How it all started
I always had a bike growing up, cruising around the neighborhood with my friends, seeing who could skid the farthest. I didn’t truly get hooked until my 12th birthday and a silver Raleigh Record 10-speed. We had moved to a rural area of upstate NY a year earlier, and the kid's bike I had been riding wasn’t cutting it on the hills around our new house. Suddenly I had the ability to get up all those hills and see the countryside, and I’ve never looked back.
I moved on from the Raleigh to a mountain bike a couple of years later and began to explore the trails near my house. My friends and I would plunge into watery ruts up to our cranks and see who could make it the farthest. I learned very quickly the skills needed to keep a bike functioning, as most nights after rides were spent overhauling my bottom bracket and hub bearings. I got my first job in a bike shop during my Junior year of high school assembling kiddy bikes in a small windowless room upstairs from the “Bike, Golf and Ski Warehouse” in Schenectady, NY. I can laugh now, but it wasn’t very glamorous working in that little room next to a chain smoker who assembled bikes with an impact wrench.
I steadily moved up to nicer shops over the next few years and in ’94 I got a call from a friend who worked at Serotta, they needed someone in the shipping department. It wasn’t the most exciting job, but it got me in the door. It was here where I would meet Dave Kirk and Kelly Bedford, two builders who had the most influence on my development as a frame builder.
I didn’t pick up brazing immediately, but one day after work Kelly showed me how to use the torch and I was off melting metal. My early work didn’t win any awards for beauty, but I still have a set of bar-ends I built for myself. After Ben Serotta reacquired the business he asked if I'd consider becoming a frame builder. I leaped at the chance and threw myself into learning the trade. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from Dave Kirk at Serotta. He patiently answered my questions and showed me the subtle differences that separate a good frame from an exceptional one. These were important years in my development as a builder: learning the trade from Dave and later learning to problem solve on my own after he and his wife relocated in Montana.
As the year 2000 began, I moved on from Serotta to one of the only other shops still building lugged steel production bikes: Waterford. I wanted to learn new skills and loved the stainless lug bikes that Waterford had been turning out. I called, introduced myself and asked if they would be interested in my skills. They were, and shortly I was in a moving van headed to Wisconsin.
The years in Wisconsin have been the best of my life. I met my wife in 2002 and we're approaching our 6th anniversary in May. Professionally I enjoyed the challenge of expanding the offerings at Waterford and developing the custom lug aspect of the business. I was afforded a great degree of creativity in building one-of-a-kind bikes.
Ellis Cycles is born
Early in 2008, I left Waterford and started Ellis Cycles. I'd always enjoyed working directly with customers; Ellis was the next logical step. I now have the freedom to collaborate with cyclists to craft beautiful frames that are utterly gratifying to ride.
With a leap of faith, a 500lb alignment table, some oxy-
acetylene tanks and the help of a handful of good friends, I started building frames! Thanks to all my early clients, the business gained momentum. At the 2008 Cirque du Cyclisime, one of the first Ellis frames won "Best Track Bike". More frames followed and word began to get out about Ellis Cycles. To cap that first year off, we were thrilled when Team Ellis rider Jame Lalonde won the Cyclocross Single-Speed National Championships (read about his victory).
At the 2009 Handbuilt Bicycle Show, an Ellis 953 frame was awarded "Best Lugged Bike" - quite an honor considering the collection of talent there.
That bike was reviewed by Road Bike Action (read the positive review of the "Modern Classic").
The judges honored Ellis again at the 2010 Handbuilt Show in Richmond, Virginia. This time, a Lugged 953 Ellis took home "Best of Show" award. And in 2011 a stunning randonneur was tapped as "Best Road Bike". We're humbled to bring home awards three years running.
So Who’s Ellis?
Those of you who know Dave Wages may be wondering: "Who’s Ellis?" It’s my middle name, and my great-Grandmother’s maiden name. I never met her, but my Grandfather Wages always spoke very fondly of his mother. It is with pleasure that I use this name for my bicycles; I’m sure he’s proud as well.