It’s tempting to call Ellis Cycles’ proprietor “Dave Ellis”, but then you’d only be 67% correct. His full name is David Ellis Wages, and his brand name comes from his middle name that was also his great grandmother’s maiden name.
Wages, who like many independent framebuilders wears many different hats, describes himself as an “owner, framebuilder, salesman and bookkeeper” of his one-man operation. He opened Ellis Cycles in 2008 after stints as a framebuilder for two of America’s most renowned and beloved frame shops: Serotta Cycles and Waterford Cycles. After moving to southeastern Wisconsin to work for Waterford, Wages stayed on in the area to open his own shop, located in the city of Franklin, a southern suburb of Milwaukee.
Maybe it was the idyllic, gently rolling countryside of Wisconsin that inspired Wages to plant roots there. He’s still an active rider who takes part in gravel grinders, and last summer he and his better half, Deborah, took a two-month bike journey to ride the Sierra Cascades from Mexico to Canada.
“It was by far the most amazing ride I’ve ever done,” says Wages.
Those miles in the saddle may take him away from his production routine, but for Wages the payoff in knowledge about his creations is well worth it.
“Riding my own bikes, and getting feedback from clients on their riding experiences makes me a better builder. I put so much thought in every detail of every frame, and that’s from riding lots of miles!” says Wages.
Those bicycles that Wages invests his heart, mind and experience into strike a finely tuned balance between traditional styling and modern, cutting-edge materials. The Modern Classic model blends the finest modern materials with classic styling for a finished product that is both stylish and functional.
Wages’ penchant for gravel roads less traveled has inspired his Strada Fango gravel/adventure bike. It’s been constantly tweaked and updated since it was introduced at NAHBS in 2013.
2019 will mark Wages’ second visit to the Philly Bike Expo. His attention to details and commitment to quality evoke the same characteristics employed by the 1960s French school of framebuilders like Rene Herse and Alex Singer known as Les Constructeurs, whom Wages cites as major influencers of his craft.
But Wages doesn’t try to dictate his ideas and design concepts to his customers. The secret to the tall, soft-spoken builder’s success may be that he listens more than he talks.
“Each Ellis Cycle begins with a conversation between myself and the rider,” he says. “I don’t start cutting tubes or brazing until both of us are happy.”