If you’ve been following the Baltimore cycling scene for any amount of time, you’re certainly familiar with Chris Bishop. Bishop is a custom frame builder who lives in Charles Village, and his popularity has been on a steady ascent over the past few years.
This popularity is certainly well-deserved.
Bishop is renowned, above all, for a keen attention to detail. When he posts pictures of a finished build online, his work is of the caliber that demands attention beyond the typical drive-side shot. A viewer looking at close-up images is rewarded with immaculate lugwork and other details that a rider can only receive by commissioning a custom frame builder.
Bishop was kind enough to let Baltimore Velo into his home and workshop on a recent Saturday that was as muggy as it was hot.
My first impression as I walked in was that Chris Bishop has a foyer that will stop a guest dead in his tracks.
It greets onlookers with what amounts to a showroom, essentially, proudly displaying Bishop’s work. I spent a few minutes taking it all in before we went through the kitchen, down a staircase and into his workshop.
The workshop is adorned with cycling artifacts from head to toe, where Bishop proudly keeps every aspect of his work area absolutely spotless.
Over the course of a conversation that lasted a couple hours, it became apparent that his career is in a period of transition. He spoke of a frustration, almost helplessness, of his early days as a builder, trying to build a reputation in an industry that has outsourced nearly all of its frames to countries like Taiwan and China.
Fast-forward a few years. Now, Bishop regularly receives work from customers all over the US, not to mention internationally from countries such as Turkey, France and Japan, to name a few.
So how did we get here?
In the most literal sense, it starts here. This is where Bishop first sizes his customer on this, his Serotta bike fitting system.
Next, he does an intake session, asking about his customer’s riding style and how the new build will be ridden. Bishop takes some notes and then drafts an initial frame in BikeCAD, based on the intake session.
From there, Bishop starts work on the fork using this device.
Afterwards, he builds the rest of the frame, tube-by-tube, before finally sending it off for a fresh coat of paint and delivering it to the final customer.
Underscoring all of this time-intensive work is his exceptional attention to detail. Bishop spoke of pouring hours into certain aspects of a project to nail all of the details. He has an acute understanding that his customers have a certain aesthetic in mind that can only be achieved through custom work, and it’s his job to turn that vision into a reality.
He seems to stress over the small details perhaps more than his customers would, and that’s one of the reasons his work earned him Best Steel Bike honors at this year’s North American Handmade Bike Show.
For me, it was a bit surreal to be in his workshop, surrounded first and foremost by his craftsmanship, but also an appreciation for cycling history that’s evident merely from the contents of his walls.
Here we see a stunning Merckx track frame. Afterwards, I realized that this classic paint scheme may have inspired Bishop’s award-winning personal track bike.
And if the contents of his workshop didn’t stand up on their own, Bishop opened a hidden door that’s obstructed by a wall lined with handlebars. Inside revealed even more treasures, like new old stock wheelsets he hoards for his customers and more unique framesets.
Bishop later spent some time recounting his memories of the Baltimore scene throughout the years, and he detailed a lot of his experiences as a courier. It turns out that Bishop still performs courier work, putting in about 10 hours per week. That time in the saddle gives him some fresh air and breaks up a long day spent creating his customers’ dream rides.
Between frame building and couriering, Bishop keeps himself busy. In spite of that, he took a couple hours out of his day to give Baltimore Velo a tour, and he spoke with an enthusiasm that is reserved only for individuals pursuing what they love.
When I left Bishop’s workshop and walked back into the muggy, Baltimore weather, something struck me—all of the accolades he’s gotten couldn’t have fallen upon a more deserving guy.