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FUNCTION AND FORM Fillet brazing A Curtis hallmark, fillet brazing looks amazing but is also very strong. It has the added benefit of sealing the tubes it’s applied to (apart from those with holes for components, of course), which means less internal rust and a long-lived frame.
Gary says his brazing isn’t quite up to Brian’s sky-high standard, but we were hard-pushed to see a difference
Truly custom Curtis hold no stock frames. Each one has geometry and sizing tailored to its owner. After noting the rider’s height, weight and riding style, Gary will even recommend the tubeset that’ll yield the best combination of strength and ride quality.
Curtis may be known for their hardtails but the new XR650 is a beauty, matching their trademark rippled brazing with 160mm of single-pivot travel
There’s a saying in mountain biking that ‘steel is real’. If you believe that to be true, then Curtis Bikes are as real as it gets. Founded in 1972 by Brian Curtis, a motocross rider and motorbike frame builder, every Curtis bike is made of steel and by hand in their small workshop in rural Wiltshire. Seeing a BMX for the first time in the late 1970s, Brian’s first thought was: “Wow, a motocrosser with pedals!” That’s when he decided he’d build one. One frame led to more, and soon Curtis BMX bikes became successful on the racing circuit. Before long, the motorbike side of the business gave way completely to pedal power. At around the same time, Gary Woodhouse, a young metalworker and BMX racer, came to work for Curtis. “I tested every Curtis frame before it went on sale,” says Gary. “And I gave him an award – the Nut Award!” laughs Brian, recognising the enthusiasm and fearlessness with which Gary rode the new designs. Gary’s a fine rider by any standard and still shakes down all their bikes on the trails, on the BMX track and in 4X races. “That AM7 [Curtis’s 650b hardtail] loves to wheelie,” he says with a knowing smile. Nowadays, Gary runs the company, doing everything from customer liaison, marketing, publicity and social media to R&D and budgeting. He’s also the man who cuts the tubing – mostly Reynolds 853, but also T45 for heavy-duty applications – and fabricates
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S E K I B S I T R CU One of the UK’s longest-established steel frame-builders, known for legendary craftsmanship
Profile Founded 1972 Key Personnel Brian Curtis and Gary Woodhouse Location Trowbridge, Wiltshire First Product Curtis Pro BMX New products Complete bikes and the XR650 160mm-travel full-suspension bike
Completes Complete bikes have been a ‘trickle’ of Curtis’s business for years, to help individual customers realise their dreams, but they’re now a mainstream part of the operation. This tiny, bespoke frame manufacturer can now supply the entire bike of your dreams.
Word & Pics Ben Ripley
the frames Curtis are rightly renowned for. Brian remains the master brazer but, aged 77, he’s looking to hand over the reins relatively soon. His style of fillet brazing is instantly recognisable – the way he ripples the brazing rod gives a beautiful finish and creates joins that are immensely strong. Gary says his work isn’t up to quite the same standard, but we think he’s just being modest. A single frame takes them five full days to build, and the clear powder-coat finish option shows off the workmanship involved perfectly. “We build things the way we’ve always done, but we’re branching out into exciting new areas,” says Gary. “The new XR650 full-sus bike has taken a while to develop but I’m really happy with it.” We’re not surprised – it’s stunning, an industrial work of art with all the right dimensions and angles for modern trail/enduro riding. “Complete bikes are also a new thing for us,” he continues, “but we love the idea of being able to offer the customer a full package when it comes to buying a totally unique bike.” The workshop is almost a shrine to the company’s rich two-wheeled dirt history, and bikes spanning 30 years of fat-tyred evolution are present. “We only make off-road bikes and it’s always been that way,” says Brian. A mainstay of the UK hand-built scene, we think Curtis Bikes’ ethos, workmanship and brand values look set to maintain their success for many more years to come.
The Curtis workshop is a shrine to two-wheeled fun and the AM7 looks set to continue that tradition
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