Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mike Melton

From time to time, I get emails asking for information on framebuilder Mike Melton. I always respond that I have no idea where Mike is now. However, here is the little I do know.

I met Mike in 1980 a year after I came to the US and I was working for Paris Sport. I was building some aero-bikes for the US National Team. Time was running short and Mike Fraysee of Paris Sport brought Mike Melton in to assist me.

Mike was an established and well-respected American framebuilder from Columbia, South Carolina. We worked together for a week and obviously got to know each other pretty well during that time.

Afterwards we went our separate ways and usually met up at least once a year at the various bicycle trade shows. Mike continued his connection with the US team when he later went to work for Huffy and built frames for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

In the years that followed he would design and build some carbon fiber frames for the US team and was somewhat of a pioneer, in building frames using that material.

Below is a picture of an earlier 1982 steel tube Aero frame that Mike Melton built for John Marino for his winning “Race Across America” ride.

I have not heard anything of Mike since the late 1980s and I would love to renew our contact. I recently received a request for info from Matthew Marion who sent me the photos of his red Melton frame you see here.

I believe Mike is a few years younger than I am so he may or may not be retired now.

If he wishes his whereabouts to remain unknown, I will of course respect that. However, he may not even know that his past work still has a following and their owners treasure the fine crafted frames he built.

Update 1/29/11: Mike Melton died on January 26th, 2011, after a long illness resuling from a rare neurological disease believed to be spinal cerebella ataxia, similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.


Anonymous said...

There is a chance he could stumble on your blog doing a "vanity Google search."

Good luck locating him.

Anonymous said...

From the CR list:
You know that Mike Melton and wife Debbie are in the horse business in Kentucky? I last saw him at the Interbike show maybe 4 - 5 years ago as he
was making his exit from Huffy and they had ended their Special Projects center.
Originally from Ohio, after the Navy Mike set up shop in South Carolina and established his original frame building reputation there. He later
moved to Ohio again and set up a tandem building workshop which got a lot of broader press because he employed immigrant Vietnamese workers (This was just post Vietnam war era.) He is a very nice guy and might be happy
to talk to you about that bike...Dale Brown


Anonymous said...

Minor correction, John Marino was the name of the RAAM rider

Dave Moulton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Moulton said...

Thank you Eric for the info, and thanks to Bob for pointing out my error, it has been corrected.

Anonymous said...


When you are at Cirque, you can bond with Dale and maybe track down Mike.


Anonymous said...

He was good friends with some of the people at Freewheeling Bicycle Shop in Austin, TX, in particular Phil Tomlin. I bought a couple road frames and a track frame from him over about 3 years' timespan. Good frames. One road frame was destroyed in a crash but the others are probably still out there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

I have a tandem that Mike built for my Dad in the early 80's. Though heavy by today's standards, it was impressive in its day and remains a fast ride. Glad to see the interest in Mike and his creations.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave: I have a 27" touring frame built by Mike in 1976 (frame size, not wheel size). Because of it's size, Mike at the time told me that he had to use 2x4 lumber and string to align the frame for brazing. The chain stays were a bit out of line, and after I took it on a cross-country tour he re-brazed the frame to fix the alignment. At that time, late 1976 or early 1977, I desigend the "Melton" decals for the down tube and head tube that you see in the pictures. Prior to these decals, Mike would hand-paint what looked like the Cinelli crest on his head tubes. After 31 years, I am now cleaning up the bike and getting it back on the road with most of the the original equipment. I'd like to hear from more folks with Melton frames. And yes, they can be considered art.
imapls, Smithfield, NC

Jeffrey Harris said...

I have two Melton frames and was fortunate to meet him a few times. I purchased my first frame in 1983. It was from Melton's Delaware, Ohio shop, which, in the early '80's was the state of the art framebuilding shop in the U.S. Around 1983 the business went under and many frames, like mine, were purchased at a discount by high end bike shops. Mike moved onto Huffy after he closed his business in Delaware, Ohio. My Melton frame went from being a triathlon race bike to a windtrainer bike. The frame took a beating over the years. Last year I refurbished it and turned it into a single speed and I ride it to work a few days every week. It still has some impressive details. The frame is heavy by today's standards, but it is stiff as ever.

My second frame was built by Mike and his team as a Huffy frame in 1989. I had done a few business favors for Huffy the same year I was going to Hawaii to compete in the Ironman. The frame is essentially identical to the one that Greg Lemond rode in the Tour de France in 1989. I was supposed to be the guinea pig for a new carbon fiber frame, somewhat monoque in design, known as Trident. Due to technical problems with the carbon fiber and the impending race in Hawaii, I received the "Lemond" frame instead of the Trident. Mike and his team worked out the problems a few months after my race.

Huffy's intended market for the Trident was competitive triathlete age groupers with some discretionary income. The price in the early '90's, when the frames became available, was about $3500, which was about twice what other high end bikes were going for at the time. Mark Allen rode a Trident in the Hawaiian Ironman in 1990 or 1991. My recollection is that Huffy wanted the Tech Center to become a bit more of a profit center, which Mike was not wild about. He was a frame artist, not necessarily a bike frame businessman.

I was fortunate to visit Mike in his tech shop in Dayton a few times. He had frames hanging from the ceiling, including some of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic bikes, both track and road. One of Lemond's frames was hanging from the ceiling. Mike told me about taking the funny bikes, the radical carbon fiber track bikes, to ride in the parking lot behind the shop. Each bike cost about $50,000 back then and he was taking them for joy rides across asphalt parking lots.

Everyone who knew Mike Melton back then always used the same description of him, "An extremely creative guy."

- Jeff Harris, Cincinnati, Ohio

Anonymous said...

Mike built a touring bike for me in 1978 in south Carolina to ride across the country I still ride this bike almost everyday. i was in the navy at the time. I wish him well and thank him for an outstanding bike.

Anonymous said...

i have a 1980's Melton steel track frame (57cm) built with columbus tubing and campagnolo track and fork ends. i acquired it with stock (Red) paint that was in bad condition, but before i repainted i did as much research as i could to make sure i wasn't painting over a classic. i'm a little disappointed in myself right now for going over it, but i'm very happy with the way it's turned out and it's gotten much more of a life than it was before i snagged it. if anyone has any contact info for Mr. Melton, and wants to give it to me, i'd love to get in contact with him. i'm sure he'd love to know where his frames have ended up. i think he'd be proud. Thanks guys!

Anonymous said...

I have a very similar Melton bike, but without the "Melton" engraved in the top of the seat stays. Same color, same equipment. Mine does have rear carrier attachment points welded to the seat stays. I purchased it in the late 80's in Columbus, Ohio. It's totally stock and a wonderful bike to ride.
Kevin Fitzsimons.

Anonymous said...

I have a custom crit bike Mike Melton built for me around 1980. It is purple. My dad Woody Graham and Nicky duPont were in business with him before he left to go to Huffy. Sometimes I would help in the shop or clean Debbie's bike.

Mike's wife wife Debbie raced for Paris Sport Womens team during that time.

It was a very stiff and responsive bike. I raced on it for several years and did 3, 24 hour races on during the early 1980's.

Florence "Florrie" Graham Bradley

Unknown said...

Yesterday we bought a Melton tandem, found on Craigslist in Mountain View California. Beautiful steel fillet-brazed frame, 60cm/58cm c-c, red paint in nice shape except for some scratches. It's equipped with Mafac cantilever brakes, Arai drum brake, Phil 48h hubs, TA cranks, SunTour VX rear and Compe-V front derailleurs (3x7 with bar-end shifters). I'm presuming it was built before he joined Santana in 1982.

It's our family's first tandem, joining our fleet of eight single bikes and two unicycles. We've only logged maybe 15 miles on it (test ride with Dad+Mom and later with Dad+daughter) but we're enjoying it so far.

On the way home from the seller's house we stopped by the local tandem shop for fresh brake blocks and to plan some improvements, such as a new stoker handlebar and seat post to make more room in back.

I'd love to learn more about the history of the bike and its maker.

Anonymous said...

I have a Melton tandem I got in 1979 when I was working at a bike shop in Athens GA. We just got the frame from him and I built the rest. There was an old article btw in Bicycling Magazine about that time comparing the different frames. I think he used, for the bottom flattened tube, the strut designed for a small airplane wing [at least that is what I recall - we drove over to Columbia to his shop to get the frame] - I guess we pretty much set it up the way he did [components] only I did not get drum brakes [but the PW hubs are threaded for them] We could both stand on it and really put some power in without too much frame flex. There is a little bubbling [presumably where flux was not fully cleaned] so we may repaint it -- LOL trying to find decals now for it. Have not ridden it in years but are getting interested back in bikes again.

Lisa Engel Belhage said...

That red Melton frame could be my bike! :>)

I knew Mike and Debbie quite well in the 80's. I ended up living one summer with them in Ohio and working with Mike building the Olympic bikes at Huffy (remember the bike the Steve Hegg set a world record on that was then promptly disqualified?). That was quite an experience that summer.

I got a custom track frame as a perk of the job with the condition that I not sell it to the Russians!! :>)

I lost track of Mike in the last few years. I would love to know where he is and what he is up to. No doubt he has something to do with race cars I'm betting.

Cheers, Lisa

j lowe said...

I was a co-owner of a bike shop, "Ten Speeds More or Less" in Delaware Ohio. We bought out the failed bike shop that was 'aligned' with Mike Melton's frame shop in Delaware. We purchased a lot of bare frames after his frame shop went out of business. Anyway Mike went to Calif. to work at Santana. He needed money to move back to OH to work for Huffy and he made us 5 tandem frames of which i had one made for me 21"x20" bright red,,whish i still had it.