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NAHBS preview: Introducing Signal Cycles

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The work of Nate Meschke and Matt Cardinal.
(Photos © Jonathan Maus)

In a small garage in North Portland, Nate Meschke and Matt Cardinal have traded their paint brushes for a welding torch.

Matt Cardinal (L) and Nate Meschke
are Signal Cycles.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The two friends, who met at their day jobs at the Bike Gallery, have spent the last year creating the bikes and the company they will debut at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) this weekend: Signal Cycles.

Their bikes show an eye for details and composition that are unexpected until you learn that both Nate and Matt are former painting majors (you might remember when I profiled Matt nearly two years ago).

The story of Signal started not soon after last year’s NAHBS in San Jose. Matt attended the show with a mission from one of the store’s buyers (Joel Grover) to be on the lookout for a builder who might be a good fit for the Bike Gallery showroom.

When Matt returned, he and Nate hatched a mission of their own. They decided to ask if Bike Gallery would be interested in helping them get a bike building enterprise off the ground.

It wasn’t a crazy idea. Matt is a veteran mechanic with 15 years of bike shop experience under his belt and he previously worked with Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles. During his tenure at that legendary shop, Matt says, “I built wheels, installed parts, and really soaked up the atmosphere.” That experience put the idea of framebuilding into his head where he “sat on it for a while.”

Cue the Bike Gallery’s interest, and then the news that Portland would host the NAHBS this year, and Matt realized he had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow his dream.

With financial help from the Bike Gallery, and technical advice and tooling supplies from machinist extraordinaire, owner of Efficient Velo Tools, and head of Bike Gallery’s service department Brett Flemming, Signal Cycles was born.

Nate Meschke

At NAHBS, Nate and Matt plan to show four bikes: A 29-inch, singlespeed mountain bike; a 700c city bike with custom racks; a geared cyclocross bike; and a road bike.

When I stopped at the shop earlier this week, I got a close-up look at a few of their show rigs and a sense of what’s to come for this exciting new company.

Take their mountain bike for example: Nate and Matt wanted to use the Maverick suspension fork, but they also thought it would be cool to have the option of switching to a rigid fork. Unfortunately, the Maverick fork requires a proprietary hub axle size (made by Portland company Chris King) and therefore has special, aluminum dropout clamps to fit around it.

Since Matt and Nate built a steel rigid fork, they needed to fabricate their own clamps out of steel (you can’t braze aluminum to steel). Enter Brett Flemming. Brett made the custom clamps and the results are awesome…

The guys said each one of their bikes has at least one non-conventional part or feature; whether it’s the front hub dynamo with a drum brake imported from Japan for their city bike, or the very rare chainring they fanangled away from a Shimano rep for their ‘cross bike.

Tomorrow is the big day for Signal; it’s their worldwide debut at the NAHBS. Nate and Matt are hoping it goes well. With any luck they say, “hopefully we’ll start building full time.”

View all the photos from my visit to the Signal Cycles shop and learn more at SignalCycles.com.