Photos by *Yann Ropars*
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Renold Yip studied engineering in the UK and in 2002 moved to the US and set up a small shop in Seattle working on bikes. After a couple of years, he moved to the East Coast and investigated building frames, attending UBI (United Bicycle Institute), and then the Serotta Fit School. He continued to work on the East Coast for a few years before moving to the mountains of Colorado where, in 2007, Renold set up his very own bike building business. The following year Yipsan exhibited there first bicycle at NAHBS (North American Handmade Bicycle Show), continuing to do so ever since.
What attracted you to building bicycles in the first place?
When I was about 6 or 7 years old I became fascinated by my Dad’s interest in motorcycles. He bought me and my brother bicycles – during that time in Hong Kong the BMX craze hadn’t taken off yet and so we had Schwinn Stingrays… Which were the precursor to BMX-style bikes. We would work on them, change them, do things like dropping the handlebars, converting it to singlespeed with a big road crank – it was kids being kids.
During that time my Dad would take me to bike shops explaining how bikes were constructed. Back then, most adult bikes were constructed with lugs and that was really the first point when I started to appreciate the building of frames. I loved the frames and components. As with most people, by the time I got to my mid teens my head was full of images of cars, and I couldn’t wait to drive. Cars took the place of the bicycle for me until I reached my mid-20s. I then came back to bikes; initially it was mountain bikes, which then led me back to road biking.
When I moved to the US, and discovered that you can actually make frames (not in a mass production style) as a living, really building a bike to fit – this spiked my interest. Doing something made to measure, having something built just for you. This harks back to life in Hong Kong – it was normal to have things made to measure, from shirts and suits to furniture and tools. The story and emotion of having something custom built is special.
What materials did you use to build the Continental bike, and why?
With this bike I chose to use over sized steel tubing, the top tube is 1 1/8” in diameter and the down tube is 1 ¼” in diameter. As the frame is on the smaller side I wanted to trim down the weight a little bit and went ahead with thin gauged material (air hardened).
Did you do anything differently with this bike than you would normally do?
As this wasn’t a big bike, and the head tube was on the smaller side, the lugs looked as though they interfered with each other, so I worked it to seem like they run into one point.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
If I think about the real influencers or builders, it would be people like Richard Sachs, Dave Kirk, and Llewellyn Custom bicycles in Australia.
Do you have a particular style?
I’ve always wanted, and still want to build, traditional-styled frames and bikes, keeping things in line with the older ways – level tubes, lugs. I don’t use large machinery based tools, lathes and drills. I work mainly with hand tools and enjoy working with lugs and fillet-brazing. I want people to see that hand made frames can be equally as good and precise. Over the last few years I’ve also drifted into the so-called “French Style”, building bikes for different terrain and more coverage, away from the pure road racing style, which opens up even more interesting builds.