Earlier this week, photos emerged on the FBM site of team rider Tom Blyth's signature Bell Witch frame being built at FBM headquarters in upstate New York. Formerly, FBM had planned on producing Blyth's frame overseas in Taiwan to keep the price down, but according to Blyth and FBM, circumstances changed and the Bell Witch will now be released as a US-made frame bearing Tom Blyth's signature geometry and graphics. After spying the recent shots of the Bell Witch in production, I hit up Tom to get the inside story on the change in direction, the finer points of his signature frame and how he feels about being the first U.K. rider to be graced with a signature frame from FBM.
ESPN.com: I originally thought that the Bell Witch frame was supposed to be made in Taiwan. What prompted the switch to manufacturing the frame at FBM in New York?
Blyth: It was originally intended to be made in Taiwan yeah. We weren't satisfied with the quality of the samples we got from the vendor there though, nor the lead times and so it made sense to switch to the in-house production that FBM is known and respected for. To be honest I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I always felt like I'd prefer the frame to be made in-house, so even though it's taken a while to get here I'm really happy with this arrangement.
Is the cost of the frame in the UK going to reflect the fact that it's made in-house at FBM?
Yeah the frame will retail at £399 which is the same as any other in-house built FBM frame. Personally I'd rather pay a little more for a superior product and I certainly wouldn't want to put something on the market that I wasn't completely happy with. I know these frames are going to be awesome, so for me that more than justifies a slight increase in cost.
The Bell Witch has been in the works for a long time now. Why does it seem like it's taking forever to release?
I'm very particular about what I want and we've all paid great attention to detail in designing and testing the frame. We made several prototypes to make sure the geometry and quality were right but had some issues with our overseas production that have really slowed the process down. Since deciding to switch to in-house production in December, progress has sped up significantly, frames are being welded as I type and should be available in a few short weeks.
Can you give us some details about the frame?
It's a totally awesome, King Diamond approved, hand made in the USA, by FBM! It comes in four top tube lengths: 20.5", 20.75", 21" and 21.25". It has a 75 degree head tube angle; tall 9" stand over, a low 11.6" bottom bracket height, so it's stable but has tons of pop, rear end length is 13.5" and the seat tube is 71 degrees. It's got removable seat stay brake mounts, tapered seat and chain stays, laser cut 4130 chromoly top and down tube gussets, an integrated seat clamp and an inverted cross seat stay bridge plate. The graphics were hand illustrated by French and it's available in either Lamb's blood red or Left Hand Path Black.
Can you explain the concept behind the name of the frame?
The Bell Witch is a Tennessee folk legend about a ghost that haunted a family called the Bells, eventually poisoning and killing the head of the family in the early 19th Century. The band Mercyful Fate wrote a song about it and I happen to be a big fan of the band as well as the occult, witchcraft and folklore so I thought it would be a really cool name for the frame and would also allow for something really interesting and different graphics wise.
How does it feel to be the first UK rider to earn a signature frame from FBM?
Any rider lucky enough to have one will tell you it's a huge honor to be considered worthy of any signature product. To have a signature frame on a company like FBM, that helped define what I consider to be the true nature and spirit of BMX, and that I idolized as a kid, I consider a real privilege.
When can people expect the frame to be available?
Mid-April, the first batch is being welded right now!