If you think back to the golden age of freeride, there's one brand that gets tongues wagging more than most, Brooklyn Machine Works. With bikes that had more tubes than a packet of penne, Shinburger pedals that should have been banned under the Geneva convention and, somehow, a collaboration with Pharrell Williams when fixies were trendy, they were a brand that dared to be different and stood out from the crowd in the sport's most inventive period.
More than their bikes, Brooklyn Machine Works embodied an attitude. While racing, and especially cross country, was the prevailing force in mountain biking, BMW bikes were all about those riders that partied on Friday night before sending huge stuff in the woods on a Saturday. Unfortunately, despite holding huge cultural cachet, Brooklyn Machine Works faded out of popularity as the freeride era passed and their website announced a sabbatical after 20 years of business in 2016 that seems to still be ongoing.
The allure of the brand has remained strong though and, although their bikes are out of production, it hasn't stopped amateur frame builders trying to recapture that magic in their own workshops. Brands such as Welwyn Machine Works and Peregrine Bikes have both tried to recapture the magic in recent years and the latest to add to that list is Tora Cycles. Tora Cycles EVH
Tora Cycles (Japanese for tiger) is the brainchild of Neil Pengilley, a tattoo studio owner from Cornwall, UK. Neil doesn't have a bike industry background but has been involved in BMX and mountain bikes since 1986. Neil also never owned a BMW himself and, he says, looking at the second-hand prices, he won't be likely to anytime soon.
Instead, Neil has just always been fascinated with how things work, particularly the more complex suspension designs that came out in the 90s like BMW's moto link. Designing and riding one of these bikes has been Neil's childhood dream so he decided to take matters into his own hands and create his own up from scratch.
Tora Cycles EVH DetailsIntended Use:
T45 chromolyWheel Size:
27.5" front and rearTravel:
190mmHead Tube Angle:
L (more to come)Weight:
£2,500 plus shock (≈$3,450 USD)Instagram: @tora_cycles
The bike is mostly based on the BMW Race Link, Brooklyn's attempt to build a downhill race bike from the centre of New York city. For Neil, the main appeal of the frame is its motocross appearance, which allowed people to send it off massive drops, something that was rarely seen in the UK at the time.
Of course, Neil has modified the design and brought BMW into the 2020s. This meant stretching out the geometry of the front and rear triangle, slackening out the head tube angle and ensuring the linkage still worked with 27.5" wheels front and rear. He managed to do it all while keeping the multi-chain drive and look of the original but admits it's a pretty tight fit down there.
The bike was built in collaboration with Julian, a motorsport engineer who provided assistance with designing, prototyping and building the frame from T45 chromoly (rather than the 4130 of the original bike). The pair are currently working on a revised version of the frame that will bump the travel up from 190mm to 200mm travel and offer a more progressive leverage ratio. Brooklyn Machine Works bikes were notorious for their weight and Neil admits that the EVH is fairly portly too at 18.5kg (41lb) but, to be fair, that's still around 20lbs lighter than the bike he's trying to emulate.
At the moment, this is a very small-scale operation however Neil has plans to change that in the future. He has brought on a business partner and engineer in his friend James and has now registered the brand as a limited company. He says, "We’ve been discussing ideas on everything from design inspiration, clothing, website design as well as all the laborious admin, and we seem to be moving things forward pretty well. I’m personally keen to get this going as being a tattooist I’ve been unable to work for most of the last 12 months so I could do with a second income! We’re hoping to get a batch of frames for sale at some point, but who knows how long it’ll be because of COVID and Brexit, but we are aiming to sell them at around £2,500 plus shock."
At the moment, they are working on expanding the sizes on offer with one of those frames also going to be a mullet set up. Tora aren't just working on this frame though, they have also designed a hardtail with elevated chainstays
, which should have zero chainslap, and an enduro frame. To follow the brand's progress, head to their Instagram, here