Q&A with Mark Yanagisawa, PBE ambassador and rider of the sweet 44 Bikes Huntsman pictured above and Kristofer Henry of 44 Bikes.
MY: Tell us a little bit about 44 Bikes, where it all began and how you got into building bikes:
KH: I’m an industrial designer by trade and training. In a previous life I was a goldsmith and silversmith. My Mothers Father was a Union Welder and his specialty later in his career was TIG welding. Although I did not know him very well (he passed away when I was pretty young), somehow his skills and attention to detail were passed along through the wind. So my interest in metals as a material must have been infused at an early age while poking around his shop and admiring his tools. It was then a natural progression to combine the attention to detail that goldsmithing demands with the unique ways of problem solving and human factors that Industrial Design brings to the table, my love of mountain biking along with all the machining, TIG welding and associated fabrication skills that I had honed over the years into one path: 44 Bikes.
MY: How many years have you been coming to the PBE and what do you love most about the show?
KH: This will be my 4th show in Philly. One of my aunts was a chef in Philadelphia for many years when I was a kid, so my older sister and I would often come down for long weekends and stay with her. We’d take trips down to the art museum and visit her haunts. There’s something warm and inviting about the city mixed in with a certain grit. I have fond memories in Philadelphia and I love that the Expo is there to forge new memories.
MY: As it was announced this summer, 44 Bikes and PBE collaborated on a bike for me to ride at various gravel events in the Fall, you were energized at the idea, what are you most excited about?
KH: I was most excited to be able to put you on a bike that would carry you to and beyond your known horizon. That’s what makes building bikes for clients so amazing: knowing deep down that the bike you build will take that rider past the known horizon. Where ever that may lead, I may not physically be there, but a little piece of something I’ve built will be and that’s exciting.
MY: The Huntsman frameset seems perfect for gravel rides, what sets it apart from others?
KH: What sets it apart is the simple fact that it was born out of pure necessity. When we first moved to NH 15 years ago, one of the check boxes on our list was the house needed to be a bit off the beaten path, which meant there would inevitably be lots of dirt roads. We really lucked out in that regard when we found our home here in Lyndeborough and that first road ride out the back door made me realize I needed something quite different than the skinny tire road bike I was riding. The vast dirt road network served as a perfect launch pad for the design that eventually became the Huntsman.
MY: What other parts/companies did you choose to build the rest of the bike out?
KH: The build is a solid one with a Sram Rival 1 drivetrain, shifters and hydro brakes, Cane Creek 110 headset, Thomson stem, seat post and collar, ENVE bars and fork and an Enduro bottom bracket round out the build.
MY: For longer and rides on rough roads and gravel, I personally love riding the Kinekt Seatpost which isolates me from road vibrations and impacts, paired with the Selle Anatomica X2 which is a benchmark for leather saddle comfort. The pair was an easy choice for the build because the combination works well to provide maximum comfort during the gravel rides. What highlight features does the Huntsman have that help reduce road vibration and impacts?
KH: This particular Huntsman, being constructed from steel, enjoys that snappy resiliency for which steel is known to possess. But I also design and build the Huntsman to be light and stiff where you need it but resilient and vertically compliant where you want it. “Tell me what you want, and I’ll build you what you need” rings true with each and every Huntsman. This bike also carries the ability to run up to 45mm tires so when the going gets rough, the rider can really fine tune the comfort, traction and ride quality that larger volume tires provide. For future prospective clients, I can build bikes from both steel or titanium and both have their own unique merits and have distinct ride characteristics.
MY: What area do you most love riding in or where would you recommend a Philly native to explore and ride?
KH: Being a mountain biker at heart, the next town over from us (Greenfield, NH) is sort of a hidden gem. The local trail association (Greenfield Trails Assoc. aka GTA) has been building and maintaining a vast network of mountain bike trails which span public land but a good majority of it is through generous land owner permissions on private and easement protect land tracts. So I’m a bit spoiled as the first trailhead is only 3.5 miles from the shop doors all via dirt roads… Not to mention there is over 10,000 miles of maintained gravel roads. Anyone looking to ride gravel in New England and have not explored NH’s dirt road network is seriously missing out. I help organize a gravel road ride (The Rose Mountain Rumble) each August to help raise money for local conservation efforts, so that is a great way to get your feet wet. North Conway has been developing an amazing mountain bike trail network as well and if you like free ride oriented park’s there’s Highland Mountain Bike Park. Then there’s all the trails and dirt roads in Vermont and Massachussetts. There’s kind of too much to mention! Put New England on your next mountain bike or gravel vacation.
MY: With the PBE just a few days away, what are you looking forward to the most?
KH: It’s Philadelphia: The food! (I am my grandfather’s grandson and Poppy loved to eat…) Post show, I head out and explore the local “pastures”. Too much to choose from but there’s one indian food restaurant I always make sure I attend. I’m also looking forward to a nice big bowl of noodles in Chinatown. All that talking, hand shaking and tall tales at the show typically works up a mean appetite.
MY: Anything else you’d like to add?
KH: Thanks for this opportunity Bina and Mark and the rest of the crew at the Philly Bike Expo. It’s the best show hands down and that’s because the PBE team does an exceptional job of delivering. I’m excited for this year, next year and how the show progresses into the future.
Thanks to you and the other companies in supporting me and the PBE gravel bike collaboration bike for this season. I am looking forward to grinding some gravel this season at D2R2, UnPaved PA, and Keystone Gravel to name a few. See you in November!