Check out the Q and A session we had with Alder Threlkeld from Rodriguez Bikes.
Q)Tell me about your life in cycling. How’d it start, where’d it take you and what does it mean to you?
A) I started road riding with my mom back when I was in 10th grade. My mom was training to do some triathlons and I just kinda started tagging along on these rides. I eventually got my first “serious” road bike, a used 2011 Felt F-95. I rode the shit out of that during CTS (Cascade Bicycle Clubs training series), rode STP (Seattle to Portland), and then grew out of that and my mom rode it for quite some time. She’s put about 12k miles on it, not including the miles I put. I just don’t track my miles like that. We dove deeper and deeper into endurance road cycling and it took me to a lot of places, mostly on smooth farm roads staring at the road/scenery or someone's ass in front of me while we draft.
I remember hating waking up at 5am for the longer 80, 100, 120 mile rides on the weekends when I just wanted to sleep in like every high schooler, but I was so glad I got up the second we started riding. Shout out to my mom, Machiko, for waking me up.
I took some bike maintenance classes at Bike Works and then got my first mechanic job at Performance Bikes when I was 18. The biggest thing to come from this job was all the amazing people I met that worked there. Thats actually the OG Road Hole team. Yes, we still hang out today. We are mostly all neighbors.
I got my first gravel bike, a Fuji Jari 1.1, back when 700x40 was a huge tire. My mom bought me this frame as thanks for digging up her collapsed sewer line for replacement. I honestly never really looked back at road riding after that. My mom got the gravel bug, got a Fuji Jari 1.7, and started creating all these crazy routes. This bike took me all over Washington back roads, Oregon, Montana, and then I folded the chain stay over. Thats when the trend of breaking frames and bike parts really started.
Q) What led you to design your first custom frame? When was it, what type of frame?
A) Performance closed and I started working as a mechanic at Rodriguez Bikes. I was now riding a back up bike since I folded my right hand chain stay over. In need of a bike I decided to design a Rodriguez Bandito. Being a young ex-roadie who was still into the idea that light was better designed an ultralight, agro, flat bar cyclocross bike with out extra mounts or clearance for anything reasonable.
It was a blend of Columbus Spirit and life tubing. It had shaped tubing, it was light, it was sick. Now this bike took me everywhere. Bombing fire roads in WA, out biking two guys on quads down a fire road in central OR and actually getting away, dodging cacti in Tucson, and sending it off 12ft jumps to a slight decline. I broke everything on this bike. I probably went through about 6 Stan’s No Tubes Crest’s. I started learning that light wasn’t the best if it was just going to keep failing and sucking up precious ride time. I started replacing parts with heavier stronger parts. I did however manage to snap off the threads on my BB cup in the shell. Not sure how I would beef that up.
When the frame cracked, the head frame builder at Rodriguez fixed it. I cracked it in three places, and buckled during one repair before we decided to just scrap the whole thing and remake it.
In April 2022 the MKIII Cow Bike was born. It was stiffer, heavier, and stronger. I was getting into Ultras and needed a bike that could carry more with bigger tires. So we made exactly that. The mix of shaped Deddaciai tubing and Velo-Spec made for a better ride underweight and sprints. The down tube is pear shaped at the head tube and goes to a hexagon at the bottom bracket. I cracked this down tube later and we replaced it with the same down tube just a bigger diameter. As parts got stronger I stopped needing to replace them. Hopefully, it stays like that for a while.
Q) When and why did you decide to go into business as a custom framebuilder
A) I was presented with the opportunity to buy into Rodriguez as a successor to the name and it was just an opportunity that I could not pass up. Working doing something you love doesn’t feel like work at all. There is nothing I love more than making someone's dream bike. All the prep and back and forth over parts and ideas, asking what’s possible and what isn’t, and then seeing the dream become reality is truly special. The best part after that is how loved the bike is when it comes back for maintenance. All the scratches and dings tell its story. The because (Beautiful because it's used) is the best part. And then you just get to make it beautiful again.
Q) Describe your approach or philosophy of framebuilding in 7 words or less.
A) Built for you after learning about you.
Q) Who are some of your primary influences?
A) Bradford Smith from Speedvagen (RIP) has to be one of my biggest influences. His level of stoke is uncanny, he’s incredibly nice, and he’s an amazing frame builder.
Q) The favorite bike I’ve build it…
A) Johns's “Down Randonneur” Bike called the Rough Out. There's an updated pic of all the nice details on Road Holes right now. There wasn’t a single part on that bike that wasn’t hand-picked for looks.
Q) If I could only ride on bike the rest of my life it would be…
A) My Cow Bike. It feels like an extension of my body.
Q) Custom bikes are about…
A) Making what you want. And if it’s truly custom you shouldn’t be picking from a drop down menu on a website.
Q) Riding bikes is about…
A) Having fun. What ever that type of fun is. Seeing more. What ever you want to go look at.
Q) The best bike rides start with…
A) A long gradual climb. Something like a 3-5% over 3mi and then a washout to make everyone question if we went the right way.
Q) The best bike rides end with…
A) A downhill back to the camp, car, or the house.
Q) I’ll keep doing this as long as…
A) I have legs and arms.
Q) Three of my core values are…
A) 1) If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. 2) If it’s stupid and it works, its not stupid. 3) It’s a tool not a jewel. Go use it.