About Ellis Cycles


It all started when...

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. Suddenly, I had the ability to ride up those hills and see the countryside — I’ve never looked back.

Dave at Cheesehead Roubaix

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 quickly learned the skills needed to keep a bike functioning: most nights after rides were spent overhauling my bottom bracket and hub bearings. I got my first job in a bike shop my Junior year of high school assembling kiddy bikes in a small windowless room upstairs at 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 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. Here I would meet Dave Kirk and Kelly Bedford, two builders who had real 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 leapt 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 relocated to 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. 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).

Over the ensuing years, I've been honored to take home several more awards from the North American Handbuilt Bike Show. 

In 2013 I introduced my Strada Fango model, a monstercross bike that accommodates 29'er tires and is at home on dirt, road and gravel riding.  In recent years, I've built Modern Classics and Strada road bikes with disc brakes and even thru axles to integrate modern parts and wheels, so regardless of what your dream Ellis looks like, classic or modern, I can build to suit your needs. 

The start of our odyssey, Campo, CA

In the summer of 2018 Deborah and I realized a lifelong dream with our tour of the Sierra Cascades from Mexico to Canada. It was 52 days of the most challenging climbs and stunning scenery that we’ve ever experienced. Our Ellis’ both worked flawlessly (not one flat tire in 2500 miles!) so if you’ve got an adventure planned, I’d love to build the bike that gets you there!

The golden hills of California

So Who’s Ellis?

Those of you who know me 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.

Bessie Ellis

Bessie Ellis