For 32 years now, smack dab in the heart of Michigan, Matt Assenmacher has been honing his craft with each and every cycle that has left his shop.
Understated & clean with a subtle touch. Assenmacher crafts cycles that eschew cosmetics for the sake of mere cosmetics. Every bit, every frivolity earns its place: frames made for riding. Matt sat down to speak and here is what he had to say...
1. How old are you?
I will be 55 this year.
2. Where were you born?
3. What's your earliest memory of a bicycle or something bicycle related?
Many childhood memories, of course. My brothers and I used to take the front wheel off of one bike and spread the fork blades so that they could be bolted to the rear end of another bike. I can't remember how they rode, but I think it was fun! Nobody died.
4. What was your first cycle?
An Evans 24" wheel middle weight.
5. How about first "high-end" cycle?
Dunelt touring, Mercier 300, Raleigh Pro in that order.
6. Did (does) your family (parents, siblings, etc) ride also?
No, I came from a non-cycling environment. My wife rides.
7. Did you like to tinker with bikes back then?
Yes, of course. I still do.
8. Did you ever work in a Bike Shop... if so, where/how long?
I worked for a company called the Weathervane headquartered in Lansing, Michigan. I essentially set them up in the repair business in Mt. Pleasant. I worked for them for approximately two years. I had also been repairing bikes on my own for a few years in the late 60's and early 70's. I moved to Leeds, England in 1973 and worked for Bob Jackson for approximately one year.
9. Have you ever done any organized racing?
Yes, but very little. I held an ABL license back in the 60's and raced then and a few times in College.
10. How about cyclo-touring?
Yes, both supported and unsupported. Many Century rides.
11. What job(s) did you have before frame building and also-do you have any other job currently besides frame building?
Paper routes, various summer jobs, bike shops (as described above). I now own and operate three retail bicycle stores in the Flint, Michigan area.
12. When did you start building?
13. Who would you say is your greatest influence in designing & frame building?
14. Did you apprentice... if so, with who?
Under Dan Foster, Bob Jackson Cycles Leeds, England 1973-1974.
15. What's your idea of the "perfect cycle" regardless if you built it or not?
It does what it is designed to do and fits who it is designed to fit.
16. Shooting a guess... how many frames would you say you've built?
1,500-plus, over 30-plus years. Very few in the last 10 years.
17. Any cycles out there that you secretly wished, "Darn, I wish I'd built that!"?
Sure, any Tour de France bike ridden by Eddy Merckx, Greg Lemond, Lance Armstrong, etc.
18. Your idea of the perfect client?
Good communications, clear understanding of what they want, and not in a hurry. Someone that really needs a custom frame in order to be fitted correctly.
19. What defines a nightmare client in your experience?
No idea of what they really want. No idea of why they are in a custom frame shop.
20. Any words of advice to up & coming frame builders?
Be honest. Understand the basics of design and fabrication very clearly. Don't take short cuts. Get a real job (just kidding).
21. What do you find most funny or peculiar (in a kind way-not brutal) about the cycle-buying public... what don't they get or aren't they seeing?
The general public doesn't have a clue about bicycles or bicycling. The cycling public has only the faintest idea of what a custom bicycle frame really is.
22. What do you think of mass-produced bikes (without naming names)?
I think mass produced bicycles have improved in quality immensely from the early 1970's when I started building to now. Todays fabrication and materials technology is light years ahead of the production bikes of that time. Even many "high end" bikes of the "Bicycle Boom" era were not very "straight" and often times not built to catalog specifications. The regular production bikes, for the most part, were a joke.
23. What cycle don't you have anymore that you wished you did?
I have them all.
24. What cycle do you currently ride most, even if it wasn't built by you?
An old OCLV frame equipped with Campy Ergo 8 speed and tubulars.
25. When did you last ride your bike and for how far?
I rode home from work the "long way" about 32 miles.
26. What's your idea of the perfect ride?
Any climb and descent in France on a warm summer day. Any ride on a warm summer day!
27. Could you ever see yourself being Car Free... just using mass-transportation and your bike to get around?
Probably not in my current lifetime, and where I am currently living.
28. Why do you think so many folks have romanticized bicycles & bicycling?
It is your first real freedom over space and time. It is a machine that becomes a part of you when you operate it, an extension of your muscles and nerves and brains. They are beautiful. They are efficient. They go fast.
29. Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life?
Family, Friends, Riding, Brass Era Automobiles, Flying.
30. If you could say one thing to Lance Armstrong what would it be?
31. In a pinch... McDonalds or Burger King?
In a very rare pinch.
32. What kind of shampoo did you last use?
Whatever is there.
33. Favorite libation: wine, beer or fire water?
I like beer.
34. Even though there seems to be a real tradition to it-what do you think of folks who spend more time setting up their cycle with just the right color saddle, bar tape, bags, hoods, etc than actually riding or at least commenting on the ride?
To each their own.
35. Did you go to college... if so, what was your major?
Yes. Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Double Major Biology and Sociology with a Business Minor.
36. Your favorite music while working (if any)?
Most recently we have set up a 20 Gig iPod with about 5,500 song titles on it from Artie Shaw and Billie Holiday to Beyonce. Plenty of Beatles, lots of R&B, Motown, Rock, and Jazz. We patch it into the amp, set it on shuffle, and let it rip.
37. If you had it to do all over again... would you be building cycles?
38. What's your favorite lunch food during a work day in the shop?
Lately it seems to be an apple and peanut butter.
39. When it's all said & done-what kind of legacy will you hope to have left behind?
Good looking, well designed, straight bicycles that last a very, very long time. Better riding conditions for everyone. A better environment. Peace on Earth.
40. How can folks get in touch with you to order a custom cycle?
I am not seeking custom frame orders at this time,
but I can always be reached at
or by phone
Thanks! That was fun.