 

What materials do you primarily use for your frames? 

I primarily use steel and titanium.


Are there any unique or signature techniques you incorporate into your frames?

One technique I’ve incorporated into the frames involves in-house tube forming for seat tubes, chainstays, and seat stays, all executed on tooling that I've personally designed and machined.

Moreover, we're constantly pushing the boundaries of innovation. A recent addition to our repertoire is the incorporation of 3D printed steel and titanium parts, designed and engineered entirely in-house. These cutting-edge additions not only enhance the performance and aesthetics of our frames but also showcase our commitment to staying at the forefront of technology in the cycling industry.


Are there any notable or memorable builds you’ve worked on that stand out?

One memorable build is a current FS project, named the Snakedriver. This ambitious endeavor has spanned five years and represents a significant milestone for 44 Bikes. Designed to create a full suspension bike that not only enhances my public offerings but also serves as a catalyst for transitioning to small-batch production, the Snakedriver project has been an extraordinary journey of growth and innovation.

Throughout the development process, I've been continuously challenged and inspired, pushing the boundaries of my design and fabrication skills. The Snakedriver project has provided an unparalleled learning experience, allowing me to explore and incorporate multiple manufacturing techniques, including Additive Manufacturing or SLM (Selective Laser Melting), commonly known as 3D printing.

 

AVT Frame Builder Feature - Custom Bike by 44 Bikes

 

What are some of the challenges you face as a frame builder?


As a frame builder, one of the significant challenges I encounter is navigating the market saturation within the custom framebuilding sector while ensuring competitive pricing for my builds.


What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

The most fulfilling part of my work is witnessing the journey of each build from inception to completion and experiencing the joy of delivering the finished product to my ecstatic customers. Being your own boss with full volume control over the music in the shop has its benefits as well.


Is there a specific frame design or model you’re especially proud of?

The Snakedriver has truly pushed the boundaries of my design and fabrication skills to new heights. Its innovative features and meticulous craftsmanship make it a standout model in my portfolio.


What are your goals or aspirations for the future of your brand?

Looking ahead, I aim to transition all custom bikes to titanium while shifting my steel production to small batch manufacturing. This strategic move will not only elevate the quality of my offerings but also streamline my production process for greater efficiency and consistency.

 

AVT Frame Builder Feature - Custom Bike by 44 Bikes

 

Are there any new technologies or trends in frame building that excite you?

I’m particularly excited about the advancements in Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) paired with traditional CNC machining. This innovative blend of technologies allows me to seamlessly integrate intricate designs and solutions into traditional round tubed bicycles, opening up new possibilities for creativity and customization.


Is there anything else you’d like to share about your brand or your journey as a frame builder?

I transitioned from a background in goldsmithing/silversmithing to pursuing Industrial Design, eventually leading me to become a shoe designer at Reebok and later Converse. Following that, I established my own design consultancy, serving numerous brands. Despite these successes, my true passion lay in combining my design expertise with fabrication skills to launch my own bike company. 44 Bikes stands as the culmination of this lifelong ambition.

 

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As we conclude our exploration into the world of 44 Bikes and Kristofer Henry's journey, we are left inspired by the fusion of artistry, innovation, and passion evident in each custom creation. Follow along with 44 Bikes' future endeavours as he continue to redefine excellence in frame building and leave an indelible mark on the cycling community.

 

Want to connect with Kristofer?

@44bikes
www.44bikes.com
 

 

AVT Frame Builder Feature - Custom Bike by 44 Bikes



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