You are here

Framebuilder Brian Baylis dies at 63

Published February 22, 2016
Baylis to be remembered at NAHBS this weekend.

LA MESA, Calif. (BRAIN) — Brian Baylis, one of the giants of U.S. custom steel framemaking, died Saturday at age 63 of complications from pneumonia. 

Baylis was among the first U.S. workers to go to work for Faliero Masi in the early 1970s when Masi came to America to open Masi USA, said Jim Langley, a long-time cycling journalist and senior communications editor for SmartEtailing. 

"Brian’s bike history goes way back and he has influenced legions of people in the industry over the years," Langley said. His intricately made lugged frames are treasured by many, and he was notable among his peers because he painted as well as brazed, a rarity.

Former framemaker Dave Moulton wrote on his blog this weekend that Baylis was "a complex character."

"It is an understement to say Brian Baylis was a colorful character," Moulton wrote. 

On Baylis' own blog, he wrote that he entered framemaking on a bit of a whim, after learning that Masi had set up a U.S. factory.

"For some unknown reason, having never considered building bike frames, I sought out the English-speaking  manager, Roger Smith. I asked if they needed any people to work at the new Masi factory. It was disappointing to hear, 'I don't think we need anybody right now.'

"The following day, I had to deliver a Rolls-Royce for the dealer I worked for. The Masi factory was right off the freeway in Carlsbad, so I whipped the Silver Shadow off the freeway and stopped. Roger Smith was surprised to see me. There were no applications, I just wrote my name and number on a piece of paper. Asked if I had any previous experience, I told them I built some wheels and painted a frame or two in my garage with an airbrush. Apparently that was good enough;the following week I was working at Masi. I was the fourth American to be hired."

After learning his craft at Masi, he formed Wizard Bicycles with Mike Howard. He later returned to Masi for a time before starting to sell bikes under his own name. In addition to painting his own work, he did restorations and OE paint for other builders.

Patrick Brady, publisher of Red Kite Prayer, said, "Baylis once told me that he didn't build for fame, for the money or for performance. He wasn't even building for the customer. When my jaw dropped he let another breath pass and then clarified: 'I'm building for the next generation, or the one after that. I'm building heirlooms.'"

Organizers of this weekend's North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Sacramento will likely hold a moment of silence and a special display in honor of Baylis, a show spokesman said.

Don Walker, the show director and fellow frame builder, said, "Brian was one of the first exhibitors to sign up for NAHBS #1 in Houston. He was a regular award winner and made some of the most stunning bikes I had ever seen.” 



Join the Conversation