‘Super Bike’ Builder Interview: We recently had a good look at the US ‘Super Bikes’ at the LA Olympic Games of 1984, but the team pursuit winning Australians were also astride some fine machines. Ed Hood spoke to man who built them – Geoff Scott.
Recently we ran a feature on the dawn of the ‘Super Bike’ at the ’84 LA Olympics. But ‘Super Bikes’ or not, whilst Steve Hegg rode his aero, aluminium bonded $40,000 machine to gold in the individual pursuit it was the Australian squad which grabbed the glory in the team pursuit final on steel machines; albeit the US team had a nightmare series which you can read about in our recent interview with Brent Emery, one of the men who took home silver. But who built those immaculate white steel low pros which took Dean Woods, Michael Turtur, Kevin Nichols and Michael Grenda to the gold medals?
Geoff Scott, is the man’s name, perhaps Australia’s most revered frame builder with examples of his work much in demand by Japanese collectors. As well as Olympic Games medal-winning bikes his machines have been ridden to national and regional titles, world championship wins, Commonwealth Games titles and world records. Gary Sutton took a World Amateur Points Race title on one; Martin Vinnicombe won a World Kilometre title on one; double Commonwealth Games Sprint Champion Kenrick Tucker rode one; Neil Stephens took an indoor hour record on one. He’s old school, self-taught and from a time when frames didn’t pop out of moulds like peas out of a pod but were lovingly fashioned by an artisan’s hands and built to suit the rider’s build, not plucked off a rack. A time when angles, top tube lengths and fork rakes were all part of the vocabulary when discussing frames, rather than lay-ups, watts and wind tunnels.
Best, ‘have a word’ with this man, we thought. We’d have preferred to do it over a coffee ‘Down Under’ but in these ‘locked down’ days we had to use some of that modern cyber communications stuff to get our answers:
PEZ: How did you get into frame building and when did you build your first frame, Geoff?
Geoff Scott: I rode as a professional, the late Alex Fulcher was my coach; my training partner was Bob Hines who had the bike shop that everyone went to at that time. I was working as a toolmaker at the time and broke [‘broke’ substituted for a rather more colourful Aussie description of the problem] two ALAN frames. That was in 1978, I built a plate jig, put the ALAN on it and built the first Gefsco frame to the same dimensions. It was not long after that I moved into the back of Bob’s shop and started full time frame building.
PEZ: You built the frame your compatriot, Gary Sutton won the 1980 World Amateur Points Race Championship on.
‘Sutto’ is a life-long friend, the bike is a mix of Columbus and Reynolds tubing, it has a lower than usual bottom bracket and a shallower head angle than most track bikes – in a 50 kilometre race you don’t want to be fighting with your bike.
PEZ: Where did the inspiration come from for the LA machines come from?
Alex Fulcher was the Australian Road Coach by now and had seen some bikes in East Germany in 1979 which caught his eye. In 1980 he sat down with me and we designed some frames with different configurations and wheel sizes. [Fulcher’s thinking was on the same lines as that of the USA bike gurus, tuck the rear wheel in tight and use a 26” front wheel in the interests of ‘shortening’ the team pursuit line for improved aerodynamics, ed.] In 1981, based on our discussions I built four or five machines, they were painted blue but had ‘Malvern Star’ decals applied – those were the frames the team pursuiters won gold on at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane – Gary West, Kevin Nichols, Mike Turtur and Michael Grenda. Those 1982 bikes were the ones used in LA, with some modified to accommodate changes in the team line up.
PEZ: You built Martin Vinnicombe’s kilometre bikes on which he won Commonwealth and Worlds gold, why the ‘double triangle’ design?
That design was so I could make the bikes as light and strong as possible and with some life to it. I built two for Martin and one on which Neil Stephens [ex-ONCE and Festina professional who is now a DS with World Tour team UAE-Team Emirates, ed.] broke the world one hour indoor and 20 kilometre records in 1987.
PEZ: Your tubing of choice?
I’m a certified Reynolds ‘Master Frame Builder’ but Reynolds is not the company it was back in the 90’s so now I use Columbus, who have a better range of tubing. I build both lugged and lugless frames.
PEZ: I noticed the nice customised top eyes on Gary Sutton’s bike.
The top eyes are always capped, I pantograph them myself.
PEZ: Have you ever built with aluminium tubing?
No – it cracks!
PEZ: What’s your opinion on carbon?
I went to the TREK factory in 1994 to get certified as a repairer of TREK and other carbon frames when we set up TREK Australia. I do carbon repairs and re-paints but it’s always steel for me as a frame materiel.
PEZ: You’ve built under the ‘Gefsco’ and ‘Clamont’ banners?
‘Gefsco’ is my own brand, ‘Clamont’ was Clarence Street Cyclery in Sydney, who I built for until TREK took the shop over two years ago.
PEZ: Are you still building frames?
I still build the odd one but I mainly do restoration and re-paints. The market is all carbon now, the younger riders are all fixed on carbon now and in the shop we sell the stock sizes – the made to measure market has gone.
PEZ: You do your own painting?
I always have done, I want control over the quality.
# ‘Control over the quality’ – how does one achieve that with moulded frames from the Far East, imported by the container load? With thanks to Geoff for his time and insights. #