Hinmaton Hisler - owner / builder
My love affair with Bikes started when I was around 7 years old, my father bought me a Huffy Pro Thunder for my birthday. The choice of bike was a bit of an inside joke by my father (my name), which I got instantly but thought it was my little secret. I also thought it gave me super powers, which maybe it did, as I jumped that bike off anything I could find and came out unscathed.
Later that same year, my elementary school principal (an avid cyclist and tandem rider) created an after school program to teach basic bicycle mechanics; which in retrospect was such an amazing idea. Well, I couldn’t get enough, and he would stay late with me and go further in-depth with parts like inspecting and repacking headset and BB bearing packs.
I was hooked! I spent that summer working with my dad, mixing mortar, and moving rocks; all so I could buy myself my own tool box and tools. My father made it clear that I wasn’t allowed to use his, he had worked hard for his, took care of his, and I needed to learn the same.
Once I had a small compliment of tools, I took apart every bike I could get my hands on, mixed and matched components, you name it. Being as we didn’t have a lot of money and weren’t “too" proud, on runs to the dump, my dad would let me scrounge through the piles and pull parts and pieces that looked serviceable, as long as I was going to use it or it went right back and I had to figure out how to get it there.
After enough tinkering that Huffy looked mean, and we went everywhere together. Just me and my bike - I was free!
And that's what a bike is to me - Freedom.
As the son of a Jeweler and a Stone Mason, working with my hands was in my blood. I started playing around with metals when I was around five or so, but I spent the larger part of my childhood traveling around with my father looking at stone work and brick work, squinting buildings, leaning how to discern how many masons were on a job by inspecting the joints, learning about masonry heaters, and discussing how best to do any number of things. I was taught that you either do it right, or don’t do it at all. Form follows function, but one must understand where embellishment or adornment fits.
I learned what it means to be a craftsman.
And from that was born a lifetime of traveling and seeking knowledge of craft, technique, process.
I started off seeking this through fine arts, which took me as far as two semesters of college, but then I just had to go see the world. I spent years traveling the country looking for myself I suppose, but what I found was a passion to solve problems and learn how to do things.
So I set out to learn everything that intrigued me, from how to rebuild a motor and diagnose electrical problems, learning how to survive in the bush, blacksmithing, welding, drafting, 3D modeling, ornamental metal work, machining, running an excavator, and how to make a frame. 99% of the time I taught myself how to do it, and / or figured out how to get a job doing it. Most of the time by starting my own business doing it.
And of course I usually learned everything the hard way, and when people told me I couldn’t do it, I just had more incentive to get it done and prove them wrong.
My first bike took me four years to build.
I really wanted to build a hardtail XC frame, and I spent months laboring over the design and asking everyone I knew about geometry and bike design. I’m not even sure Google was a big thing yet, and I only heard about Forums as a concept. I didn’t even know that frame building was a craft; I just wanted to build them - period.
The idea of welding round tubes was so daunting at the time, that I had this idea about making a bike from all machined parts. I didn’t have any resources to accomplish this, but the concept of a weldment made sense to me as a fabricator.
I bought some aluminum parts from Nova, including these really nice Easton chainstays, they were square that tapered to a rectangle. (It was ok to weld a square tube.)
Then I sat on these parts for two years, just sat in the box they came in.
I rode a lot of XC, broke my collar bone, healed and rode a ton more.
My architectural metals business Tektonics Design Group was growing, we hired guys that were into bikes, we hired a machinist, bought our first CNC cell, and I decided I wanted to ride Observed Trials.
I got really into it, and then it hit me! CNC Machined Trials Bike- it's the perfect platform.
I had my parts still and now I had the machines to make the weldment.
I designed it, posted about it, got feedback, machined it and was ready to go.
I decided to take the frame up to Frank Wadelton and get some education on how to weld a bike. I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy, but he's a good sport and showed me what's what. I took the information home and welded up my first frame.
Heat treated it.
Came up with a name for the brand.
Built it up, and instantly learned exactly why you use tubes to build a bike.
So I started using tubes.
My next frame lasted an hour, too thin.
I learned that my bike company name was already taken.
With some design assistance from Frank, the next frame was a success. Caelifera was born.
I made and sold a bunch, had a pro rider in Norway, and then I figured out that the market was super thin and most of my competition was having their frames made overseas and getting them for less than I could buy the materials here in the states.
So… the custom tailor made competition trials frames business was a bust.
But I learned a lot about bike geometry, which I quickly applied to tailor made Steel XC race frames.
I have been very successful at fitting and designing bikes for specific people, I believe this is due to my experience with Trials frames and my time as a professional jeweler. Understanding what geometry change affects what quality, and really being able to listen to a person and pull them into the design.
This new brand went through the name game for a while, and just in time for NAHBS 2010 one of my former business partners (Licensed Architect) came upon Stjil Cycles (from De Stijl the Dutch artistic movement, also the Dutch word for style).
This lent itself well to what I wanted to do with the brand, as my artistic bent lends itself to a more form follows function esthetic, clean lines, crisp edges, sparing yet bold colors. Simple in design, yet exquisitely executed. Attention to every detail.
Welding or brazing, I don’t prefer one over the other. I feel the design of the bike lends itself one way or the other, maybe the frame needs both. In what I feel is the true way of a craftsman, every process and technique has its place, to think less of a process or technique because it is old or new or different is to limit yourself and your abilities.
This is how I approach machined parts. As a jeweler / blacksmith / fabricator, I can make just about anything by hand, but it may not make sense to expend that effort.
When I started building frames, I just didn't like a lot of the frame components that were available, and I still don’t.
I just think the designs are kind of blah. The really old stuff, I love it! The modern versions of those parts are just bad copies, and they have lost all of what was good about the original design. The new stuff (at that time mostly aluminum) on big brand bikes were at least new designs, and I thought they looked pretty cool and there was a lot of machined parts. I wanted that! In steel.
I wanted to machine my own integrated head tube. Then I started seeing tapered head tubes on big company bikes - I wanted that too.
And like most things in my life, if I really want something, I just need to do it myself. So I just started machining my own parts for my bikes. Then I thought there must be others like me. LocoMachine was born
I feel strongly that all the parts that make up the frame need to be considered in the design of the bike.
This is why a good lug set works so well; the design is cohesive throughout the frame.
Many frames are a tubeset and a bunch of parts that “work” and the only thing that ties it together is the paint job. I have always attributed this to the lack of well thought out and designed frame components.
I put a lot of effort into the design of my components so they can stand alone or work with the frame design and not be over bearing.
Still building, still learning, still fascinated by it all.