Sycip Designs: Building Lust Worthy Bikes In Wine Country

Jeremy Sycip at home.
Jeremy Sycip at home.

I used to collect cool bike catalogues when I was a kid. I think it was probably part of my parents’ secret plan to keep me satiated, as the barrier to entry at that time was next to astronomical for working-class parents who had just arrived in San Francisco.

In 1998 I wanted an Ibis BowTi, the next year I lusted over a Gary Fisher Mt. Tam and by 2000, my desires moved onto an Independent Fabrication Crown Jewel. They didn’t exactly say no, but they did get me a Mongoose from Costco, and eventually and cautiously, a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR XC to compete in the high school racing league.

Fortunately, bike shop owners took pity on this kid and gave me all the catalogues I asked for. These were the pre-internet days where print ruled, InterBike sounded like a really badass party out in Mars Vegas and bike shops carried boxes of this stuff. I distinctly remember seeing a copy of Mountain Bike Action with Palmer racing Kamikaze on a flaming Specialized FSR with an orange Manitou X-Vert Ti fork and the original Mavic Deemax.

I was in 8th grade in 1998 and my list, mentioned above, clearly proves I had no clue what I really wanted. What’s cyclocross? A LeMond Poprad?

Somewhere in that shoebox of catalogues was this one from SyCip Designs. I don’t remember where and how I got it, maybe it was from Pacific Cycles on Geary (RIP). But I do remember The SyCip one because it was beautifully designed and quirky with a sense of humor unlike any other catalogue. (Ok, those Gary Fisher catalogues were pretty cool). The seat stays were welded with a penny on top and the fact they were then based in San Francisco, my newly-adopted hometown, certainly made an impression on me.


Sycip 25th Anniversary Edition


Sterling Silver badges for the 25th Anniversary bike


No. 1 of 25, this is Jeremy's personal steed


Just look at that finish!


The Man.


The shop


A vintage Look Fournales Suspension Fork recently removed from a customer's bike


Frames ready for the painter.


Repurposed Sriracha bottle for oil.


Tubes for the next build.


Leftover tubes by the cutting machine.


Pre-weld prep.


Tools and signs.


Raw custom stems, sans paint.


Parts bins


OId frames hung from the ceiling.


Perks of having a dad who happens to be a badass frame builder: A custom titanium bike.


"I'm anything car related, too. My dad used to race cars so we kind of grew up around it."


A fixie with a custom White Industries six-bolt crank for integrated bottom bracket disc brake.


The BB-mounted disk brake was made for the Portland NAHBS show when fixie riders were being ticketed around town for not having brakes.


Laser-etched logos on the Brooks saddle


One piece stem bar combo


Cork grips and Formula hydraulic brake to match chocolate brown finish


Top it off with a gold Chris King headset for extra flair

Fast forward to May 2017 when I was invited to PaulCamp and Jeremy Sycip was there. He was one of the first builders I chatted with in the back of Paul’s shop.

Jeremy taking a breather during the PaulCamp shakedown ride.
Jeremy taking a breather during the PaulCamp shakedown ride.

Maybe it’s that thing where Asians gravitate toward each other, but I think it had more to do with the fact that Jeremy is just a really, really nice guy to be around and that he is an extremely talented builder using aluminum, steel and titanium.

“I have a hard time saying no to people,” said Jeremy Sycip. “That’s why there’s a copper still (for a local distillery) in here, there’s a bunch of stainless welding over there and I just got done doing two of these motorcycle racks for Shimano for their support vehicles,” His shop is just a stone throw’s away from Annadel State Park where Jeremy frequently shreds on one of the many secret trails there. Below is a just part of our far-ranging interview, edited for flow and clarity.

Interior of Sycip Designs
Where the magic happens… plus a copper still for a local distillery.

How did you get started?

Let’s see. I was in art school. My brother Jay and I both went to the Art Center at Pasadena. He actually graduated in illustration and I was there doing product and transportation design a little bit. I was there from ’90-’91 I think. But we were both into riding, so we used to ride all over down there. I actually worked at a bike shop down there, B&H Cyclery in old town Pasadena, part-time in the evenings. Maybe a year into design school, design classes and rendering, I was like hey, this is kind of not what I want to do. I wanted to make something with my hands more. I didn’t want to just be a designer, so I started calling. I remember calling a couple bike companies up here, because we grew up in the Bay Area.

I started calling everyone. I think I called Bontragers, Salsa. At the time those were like the guys that had a small enough company where I could maybe get a job at, or like be an apprentice. Anyway, talked to Ross Shafer at Salsa. He was totally into what I wanted to do, like trying to build bikes, so he referred me to his good friend Paul Sadoff, who is Rock Lobster. So Rock Lobster basically said, “Hey, if you want to come down here, you can check out what I do. If I like you and you know how to work with your hands, basically I need help once in a while, so then you can come on down.”

We just hit it off. He taught me how to do a couple things, and I was able to do it, and so I kind of learned a little bit from him that way, and then I took a class at UBI. I remember I signed up for a frame building class later that year, and it was taught at the time by Albert Eisentraut, who was also a frame builder in Oakland.

I didn’t know who he was at the time, but come to find out he’s like the grandfather frame builder of US frame building.

I learned about tubing material. I learned how to size people up. We went over like geometry, lugs. Those are all very traditional lugged frames, which was what I wanted to learn how to do anyway at the time.

The very first frame Jeremy Sycip built at UBI.
The very first frame Jeremy built at UBI.

After doing that class I felt like I knew a little bit more about what I was doing. Not that I knew what I was doing, but then Paul actually hired me to work with him, so I worked with him on and off for maybe four or five years, just anytime he needed help.

The following year my brother graduated from art school and he wanted to get into the bike as well. So we started the company and that’s how the Sycip name in the biking industry came about. That was late ’92.

Where was your first shop?

First shop was in Fremont. Then it went to San Francisco. I had two different shops in San Francisco. The first place I actually shared with Curtis Inglis. He was working in Chico with Retrotec and wanted to move down to the Bay Area. So we found a garage shop together South of Market, between 5th and 6th street, totally in the ghetto.

We shared a shop, we lived, it was a total bachelor pad. Curtis has a funny picture of us giving our landlord cash, and our landlord is like going, I don’t know what I’m getting myself into because we had no background. We had just started our business, kinda, and he was leasing this place to us. It had four or five bedrooms upstairs. Then there was a garage and a workshop downstairs. There were like five guys that lived there. Eventually we were kind of outgrowing our space, so Curtis moved to Napa where he grew up and I moved to a bigger shop in the city. I was on Pier 33. It was one of the last piers I think that was still used for work.

Then we moved up here to Santa Rosa in 2000. Maybe it was 1999 or 2000. We moved up here, and the whole reason for moving up here was because we were actually sending our bikes up here to get powder coated. Eventually we bought out that business, and then we sold the business (when Jeremy’s brother Jay moved to Portland to work at Chris King). Ironically, the powder coater I’m using now is in San Francisco.

Let’s talk about your design philosophy. Any particular things you do that make your work unique?

A lot of it is, well, what I get asked the most about is probably the wishbone stay, and the coins that I use on my bikes.

The pennies, that came about right when the V-brakes were coming out in mountain biking back in the ’90’s, mid ’90’s. I remember when V brakes first came out, they were really flexing the stays. A lot of people were making brake boosters and things like that. A bunch of people were doing that (boosters). So instead of using one of those, I went to a 19 millimeter stay, and made a wishbone kind of just to differentiate our bikes from other people’s. We did that and that really helped the flex of the seat stays because of the diameter, and also I think the wishbone helped that a little bit.

I was doing some research maybe a year later, because I had to make my own caps to cap the stays, and after a while I was like hey, a penny fits right on here, I tried one out and it worked.

Penny on the Sycip seatstay

It just kind dawned on you, or you just happened to have some pennies?

I just decided to try it, and it worked. It didn’t melt, and then I found out after doing a bunch of them, that certain years don’t work, and certain years do work. Now I know 1980 or newer doesn’t work.

That kinda stuck. That just became part of the design in the bikes. The cross bikes now have a thinner stay, a 16 millimeter, so I use dimes to cap those off.

As far as design philosophy, that’s just one of the things that we started doing with our wishbone. Other than that, everything else, I usually talk to the person one at a time. Each customer is pretty individualized. I don’t really do any production stuff anymore, so everything is made for that person. A lot of times it’s talking to that person, getting their body measurements, seeing what kind of riding style they do, and we design the frame together.

How many bikes do you make annually these days? Typical turnaround?

It’s around 100-150. I try to average around two to three frames a week. Right now it’s about a three to four month turnaround. About four months or so for a TIG-welded single color, a little longer if it goes to custom paint.

What do people mostly buy now? Road? Gravel?

Definitely a lot more gravel these days. Bike packing, touring bikes.

How would you describe your product in four words?

Functional. Durable. Aesthetically pleasing.

No.1 of 25 SyCip 25th Anniversary bike, aka Jeremy's personal steed.
No.1 of 25 SyCip 25th Anniversary bike, aka Jeremy’s personal steed.

One thing people don’t know about you.

I speak a couple different languages and I’m actually not Filipino. I grew up in the Philippines, but I’m half Chinese, half American.

First thing you would do on your first day as captain of a pirate ship.

Attack another ship. Take over. Or look for another ship. Sail.

Favorite place to eat in Santa Rosa?

Gosh, sometimes if I’m in the mood for a burger, I go to Toad in the Hole, which is across the street from my old shop. It’s an English pub. Simply Vietnam is a really good Vietnamese restaurant here in town. Then if I feel like eating something really kind of unhealthy, I always go to Quickly (you know those tapioca ball drinks)?  They always have those popcorn chicken, or all the little squid balls and stuff.

Are you a morning person or a night person?

Night person. I have a hard time waking up in the morning. I want to just sleep in. I was actually watching Stranger Things last night until two in the morning, like a couple episodes.

If you were an animal in the wild what would you be and why?

I would say a bear just because they’re kind of like top of the food chain, a little bit, but they also could look cuddly and cute.

I think another reason, I guess I should share this, too, another reason why I think I kind of like bears, is because I actually had a close encounter with one.

It was a pet.

My wife’s family is from Montana and her grandfather’s neighbor had a pet bear that we used to go visit it. I used to be scared going there. It was behind a chain link fence, but one time the owner came out and he was feeding him like snacks, like marshmallows, and he was like oh, come on in, and literally he opened the chain link fence.

It was huge. I mean, its head was like this big. His claws, his paws were as big as my head. Her name was Buffy, so super nice bear. They raised it since it was a cub.

1964 Toyota FJ45
Also from Montana, a hand-me-down 1964 Toyota FJ45 that Jeremy still drives around town with.

It seems like there are plenty of new builders looking to jump into market these days, any advice?

I would say one piece of advice is to always listen to your customers and to be nice, humble. I’ve met lots of frame builders in the past that think they know it all and it ends up being kind of their downfall, or like they don’t listen to their customers and kind of want to build what they think they should be riding.

FiftyOne Bikes – the latest in hot custom carbon


FiftyOne Bikes might just be the hottest frame-builder you’ve never heard of. The Irish brand is new to the scene, but over the last year they’ve gained a small but dedicated following thanks to their exquisitely hand-built, painstakingly painted, custom carbon frames.

They’re totally bespoke and almost always very colorful. In other words, the anthesis of what modern bicycles have become. Aidan Duff, a former professional rider with a lot of experience in the bike industry, decided to start the company after becoming frustrated with the limited sizing and personalization options that have become the norm thanks to the industry’s shift towards mass-production in Asia.

The brand’s formation took time and a lot of work, as Duff searched first for a producer that could make him the kind of frame he wanted, and then for a selection of experts and artisans who would help him do everything in-house at FiftyOne’s HQ in Dublin, Ireland. The end product is a completely unique frame, built to suit the rider’s characteristics and desires, and to reflect their personality. - Photos by

Photo: - Photos by

Photo: - Photos by

Photo: - Photos by

Photo: - Photos by

Photo: - Photos by

Photo: - Photos by

Photo: - Photos by

Photo: - Photos by


So in that context, the beauty they made for Eurobike this year – part of a limited run of 10 frames to commemorate Enve Composite’s 10th anniversary – is positively mass production. Each frame will still be tailored to its owner, but the signature paint job will stay the same, which is no bad thing, because it is cool AF.

Duff is just back a successful trip to Germany, but he took the time to catch up with us and talk a little shop.

How was Eurobike?

“Fantastic. It was great to meet so many people, drink several weissbier and get to ride my bike – not strictly in that order.

“There’s been a lot said about it being too late in the year, not attracting the bigger brands any more, or 50% of the floorspace being taken up by e-bikes. But the reality is, it’s still the world’s largest cycling trade show and industry hub and regardless of who you want to meet in the business, they’re likely never more than a hall or two away. For us, it provides a very good platform to reach out to the industry and build relationships with other companies in our space.”

And what was the reaction to your Enve bike? 

“Ten years ago, Enve’s first products were specifically designed to service what they believed was an underserved small frame builder community. Jason Schiers and his team saw that carbon was not being used to its full potential in the majority of components and wheels and that the industry were making aluminium shapes out of carbon, failing to employ the real strengths of the material. With years of experience in aerospace and NASCAR, Jason and his team knew they could fill this gap in the market and Enve was born. They played a crucial role in the early stages of our composites development, so it was a privilege to work with them on the bike and present it to the world on their stand.

“The reaction to it has been awesome. With great coverage by the international media, the 10 limited edition bikes have attracted lots of attention with several being snapped up within the first 24 hours of launching.

“I was actually one of the first distributors for Enve when they expanded into Europe in 2009, and I’ve watched them grow from a fledging start-up to an industry leader. I was at the opening party for the launch of their new facility and to celebrate their 10 year anniversary, back in March, where we discussed possible ideas for Eurobike. The idea of a 10-year celebratory bike was born.

“It’s a limited run of 10 bikes that will all be delivered with custom geometry. Each of them is numbered and will have its own certificate of authenticity, and we’re giving each owner a photo-book of the bikes in development and the finished product. It was also our way of introducing our flat mount disc option, which we designed totally in-house, and our integrated Dominator BB shell.”

Fiftyone '87 (6)

This design tips its hat to the Carrera–Inoxpran bike that Ireland's Stephen Roche rode in 1987, the year he won the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, and the World Championships

Fiftyone '87 (31)

Tell us a bit about your new disc designs. Is it the future or is there still hope for rim brakes?

“As I said, we used the Enve10 as the launchpad for our disc design. We already have a lot of interest in discs in general which certainly motivated us to create our own design. The UCI rollout of discs has been less than ideal but I see the next two years changing the landscape of braking forever. That said, I do still think callipers will appeal to a slightly older rider.”

Images by

Bearing the names of past champions, this frame commemorates the 65th edition of the Rás, Ireland's most important race, and was ridden by AquaBlue's Ronan McLaughlin. Photo:

Images by

Bearing the names of past champions, this frame commemorates the 65th edition of the Rás, Ireland's most important race, and was ridden by AquaBlue's Ronan McLaughlin. Photo:

Images by

Bearing the names of past champions, this frame commemorates the 65th edition of the Rás, Ireland's most important race, and was ridden by AquaBlue's Ronan McLaughlin. Photo:

You’re getting a name for yourselves when it comes to show-stopping bikes such as this and Ronan McLaughlin’s Rás concept. Why is it important for you to showcase your products in this way?

“Well, what motivated us to start FiftyOne? We were tired of safe designs and an underwhelming client engagement. We’ve stripped back all the restrictions on bike design to ensure we create timeless classics. It doesn’t matter how intricate the masking needs to be or how long the construction process takes. We believe we are at the intersection of art and engineering. We want to empower clients to create their dream bikes, creations that rise above model years and trends. Something that will be gifted from one generation to the next.”