From riding with the Specialized team to TIG welding his own frames – Tom La Marche’s career has been nothing if not varied. Tom was driven to make frames out of a desire to ride something he created. We caught up with Tom in advance of the Philly Bike Expo, where he’ll be debuting a mountain bike frame he’s been cooking up. He’s also working on a foldable bike!
Please enjoy this interview with Tom La Marche.
Bikerumor.com: What’s your name, your bike brand, and where are you based?
Tom La Marche: Tom La Marche, Philadelphia, PA. I started apprenticing frame building in 2015, so 6 years.
Bikerumor.com: What’s your preferred frame material and building technique?
Tom: Steel with a mixture of TIG welding and fillet brazing.
Bikerumor.com: What sets your bikes apart from other custom builders?
Tom: Branding, semi-production, no-frills, lots of riding experience.
Bikerumor.com: How did you get into this? Who inspired you to get started making bikes?
Tom: Years of breaking frames, being unsatisfied with frame designs, and ultimately just wanting to ride something I created. I think some of the first examples of frame building that inspired me to make bikes were Brooklyn Machine Works, Ted James Designs, and Squarebuilt.
Bikerumor.com: Who inspires you now?
Tom: Anyone who breaks outside of the norm. The people making their own tooling and frame parts really get me horny. Some of my favorites are: Tonic Fabrications, Tommi, BTR, Swarf, Hunter, WHTHOUS, Foes, Chapman Cycles, Frances Cycles, PechTregon, Moulton, Thursday Bikes, S&M, Ted James, Bike Friday, Clandestine, Starling Cycles, Eeder Metal, Falconer, and Inglis/ Retrotech.
Bikerumor.com: How was Covid era for you? Good, bad, about the same? How did it change your business and business model, if at all?
Tom: I moved into a new workshop at the begging of the pandemic which kept me plenty busy. Luckily I was able to work alone and not interact with many other people. This is my first year as an actual business, so tough to say.
Bikerumor.com: What’s the most interesting bike you’ve built over the past year?
Tom: I’m currently working on a folding travel bike that compacts into a manageable size. It’s single speed, uses some BMX parts, and is very simple. I got sick of stressing over all of the ever-changing standards and wanted to build something that brought things back to basics. Riding and traveling are the two best things to me. Why not make a bike that suits that lifestyle? It’s fun to build things to your own standards and not have to worry about squeezing tires, chainring, and cranks into a 1 mm clearance zone. Going with a BMX crank allows an adjustable chain line and will be the heart of the folding mechanism.
Bikerumor.com: What are you bringing to Philly Bike Expo this year? Any teasers or sneak peeks?
Tom: Hopefully two do-it-all/gravel bikes and a mountain bike frame. You’ll have to wait and see!
It’s been a ton of work to design the bike and dial in all the details so I am very excited to bring it to the public and start producing them.
Bikerumor.com: If you had to do a multi-day bikepacking adventure with anyone else in the cycling industry, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Tom: Hm, maybe the Wright brothers? Would be cool to see what kind of contraption they could come up with for bikepacking.