Interview | Monē Bikes Reveals US Made Fillet Brazed Steel Full Suspension Bike

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Some people think social media is a waste of time, that it’s a vortex into which your soul and time will rapidly disappear. It depends what you’re looking at – if it’s cats, the naysayers are probably right. But if it’s bikes you’re looking at, it’s a valuable and worthy use of your time. Instagram is especially great. There are lots of pretty things there, and you can look without buying. If you do that in your local bike shop, unless you take them beer or biscuits, they’re probably not going to be your biggest fan.

While mooching round this virtual sweet shop, we stumbled across this rather fetching niche ticker. Steel, hand built, fillet brazed, full suspension… Elsewhere on the internet people pay to have their specialist proclivities tickled and teased, here were a bunch of ours all being checked off in one helping. We had to find out more, so Hannah caught up with its American builder, Cjell Monē.

You’re a small scale shed builder of handmade steel bikes… I think perhaps you are secretly British. Help us out and tell us how to pronounce ‘Cjell Monē’ – does it rhyme with ‘scone’?*

Answering this question, using a language that came from England, seems futile…but I’ll give it a go. Two ways to pronounce it; ‘Monet’ as in Claude Monet, if you’re feeling fancy. The rest of us say ‘Money’ as in $MONEY$. No comment dealing with the pronunciation of ‘scone’, it’s not the place for an American to weigh in.

Why are you building bikes instead of pretending to be studying hard at art school?

Great question, maybe I’m blowing it. Would probably have more ‘money’ if I were studying in art school. I studied engineering which seems to be mildy handy when getting something built requires staying up all night.

The face of a man whose chakras are aligned.

What’s more important, riding bikes, or having an aspirational Instagram account? How do you keep your chakras aligned?

Instagram…100, 100, 100. Bikes are simply a means for content creation. If only I could make one that props itself up and takes selfies…hmmmm. But seriously, no matter how hard I’m working, or how under the gun I am, I make time to ride. I have waited tables for a good portion of my adult life…I rode a lot of bikes. Now that I build them, I try and never let my bike riding dip below previous levels.

When I’m riding through beautiful countryside, what tunes should I play on my bar speakers to drown out the birds?

I usually listen to soundtracks of birds, so I’m not much help here.

Which brand are you hoping will buy you out so you can start working on mass produced plastic bikes?


Cjel Mone Braised
Building a bike or cutting up a body? Photo credit: Sean Burns

You’re not actually a shed builder at all – your shed has wheels. What’s that about? Do you live in it too? Which states are you banned from entering?

Thank you so much for making that distinction. I was feeling a little offended after question 1. I started out building bikes in a pool maintenance room and quickly realized I need a space of my own. Living in a ski town at the time, I needed to get creative. Creative in this case meant a tiny 1977 Toyota Chinook RV. Think small, and then half that. Custom buildout with cabinets, workbenches, a tiny lathe, and little baby files. Building a tandem in there was my crowning achievement. Then, one day, I grew up, bought an old Wonderbread delivery truck and started a new. It’s got a little four cylinder diesel so it gets decent mileage but it’s slow and rides like a Snap-on tool box. About three times as big as the Toyota, I barely know what to do with all that space, so I put in a queen size bed.

New York, careful where you pee.

Does it smell of metal filings or dirty socks? How do you stop your tools getting mixed up with the cutlery? Which tool is best for eating ice cream out of one of those impractical tall sundae vases?

At the risk of totally blowing this fairytale…I now live in the basement of an old post office. I moved the mattress from the Murphy bed in the truck to my room and also brought in the dirty socks and cutlery. The truck doesn’t move a whole lot anymore which is probably for the best as it excels at staying in place. I have no idea where you got the idea I eat ice cream out of vases…but now considering it, I’d probably go with long, fine, half round file.

Cjel Mone Braised
Born in a van.

And those things you build in it…You’ve got a drop bar (El Continente) and a hardtail (La Roca) bike, that lovely new FS, and then is everything else custom? How long would I wait for you to make me a titanium mixte tandem with Rohloff gears and more rack mounts than a Surly?

I got my start in offroad touring, so those are the two bikes that I think do it best. The stock models are made in Taiwan, by me, and three other guys much more skilled than me. I don’t speak Mandarine, but after three weeks I could only assume that they had run out of reasons to laugh at me which is the only assumption I could make during the first two weeks. But for real, those guys can braze much better than I could hope to, and the product development over there is ace…my Taiwan bikes are dialed in every way. As a special bonus I was able to take home all the tubes, dropouts, axles, sliders and stays that I have developed for these bikes. So now, the custom bikes built in the bread truck are way better than they used to be.

My PayPal is [redacted for anti-spam purposes]. Your titanium two seater will commence when you deposit enough money to buy me a tig welder.

Ooh, that’s nice.

OK, so that lovely new FS bike. Does it have a name yet? Or shall I just keep showering it with appreciative adjectives?

Lots of names have been thrown out. Soft Monē, Funny Monē, Funnē Monē, Blood Monē, Big Monē, Mattress Monē (Martyn Pearson™, full anglo origins) , Golden Goat (English for ==>), Cabra Dorado (I wanted to avoid fully pigeon holing myself in the Spanish language like Salsa)… at the moment I’m going with “Full Enjoy” which I picked up in India, they use it when describing something very indulgent and probably naughty.

Thank you so much for asking that question and giving that B roll a chance to live.

You say the kinematics are inspired by a Transition Smuggler/Yeti 4.5C/Evil Following. Which linkage fork would you recommend pairing the frame with?

Ha…you so funny! But after I get bought out by Specialized, we’ll probably spec the bikes with Laufs.

Curly liquorice provides extra squish.

Is the coil made of 100% liquorice, or is it a composite? How do you get it to curl like that? Is it soft or salty?

This is so invitingly farcical…I am happy to take the bait. The coil is made of an alloy containing technicium (43 on the periodic table, found primarily in laboratories and meteors, aids in springy-ness), diatomaceous earth (basically oyster shells, how we get it salty), and black dye. It curls because that’s the shape of the steam-punk mold it came out of.

What kind of riding do you think the kinematics will lend itself to best? To or from the pub?

I’m gonna take this one the other direction because I love nerding out on this stuff. Three primary graphs to look at here. Leverage ratio, Pedal Feedback, and Brake Dive.

  • Leverage ratio (the comparison of wheel travel to shock travel, which isn’t consistent through the travel) – I made sure it was the curve was steep. I wanted the bike to feel nice and soft up top but ramp up quickly. Scientists and marketers alike call this progressive. I made it this way in efforts to create a bike that “ollies” or bunny hops well. “Playful” is the word that our marketing department uses.
  • Pedal feedback (what happens to the suspension when you pedal) – we don’t want the pedal force to compress the suspension, completely neutral isn’t quite good enough either. The goal is to have the suspension extend a bit to give the tire some bite during the power stroke and to lose as little energy as possible. Our main point of interest on the graph is between 20 and 40% of the travel, because pedaling through big hits isn’t as much of a concern as regular seated climbing. I gave this bike a decently generous amount (120%, 20% more than fully neutral) of pedal feedback. Marketing department says “it pedals great”
  • Brake dive (slightly less intuitive, think of putting the bike in the stand, pedaling the wheel up to speed, and grabbing brake…the way the inertia of the wheel acts on the suspension is what we’re looking at) – As little as possible is our goal. Transition does an amazing job of designing away brake dive in their suspension. I believe this is why those bikes are pretty damn plush in chunder, because with a load of brake, they are still squishy. Their bikes are around 40% on the graph, don’t ask me what 40% represents other than something to shoot for. Took a lot of fiddling around with pivot points but I finally got it down to their levels. The secret is in the rocker link. Our marketing department doesn’t think brake dive is sexy enough to mention.
Pretty joins should not be hidden.

I find the best way to avoid pedal bob is to push my bike up the hill. Does this golden zebra come with a walk mode?

Golden Zebra! HAZAH! Also, see above.

Did you use a star chart to decide the geometry, or was it feng shui?

Two question prior is just dripping in star chart sorcery.

As for geometry, a couple things. I wanted a slaaack front end, which is a popular opinion of today. After riding shorter travel Evils with slack front ends, I was convinced with was the way to go. 140mm-150mm forks seem like my personal sweet spot, combined with a slack head angle they go pretty damn well. Pretty high BB, because who likes smashing pedals. Super steep seat angles aren’t really my jam, which is an unpopular opinion right now (very un-feng shui?)…bikes with steep seat angles are excellent at staying on the ground by extending the top tube and moving the riders weight forward over the front, again, not my jam. Think DH racing versus trail candy…I prefer the latter. This bike has an average 73° SA and a reasonable top tube length which shortens the lever that is your bars to the rear contact patch. Short rear ends aren’t star chart shit, a simple shorter portion of the lever for getting the front end up, always been a fan of this. 425 is a pretty short for a 29×2.8 bike, especially one with squishy bits.

Cjel Mone Braised
Glued together with molten dragon eggs.

How does it behave on the trail? Does it have manners, act like a hooligan, or like to party? Is it laterally stiff and vertically compliant? Does it point and shoot?

Bike makers have got to throw this shit out to sell bikes, I get it. In some of these ultra-subjective descriptors does indeed lie a little science, key operative “little”. Let me hand this one over to our marketers..

“Full Enjoy is a mid-travel, progressive geo, trail schralping destroyer. It takes some sauce from Evil, super slack (62°) yet shortish (140 or 150) travel, some magic from Transition who make bigger bikes that pedal and brake perfectly, some of the Yeti koolaid- responds to ollies with some progressive energy return, and some of that good good from Monē Bikes- reasonable top tubes lengths and super short (425mm) chainstays that allow the front end to effortlessly leave the ground. (Let’s party) It also “points and shoots”, is very laterally stiff and vertical compliance is super good.”

Thanks Marketers…you even used some numbers, YAY!

Cjel Mone Braised
Structurally integral love.

What ill-chosen tattoo is the heart on the seat tube covering up?

A heart with my ex’s name in it.

How much clearance is there for tan wall tyres?

Who is making 2.8 x 29 tan walls….WHO!?!

What path does the routing for the new SRAM AXS drivetrain take?

AXS? I’ll have to check with the marketers again and get back.

Where do I put a front derailleur?

On an El Continente.

How many flip chips does it have?


Let the stroking commence.

Do you save and weigh the brazing filings so you know how much each bike could have weighed? How much will it weigh after I’ve strapped my burrito (beans, guac, no cheese) to it?

You are being coy about asking how much this full steel full suspension weighs…Our marketers applaud you, and are kindly letting themselves out after receiving their 17th mention in this interview. This one built up w/ pedals weighs 35 pounds w/ steel bars, cheap parts and a dropper.

Your burrito equation would look like this 35 + beans + rice + carne + guac – cheese + π*(tortilla radius)² *(density of flour) = Total weight. Hot sauce, and other incidentals can be looked up here…

Also, weight of brass filings is the same as all my bikes… 0 lbs 0 oz

I notice that you admire the aesthetics of Ellsworths and have endeavoured to bring that to this bike. What was the thinking behind all those curves? Form, function, frippery? Why haven’t you added drop bars to keep the curves going throughout and maintain aesthetic integrity?

Had to look the Ellsworths up…damn, back to the drawing board. Another cool bike that may or may not have influenced me is Trek’s DH bike…Scash, or Smash, or Chash, or something like that. The weight ceiling and price of full suspension trail bikes these days allows for some more consideration for rad design imo. No one was continuing hot lines through the rocker…thought it would be cool.

Adding dropper bars sounds like complete frippery. (Did I use that correctly?)

Cjel Mone Braised
Those cranks look awfully straight against everything else.

Is it going to stay raw and all ‘come hither and fondle my brazes’, or will it come with a paint job? Have you planned any limited edition patriotic paint ranges to help you promote last year’s frame?

Current plans for the Bruce Springsteen edition are still in the works…until then, just boring old clear powdercoat.

Do any of your dealers offer a petting zoo service? I think I’d like to try stroking one.

Any UK dealers out there with brass balls? (nearly a pun, lurking in the periphery of coherence)

As for stroking, see next question.

What are you planning on building next? Will it have a press fit BB?

Another one of these will follow…it will be fitted with a press fit BB and then promptly smelted down for the third one. Number 3 will be a stroked version of this one. Same frame with a 53mm double barrel yielding 141mm of rear travel as opposed to 130mm. Pair that with a 150mm fork and it’s back to work for the marketing department.

Cjel Mone Braised
Buy this man a beer.

Which bar can we find you in if we want to talk about ordering something? What should we buy you to drink?

Our local is called the Little Toad. I will take New Mexico’s finest Happy Camper IPA. If I were over there I would be more than happy with one of your flat numbers pumped with a long handle at room temp…don’t tell my buddies, I’m kinda into them.

Plan is to ride and dial in another prototype and then reconvene with the real deal pros in Taiwan to get some production going.

Thinking next spring would be a reasonable goal. The current frames won’t be on preorder again as I am just barely able to cash flow them now. This guy, however, will take a pre-order push to make happen… Keep your eyes on the grams, @monebikes or my Facebook page Mone Bikes for developments.

Thanks to Cjell for playing along! 

*For reference, scone rhymes with gone. Anyone who rhymes it with phone is posh, and wrong.

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