Bishop to Padraig


Last year, as I was wrapping up my coverage of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show I went to some length in describing my newfound love for the builder Chris Bishop. He runs a classic one-man shop, Bishop Bikes. Simple, straightforward, right? Not at all. Other than the fact that his business model is simple, nothing else he does is simple. Every bike he brought to the 2012 show wowed me on multiple levels. His eye for the line of a point was exquisite. His tendency to fill in the hard transitions of some lugs with brass fillets is an old-school California thing favored by guys like Brian Baylis, Tom Ritchey and Peter Johnson. And then there’s the fact that he never takes the easy way out. I’ve seen a number of builders do what was essentially a paint-by-numbers thing where they simply played plumber with a box of lugs and a bunch of tubes. What they did seemed an insult to the term “craft.” They certainly didn’t merit the title “frame builder,” not the way Bishop does.

I was scarecely back home before I’d sent him a deposit. I can’t tell you the last time I fell that hard for a builder. Good thing he’s not as cute as my wife.

And, no, Virginia, this doesn’t mean he has an 18-month wait. It means that we waited until I’d recovered from my crash and had a thorough fitting (that session with Steven Carre at Bike Effect), and then gotten through the crisis that was my second son’s birth before we even began talking about the bike and what size frame would be the appropriate response to the fitting I’d had. From first drawing to now, scarcely a month has passed. And we went from final drawing to the shots contained here in about a week.


We talked a fair amount about the bike I desired. The big thing for me, aside from being stiff enough to stand up to hard, out-of-the-saddle efforts, was that I wanted lug work that was gorgeous but didn’t call attention to itself. That meant no fancy windows, but points thinned enough to draw blood and brass fillets to make them curve to the gentle contours of an industrial designer’s eye. I wanted a bike that would be pretty to anyone, but would contain an extra layer of special for those who knew a thing or two about frame building.


I also wanted this to be a signature build for Chris, something that would stand as a calling card even without paint. That he cut the Bishop icon into the bottom bracket shell is too cool for words, says the word guy.


That he’s taken the time to not just show completed work but also place it alongside untreated pieces really helps show just how remarkable and subtle his work can be.


I told him, flat-out, “Go crazy.” I’ve sold off a few bikes that no longer fit, so to get one frame that should fit me for at least the next 10 to 15 years … well, I can make an investment in his time.


I don’t really want to imagine the amount of effort it took to remove the seat binder from that seat lug. But it sure looks cool.


An internally routed brake cable? Hell yes!


I really wish he didn’t have to paint the bike.


Those fillets at the dropouts are more than just beautiful; they’re harder to do than a quadratic equation.


Hiding the seat binder in the fastback seatstays is full-on ninja design.


When I saw this shot, all I could think was, “I’m going to get to ride that?”


An Anvil jig.


I’ve seen a lot of bikes over the years. I’ve seen a lot of great work. I’ve met plenty of builders who were capable of doing work of this quality. I’ve met maybe a half dozen who had the confidence/chutzpah/balls to do something like this. And until now, I was reasonably sure that all but one of them were California cats.

Learn more about Chris Bishop here. Do it! Click on that link. Srsly.


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  1. JanetD

    Perfect post for Labor Day – a man who loves his work and a customer who is infinitely more than satisfied! Padraig, I dare say, you must make Mr. Bishop blush at your praise.

  2. SusanJane

    I am no bike nerd but I am an artist. This is absolutely friggin’ beautiful stuff. Painting it should be against the law!!!

  3. Les.B.

    “I really wish he didn’t have to paint the bike.”

    That would be a new take on bikes — naked steel.

    If you keep a thick coat of polish on it, and be super-vigilant about spotting and stopping rust in its tracks whenever a trace appears, you could probably get away without paint. Paint is not a necessity, but a convenience.

    Or you could have it galvanized. You would still have to be vigilant about rust seeping through though.

  4. Tom in albany

    I’m going to take a wild swing and say the Bishop is capable of a full-on complimentary (spelled the way I intended) paint-job!

    1. Author

      Regarding the paint issue, I’ll mention for anyone who has missed it, Richard Sachs has a frame he shows that Joe Bell clear-coated and decaled. I’d consider that, except for the fact that JB says clear coats are more porous than regular paint, so it would eventually rust if I rode it. I also have a friend who gun-blued a frame that he’d stripped the paint from. It required a level of care that I wouldn’t be up for even if I weren’t a parent. Out of respect for Chris’ work, I absolutely must get it painted.

  5. jg

    Please reconsider the clear coat. I doubt that you will ride this frame in the rain, even if it is painted. As a SoCal rider, did you even have much chance to ride in the rain over the last 18 months? JB said “eventually.” I would bet my last dollar that “eventually” means at least five years (more if it is stored indoors). Throw on a couple of extra coats of clear, and budget for a media blast and respray every five years. 25 cents a day ought to do it.

    Painted, it is just another well-crafted, hand-made bike. Clear coated, it is damn near unique and shows of Bishop’s artistry brilliantly.

  6. cash

    Beautiful frame, and nice write up.

    I have a clear coated steel frame with polished logos made by Mosaic. The frame is gorgeous, the finish is unique without being flashy. Like you, I wanted a frame that was classy and attractive but didn’t scream out. Something that was subdued, but would stand out as something special for those in the know.

    I got the frame in May, and so far no signs of rust. The frame was clear coated by Spectrum. I was told to keep a watch for rust because the clear coat wasn’t as protective as paint. We shall see.

  7. Steve

    Hmmm. Got to love this kind of craftsmanship. But you should paint it. You (only) will know (and feel) what’s under the paint and at the end of the day, that is what matters.

  8. LD

    Beautiful work. I know the overwhelming vote is to leave it unpainted but there are colors / tones that would accentuate the craftsmanship. I think one of the best examples of highlighting the industrial-ness on a vehicle (whether car, bike or motorcycle) are the great prewar M-B and Auto Unions. While they were aluminum there are paints that are brilliant at highlighting the lugs and lines. Colors like metallic aluminum, smoke silver or silvers that appear matte (yet aren’t). I think one of the most beautiful colors for metal has to be the old 60’s era Rolls Royce painted in the light metallic blue that is very similar to the gorgeous Cinelli Laser. A critical paint job (one done by guys like Keith Anderson and Joe Bell) will exploit the builders work while not masking or overpowering the details.

    1. Author

      Hoshie99: Well, I wouldn’t call it bragging, but I did want to point out just how good Chris’ work is. He deserves more orders. For a lot of reasons.

      LD: I’m with you; I think the right paint will further unlock the beauty of his work.

  9. LesB

    Our man Patrick doesn’t get much rain-riding as long as he’s still here in SoCal. But he’s in Redondo Beach (as in BEACH) (as in SALT!).

    I wasn’t the first one to suggest naked steel, was I?

    1. Author

      Susan Jane: I anticipate a few more posts on this bike. Hell, I’d do a dozen posts if it would earn me a discount. I’m going whole-hog: steel fork and even custom stem.

  10. Patrick O'Brien

    OK, now I am officially jealous. A custom lugged stem is the last bit of a gorgeous package. I bet picking out the components is keeping you up at night. Are you going a little retro in the grouppo? What tubing did you select? The paint jobs he shows on his website are beautiful. If you do a dozen posts, I will read every one. I am in the process of building a Soma ES, and I can imagine the excitement you are experiencing. Isn’t cycling a grand way to spend time and money?

  11. tinytim

    That frame is going to be the envy of the group. The internal brake routing and the seat fastener bolt’s clean lines scream speed. Good choice with the custon fork and stem. If this was my project I would totally opt for a curved fork, flat crown and matching pointed lugs. And of course eyelets for fenders. What kind of tire clearance is there? In terms of paint, spectrum does a sweet job of subtle lug outlining. Though it would be blasphemous, you could do a full on 80’s fade paint job; red transitioning to pink to white, front to rear. Its good to have options

  12. Full Monte

    I’m here to volunteer my services, Mr Brady.

    Soon, the Bishop will arrive at your home and you will love it so much you will ride it in your sleep. Every ride, you’ll wheel out the Bishop (except, of course, when you ride for work and are riding a review bike). From the day it arrives on your doorstep, the Bishop will be your love, second only to your sons and wife.

    Which shall shatter, nay, crush the Seven, as it sits forlornly in the corner of the garage, remembering the days when it was your favorite. When it once was your faithful partner on long-ago rides too many to count.

    But, as with cats and dogs, I volunteer to save a life and adopt. I’ll rescue the Seven from a slow, dark descent into depression and disrepair. I will ride it with the joy and excitement you felt when it was new. It will have a good home, an easy life (because, frankly, I’m kinda slow and I climb like crap), but it will be loved and pampered.

    Please consider my offer – I’ll even leave “Padraig” on the top tube so Seven will never forget you. Hope to hear from you soon.

  13. Patrick O'Brien

    I’ll give you a new, crisp $100 bill for the Seven. I too will leave Padraig on the top tube, in your honor of course.

  14. DaveO

    Paint the bike. Those that know what to look for in a handmade bike will recognize it from far away and those who don’t, don’t matter. My custom bikes I had made for my pleasure not my vanity. To the untrained eye its just a bike but to someone who knows they inevitably and almost magnetically are attracted to run their fingers along the tubes and joints and examine the lugwork up close.

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