Drew Guldalian is the builder/owner of Engin Cycles and Wissahickon Cyclery out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Drew is well known for his masterfully crafted steel and titanium bike frames. Drew has even won Best Offroad Bike honors at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. I’ve asked him some questions about his thoughts on framebuilding and included some photos of my favorite recent mountain bikes he’s made.
How long have you been a frame builder?
Drew: I opened my bicycle shop 20 years ago, and have been building frames for 10 years. The two businesses complement each other very well.
What training have you been through to build frames?
Drew: I took a framebuilding course at UBI to get a basic foundation to start. From there, I’ve worked over the years to come up with a method of making my bicycles that is very much my own. Curtis Inglis and Bruce Gordon may laugh at me for saying this, but for me it’s “all about the process”. That has sort of become my mantra. I’ve really tried to nail down a good process for making the frames, and to keep perfecting that process. I like to incorporate machines and have used my machines to develop a well-tuned system for building my bikes. I had a mentor to learn my way around milling machines and am still currently enrolled in machining courses to learn how to run and understand my new CNC machine.
Why did you decide to start your own handmade bicycle company?
Drew: I was at a turning point in my career. The bicycle shop was established with a ten year history and I felt I needed to either expand the shop or take it in a completely new direction. We were a shop known for more handmade bicycles (i.e. Moots, Independent Fabrication, Parlee, and a few others) so my understanding of why a custom fit bicycle can be a good thing was deep. However, I was constantly paying these companies to tweak stuff just so I could try something a tad different with fit and geometry. In the end I felt the need to do it myself. I am a proud member of SOPWAMTOS (SOPWAMTOS)!
What inspires your frame designs?
Drew: I like my bicycles to be very to the point, meaning that I want them to be light, strong, and clean-looking. I want them to handle great, without a lot of added features that are just for looks. Very few things within the industry inspire me. I think bridges are amazing and I look to other architectural designs and styles and other fine craftsmanship for inspiration.
What are some of your founding principles you live by for creating bikes?
Drew: Everything I do to the bike is aimed at making the bicycle work better.
What part of the frame building process do you enjoy the most?
Drew: If I am making something I am happy. I even enjoy the dirty jobs like maintaining the machines. What’s even better is that I know what I am making will make someone else happy.
What do you feel is most important for clients to understand going into a custom bike frame build?
Drew: I guess it is important that the person who is buying the bicycle wants it because they like what they have seen. I have a lot of knowledge about bicycles and I try my hardest to make sure I interpret what someone wants and to execute it as well as I can. Maybe the short answer is that the client needs to place trust in me as a framebuilder.
What trends in bikes are you seeing right now? Do you agree with them or not?
Drew: The biggest trend now is carbon. I agree it is a great material when used right. They seem to be making great rims with carbon, for example. I still feel titanium is the ultimate material and has no rival as the material of choice for making frames.
What trail / where do you enjoy riding the most?
Drew: If I ride from my house it is the best type of ride. Putting a bicycle on a car never brings the same pleasure as riding right out the front door. I like getting out of the city a little bit and finding some less-traveled roads. If only my friend Ben didn’t want to leave at 5am–he maps out some great routes incorporating some dirt road or trail into our road rides.
What has been your favorite bike you’ve owned?
Drew: I am not one to live in the past so my current road and mtb are the favorite bikes I have owned (until the next ones).
Favorite bike you’ve ever built?
Drew: The tandem 29+ bicycle I made for Mark Norstad, owner of Paragon Machine Works. It was a killer challenge and is such a cool bicycle. That bicycle was the first to sport several components that ultimately ended up in the Paragon offerings. It has the first yoke, first set of poly drops, first tapered steerer and a few new small braze ons.
Who do you admire as a frame builder / who would you want to build you a frame?
I own a few bicycles from people that are still active. If I wanted a bicycle made for me however I would have it made by Nick Crumpton. I have said this answer many times and I will probably never change it. He does something I cannot do and he does it really well. Admire is another group of people that might be too large a list. I will say Gary Helfrich is one of the smartest people ever and I owe him tons for all his efforts introducing titanium to the bicycle industry.
If you are a frame builder and would like to be interviewed, please email me.