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Throwback Thursday: The True Story of Brodie Bikes

May 8, 2024 at 16:37
by Brian Park  

Words: Brian Park, Thomas Davies, & Paul Brodie
Photos: Various, courtesy Paul Brodie
Video: Mitch Nurse




For over forty years Paul Brodie has built a reputation as one of the original mountain bike builders in Canada – a skilled tradesperson who can manifest big ideas into reality with his hands and basic tools. Last year he decided to tell the full story of his namesake bike brand on his YouTube channel, and this week has been kind enough to provide us with a treasure trove of amazing photos and some additional notes.

While he no longer owns his namesake company, Paul has some great stories of his early years riding and fabricating bicycles, the origins of Rocky Mountain Bicycles, and his own adventures alongside the trials and tribulations of the Brodie Bicycles brand.

Paul is a quietly compelling storyteller, and I think anyone with an appreciation for framebuilding or MTB history should make some coffee, turn off their phone notifications, and watch the film above.





Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Paul (right) riding in cut off jeans and sneakers.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Early days in a machine shop.
Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
He drove cab for a while after high school so he'd have time for other entrepreneurial pursuits.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Where it all began, the Peddler.
Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
The early days of Rocky Mountain.

bigquotesWhen the Red Ritchey showed up, for me, that changed an awful lot… I could not believe that anybody had made a bike that beautiful. I just, I couldn't take my eyes off it.Paul Brodie

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
The Red Ritchey.

After some early days riding mediocre road bikes in the early 80's, something important arrived at the Peddler bicycle shop where he was working in Vancouver: the Red Ritchey. "When the Red Ritchey showed up, for me, that changed an awful lot… I could not believe that anybody had made a bike that beautiful. I just, I couldn't take my eyes off it."

Not being able to afford the Ritchey himself, he went out back to the Peddler on his lunch break and did some dumpster diving. "I found a Sekine road bike, a 25-inch road bike that was way too big for me. Well, I guess I could have made it work, but that's not what I wanted. I wanted the tubing. I wanted the bottom bracket and things like that."

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
The first Brodie, made out of an old Sekine road bike and painted in homage to the Red Ritchey.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Paul on his first self-built bike, also sporting a very Tom Ritchey moustache.

And that's how his first mountain bike frame was built – a chopped up Sekine road bike and a custom fork made of basic steel.

Paul ended up having to paint bicycles for Rocky Mountain, which rented space from the Peddler, and then returned the favour by convincing them into letting him build frames. They gave him 10 tubesets and he got to work. When the first was finally finished, he showed it to Rocky Mountain founder Grayson Bain.

bigquotes[Grayson] could not believe that I had made a bike, and I'm thinking, 'Well what were you thinking? You gave me a set of tubing and you're paying me eight bucks an hour, I've got to come up with something.' It just kind of really impressed him and so right away he's talking, 'Oh we've got to make more frames!'

So I came away from that feeling pretty good. I did the obligatory road test wheelie down the alley and then it was back out to the shop and building more frames working in the Rocky frame shop.
Paul Brodie

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Design by Brodie.

Along the way he was a key proponent of the sloping top tube on mountain bikes. The design of which he sold to Rocky Mountain for a set of Tange tubing.

bigquotesSo we did a deal right there. They get my frame design and I get basically $35. Way to go Paul.Paul Brodie





The hour-long video continues with many more reflections, as Paul eventually leaves Rocky Mountain and sets up his own operation in the basement of the East Vancouver house he was living in using fixtures and tools he still uses to this day. Along the way the company peaked at 12 employees and made over 4200 frames in Canada, as well as innovating many new mountain bike frame, fork, and component designs – and lots of wild paint jobs.


Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Paul brazing at his workshop

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
The original Brodie HQ at his East Vancouver home.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Iconic names.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Canti brake booster.
Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Love Handle bar ends.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Details.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
The drawing for his Gatorblade fork, unfortunately launched at the same time that RockShox were introduced to the world.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie.
Gatorblades.
Photo courtesy Paul Brodie.
Stems.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie.
This wild Softride prototype was made with honeycomb from Boeing and sheet aluminum held together with pop rivets.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Paul (left) and Brodie employees.


bigquotesThank you very much for watching, we hope you've enjoyed that little look back into mountain bike history. Because that is mountain bike history, and that's sort of through my eyes, who is up here playing an integral part in my own way in a small world of mountain bikes locally.Paul Brodie





Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Joe Joe Buscombe, Brodie's star rider in the 90s.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Paul at the Burnaby Flatlands race on a bike he built while at Rocky Mountain, but with his name on the downtube.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie.
Photo courtesy Paul Brodie.
Paul riding through the years.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Not-so-fun fact, this banner was stolen many years ago. If anyone happens to have come into possession of it, Paul would like it back. $500 reward.


After eventually selling the bicycle company to their longtime distributor in 2001, Paul was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2005. He then turned his attention to motorcycles, most notably his Excelsior project in which he designed and build a series of replicas of a "lost" 1919 motorcycle that (legend has it) was originally destroyed after a racer was killed during testing. He also taught his own Framebuilding 101 course until 2020.

Last year Paul endured months of hospitalization and chemotherapy after a cancer diagnosis. He now is back in his shop and creating his YouTube videos on everything from custom bicycles to motorcycles and bass guitars.


Photo courtesy Paul Brodie.
Paul with the Excelsior project.

Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Tools of the trade.

Paul Brodie s Bicycle Show
If you're in the Vancouver area in June, drop by to Paul Brodie's Bicycle Show.


On a personal note, I believe his impact on Canadian framebuilding can't be overstated and am glad to see that people are recognizing the accomplishments of a true local legend. I’ve been helping Paul and Firstlight Frames, a former student of his, to pull together a show of his iconic work for everyone to appreciate.

If you’re interested, Paul will be displaying 16 unique show bikes and telling stories at Paul Brodie's Bicycle Show on June 15th and 16th in Vancouver. Pre-sale tickets are $20 and include a show booklet with more historical photos and stories. He'll be bringing one of his Excelsior motorcycles as well.


Photo courtesy Paul Brodie
Our friend Mark just drove down to the Marin Museum of Bicycling in California to pick up the Woznot, probably the rarest Brodie prototype, and bring it back to Canada. You can hear the full story of the Woznot at the show.


Author Info:
brianpark avatar

Member since Dec 29, 2010
218 articles

94 Comments
  • 72 0
 Big thanks to Brian and Thomas for posting this. Great job! I'm really excited about the Bike Show, and I must say it was all Thomas's idea. I was quite skeptical at first, like Really? But the Bike Show is coming together very nicely, and I have a good feeling about it. I have done other bike shows, such as NAHBS, with usually one Show Bike. I have NEVER had all 13 of my bikes at one show, all complete, and on display... We hope to see you there Smile
  • 8 0
 Love watching your channel, Paul, thanks for that! Sad I can't make the show that weekend!
  • 5 0
 I'll never forget the first time I saw your 2002 Devo in cherry red, to this day one of the sexiest bikes ever seen!
  • 2 0
 That would be an amazing show to attend. I thoroughly enjoy your Youtube channel, I look forward to the new videos posted on Saturdays. The Giraffe Bike is coming together nicely. The episode with the 69er was amazing...
  • 35 0
 That is awesome - the old school ads are neat to see, always loved those back in the 80/90s. MTB has come a long way and I 100% appreciate where it is now, but back in the day there was something special about riding bikes there just were not built to be ridden.....the desire to ride bikes over stuff was > the bikes ability, there is beauty in that to a certain extent. I think it's quite the opposite these days...
  • 6 0
 Flipping through all the old catalogs that are widely available online is such a blast from the past. Wasn't my era but I appreciate the roots. Fat Tire Flyer was such an awesome read.
  • 1 0
 @mkul7r4: lots of creative and innovative things since there wasn't a consensus on how to do things....it's neat all those catalogs are still available. I have a bunch of hardcopies from several bikes I've owned, cool keepsakes.
  • 21 0
 I wish we could post pics in the comments section so we could share our old Brodies. I have a 1990-91 Catalyst with Gatorblade fork all re-decaled and repainted in sparkling blue metallic with some NOS XT and other period-correct goodies. I wish I could go to the story-telling event.
  • 3 0
 Oh man, that sounds amazing.
  • 2 0
 Jealous!! Loved the look of those bikes
  • 4 0
 You should be able to post them on your profile then link them in the comments here. I'm sure you'd get a bunch of fellow collectors following your lead for a fun comment thread.
  • 13 0
 I recognize that red Ritchey. It belonged to Pippin Osborne one of the founders of Syncros. It’s those pedals that identify it. And that group photo. The faces are familiar but I only recognize Paul and Mike Trulove. Boy those were the days.
  • 14 1
 You are 100% correct, that was Pippin's bike. He always got the new, cool stuff. That bike really did have a Huge influence on my life.
  • 4 0
 I'm stoked to own a Trulove welded Chromag Samurai65!
  • 4 0
 I had those pedals on my Hutch BMX bike. Pretty sure those were Hutch pedals. Absolutely brutal if you slipped. My shins still have scars from a bmx race with those where I slipped off after landing a jump. I was a Curtlo guy, but I appreciated and loved every single one of the custom frame builders from that era.
  • 2 0
 @flipfantasia: me too, and an old Sakura that sparked the curiousity of few Brodie Sovereign and Expresso owners ;-)
  • 15 0
 That one 90s vintage group shot looks like it could be a modern day east vancouver bike club
  • 10 0
 Back in the day, in BC... If a bud showed up at the trailhead with a Brodie... Bud was there to fuck around and find out, in the best ways possible. Legends were made on those frames.
  • 6 0
 I felt the same way about my iridescent purple Sovereign as Paul did about that red Ritchey. The moment I saw it I knew I had to have it. Was 1994, if my memory serves. Thanks Paul!
  • 5 0
 A 1991 Brodie climbMax changed my life, got me addicted to Mountain biking and fitness that has kept me in good shape and spirit for more than 30 years. I still remember seeing that bike in the store in Regina Saskatchewan, it stood out amongst the other bikes, so beautiful and so unique. I still have it and ride it occasionally, and Paul helped me restore it by repainting it for me. Thanks Paul!
  • 2 0
 Which store sold Brodie back then in Regina? Was it Dutch Cycle or Western Cycle?
  • 3 0
 @megaold: Western Cycle. I walked in there in 1992 and they had 2 1991’s on the floor - a green catalyst and a blue climbMaxb, stood out head and shoulders over the other bikes. I picked the climbmax because I was worried the brakes on the catalyst would collect too much mud. Such an amazing bike, got me hooked to a lifetime of mountain biking.
  • 1 0
 @bradwin2: I bought my first mountain bike from Western in 1992 - it was only a Trek 830 that I put a Zokes fork on, but that first bike can be the start of a slippery slope...
  • 4 0
 such a legend. i lusted after his fillet brazed frames (never owned one, alas). a keen supporter of the vancouver xc race scene, was always rad to see paul at events - including the classic brodie test of metal. looking forward to the show.
  • 4 0
 Gonna enjoy this! I remember away back, the TBG catalogue with the gorgeous paint splatter Konas that where specced with Brodie bolt together forks, Also had Brodies in an I loved em. Then Taylor Leigh's section in what next was my first fave MTB vid section, he was shredding a Brodie IIRC?
  • 3 0
 My first mountain bike! A '91 Catalyst. Still have it! I crashed it into a tree on the North Shore in '94, and buckled the top tube. Brodie took it out and welded in a new one, threw in a bunch of stickers. Used it as a courier bike for years. Great company. Sad that they got out of the full suspension gig of I'd probably still be riding one.
  • 3 0
 The bike stand for the Red Ritchey photo was the pinnacle in "hold your bike upright for a picture" technology (which, If I remember correctly, back then involved being very still will a skilled oil painter completed a portrait). Today we've regressed to trying to find an appropriate length stick and getting a pic before the wind blows your bike over.
  • 6 0
 if you didn't kinda want a Brodie 8ball back in the day...did you really ride? (That and a Balfa!)
  • 3 0
 Check out the BB drop on that first Sekine build! He was ahead of his time! The pedal strikes would have been heinous on the 26 wheels though! The photo of riding down stairs... It's like nothing to ride down a set of stairs now, but back on those old rigid bikes, it could be terrifying. These are the mental blocks the old folks have to overcome with when riding new modern bikes... the childhood memories of being launched over the bars after attempting to ride down something that would be benign today with your crotch dragging on the rear wheel
  • 3 0
 Hell yeah! So good to see Brodie on pinkbike, been following his YouTube for years. He has some good content on brazing frames and just all around awesome fabrication, engineering and shop talk. He's a treasure of knowledge and his content is damn near priceless for what you can learn from him.
  • 5 0
 i use to own a Bridie 8ball, And. several other Brodie mtb back in the days . thumbs up Brodie
  • 5 0
 That Woznot is very cool, lot of sweet little details on there. An excellent listen from Paul B
  • 4 0
 Absolutely love the raw+pink colourway. Will probably try to steal/replicate it for a future build.
  • 3 0
 I used to ride with the guy who made that one piece saddle post. He called it a compost. Can’t remember his name.
  • 1 0
 @Someoldfart: looks like copper, but most likely a composite?
  • 2 0
 @badbie: yeah it was some kind of fibre and epoxy that he made. It was a yellowish colour so maybe Kevlar? I think the guys name was Harvey Barton.
  • 2 0
 Paul's channel is fascinating to watch, because he uses a milling machine (and lathe) differently than I've seen anyone else do it. He's not looking at a digital readout or really aiming for a certain dimension on parts, just doing everything "freehand" or by eye. Pretty much every part gets hand-fit to its neighbors.
  • 2 0
 Thanks for this, I almost had a Brodie as my first bike. But it had a u brake at the time when it was clear cantilever front and rear was the way to go.

Did eventually get a Brodie in the early/mid nighties just after it was no longer the core group of people. One of the best handling bikes I had until the turn of the century.

I really do enjoy the videos now, Paul's skills on the lathe and Bridgeport are something I hope to acquire..........
  • 2 0
 Great piece! I still ride my Sovereign. I’ll never get rid of that bike. Really an amazing story, started riding in Van when these bike started to transform into something that shifted the sport to a place where small changes to bicycle design would really take your ride to a whole new level. Brodie bikes were in that realm in the early days where their bikes took what used to be a rough climb and turned you into a billy goat.
Thanks for this story
  • 2 0
 Love this, Was very inspired by Brodie bikes as a kid, Got a used romax, then WON a Sovereign frame at the test of metal raffle one year! big score! got to choose my paint colour and rode that bike till the wheels fell off! will definitely be checking out the brodie show coming up.
  • 2 0
 This is awesome! Many "seasoned"(aka old) riders cut their teeth on a Brodie at some point in their freeride careers. I lusted over Holeshots and 8-Balls whenever I saw them. I lived the dream and built up a Holeshot in 2005....rode that thing for 13 seasons! It was amazing. Thanks for all that passion Mr.Brodie!
  • 6 0
 cool story bro, for real
  • 6 0
 Cool story Bro-die
  • 5 0
 Sweet. I've owned two Brodies and they both brought me much joy.
  • 1 0
 I know they are way out of style, but I had a set of those bar ends that someone gave me and they were amazing. There was a subtle shape that just fit your hand so perfectly. I had a different bar end that looked very similar but never felt right.
  • 2 0
 Paul Brodie you are a legend! I rode for Brodie under Rodger, Phil and Bruce Spicer from mid nineties to 2001and was proud to represent the Brodie Name!! Also loved trials riding with you!!! Love you brother!!!
  • 1 0
 Hi Paul, no chance you'd remember me, but I remember bringing a Rocky Stratos to your shop in east van with a seized BB in the late 80's . You told me to come back the next day. I came back and you showed me a puddle of metal on the ground which was what was left of my BB as you blew it out with a welding torch. Haha. You did put a new one in after that. Anyway, great history. Thanks for that! I ride a little with Mike Truelove up here in Squamish. I had a job in the Cove bike shop for a summer in the late 80's or early 90's can't remember. Chaz wouldn't let me sell bikes because I didn't know enough about them although I had ridden plenty and punished bikes on Seymour at about that time. He put me in charge of helmets and shoes. My nickname was Helmetshoe as we all seemed to have a handle. Hope you are doing ok and thanks again for this it was really great. Cheers, Rob Phoenix
  • 4 0
 No DH bike pics Frown Still rad!
  • 4 0
 I think that’s because he had sold it by then. Says he sold it to his distributor in 2001, 8-Balls, Devo’s, hellions and such I think were just after that.
  • 5 0
 Paul promised me I can do a bike check on the 69er. We shared his video here a couple years back, but I want more aha. www.pinkbike.com/news/throwback-thursday-the-story-behind-the-one-of-a-kind-paul-brodie-69er-gearbox-dh-bike.html
  • 2 0
 @bonfire: Makes sense thank you!
  • 1 0
 @bonfire: i think the Cove bike shop he was mentionning was making Cove DH bikes.
  • 2 0
 Great guys, great bikes! I used to have a Romax & it was my favourite gravel bike (before I quit gravel b/c gravel is silly)
  • 1 0
 His youtube channel is one of my favorites for the gym... I can listen to him talk forever, and the content is fun to glance at between sets, without being the kind of thing you have to pay complete attention.
  • 3 0
 THOSE WERE THE DAYS!!! Loved my Romax, Climax and Soverign. Paul Brodie is the MAN!!
  • 1 0
 Paul Brodie actually wrote a book a few years back that was a really captivating read with a ton of cool old photos in it. I remember really wanting a Brodie Devo back in the day...
  • 2 0
 Paul Brodie's Bicycle Show sounds like the best 20 $ spend. Unfortunately I'm in the other end of the world
  • 2 0
 Ahh bummer. Paul and Thomas from FirstLight are putting together a little booklet of the bikes and stories, and I think they'll have a few for sale after the show. Might be worth tracking one down if you're interested!
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: I'll give it a try, thanks
  • 1 0
 I had a sweet blue Sovereign that I built up from a new-old-stock frame I bought from a shop I worked at. It was stolen and I still mourn it :-(
  • 2 0
 All I can think about is Chris Glew coming up short on a massive drop covered in snow from Kranked 5
  • 1 0
 The biggest case of all time. After Paul's era.
  • 3 0
 Cool story! Interesting to see how bikes have progressed
  • 2 0
 Amazing vid, amazing stories, thank you Paul for all that you’ve contributed to the cycling world!
  • 1 0
 when started racing Brodie's were so popular and I always wanted one...good old days!
  • 2 0
 And now all they sell are road/gravel/city bikes.
  • 2 0
 Different owner now, I don't think Paul is affiliated at all anymore.
  • 2 0
 @MDW83: Yeah, it's wild that whoever owns it doesn't seem to understand where the strength of their brand recognition rests.
  • 2 0
 Huck to flat with the Alu Softride proto-type please.
  • 2 0
 I still have a brodie cretin as my pumptrack/dj bike
  • 1 0
 Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Its very personal, love when I put a bike together and can't stop looking at it!
  • 1 0
 I was fortunate to ride an emergency vehicle yellow Romax in the late 80s. Loved that bike.
  • 2 0
 formative years for this great sport.
  • 1 0
 I would take a job at Brodie if it came w one of those retro outfits!!
  • 2 0
 This is rad!
  • 1 0
 It gets deep in the family crodie
  • 1 0
 9 Ball. Legendary. Raw mullet - 26' front, 24' back.
  • 1 0
 I still kick myself for selling my Holeshot RAD frame!
  • 1 0
 Perfect video for next Vintage MTB fest www.vintagemtb.org
  • 1 0
 Legend! I built a Brodie Sovereign in 1995, loved that bike.
  • 1 0
 Excellent stuff!
  • 2 5
 treas·ure trove
/ˈtreZHər ˌtrōv/
noun
1.
a collection or store of valuable or delightful things

*smh* The youth these days...
  • 4 7
 Mountain bikes used to really suck, I'm so glad those days are mostly gone.
  • 6 1
 Yep...first mtb had 6 spd freewheel, triple crank and friction thumb shifters. Canti brakes and tires made of superball rubber. It was a masochistic endevor for sure.
  • 10 1
 WTF are you smoking? I used to love racing my Rocky Mountain Soul XC bike every weekend at dual slalom and DH races without the need to worry about what equipment I was running or if my Marzocchi Bombers were serviced. Life was easier back then plus bikes were a hell of a lot cheaper.
  • 4 0
 @Saucycheese: The quiver of 1 days. Happy to have lived it but surprised I survived when I look at what we did with no suspension, rim brakes, spandex AND strapped onto our pedals!
  • 2 0
 @Saucycheese: sure it was fun...but now you don't have to even think about whether your brakes are going to actually stop you or just howl and slightly slow you down, or contemplate if it is worth trying to shift to an easier gear on a steep climb because that shift is not going to be in any way smooth, if it happens and chain stays intact.
You can have a quiver of one now because your ling travel bike actually climbs damn well.
  • 2 0
 @pink505: yep. i did a few events bitd when the dh was preceded by a hillclimb - one bike did it all. a memorable race on blackcomb (circa 1989) involved a HC from the base to the roundhhouse then subsequent DH down (primarily on the access road). spinning out a 48t ring on a short & steep hardtail with cantilevers & shit tires, wearing nothing but lycra & an xc lid was... something.
  • 2 0
 @ReformedRoadie: that' true. Those bikes taught me how to handle situations without relying on stopping power though and to pick the smoothest lines on the trail so I don't regret anything
  • 1 0
 @xy9ine: remember the lunch they fed us? Many loaves of white bread and huge bucket of peanut butter and another of jam.
  • 3 0
 @pink505: Indeed. My first "real" mountain bike was a paper-route-funded '89 Rocky Mountain Fusion. Rigid, u-brake, and the seafoam green/white colourway. Rode it on trails, rode it to school, and even rode a sanctioned (very short) time trial on it with some Fatboys installed when the local club was looking for high-schooler talent. I wasn't it, but I always thought you could ride a "mountain bike" anywhere...and a road bike you couldn't. I think I finished dead last in the TT, but I got there. No roadie was riding some of the trails we rode. The days of Tomac, Overend et al and how they rode all the events on the same bike was amazing.

I don't miss toe clips. Or cantilevers. But I'd still ride them, haha. Even the Biopace...







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