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Thread: Zukas Cycles

  1. #1
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    Default Zukas Cycles

    Seeing the list of builders here on the Smoked Out it gives me great honor to be among them. I have loved bicycles since I was a young boy. As a matter of fact, my wife calls bicycles my other woman. I started my bike career in 1989 as the ‘shop rat’ at Wayfarer Bicycles in New London, CT. I had taught myself how to fix my bikes but I learned even more working at Wayfafer after school building those Treks and Peugeots, stripping tubular glue, and working on stuff that the other mechanics didn’t want to bother with! And, with the shop owner’s sponsorship I would race on the weekends. The racing went well for me with the highlight of winning the New England Mountain Bike Championships in the Jr. category. Because of my pretty decent racing resume, I was offered a frame by J.P. Weigle, who was friends with the shop owner. But the decision to take an offer from Haro after going to the Atlantic City trade show haunts me to this day. I thought the elevated chainstay design and three color neon fade with an evolution headset was way cooler than a Weigle frame could ever be. Young and dumb! Oh well…

    Before I graduated high school my Dad was relocated to South Carolina to work at Savannah River Site. I decided to stay with a friend and finish school in East Lyme, Ct. When I graduated I immediately went to live with my Dad in Augusta, GA and I started college at USC-Aiken. When I arrived I found bike mechanic work at Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse and discovered that I wasn’t college material, so I dropped out and decided bicycles were my destiny. I have been head mechanic at Andy Jordan’s since 1991, and I have grown deep roots in the Augusta cycling community. One of the best things that happened while working at the bike shop was selling a bike to a customer who would end up being my best friend and wife!

    Over the years, I always modified my bikes in some way such as polishing the aluminum parts, completely repainting the bike, or internally routing the cables. These modifications, along with my transforming old Honda motorcycles into café racers, led to some customers suggesting that I should build my own frame. The more I thought about it the more excited I got about solving my 5’7” height, 31.5” inseam issues with custom geometry. So my years of modifying, painting, polishing aluminum, and welding and brazing on bike and motorcycle frames would come into play after I purchased a frame jig. Night after night I would stay up into the early morning studying the Flickr accounts of builders like Richard Sachs, Engin, Winter Bikes and pretty much any builder listed on RS’s site under How Frames Are Made. When the tubing and lugs order arrived, I would sit on the living room couch imagining every move of the file, heating up the lugs, etc. It was time to go for it, and I hit it hard like prom night! Within a week and a half I had a fixed gear frame ready to ride. I remember staring at it in the stand the night I finished thinking I could slam it together and ride it to work the next day. So the next morning with my messenger bag full of lunch, I embarked on my journey. My thought was sink or swim, and boy did it swim! That ride is one of my best cycling memories. On the way home I was quickly reminded of the steel feel and how my fit was the way I always had wished it could be. Ok I thought next is my road bike. Another success with internal cable routing! Then, I just had to do a cross bike for the coming race season. I always had a lust for Speedvagen bikes because of the seat masts. So I built my cross frame with a mast and internal non full length housing. Polished SS lugs and bright lime green paint got the attention of a shop owner at the first cross race. I was about to go warm up when I heard someone say, “Hey, who built that frame?” I never got to warm up and finished almost next to last, but I had an email when I got home to give him a call. He wanted to know if I could build him and his friend identical road frames similar to my cross frame. At that point, Zukas Cycles was born. I started frame building just over two years ago, and I have yet to grow tired of the torch and file. My very small shop space has now been filled with a dedicated paint booth, lathe, mill, vise stand, and tools to enable me to build custom frames one at a time. This is how I intend to keep it to meet my standards for detail and precision. I hope one day to make this full time while continuing to work at the bike shop part time.

    Thanks, NATE Zukas

  2. #2
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    Wow - where would I even begin atmo? I spent the three Ballers days riding with Nate and the rest of time getting to know him better on a personal level. Not only can this cat ride a bicycle, he's been in the conversation for almost two decades. The racing experience he has speaks for itself. I am sure it will translate into his framebuilding. The takeaway from the weekend is this: Nate has the legs, the head, and the background to know what goes where. The frames he presented were superb, and he spoke to all the design elements in a well thought out and clear voice. On top of all of this, he's a very nice person. I'd follow this guy and his brand because the story will only become more compelling over time.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    That red and silver bike of yours was VERY good looking. Those skinny seat stay and lugged ISP makes it look pretty unique.
     

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Teach me to do a wheelie like you and I'm good.

    What I like about your approach is that the bikes are for racing and hard training with no effs given. Kudos. Also, you want to be a little different and it is apparent in some of the fine(er) details. What I saw were very solid designs that were well thought out and kinda purty ;) It would seem a little petty to compliment the paint because I'm not really a paint "guy" but dang your paint looks pretty sharp.

    Looking forward to more ride time with you. Soon ok? Mi Casa Su Casa.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Nate is the man.

    I turned one of my fastest laps EVER around the canal trail on a night ride trying to get away from him. I had a better light, so he let me lead. I rode full out, nearly puked, and never got more than 2ft from him. I could hear his hubs when he was coasting...which seemed like most of the lap.

    My office is a block from Andy Jordan's, and I'm in there at least once a week, either for a ride, a part, or just to chat. The few things I don't have the tools or time to do to my own bikes, I take them to Nate, 'cause I know it'll be done right. It's been fun watching his framebuilding progess, and seeing how quickly he's improved. I'm a fan.

    Once we get my wife through grad school and have a bigger "fun money" fund I'll be having Nate build me a bike. Just gotta decide if I want a road bike or MTB. Good thing I've got a year or so to think it over!
    Dustin Gaddis
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE View Post
    Wow - where would I even begin atmo? I spent the three Ballers days riding with Nate and the rest of time getting to know him better on a personal level. Not only can this cat ride a bicycle, he's been in the conversation for almost two decades. The racing experience he has speaks for itself. I am sure it will translate into his framebuilding. The takeaway from the weekend is this: Nate has the legs, the head, and the background to know what goes where. The frames he presented were superb, and he spoke to all the design elements in a well thought out and clear voice. On top of all of this, he's a very nice person. I'd follow this guy and his brand because the story will only become more compelling over time.
    Thanks Richie! Looking forward to talking and riding with you again at Ballers 2014. Especially now that I know the hills. That last dirt road climb, all I could think about was your 32t cog!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lionel View Post
    That red and silver bike of yours was VERY good looking. Those skinny seat stay and lugged ISP makes it look pretty unique.
    Thanks Lionel! I was wishing that my legs were two inches longer so I could ride your Zank. Those paul brakes looks fantastic!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by Too Tall View Post
    Teach me to do a wheelie like you and I'm good.

    What I like about your approach is that the bikes are for racing and hard training with no effs given. Kudos. Also, you want to be a little different and it is apparent in some of the fine(er) details. What I saw were very solid designs that were well thought out and kinda purty ;) It would seem a little petty to compliment the paint because I'm not really a paint "guy" but dang your paint looks pretty sharp.

    Looking forward to more ride time with you. Soon ok? Mi Casa Su Casa.
    Too Tall, meeting you inperson answered two of my assumptions. Yes you are tall! Especially you next to my 5'7" frame. And yes you are a cool guy! The dirty south will always have a place for you to stay as well. BTW there is a nice 3 percent grade in front of my house, perfect to learn and master wheelies!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by dgaddis View Post
    Once we get my wife through grad school and have a bigger "fun money" fund I'll be having Nate build me a bike. Just gotta decide if I want a road bike or MTB. Good thing I've got a year or so to think it over!
    My frame + your wheel build = fantastic bike

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    As someone who has watched Nate progress over the years from his "tinkering" to being a full on frame builder has been amazing.. I've personally always thought he had to touch, but was scared to take the leap.. I'm so glad he did take that leap and am so glad I was able to watch his development and enjoy the ride of one of his frames.. 556243_3403461761445_2107332394_n.jpg
     

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Dewd.

    Clock is ticking for a full build pic. You can't ride THAT ;)

    Quote Originally Posted by mosovich View Post
    As someone who has watched Nate progress over the years from his "tinkering" to being a full on frame builder has been amazing.. I've personally always thought he had to touch, but was scared to take the leap.. I'm so glad he did take that leap and am so glad I was able to watch his development and enjoy the ride of one of his frames.. 556243_3403461761445_2107332394_n.jpg

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    I have this pic of it built up....can't see much lol



    And here's a review/feature I did on a MTB Nate built a while back: Custom Mountain Bike For A Cause: Zukas Cycles Tisdale Hardtail | Singletracks Mountain Bike Blog

    Dustin Gaddis
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    nate,

    serious question here. did you do a lot of riding before ballers or are you just naturally gifted? :)


    zukas looking good @ ballers.


     

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Nate builds a great commuter frame too!

    Well, I guess a high-end, weight-weenie, aggressive geo steel frame full of Campy and ENVE goodness isn't really a commuter; but, it sure is fun to haul ass to work on. Plus, I can look at it all day.

    Nate, this really is a wonderful bike that is so at home going fast, going far and just going to work. I can't wait for our next project...whenever that may be.
     

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarrenCT View Post
    nate,

    serious question here. did you do a lot of riding before ballers or are you just naturally gifted? :)


    zukas looking good @ ballers.



    Saturdays ride was my longest for the year. I was relying on years of base miles. Baller! Seriously what kept me going was the incredible scenery and a great group of guys to ride with!

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Nate, it was an absolute pleasure meeting you at Ballers. Your bikes really are unique for a lot of reasons. We all enjoyed your live 'Smoked Out' session Sunday evening.

    For the sake of all of the V-Salonatti who couldn't attend and for Smoked Out posterity, could you elaborate on some of your building choices, such as the ultra-thin seat stays and the BB cut out, what it is about building with steel that does it for you, and the 'cross scene in GA?
     

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Nate, i don't have much to add other than I enjoy the FNL posts you make. You've got a lot to offer and i'm sure youll be making everyone strive harder because of it. Keep it up. Jonathan

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by ElvisMerckx View Post
    ....and the 'cross scene in GA?
    Speaking of which, here's some pics from the local CX race last year of a few Zukas's getting ridden hard. Then I'll shut up haha.

    Nate.


    Nate again.


    Purple Zukas


    I know Aaron was there on his orange SS CX bike too, but he must have raced after I left, don't seem to have any pics of him.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by c_kyle View Post
    Nate builds a great commuter frame too!Well, I guess a high-end, weight-weenie, aggressive geo steel frame full of Campy and ENVE goodness isn't really a commuter; but, it sure is fun to haul ass to work on. Plus, I can look at it all day.

    Nate, this really is a wonderful bike that is so at home going fast, going far and just going to work. I can't wait for our next project...whenever that may be.
    Thanks Chris! Still on of my favorite frames. Curvy seat stays, great colors (cream, gold, black). Love that picture too!! Let me know when your ready to fix that 'door ding' on the top tube.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Zukas Cycles

    Quote Originally Posted by ElvisMerckx View Post
    Nate, it was an absolute pleasure meeting you at Ballers. Your bikes really are unique for a lot of reasons. We all enjoyed your live 'Smoked Out' session Sunday evening.

    For the sake of all of the V-Salonatti who couldn't attend and for Smoked Out posterity, could you elaborate on some of your building choices, such as the ultra-thin seat stays and the BB cut out, what it is about building with steel that does it for you, and the 'cross scene in GA?
    Ahhh the GA cross scene! Been racing it since 2003 and have seen it grown since. Lots of fast crit racers here in the southeast so when the end of September arrives they have very 'fresh' legs! Been racing some of the same guys now for nearly ten years. I've been lucky to win the overall in the men's B , masters 35+ and managed a couple of 3rd places in the A field. One of our guys, Thomas Turner won the master 30-34 at the worlds. Now when he laps me its by a world champion! I love lugs though I have been fillet brazing lately. Love seeing them incorporated into modern looking designs like the sloping TT, curvy stays and the intergrated seat mast. On of my things to is internally routed cables. If the riders weight permits I like to use some pretty thin seat stays, 3/8" diameter! The ride quality is fantastic and very durable as we saw on Saturday's Baller ride! All of my BB shells have a Z cut out that has a screen glued behind it. The screen keeps most of the dirt/sand out and the cut out lets the frame breath. A steel frame that breathes will dry out. Trapped water wants to eat its way out, in other words rust. So far most of my builds have seen some sort of racing/spirited riding action. Knowing that it holds up to that kind of abuse is pleasing. What really excites me is when I receive a follow up email and the customer says I nailed the geometry. That means to me they got a true custom!
    Last edited by Nate Zukas; 05-31-2013 at 08:38 PM. Reason: mispellin'

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