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North American Handmade Bicycle Show 2012: Sycip and Retrotec

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Curtis Inglis built this Retrotec for the show but once NAHBS wraps up for the year, this will become his personal bike.

Curtis Inglis built this Retrotec for the show but once NAHBS wraps up for the year, this will become his personal bike. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This Sycip wishbone seat stay assembly is all welded up and ready to finish.

This Sycip wishbone seat stay assembly is all welded up and ready to finish. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Jeremy Sycip says this bike is going home with him after NAHBS.

Jeremy Sycip says this bike is going home with him after NAHBS. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Jeremy Sycip built his personal 'cross bike with a stainless steel chain stay.

Jeremy Sycip built his personal 'cross bike with a stainless steel chain stay. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Custom embossed leather is stitched around the bars on Jeremy Sycip's personal 'cross bike.

Custom embossed leather is stitched around the bars on Jeremy Sycip's personal 'cross bike. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Getting both front wheels to turn at the right angle on this Sycip cargo trike requires a lot of hardware.

Getting both front wheels to turn at the right angle on this Sycip cargo trike requires a lot of hardware. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Even heavy loads should be no problem with the double front wheels on this Sycip cargo trike.

Even heavy loads should be no problem with the double front wheels on this Sycip cargo trike. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Flat wooden fenders like this aren't as protective as traditional curved ones but they look fantastic.

Flat wooden fenders like this aren't as protective as traditional curved ones but they look fantastic. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Sycip built the U-lock right into the cargo shelf. Simply remove the crossbar, push the bike up around a parking meter or signpost, and lock it up. Brilliant.

Sycip built the U-lock right into the cargo shelf. Simply remove the crossbar, push the bike up around a parking meter or signpost, and lock it up. Brilliant. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A small LED light mounted up high on this Sycip cargo trike adds some visibility.

A small LED light mounted up high on this Sycip cargo trike adds some visibility. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Sycip operates a modest showroom and sizeable workshop in Santa Rosa, California.

Sycip operates a modest showroom and sizeable workshop in Santa Rosa, California. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Truly custom frames like Sycip's creations involve more than just plug-and-play of off-the-shelf parts. Oftentimes things have to be fabricated de novo.

Truly custom frames like Sycip's creations involve more than just plug-and-play of off-the-shelf parts. Oftentimes things have to be fabricated de novo. (Image credit: James Huang)
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An Enve Composites bar, stem, and seatpost aren't terribly special - except when they're attachmed to a kid's mountain bike with 20in wheels.

An Enve Composites bar, stem, and seatpost aren't terribly special - except when they're attachmed to a kid's mountain bike with 20in wheels. (Image credit: James Huang)
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One long-standing Sycip trademark has been capping the seat stays with coins.

One long-standing Sycip trademark has been capping the seat stays with coins. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This Ritchey tandem is hanging from the rafters in Sycip's Santa Rosa shop.

This Ritchey tandem is hanging from the rafters in Sycip's Santa Rosa shop. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Jeremy Sycip operates a mostly one-man shop in Santa Rosa, California.

Jeremy Sycip operates a mostly one-man shop in Santa Rosa, California. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Sycip also does a healthy restoration business, repairing and refurbishing older frames to like-new condition.

Sycip also does a healthy restoration business, repairing and refurbishing older frames to like-new condition. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Jeremy Sycip and Curtis Inglis both share a love of retro scooters.

Jeremy Sycip and Curtis Inglis both share a love of retro scooters. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Industry Nine machined spokes to work with the 20in hoops on this custom Sycip.

Industry Nine machined spokes to work with the 20in hoops on this custom Sycip. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This awesome Sycip 20in-wheeled mountain bike is destined for the son of a distributor in the Phillipines.

This awesome Sycip 20in-wheeled mountain bike is destined for the son of a distributor in the Phillipines. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Sycip built one of its trademark segmented-crown forks for a special kid's-size mountain bike.

Sycip built one of its trademark segmented-crown forks for a special kid's-size mountain bike. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Sycip will display this gorgeous cargo trike at this year's North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

Sycip will display this gorgeous cargo trike at this year's North American Handmade Bicycle Show. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Is that a custom Phil Wood hub we see on the front wheel of this Sycip cargo trike? Why yes, yes it is.

Is that a custom Phil Wood hub we see on the front wheel of this Sycip cargo trike? Why yes, yes it is. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Check out the custom fender stays on this Sycip cargo trike.

Check out the custom fender stays on this Sycip cargo trike. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A bit of green paint hidden behind the head tube badge makes for nice visual contrast on this Retrotec.

A bit of green paint hidden behind the head tube badge makes for nice visual contrast on this Retrotec. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This Retrotec frame sports dual top tubes that transition into the seat stays.

This Retrotec frame sports dual top tubes that transition into the seat stays. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Retrotec's paint jobs don't get much more elaborate than this but the classic dart paint job is impeccably applied.

Retrotec's paint jobs don't get much more elaborate than this but the classic dart paint job is impeccably applied. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Retrotec brand is one built around curved tubing so it's no surprise that Curtis Inglis can bend his steel tubing into just about any complex curve necessary.

The Retrotec brand is one built around curved tubing so it's no surprise that Curtis Inglis can bend his steel tubing into just about any complex curve necessary. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Like most small-batch builders, Curtis Inglis's shop is a condensed mixture of machines, posters, trophies, bike parts, and frames both old and new.

Like most small-batch builders, Curtis Inglis's shop is a condensed mixture of machines, posters, trophies, bike parts, and frames both old and new. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Retrotec fielded this machine as a downhill racer back in the day, using a swingarm, seat tube, and main pivot assembly borrowed from a steel Pro-Flex.

Retrotec fielded this machine as a downhill racer back in the day, using a swingarm, seat tube, and main pivot assembly borrowed from a steel Pro-Flex. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Curtis Inglis doesn't just wear the retro thing as a costume for his Retrotec brand. He lives and breathes the retro theme, including a few old scooters, a Plymouth Valiant daily driver, and this impeccably restored 1956 BMW Isetta.

Curtis Inglis doesn't just wear the retro thing as a costume for his Retrotec brand. He lives and breathes the retro theme, including a few old scooters, a Plymouth Valiant daily driver, and this impeccably restored 1956 BMW Isetta. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Curtis Inglis operates his Retrotec and Inglis bike brands out of his garage shop in Napa, California.

Curtis Inglis operates his Retrotec and Inglis bike brands out of his garage shop in Napa, California. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Curtis Inglis says it took him a long time to master the art of precisely bending tubes like this by hand.

Curtis Inglis says it took him a long time to master the art of precisely bending tubes like this by hand. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The styling may be old-school on this Retrotec but the thru-axle rear dropouts are thoroughly modern.

The styling may be old-school on this Retrotec but the thru-axle rear dropouts are thoroughly modern. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This welded-on hydraulic splitter allows a single lever to actuate both front calipers.

This welded-on hydraulic splitter allows a single lever to actuate both front calipers. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The pivoting dropouts on this Sycip accomplish the same task as typical sliders but with a lot more style.

The pivoting dropouts on this Sycip accomplish the same task as typical sliders but with a lot more style. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Jeremy Sycip was still scrambling to get things done for the show with just hours left in the setup day.

Jeremy Sycip was still scrambling to get things done for the show with just hours left in the setup day. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Sycip celebrates its twentieth year of operation this season.

Sycip celebrates its twentieth year of operation this season. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Other stems may be lighter but the machined logo on this custom stem adds a bit of flair.

Other stems may be lighter but the machined logo on this custom stem adds a bit of flair. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Neat scallops finish off the seat stays on this Retrotec.

Neat scallops finish off the seat stays on this Retrotec. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The stout derailleur hanger is bolted to the bottom of the thru-axle dropout on this Retrotec.

The stout derailleur hanger is bolted to the bottom of the thru-axle dropout on this Retrotec. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The 44mm-diameter head tube on this Retrotec can handle either straight or tapered steerer tubes.

The 44mm-diameter head tube on this Retrotec can handle either straight or tapered steerer tubes. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This tubing bender is one of Curtis Inglis's key pieces of equipment.

This tubing bender is one of Curtis Inglis's key pieces of equipment. (Image credit: James Huang)

This article appeared first on Bikeradar.

We kick off our coverage of this year's North American Handmade Bicycle Show with a snapshot of two local one-man marques – and a sampling of their show bikes for this year – that are each celebrating their 20th year making customers' dreams come true: Sycip Bikes and Retrotec Cycles.

Retrotec principal Curtis Inglis admittedly hasn't been with the company for all of its 20 years, but it's been awfully close: Inglis joined the company just one year after being founded by Bob Seals in 1992 and he hasn't looked back since taking over the company in its entirety a few years later.

These days Inglis builds his beach cruiser-inspired Retrotecs in six different styles, each of which will be on display at this year's NAHBS. While they all differ subtly – be in twin top tubes or single, road, mountain, or everything in between – the common theme is the distinctive curved tubing. Inglis also offers straight-tubed frames under the eponymous 'Inglis' brand name and in total, builds a steady "thirty to forty" bikes and frames each year.

Jeremy Sycip's operation is quite a bit more productive, churning out around a hundred bikes and frames annually – and that's a decrease from the days when he and his brother, Jay, were operating a full shop with multiple employees and a full-time paint booth on site. Still, Sycip's machines don't seem to suffer in terms of artistry or creativity as a result and his NAHBS bikes are consistently some of the most wildly imaginative at the show each year.

Given what is sometimes a sizeable disparity in terms of pure performance, why do some buyers even bother with a handmade bike that is oftentimes not only heavier but more expensive than off-the-shelf models?

Sycip and Inglis both agree that the relationship built between the buyer and builder is a major component of the story as well as the ability to get a truly bespoke machine built just for you.

"The ability to customize the bikes is a big part of it, whether you have a special need or you have a desire for a certain top tube length or certain angles or something like that," Inglis told BikeRadar during a visit to his workshop, housed wholly inside a freestanding garage behind his house in Napa.

"The other part is the aesthetics – being able to pick what kind of style of bike you want to go with and being able to have a nice classic bike that doesn't look like the company threw itself up on it with fifteen different logos and acronyms on chain stay flex-o-rama. And being able to meet the person who's building your bike and to have some conversations with them and pick the tubeset – it all plays into it."

"They're getting a relationship – it's made for that person," said Sycip when we visited his operation in nearby Santa Rosa. "It's a lot more special and they get to meet the person building it, too. They get better service and they get taken care of better. There are a lot of handmade bikes and they're all really good. What I've come to find out is that when people buy one of your bikes, they're buying 'you'."

20 years in, both Sycip and Inglis can proudly look back on successful careers that are now stable and healthy. Whereas they were both once the new kids on the block, these days they're almost considered the old guard.

"Man, I thought I'd be huge! Like mass produced, just sitting back, not getting my hands dirty – but I'm actually still just doing the same exact thing," said Sycip. "Just like anyone else when you first start a business one of the main goals is to make a living. I can't retire off of it just yet but I am enjoying what I do and that's something I didn't really think about back then. I enjoy building bikes for people so it's been fun."

"I wonder why I'm in business in every genre – why do I still make mountain bikes when no one rides hardtails anymore? – and yet I still have plenty of orders for hardtails," added Inglis. "People want a really classic bike that they can ride, that if it breaks you can get it worked on and doesn't end up being landfill. At the end of the day, [people] just want something really stylish and I think that's a big part of being able to have a nice bike that rides really well and isn't cutting-edge light but is nice and rides nicely."

Certainly part of the secret to Sycip's and Inglis's successes has been utter skill and mastery in their crafts. Their bikes not only look good but they also perform well as machines and satisfy the requirements set out by their buyers. That being said, there are plenty of other builders that might be equally talented but still just can't make it.

"Have integrity behind what you do and basically just believe in what you do," Sycip advises. "Be honest with your customer and produce what you say you're going to make."

Check back for ongoing coverage from the 2012 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, including massive daily galleries from some of the world's finest builders – don't plan on getting much done over the next few days.