about

Sylvan was formed from a love of bicycles combined with expertise in green materials, bicycle design, product development, and technology innovation.  Although Sylvan Cycles is itself a new company, it is grounded in a history of related initiatives. For example, among many projects, John helped to develop the Xtracycle, and more recently co-founded sustainable biofuels technology company Qteros. It’s what we do!    (Go here to learn more about who we are. )

Some of Sylvan’s roots  (Or, if a luthier built bicycles…)

Sylvan Cycles can trace its early origins to design studies that John did in the 1980’s for wood-monocoque bicycles and HPV’s, inspired by the wood-monocoque race-cars of automotive legend Frank Costin.  John’s connection to innovation in the bicycle world began when he was studying in England (climate change) in the early 1980’s, and had the chance to work with bicycle design legend/iconoclast Mike Burrows (Lotus Superbike, Giant TCR Compact Road Frame, Windcheetah, etc).  Later bicycle-related projects include helping develop the Xtracycle, (the original load-carrying system was prototyped here in the Sylvan Cycles workshop), panniers for Madden Mountaineering, a patented electric drive system, and so on.  More recently, Sylvan traces its specific origins to John’s professional experience as a luthier (string instrument maker) and related research into the material properties and remarkable structural efficiency of musical instruments such as violins and guitars.  Did you know that in practice, the wood-based structures of these sophisticated instruments demonstrate performance comparable to modern composite materials?  The same material properties required for a good violin or guitar – light, stiff and resilient – are the same properties required for a good bicycle.

“Using Bicycles to Go Places…”

Sylvan also comes out of our love and concern for the places we ride, and what kind of world we’re all bringing forward. Although it’s easy to say, we can genuinely say that sustainable design and socially-responsible business practice have been long been driving themes in our work, and includes pioneering examples of sustainable product design and business practice. We see both bicycles and businesses as potentially powerful tools for change. If we are going to head in a more sustainable direction, how do we actually do it?   In the big picture, we realize that Sylvan is not just about beautiful bicycles, but also about finding and creating ways forward, and touchable examples of the possible.  And who says it can’t be fun, beautiful and more than a little bit irreverent!

How it all began...

Sylvan was begun by friends and colleagues John Fabel and Sam Kelley in the spring of 2008. Sam had been out west finishing a complex timber-framing project in Jackson Hole -- shredding it up with friends in the backcountry -- and thinking about sophisticated wooden skis. John was back east riding through the snow, working at his biofuels start-up -- and thinking about the potential of high-performance bio-materials in bicycles and other demanding structures.  When Sam came back East, John mentioned the idea of prototyping a bicycle from wood composite materials -- and Sam said something like “That’s funny, I’ve been thinking the same about ski’s!”.  So we had to try, and we did, and the results exceeded expectations. Not only did we succeed objectively, but we realized that we had a bike you’d want to ride, regardless of what it was made from.  And people kept telling us how well it rode, and how beautiful it was. Based upon this, we decided to draw upon our entrepreneurial and R&D skills to launch Sylvan Cycles in March of 2009. Sustainable design and socially-responsible business practice have repeatedly been driving themes in our work, and Sylvan is a continuing arc in this trajectory.

Where we’re located:

We are fortunate to be located in the Pioneer Valley region of western Massachusetts, an area that many consider to have some of the finest road and off-road riding to be found, well,  anywhere.


Come visit! Stop by our shop and come out for a ride with us, take a cycling vacation with our friends Elaine and Aldo at RIdeNOHO, get a motion analysis bike-fit from Carl Ditkoff, and catch some great music at the legendary Iron Horse Music Hall.

sylvan cycles: using bicycles to go places

"The Amherst-Northampton area is undoubtedly my favorite place to be on a bike!

Arguably the best cycling in North America!"

- “The Ride” magazine publisher Richard Fries

With Mike Burrows and the “Speedy” crew,  Isle of Wight, 1982

mailto:info@sylvancycles.com?subject=Test%20Ride%20Inquiry%20from%20Web
Test Ride a Sylvanmailto:info@sylvancycles.com?subject=Test%20Ride%20Inquiry%20from%20Web

110 Pulpit Hill Rd,  Amherst, MA   01002    USA