Eric Tomczak grew up in Durango, CO, surrounded by mountain bike culture. The one-man bike company describes himself as "detail-oriented to a fault," and said he feels both younger and older than his actual age of 32: "Like, I'm starting to lose my hair but I still send my friends dumb memes." Five years ago, when he wanted a mountain tandem to ride with his wife, he looked around and didn't see what he wanted. A professional TIG welder, he decided to make it himself. Once he started building, he didn't stop, and Myth Cycles was born with the goal of making high-quality, steel adventure bikes. Since his early frame-building days, Eric has dreamt of making a full suspension bike, and in 2020, he realized that dream with the Zodiac
The full suspension idea moved into action about a year and a half ago, when Eric's friend Anthony Diaz talked him into it. Diaz runs a suspension tuning company
, and the pair spent countless hours discussing how Eric could focus on the right parameters to create exactly the bike he wanted. Part of the inspiration came from handmade, steel, full suspension bikes he saw released in the UK, examples of the type of workmanship he wanted to bring to the U.S. handmade bike market.
Eric chose to work with steel both because of its ride qualities and because it's his favorite material to work with. He explained that the way steel flexes is very controlled, resulting in a bike that rides "like a dream," and it's durable and repairable. He believes these characteristics are responsible for steel's continued presence in the bike industry, even as most major companies make bikes only out of aluminum and carbon. "On a personal note: Every metal is totally different to work with, and steel is my favorite," he said. "Knowing a material is like knowing a language, and steel is the language in which I can express my ideas the best."
The whole project was a series of puzzles to solve, like sourcing quality steel tubing as well as facing the inherent costs of making a small number of frames by hand and the vast amount of labor it would take to scale production up. Another challenge was fitting all the design features he wanted into one design package. "I have a very specific idea of how I want every piece of the design to work, and the challenge at the end is making all those criteria come together into one frame," Eric explained. "And all the little things, like dust caps for bearings. There's a million decisions to be made, and none can be left out."
The process starts in CAD. Eric likes to have the design essentially finished before he even steps into the shop, though sometimes it can be nice to work out small details in the physical world. After designing the bike, he gathers the materials -- tubing, dropouts, head badge, braze-ons, bearings, lathe stock, and laser cut parts -- cleans everything, and marks the tubes for mitering. He has three milling machines, and each has a specific set of tasks. Once all the prep is done, he sets up the welding jig, miters the tubes, applies the laser-cut parts, welds it together, and does all the finish work, with countless nuanced steps along the way. It's an involved process, Eric said, but it makes more sense as he continues to figure out his systems.
The original Zodiac. Like any new product, the Zodiac has evolved and become more refined as it has approached its final design. Before eventually adding a powder coat, Eric left the steel raw while he test-rode the bike and added incremental amounts of bracing to the swingarm between each ride.
Eric's three guiding principles in designing the Zodiac:
Simple: The lowest ratio of “care and feeding” to hours shredding.
Durable: The Zodiac is meant to be ridden for years to come.
Works: We didn’t assume that a simple full suspension is simple to design. Every detail has been painstakingly worked over until there are no compromises.
Eric said the ride quality is what he's most proud of in the Zodiac, but that pride is rivaled by his satisfaction with how it looks. He doesn't consider himself an artistic person, he said, but he loves when he can find aesthetically-pleasing solutions to mechanical problems.
The second prototype features aluminum plates at the shock mount that can be swapped out to adjust geometry.
The first prototype looks nice and polished with its new powder coat.
When asked how the bike had changed between the two prototypes, Eric said the geometry had remained more or less the same, but his execution of a few points, like how he tied the bike together at the pivot bearings and how he made the forward shock mount, had evolved countless times since the bike's initial design.
The first small run of frames is scheduled to be ready at the end of May and will sell for $2,599 USD, with options for complete bike builds as well. It will initially be available in sizes S, M, and L, with XL and XXL frames on the horizon. Eric said that one of his favorite things to work on is streamlining the manufacturing process to make production increasingly efficient, accurate, and repeatable. He anticipates spending the next six months fine-tuning the details until he feels he's solved the puzzle.