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NAHBS new builder profile: Alberta’s Rollingdale Cycles

Prairie framebuilder Dale Marchand heads to California with two unique titanium bikes

Rollingdale Cycles NAHBS 2019

When the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) gets underway for 2019, Dale Marchand will be there in Sacramento. For the first time, the St. Albert, Alta. frame builder will have his own bikes on display at the show.

The annual builders show has become known as a chance for the industry’s established names to show their skills. But, alongside frames from Dekerf, Weigle and Eriksen, are the first-time presenters of new builders row. The opportunity for these aspiring builders to be part of the same show as the industries elites is party of what makes NAHBS so appealing.

From an observers standpoint, these new builders are arguably more interesting than the already-established names. The bikes on display from first time builders are a reminder of the creativity that makes custom bicycles so appealing. With little concern for mass appeal, these bikes are often created based on how, and where their builder lives.

Rollingdale Cycles NAHBS
Dale Marchand at home in his workshop. Image: Nico Humby

Rollingdale Cycles is based out of St. Albert, just outside of Edmonton, Alta. Marchand’s NAHBS show bikes reflect where he lives, and rides, more than any industry trends. The two titanium Rollingdale Cycles in California will be a fat bike and a gravel bike. Both are natural choices for a builder emerging out of a particularly long and cold Prairie winter onto endless unpaved back roads and rural routes that lie just outside the city limits.

Rollingdale Cycles titanium fat bike

The titanium fat bike is immediately eye-catching. A Lauf Carbonara leaf-sprung fork handles suspension duties up front. Out back, a Pinion gearbox and Gates belt drive combo propels the unique looking bike. Designed around these components, the frame solves problems caused by cold weather, and fitting high volume tires for smaller riders.

“The Lauf, Pinion and belt drive have outlasted me when it comes to the extreme cold conditions,” says Marchand. “I’ve been out riding the fatbike every odd day and the component group and entire kit has performed exceptionally well”

Rollingdale Cycles NAHBS 2019
Image: Nico Humby

Rollingdale Cycles fat bike is built out with Industry Nine 845 BigRig wheelset, 45N Dillinger 4 carbide studded tubeless tires and Paul Components Kalmper disc brakes. A Race Face dropper post is controlled by a Paul Components dropper trigger, while an Industry Nine A45 stem holds up 760 mm wide Race Face 35 mm carbon fibre bars. Titanium bottle cages from King Cage keep Marchand hydrated. Custom titanium anodized graphics are the work of Rollingdale Cycles.

I had the chance to ask Marchand about the two bikes Rollingdale Cycles would be entering into NAHBS, as well as his thoughts about going into the show as a first time presenter:

CanadianMTB: This will be your first year presenting at NAHBS as a builder, correct? What made you want to take part in the show?

Dale Marchand: In April 2016 my older brother and I took the opportunity to build a couple fillet brazed frames with Paul Brodie in Abbotsford, B.C. hosted by University of Fraser Valley. While there Paul had his 2015 NAHBS award winning City bike on display. Seeing the beauty which Paul poured into his beautiful blue city bike planted a seed in me. I thought, people do this… they pour their passion beyond riding and into challenging themselves to create one of a kind handmade bikes.

So with Paul’s encouragement I went to Salt Lake City NAHBS 2017 to see what it was all about. When I came back, I dug in to building tooling, jigs, fixtures, dummy axles, then went through the titanium frame course at UBI Ashland, Ore., and built a few more frames. I went visited NAHBS again in 2018 when it was in Hartford. I came back from Hartford with a personal challenge to return to NAHBS the following year in Sacramento as a new builder. Full immersion learning for me is the only way, and there’s simply too much to learn through this type of experience.  I want to bring this experience back home where others can see what can be done when you apply passion to learning and few long hours in the shop.

What opportunity does participating at NAHBS present to you as a builder?

Participation opens the door to deeper conversation with experienced builders, custom suppliers and it opens the door to critical feedback. NAHBS is in itself an education opportunity that I can participate in and take away from to apply to my work back at home.

Rollingdale Cycles NAHBS
Image: Nico Humby

You’re bringing two bikes to NAHBS this year. Knowing you had the opportunity to build anything you wanted for the show, how did you decide what kind of bike to build? And why these two bikes?

I’m bringing a fat bike and a gravel bike. I’ve been focused on building a variety of frame styles over the past couple of years. I’ve built road, hardtail, single speed, backcountry touring, urban and gravel designs. I believe both designs represent a solid addition into most riders bicycle stable in Canada.

The fat bike is quite unique, even in the freewheeling world of fat bike design. The Lauf fork is eye catching, but adding a gearbox belt drive stands out. Can you explain the story behind the design?

Fat Bikes unto themselves have their own presence. I designed this bike with winter in mind. The Lauf is a specific design to handle winter conditions, with basically zero long term maintenance. I’ve seen the growing popularity in Pinion drive. They are smooth and quiet and, combined with the Gates belt, clean up the rear axle line with the absence of a derailleur.

Rollingdale Cycles
Image: Nico Humby

Were there any unique challenges designing the frame around a gear box, especially with the fat tires? Was there ever any concern that it might not work, or challenges in the building process?

As a new builder there were many unique challenges. First off, simply holding the frame in the jig to weld and backpurge (argon backpurge is required during the welding titanium) required a special bridge plate. The area available for chainstay, crank arm and tire clearing is extremely limited. Being able to maintain a suitable Q factor for a smaller stance rider on a fat bike is what drives such a challenge.

I’m very fortunate to have a fine compliment of machine tools in my shop. I built my own Pinion bridge fixture used hold the frame in my Sputnik frame jig with excellent purge ports to ensure exceptional weld coverage. To ensure I had the best possible tire fit with the best possible Q factor, I build my own bending dies in order to custom build the chainstays for the fat bike that have an extremely smooth, strong and clean result.

What is the inspiration behind the gravel bike? Are there any unique features, and what inspired those design features?

The gravel bike is designed for exploring “off the beaten path.” It features 650b x 47 mm Teravail tires mounted on Whisky 36w carbon rims (but the frame has space to accommodate 700c x 32 tires) with comfort and fit that is specifically designed for a small rider. VeloColour painted this frame, fork and stem. The design features a topographical map  design that speaks to the “all road” nature of gravel cycling. It also has Cinelli’s Hobo Alphabet bar tape for that added off road touch.

Rollingdale Cycles
Rollingdale Cycles’ fat bike in the wilds of an Alberta winter. Image: Nico Humby

Canadian MTB and Canadian Cycling Magazine will be previewing more from NAHBS 2019. You can follow Rollingdale Cycles during, and after NAHBS on Instagram.