Why the Kies Steel Limited is made in the United States.
It took a while, but the Kies Steel Limited gravel frames are finally on site and ready to ship. I think it has been at least a two year development process. I developed a prototype with Ted Wojcik of Wojcik Bicycles in Plaistow, new Hampshire, which was delivered in 2019. The pandemic struck and everything came to a stop. And then Ted understandably realized that it was time to begin thinking about retirement. At least I had a prototype so I handed it over to Patton Sims who built it up and rode it and learned first hand where improvements could be made, all of which he reported back to me.
During this period Ryan Burnham of Handz Fabrication took over Ted's shop and began retooling it to produce gravel, mountain and road frames in steel. I simply asked Ryan to upgrade the specifications of the prototype, which were essentially the specifications and geometry you would find on a mountain bike, to current gravel specifications (wide tire clearances, 1X drive train design). Ryan did so seamlessly, adding his own expertise and knowledge to the design and coordinating with decal manufacturer Screen Speciality Shop (SSSink) and powder coat provider professionals to deliver a beautiful finished product.
The significance of the Kies for this enterprise is that it produced domestically. This is one part of the long term vision of this company and the reasons are fairly clear by now: increased control over the development and production process; no import duties; and, less exposure to supply chain disruptions (the two scariest words for the bicycle industry today are "Taiwan Blockade").
This is not to say that the suppliers in Asia I have worked with over the years are no longer up to the job or that they are gone forever. They do excellent work and we will continue to source carbon road and time trial frames from suppliers in Taiwan and China (and they will continue to supply them not withstanding geopolitical hiccups).
However, it was very clear to me that a frame that can be made domestically, such as a steel gravel frame, should be made domestically. There are many great builders who are willing to do the work, it is good to have some diversification of suppliers and these builders will no doubt learn how to work with other materials (carbon, titanium and whatever comes next).
"There are no rules in gravel" someone said to me recently. I think this is part of the appeal for those who have embraced gravel culture: you can ride and modify your bike pretty much anyway you would like, you can wear whatever you want, and you can turn up and enjoy the camaraderie and experience of a gravel ride or race without the usual stressors of the road. This sentiment is captured in how the Kies Steel Limited was developed and produced, how it looks and how I am going to ride mine and I hope you are going to ride yours. Become Bike. Become A-D Bike.