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Frame, Fork, Rider: Ron Lewis X Smeltzer

a cyclist on trail

In this new series, Frame, Fork, Rider tries to shine a light on the complex connection between cyclists and their bikes. Those bikes can be their "one," a fun build, an oldie, a bike with a lot of memories; the list goes on! The premise is simple: pick a bike, and tell us about it! Sounds interesting to you? if you're local to Portland, drop us a message! (expanding to other regions soon too!)

Today's FFR covers Ron Lewis's (out of OMTM) Smeltzer, a custom hardtail built by Chad Smeltzer (a local builder in the Portland metro area).

A mountain biker

First, tell us about yourself and your cycling history:

Well, let's name is Ron Lewis. I'm a Scorpio. I love the studio output of Steely Dan (1972-1980), woodfired pizza, and long walks on the beach. I'm a former touring musician. I initially got into cycling as a way to recalibrate to home-life after long stretches on the road. My riding started in Seattle. Fixed-gear bikes. Mid-00's. Fairly typical story. But it was my first STP (Seattle-to-Portland) that was the true turning point. Riding 200 miles in one go really opened my eyes to an entire world of freedom and exploration outside of my immediate surroundings.

I moved to Portland for work in 2013. There I joined a racing team. Raced two seasons of road and CX before drifting off the back – so to speak – into more open-ended adventure riding. I started a route documentation project called Our Mother the Mountain ( with my pal Brandon in 2015 as a creative outlet to share some of the routes we were exploring. Over the years, we built up a sizable roster of routes to share with folks, teaming up w/ Ryan Francesconi in 2017 to run regular open-invite group adventure rides until the pandemic hit in 2020. We still dabble with the occasional open-invite adventure ride but generally focus more on route development and documentation these days.

A mountain bike

Tell us about the bike; what inspired you?

This bike was a collaboration with pal and custom builder Chad Smeltzer. He was gracious enough to humor my slightly odd 2019 notion of a rowdy, ultra-capable steel get-rad machine that one could feasibly ride TO the trails and back very comfortably. At the time, I was riding drop bar bikes on everything – singletrack, deep backcountry terrain, rocky-rooty-rutty Jeep trails – the usual underbiking-as-badge-of-honor sort of bravado – but there comes a point beyond which rigid drop bars are just out of their depth. Mountain bikes exist for a reason. This bike was designed to fill that gap and also to open up rowdier, more trail-oriented adventure terrain – while not quite being a mountain bike per se.

When I first approached you about FFR, you weren’t sure about whether the Bianchi was the best bike to represent that special relationship between rider & bike. Then you thought about the Serotta, before settling on the Smeltzer. Can you tell us about that? What inspired you to think of these three, and why did you narrow it down to the Smeltzer?

One develops peculiar sorts of relationships with lots of bikes over the years. Each build brings out a different sort of character or personality. I have a lugged steel 1983 Bianchi that has taken on several identities while in my care. Picked it up on Craigslist for $300. It has been a grocery getter, commuter, rain-roadie, town bike, and different types of grocery getter but eventually ended up as wall decoration. So not much to the story other than 'it looks a lot cooler now than it used to'. I bring up the Serotta as that was the first 'real' road bike I built from the ground up. It was my gateway into the cycling life. But again, it has effectively been relegated to the role of wall-mounted eye candy: nice to look at, but not something I regularly ride. I am drawn to the Smeltzer because it continues to be one of my favorite bikes to ride and is still very much an active work-in-progress. There is something really exciting about a bike with an open-ended life cycle that continually inspires fresh new configurations and possibilities.

a mountain biker

How has this bike helped you in ways that your other bike couldn't?

The Smeltzer unlocks a level of terrain that drop bar bikes can't handle nearly as comfortably. It's a 27.5" platform w/ room for 2.8" tires. I like to run it light on 2.25" XC tires. Just really eats up trails and rough stuff with the feel of a BMX cruiser. It's set up on a Fox Float 120mm suspension fork that really takes the edge off of areas like Syncline, Surveyors, and Gunsight Ridge – steep, technical zones where drop bar bikes have to tread carefully – this bike just blasts through like the Kool-Aid Man!

a mountain biker

You mentioned that the Smeltzer is an active bike with a future; what do you have planned?

I'd like to set it up 29er for a more steady rollover and smoother, more fluid pedaling over longer days. I have a full-suspension trail bike now, so I don't really need this to be as much of a mountain bike. I'm planning on putting a lighter rigid carbon fork up front to give it a more peppy gravel-oriented ride-feel. If I can lighten the load and lift some of the hardtail duties, I think this could slide comfortably into full-spectrum backcountry brawler mode.

mountain biker

Lastly, knowing that you are a turophile (cheese lover), what kind of cheese would the Smeltzer be?

This would absolutely be a robust mountain gruyere: adaptable to many uses yet universally palatable. It is good at and goes well with many things – highbrow to lowbrow – sweet, nutty, and accessible yet surprisingly complex. It stands up under scrutiny and travels well under a broad range of conditions but is above all else, deliciously and comfortably familiar.

Full Build Specs:

Frame: Smeltzer Bikes custom geometry. Columbus Life tubing. XLish.

Fork: Fox Float 34. 120mm.

Shifters: Shimano XTR 11spd

Brakes/Levers: Shimano XTR hydro

Rotors: 180mm/160mm Shimano Ice tech

Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT w/ Garbaruk aftermarket cage + pulleys

Crankset: Shimano XT, 175mm

Chain Ring: Wolftooth Components 32T

Cassette: Garbaruk 11-50T

Chain: Shimano 11spd

Headset: Chris King

Bottom Bracket: Chris King Threadfit 24

Stem: Thomson X4 110mm +/-10°

Handlebar: Enve M9 810mm

Seatpost: KS Integra Lev internal dropper 27.2

Saddle: Specialized Phenom

Pedals: Shimano XT

Wheels: 27.5 Boost-spaced HIFI Session Wide carbon

Tires: Maxxis Rekon Race 2.25"

You can follow Ron on his personal Instagram @healthybounce & and at
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