Carl Strong’s Pursuit of Carbon

American handbuilt the Montana Way

As the calendar brings us closer to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Sacramento (March 15-17), we will be spotlighting a variety of frame shops that are doing their best to help beautify the roads we ride by building beautiful bikes.

Pursuit Cycles is the latest endeavor from industry vet Carl Strong, a craftsman frame builder himself, who has made a name for himself in the world of steel and titanium. And now for something new…

RBA: What is your history as a frame builder?
Carl: I started Strong Frames in 1993 and have been through a lot of changes over the years. My wife Loretta and I grew the company in the late 90s and early 2000s primarily by doing private label stuff, but we didn’t love it. We paired it back to just Loretta and myself around 2004. We really enjoy focusing on craftsmanship and friendly, responsive customer service. We found a nice pace making about a bike a week and have been doing that ever since.

I’ve always been known as a bit of a material geek and I’m one of just a few builders who have built with just about everything. During the steel age, I built with just about every type of steel—Aermet, stainless, etc. In the later part of the 90s, the pro peloton migrated to aluminum and I started offering 7005 and Scandium frames. For the past decade, Strong Frames has been building almost exclusively with titanium.

RBA: How did this project get started?
Carl: About 8 years ago, I added custom carbon fiber to my line-up, and even won best carbon at NAHBS in Austin. When I was learning how to make custom carbon bikes, I turned to a local cyclist and friend, Jared Nelson, for help. He was finishing up a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Montana State University, where he specialized in carbon fiber. He was a fantastic resource.

I was building tube to tube custom carbon frames. As I learned more about carbon fiber and its characteristics, I became interested in building with a molded process. Molded construction opened a new world of frame design for me. It’s allowed me to have more control over the finished product.

Loretta and I didn’t have the knowledge or resources to launch Pursuit alone, so we joined forces with Jared and industry veteran Bill Cochran. Together we started Pursuit. It is a separate entity because it really is more about the team and less about me. The name Pursuit comes from our shared motivation to make the best bike we can…a never ending pursuit.

RBA: What is there to know about the new facility?
Carl: Pursuit operates out of a few locations. We have a clean, climate-controlled layup room at Strong Frames and also use the shop for final construction and testing. Once the frame comes back from paint it is taken to Bill’s shop for assembly and shipping. Our plan is to move to a custom facility here in Bozeman that will house all of our operations as well as a Pursuit Cycles showroom.

RBA: Why is the LeadOut a limited edition project?
Carl: Pursuit Cycles makes very unique top-of-the-line bicycles. We are all about bringing together the craftsmanship and attention to detail you get in the best custom bikes with state-of-the-art technology, and delivering it with 5-star customer service. Each year we choose a number that we know will allow us to deliver on that promise.

RBA: What are the future goals of Pursuit?
Carl: Our goal is to always get better and create a brand that people want to be a part of. We plan to grow, but are not driven by growth and sales. Our goal is to focus on making the highest quality bikes we can, while growing just enough to have the resources we need to pursue our ideas and keep pushing the technology.

RBA: What about prices and models?
Carl: Pricing is $6200 for frame/fork, Chris King headset and bottom bracket. We are direct to consumer and offer full bike pricing with top of the line build kits starting at $10,490. You can see pricing and build kit outlines on our web site.

 

RBA: What would you say makes the Pursuit brand unique?
Carl: The thing that makes us unique is that our frames are designed, engineered, tested and made in-house. We are one of the only companies in the US making modular monocoque carbon fiber frames, built to order, one at a time. We combine high-tech composite manufacturing with craft-level artistry and attention to detail.

We have a great team of engineers and craftsman with decades of experience. Our goal is to stay small, focus on quality, have a great time doing it and ride!

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