Victorian framebuilder Ewen Gellie is a mountain man, through and through. From his workshop and property, located on Skyline Road, about 50kms from Melbourne, he produces some of Australia’s best custom frames, like this 27.5 hardtail MTB.
While Ewen has found himself living in the ultimate bush paradise, he’s not limited to building MTBs, having just completed a tandem frame that can break down to fit inside a 10 inch-tall maximum size airline suitcase.
He also builds immaculately welded road, touring, and CX frames, although off-road bikes really stoke his fire. Unsurprisingly, considering he was the Australian Downhill MTB Champion in ’88, runner-up ’89 and Champion again in ’91.
He’s also an inductee of the Australian Mountain Bike Association Hall of Fame and is a mechanical engineer, consulting to GM-Holden, Ford & Toyota over the years, and since applies the same focus of thought to his frames.
I asked Ewen for some extra information about this particular build, and this is what he came back with:
“This bike embodies the Gellie Bikes design approach, which flows from my passion for blending the lightweight-structure design principles I learned from my mechanical engineering degree with my hands-on approach, that saw me ride my frames to national mountain bike titles in the 80s. This is a 27.5 MTB with steering precision and turn-in for blasting along Aussie singletrack.
“Structurally, it has more in common with airplanes than sculpture and incorporates many subtle design details in the pursuit of my idea of elegant bike frame design. The beauty is in the honed resolution of the ideal and I have sought to optimize maximum durability at the lightest possible weight as appropriate for high-performance sporting equipment.
“The ride feel of this bike is one of its key features, and I use my experience to select tubes to craft a degree of suppleness that is often absent from excessively rigid “high performance” frames. Suppleness need not be sacrificed in order to maintain frame durability, and I will not take shortcuts and pass off excess rigidity as somehow being high performance.
“This frame is intended to work with the rider and be ridden hard, no holding back. To me, an excessively rigid frame that pummels the rider is not high performance. Since I make the frame to suit the rider I can tailor the rigidity where mass-produced frames have no option but to allow for a more heavier, unforgiving rider.
“What sets this custom frame apart is that it also incorporates unique engineering details done during the construction. They take more time to perform but I have satisfied myself that they maximize the potential of the material. Design for prevention of fatigue failure is a field of engineering. (The importance and effect of many of these are unknown to less knowledgeable framebuilders and designers).
“This frame is constructed from a selection of Columbus Zona and Life frame tubes and at what I consider to be the optimal mix of performance, cost, ease of repair, it compares more favorably to heavier or more expensive frames, weighing in around 1690 grams.
“A good example of the refinement of this design is the tapering chainstays, which while often dismissed as being mundane, are in fact structurally the pinnacle of lightweight-structure design. For the loads a chainstay is subject to, a tapering tube with butting is optimal, irrespective of the material.
“It optimizes the levels of stress in the material, adding a little material at the welds whilst taking far more away along its length to achieving an unbeatable balance of light-weight, robustness, and suppleness.”
Ewen did say that I could simplify his description in case it was too much for time-poor readers, but it provides an intrinsic insight into his design philosophy, and an essential background to their results — even though they speak for themselves.