Meet the Maker: Avalanche Cycles
Avalanche Cycles’ founders explain how cycling on the streets of Paris led to them building lightweight gravel bikes
Why did a pair of French framebuilders decide to call their bike brand Avalanche? It’s not, as we guessed incorrectly, because the French word for steel is acier, which is just two letters short of glacier.
As Marie Kervella and Laurent Beurriand explain, the name was chosen for two reasons: it’s the same word in English and French and it represents both nature and the mountains – something most cyclists will appreciate.
Beurriand is originally from the Alps, near Grenoble, and Kervella comes from Sarthe, and neither was a big cyclist in their youth but they discovered a love for it when they moved to Paris.
‘It’s not a city to drive a car,’ Kervella says. ‘Bikes are the best way to move around because it’s a small city for a capital, so I started cycling with the Vélib’ hire bikes and later with a road bike.’
For Beurriand it was his studies that led him there: ‘We met at school where we both did product design. I did a bike project and began doing mechanics, building and welding, and since then I’ve ridden almost every day.’
Good things come in Paris
Kervella was already a cyclist when they met, and after Beurriand’s project they started working together.
He says, ‘We were doing bikes on weekends and in holidays for a while, then three years ago we said, “We love our jobs but spend all our time in front of the computer.”
‘We wanted to do something with our hands, so we rented a workshop and started building bikes just for fun.’
Around a year into Avalanche being just ‘fun’ – and during a lockdown that involved 6pm curfews – they decided to turn their hobby into a business.
‘We first started to build some bikes and test them so we were confident proposing something to customers,’ says Beurriand. ‘We originally wanted to build efficient custom road bikes as well as for touring and bikepacking, as those were the kind of rides we were doing so we felt more confident advising clients.’
Of course trends have also shaped what they’re asked to build. ‘We started with a lot of road bikes but now it’s almost always gravel bikes,’ says Beurriand.
‘There are more and more people who want a road bike that can fit a second wheelset with 40mm or 45mm tyres, essentially two bikes in one.
‘It’s difficult, especially for the rear triangle as it has to work around a road groupset and Q-factor but with bigger tyres, so it’s a bit like Tetris but it’s an interesting project.’
Not so heavy metal
All Avalanche Cycles bikes are fully custom and currently built exclusively with the lightest Columbus steel tubes – Spirit for standard steel and XCr for stainless – which they braze and silver-solder respectively.
Beurriand says, ‘We try to keep our bikes as light as we can. Of course we can’t compete with carbon but we manage to make them not too heavy. We do gravel bikes around 9kg compared to carbon ones that are often about 8.6kg, so it is quite competitive.’
The duo also makes their own stainless steel dropouts, which feature a small mountain logo. All the painting is done in-house in a booth they built in the workshop, and they do small samples for each customer to check before final approval on colour schemes.
Both Beurriand and Kervella do every part of the process – brazing, painting and mechanics – and despite the occasional squabble, they claim the business runs smoothly.
‘We always find a solution,’ says Kervella. ‘It’s new for us to be together all the time so we have to learn to be patient and quieter sometimes as we do certain things differently, so it can be quite challenging to watch.’
The bike pictured is one of two that Avalanche took to display at the Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show in Harrogate in October. It’s a gravel bike built for a Belgian client.
‘The customer already had a steel bike but it wasn’t custom and caused neck and back pain on longer rides, so he asked us for a more comfortable bike for long distances and with bigger tyres for riding in the forest and on cobbles,’ says Beurriand. ‘It’s a gravel bike with efficiency on the road too and he has a second wheelset if he wants to switch.’
The Spirit frame is paired with a Columbus carbon fork as well as a 1× Ingrid crankset with SRAM Force levers and shifters.
‘The aesthetics and quality of the Ingrid components are really nice, and because they’re made in Italy they’re easier to get hold of right now,’ says Beurriand. ‘We checked with the customer first and he liked it very much.’
The crankset’s large Q-factor also helps with the rear triangle dilemma, so fitting 38mm tyres is no trouble. The frame is finished with a Zipp stem and seatpost, a Brooks saddle and Paul mechanical disc brakes, so adjustment and servicing can be done with a basic multitool, unlike with hydraulic discs.
Finally, the colour scheme here was inspired by a combination of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust makeup and a natural landscape, with the integrated cables helping to keep things clean, both aesthetically and physically off-road.
The company name may be related to something that goes downhill fast, but with interest growing outside their native France, this is one custom bike brand that is in the ascendant.
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Photography: Col Morley