With the headlights pointing north I departed at sparrows fart - destination Beechworth. It's a little over 3 hours jaunt from Melbourne along the Hume Highway. The drive is punctuated by rolling hills, bouncing kangaroos, and petrol (gas) stations. Historically known for the gold rush of the late 1800s, I was heading there in search of the slightly less precious metal of steel - crafted by the hand of Shane Flint of Tor Bikes.
If you plug 'Beechworth' into Trailforks you'll see the longstanding MTB park trail network, with Yackandandah, and El Dorado also close by, though I know the latter by reputation as 'Hell Dorado'. Another El Dorado claim to fame is having the smallest pub in Victoria for post ride refreshment. Many of the other trails in the area remain unlisted and need the nose of a local to be sniffed out.
Rolling up to the gate of a rural property on Library road, I'm greeted by the howls of a pair of labradors, announcing my presence to 'Dad' who has already fired up the wood heater in the large workshed. The Tor Bikes studio is a clean, and spacious sanctuary for Shane to braze his frames.
The name Tor means the rocky pinnacle of a hill, exposed and showing riders 'the way'. It's perfect for a brand that exists in an area surrounded by baren rocky outcrops.
Shane and his wife moved from Canberra in 2011 and have built a home, family and workshop on their property which includes extensive bushland - an amazing space for creating trails, his wife's horses to roam, and the kid to make cubby houses.
By trade, Shane is a metal fabricator and also studied mechanical engineering, and is an asset for local businesses who use him to problem solve.
Tor frames speak to Shane's riding passion, predominantly MTB, though his road bike is the first thing on display once you enter the workshop. The drawings for his current build are displayed clearly on a large TV that is connected to his laptop allowing for quick and easy reference.
In between brazing bidon bosses, Shane talked about his future build with more pinion based MTBs in the pipeline. The Tor Pinion hardtail with two-tone cerakote was a fan favourite of the Handmade Bicycle Show earlier in the year, and Shane has been an exhibitor 4 years in a row.
Anyone who remembers the last Beechworth SHITS (Six Hours In The Saddle) will recall the filthy weather and torrential rain that descended on the course an hour before the event commenced. The first pinion build was for a friend wanting the progressive geo 'Abrade' hardtail that could be ridden year-round, regardless of the filthy wear, and it's easy to see why the sealed belt-driven setup has merit, with weight centrally located. With no derailleur to risk banging on boulders, the list of benefits grow for a bike ridden in an area like Beechworth.
Once the torch was extinguished, it was time to show off the current bikes in his stable.
The Zenith is his single-pivot dual suspension mountain bike, with a unique 1/8" 4130 side plate design that immediately reminded me of a boomerang. It's the second prototype of his design with an enduro mind and 170mm of travel. 4 years of abuse later, it's perfect for the steep and rocky terrain the area is known for.
The Zenith is TIG construction with a pairing of Reynolds and Columbus tubes and is available in both 27.5" and 29" (pictured), though for a few more beans you can opt for fillet brazed.
Throw the Zenith in the car, and you can be pedalling up Mystic Mountain, and more importantly bombing down Elevation and Shred Kelly in under an hour. Another great reason to live in Beechworth.
The lattice brace (mud catcher) had some heads scratching for those living in the UK where mud is the norm, but in a climate as dry and arid as Australia it's less of an issue but definitely had Shane taking notes for future iterations.
This hardtail is many seasons old, and has been raced, crashed, repaired, resprayed and still wont quit! Testament to a well engineered product.
Shane also builds gravel / bikepacking themed frames for Monday Cycles, who take their name from the local 'Monday night' gravel mob ride. This partnership involves design input by Joe Arblaster (Monday) and Shane to construct as gravel isn't his chosen way to recreate on two wheels. Monday launched earlier this year and has two models in the line up - The Pilot and Pilot+ to accommodate up to a 29 x 3.0.
All Tor Bike frames are painted by Mitch at Seven4Works in Tawonga, with powder coat or cerakote the main preference for finishes. An example of his creativity with cerakote is on Shane's road bike.
In the short period I've come to know of Tor there has been strong progression with each frame and I can't wait to see what he reveals in the future.