A Closer Look at the High-Performance Steel Creations of Zoceli Bikes

Feb 9, 2023 at 20:08
by Dario DiGiulio  
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Photo: Brian Coles
With the means of design and production becoming more accessible to a wider swath of the bike world, it's no wonder it feels like there's a new custom builder popping up every time you get on the forums or social media. While many of these builders are pursuing a passion, working out a tricky geometry need, or simply enjoying the craft, there are some that seem poised to turn their custom work into a full-fledged bike brand. Amongst the latter group is Martin Saida, the designer and fabricator behind Zoceli Bikes. We've seen some of Martin's work on here before, in the form of the one-off Yeti 303-inspired sliding shock bike he made a couple years ago.

With numerous stock models in the Zoceli lineup now, I figured it was worth revisiting Martin's work, and seeing what got him to this point.



How long have you been building?

In 2019, I built my first full-suspension frame prototype. It was the predecessor to the Naosm frame, which is an enduro with 160mm of travel. Not a long time ago but it was and still is a very insightful learning experience. Then followed the hardtail and several other versions and prototypes. Gradually I learned a lot on them and I am now applying the experience I gained to the design of other frames.

Why choose custom over stock, especially in the high-performance mountain bike space?

I see it as another option, another way that's there alongside the big bike manufacturers. Everybody has the choice whether to get a bike from a huge company that makes thousands of frames in Asia or to support a local manufacturer. But if there is something where custom/small-series manufacturing has a big advantage then I don't have to compromise on manufacturing.

For example, a lot of manufacturers use identical parts, identical manufacturing processes and more to reduce production costs. This doesn't bother me as much, which is why I can use a different suspension system for each frame, for example. One that I think is best suited for that type of frame.

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Not a ton of these in the mainstream catalogs.
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As someone always iterating on geometry and design, does it feel like MTB geo has reached a point of balance?

I think partly, yes. The biggest shift in the last 20 years has been incredible. It seems to me that there is now more tuning of "details" like suspension curves, rear wheel travel curves, etc. rather than the development of a whole new revolutionary suspension system. I'm not including e-bikes in this, though that's a huge area of development.

How would you describe your flavor of frame building?

I have to say that clean design is very important on my frames and I play with it a lot to keep me satisfied. The characteristic small diameter of the steel tubes also contributes a lot. It feels completely different from solid carbon. Another important element is the low-mounted shock. The low placement helps to "clean up" the top of the frame and then it looks better on me.

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Clean design.
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And low-mounted shocks. Photo: Jara Sijka

Do you have any primary influences when it comes to bike design and fabrication?

The design of the frames is more or less based on the manufacturing technology used. When I started my machinery was not very big and actually it is not big now. Eventually, I figured out a way to manage the production of all the frames and from that come some of the characteristic elements of Zoceli frames. For example, the tapered head tube looks like this for a very simple reason. It's easier to connect the down tube to a cylindrical surface than to a conical one. Some of the other parts that make up the frame were created in a similar way.

Another very important thing is the suspension. I try to make every frame very progressive, a sensitive beginning of the travel and steeply increasing force is one of the critical characteristics. So is the rear wheel travel curve and other important suspension characteristics. According to the use of the frame (slopestyle, enduro, freeride) I then adjust other aspects of the suspension, their balance and compromise.

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Utilitarian.
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But sleek.

How far have you pushed geometry on bikes that you’ve built?

Zoceli frames do not have extreme geometry, rather conservative. I understand why other manufacturers make the reach value long for example but on my frames it is rather shorter. It's kind of a golden mean but I'll see where the geometry gets in a while.

The Dobordelu “freeride” bike is a pretty wild creation, and is sporting an impressively complex suspension layout, how hard was the development process for that frame?

I would say as challenging as making any other frame. It's true that it looks a bit complicated, but a closer look reveals a solid rear triangle connected via two links to the front triangle, just like the enduro frame Naosm. On this frame, a short chainstay was a priority, so I split the pivot into left and right sections that avoid the chainring and rear wheel. I achieved a chainstay length of 428mm for the 29" and 420mm for the 27.5. This gives the Dobordelu excellent maneuverability and the slack front end provides stability. Also this solution moves the center of gravity down. After debugging the prototype, this solution has worked well and I'm really excited about this frame.

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"No more challenging," he says. Photo: Jara Sijka
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The finer details on this piece are really stellar. Photo: Jara Sijka

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The Dobordelu strikes an impressive stance. Photo: Jara Sijka

Do you think there are lessons larger manufacturers could learn from solo fabricators like yourself?

I would say that if I visited the design office of a large manufacturer and vice versa if the designer visited my workshop it could be mutually beneficial, for example some new ideas or thoughts. But a large manufacturer has a different approach, a different target group, so it's not really comparable I think.

Has it been hard to develop a stock line of bikes, or does it feel like an easier way forward as a small-scale builder?

I'm a small one-man manufacturer so any frame development is quite challenging for me from a financial point of view and quite slow but it's possible. When a new prototype is created I post about it on my Instagram and people have the opportunity to buy the prototype at a lower price, helping me at least partially pay for the development.

I spend quite a bit of time on the design of a new frame and it's also good to look at it again from a distance so I don't miss any details. I have to fine tune all the design aspects and also the manufacturing process. But by building frames in units of pieces I can get creative, that's what I enjoy about it and I think it also sets me apart from other manufacturers. I can also change and modify and improve each frame quite quickly than if a large manufacturer has pre-made parts for thousands of frames, that's a big advantage.

Are there any bikes out there you’d love to ride? New or old, what intrigues you?

I'm very interested in the technical solutions of other small manufacturers and like to read articles on Pinkbike about these bikes. I would love to ride these bikes and see them up close.

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Photo: Brian Coles



To get more information on the full lineup, head over to the newly minted Zoceli website, which features designs as intriguing as the bikes themselves. Riding shots and more can be found on Instagram.

Author Info:
dariodigiulio avatar

Member since Dec 25, 2016
173 articles

114 Comments
  • 324 1
 now THIS is the type of bike porn that needs an OnlyFans page
  • 27 2
 I'd like a personalized full sus steel frame worship video please. Lots of eye contact.
  • 7 1
 Looks like a slimmed down version of a Tallboy! I will call it a Slimgirl or Tallgirl! I would like to see a video! Gotta love the bold move with the FS steel frame. Not many can pull it off but looks like a winner
  • 3 0
 @rivercitycycles: I was going to say it looked like a steel SC with the susp layout.
  • 8 6
 @rivercitycycles: di, di, did you just gender that bike?

Seriously though, not one to usually geek on frames but daaayum.
  • 6 0
 @flattoflat: I can do this for you
  • 16 5
 @dario d the first and last photo are my images. I’m not sure how you got them, or who gave you permission but you could at least give credit.
  • 2 1
 Ya , way better then that girl you went to school with you wants 69$ for a picture of her apple and bikini
  • 17 0
 @BrianColes: I am sorry, this is my mistake. I am working on a correction. Martin
  • 9 1
 @Zoceli-bikes: thanks Martin. Appreciate the response and correction!
  • 51 0
 WOW, those are some sweet looking bikes!
  • 5 0
 I bought the Second Nanetro (slopestyle fully) it is Chrome plated and sick af, Rides very well. Beneath the nice Bike, Martin is a very handsome Guy and sends little Videos from the engineering and building and try to personalize your Frame during the build. That is Something you won't get from big manufacturers. 10/10 would definetely again
  • 38 2
 Before you click on BUY, go and read article a few min ago about how to spend less on bikes Big Grin
  • 35 3
 See Ibis, THAT is how and where to bend tubes.
  • 17 0
 "Why choose custom over stock, especially in the high-performance mountain bike space?" seems self evident. If you're spending $5000+ for a frame wouldn't you want something special, something exactly right for you? It's funny to me that someone would buy a mass produced carbon frame for way more than that and not even get their choice of shock.
  • 17 1
 Even if I owned a really bespoke, beautiful carbon sled like an Arrival or an Antidote, I would lie awake a night knowing this beast exists in wild, somewhere. Bar none, the best looking bike I have ever seen.
  • 18 0
 They should call it the 'Bromad'
  • 4 0
 I was wondering if I'd be the first to see the resemblance, nice call on the comparison Smile
  • 7 0
 Looks like a Nomad skeleton.
  • 4 0
 If you've ever wanted a steel Santa Cruz...
  • 1 0
 first thing i saw was the resemblance to SC i'd have this over one a SC any day of the week tbh
  • 16 0
 these bikes look amazing, but the age old question still exists: Raw finish or painted. Dammit, I still can't decide.
  • 8 0
 the matte paint on steel looks really good
  • 9 1
 ...though RUST may be the correct answer...see Pinkbike's 2021 bike check...
www.pinkbike.com/news/bike-check-the-zoceli-dobordelu-is-a-steel-bike-with-a-sliding-shock.html
  • 1 0
 How about chrome or nickel plated?
  • 15 0
 Holy moly! Freaking gorgeous!
  • 8 0
 Been following his Instagram account since very early on and it's a pleasure to see ! Steel just looks so satisfying to my eyes
  • 1 0
 Same
  • 9 0
 Room for a bottle...opener?
  • 4 0
 I have to point out that the Zoceli website is one of my favorite site designs I've seen. Love the bikes, and appreciate that this guy has an eye for both form and function. (Though I do wish if you hovered or clicked the black and white images they would display in color and full size. We need to see those chrome plated frames how they really look!!)

www.zoceli.cz
  • 4 2
 These look amazing. Back in the day bottle openers integrated into frames and various accessories was a thing, to the point where people started to complain it was overdone and not particularly classy. I'm not classy, and I miss bottle opener bits. King Cage makes a bolt on one...
  • 3 0
 One of my friend is the owner of the first Zoceli on the article, THIS BIKE IS UNREAL !! Best part is definitely the beer opener Wink
  • 1 0
 In Czech Rep nobody is asking if you have a glove box, but if your frame has an integrated beer opener Big Grin The bike is so rad though!
  • 1 0
 As someone who has a decent understanding of suspension...but certainly no expert... is anyone able to explain how that full suspension slope bike works with single speed? Is it a sort of concentric single pivot design that almost eliminates chain growth... looks like the effective chain stay length shouldn't change?
  • 1 0
 It's turning around the BB there is no chain grow at all
  • 3 0
 @Zoceli-bikes: ayy thats my frame
  • 2 1
 The freeride bike is basically a steel Polygon colossus -which is a good thing, I always thought that bike had very special and unique kinematics. Really like that thing- I am not in the market for a new bike eight now, but maybe one day.
  • 4 0
 Are these also on OnlyFans? Adult content for sure.
  • 3 0
 Weight? I know these are almost one-offs at this point but it would be nice to know.
  • 3 1
 if you're interested learning more my friends build page on ig : @mtbikeprojek
  • 2 0
 its on the website...but frame only (doesn't come with a shock).
Enduro Frame....4,100 grams (about 9 lbs)
Freeride Frame....4,300 grams (about 9.4 lbs)
  • 1 0
 And frame only is 4100g for enduro, 4300g freeride, without shock and rear axle
  • 3 0
 that shock carriage area (whatever it's called) looks amazing. Can't believe it's a small builder.
  • 2 0
 @dariodigiulio @Zoceli-bikes

Will you be getting one of these to test? Personally, I am interested in the Enduro frame.
  • 2 0
 Hopefully! Time will tell.
  • 1 0
 Too pricey for me in the states but man if need a washed up guy to give free bikes too let me know. Slope bike looks incredible
  • 1 0
 Man, I am in the market for an enduro steel bike...I was looking at the soon to be available Chromag Lowdown but now this pops up....decisions decisions!!
  • 2 0
 I have no practical need or use for that single speed beauty up near the top. But I want one. I want one so bad it hurts.
  • 3 0
 these are the sickest bikes I've ever seen
  • 2 0
 I need that slope bike to flex on the kids at the pumptrack
  • 1 0
 I like. Something about welded tubes and the oxidized welds. My next bike alum or steel. Carbon is cool but…..
  • 1 0
 as the big bike brands start makinng less bikes, more little brands become more popular
  • 1 0
 Definitely prefer the unpainted frame. Wish more brands would go with the raw look
  • 1 0
 Any one bothered by how the DT Swiss and Maxxis logos don't line up on the front tyre one the raw colored bike?
  • 2 1
 The integrated bottle opener is a nice touch.
  • 1 0
 This bikes' name is Hansel...because its so hot. -Mugatu
  • 1 0
 Now that's a beauty! super dreamy....solid work
  • 1 0
 Really beautiful frame. But why Pressfit?
  • 3 0
 Pressfit has a larger width then classic threaded BB. Easier design and more rigidity of frame.
  • 1 0
 These aren't bikes, they are works of art
  • 1 0
 Hey Zoceli, keep up the great work, stuff like this is exciting.
  • 1 0
 People who are loving the raw steel look should check out Ferrum bikes.
  • 2 0
 Steel really is Real
  • 1 0
 Anyone else wanna see a Zoceli DH team? Wink
  • 1 0
 The raw alloy looks good, but the matte gray and maroon colors are amazing
  • 1 0
 Is it legal if I want ho make love to it?
  • 1 0
 Beautifull, I'd LOVE a test.
  • 1 0
 I’d be on board but pressfit naw I’m good
  • 2 0
 Pressfit has a larger width then classic threaded BB. Easier design and more rigidity of frame.
  • 2 0
 It’s just the threaded is something I can maintain my self and is an easy process @Zoceli-bikes:
  • 1 0
 4130 is the future of big bikes!
  • 1 0
 beautiful work!
  • 1 0
 Sexy
  • 1 0
 I want one really bad.
  • 1 0
 This is fiiiire!
  • 1 0
 Stunning
  • 1 0
 Nice, but why pressfit?
  • 4 0
 Pressfit has a larger width then classic threaded BB. Easier design and more rigidity of frame.
  • 3 0
 and Chr Mo so NONE of the inherent carbon/press fit problems
  • 1 0
 beatiful!!!
  • 1 0
 all look incredible!
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