From Dirt Issue 139 – September 2013
Words by Ali Todd. Photos by Ben Winder
Curtis… 1972 vintage, their frames have been a constant in the mountain biking and BMX world for a long time now. Of course you can get a similar–looking Far Eastern frame for next to nothing, but the soul, the heritage… will it ever match what you get from a Curtis frame? Of course not.
Curtis Bikes, in a leafy part of Wiltshire, down a rutted and potholed farm track, is in based in a barn–like workshop, and it was the last stop on our round–the–country ‘frame builders’ trip. At all of these small handmade companies we’d learnt that while the locations may not always be glamorous, what was inside was gold. All the little things that were found in the corners of workshops add up to one big story. You can tell the builder’s personality in the frame, but you can go further back and find what makes them tick from what’s in the workshop. All kinds of artefacts were present at Curtis. Head tube badges, old magazines, but mainly photos. Gary Woodhouse runs the business now, and he fired up the brazing torches for us, took us through the jigs, and, most importantly, gave us a verbal trip back through Curtis: The History. BMX heritage, designed in the UK and tested (by being ridden until they broke) by locals and friends. The roots of steel hardtails don’t go much deeper.
Brian Curtis sold the business to Gary years ago, but still does the brazing on the frames once Gary has cut and shaped the tubes, at a usual rate of around one a day. Recently branching out into offering frame building courses, Curtis have been a bit quiet over the last few years, but that doesn’t stop them doing what they do best – making what is essentially art (in the form of lovingly tended steel) for mountain bikers.