Blacksheep fattie

After ten years with Fort Collins custom ti bike builder, Black Sheep, Todd Heath is moving on.  

The Next Chapter –

As many have heard I am leaving the Black Sheep family to start my own. This has given me some time to reflect. Here is a bit of my story.
I was a senior in high school in 2003. I had a teacher, Dustin Dike who had briefly worked at Moots and could see I was enthusiastic about bikes, especially the process of design and construction. At the time he knew I was looking for a job and I was ready to learn some real skillz. As fate may have it Dustin was introduced to James Bleakley in the line at the grocery store. Dustin asked if James needed an apprentice and James graciously accepted me into his workshop.
I came on to Black Sheep as a young company operating out of James’ two car garage. At the time it was partially filled with a mill and weld station while the other half was a 60’s VW transporter in restoration. I could see that this was a place where cool things happened. I worked sporadically with James for about a year making fixture parts and mitering some tube sets. I really liked the work but could see my formal training was highly lacking. I wanted to know the process from its beginning, so I took a hiatus and hit the books for a while. Flash forward a couple years and I had graduated from a local trade school with a machining and welding degree. 
Feeling much more qualified, I rang up James and inquired if he could use some help. Lucky for me he was looking for someone to make frame jigs and weld fixtures. Having upgraded to a three car garage and now a 63’ double cab as a project vehicle, James was ready for a bit more help. I spent 6 months working in trade to get my first Ti bike, a 26” hard tail that finally allowed me to see what “Mountain Biking” really was. Under James’ tutelage I began to understand the process and became more and more passionate about how cutting, machining, and welding metal could form these magical vessels that propelled me to amazing places. During this period, my friend Chris Sulfrian was also interning with James. He was helping cut tube sets and assembling bikes. Eventually Chris moved to Denver to start Generic Cycles and has since been critical in the formation of REEB cycles. Chris’ departure opened up more time for me to cut tube sets and expand my capacity as a fabricator.
At that point Black Sheep was a part time gig for James. James was doing contract work for many other companies such as da Vinci, Dean, and Funk. As time went on, James and I began to form a partnership that was more efficient and allowed us to dedicate all our time to it. In 2007 James ended his contracts with all the other companies and we made Black Sheep our full priority. As each year passed James and I pushed ourselves to make better bikes and take on more adventurous designs and projects. Various other assistants came in to help out from time to time such as Jason Shelman and Matt Kronwall. After several years of a myriad of workers one finally made his mark on the brand that still shines today.
Paul Knowles was on a west coast directed road trip and happen to get stuck in Fort Collins. He came on as an enthusiastic mechanic with a back ground in carpentry but quickly came to understand the Blacksheep finishbike building process. With James’ top notch welding and my critical eye for fabrication, we were only lacking the proper finish on our bikes. Paul easily filled that gap. Paul has taken Ti finishing, etching, and masking to another level. If you have admired Black Sheep’s signature finish, blast master Paully D is the man to thank. With the three of us working away we were able to expand into Black Sheep’s current location. This space provided more room to grow. Not having another VW in refurb also made it easier. 
Over the years we have been blessed with fantastic customers, challenging new projects, and recognition of our craft from various outlets like the North American Handmade Bike Show. I am incredibly proud of the work we have done and see each passing season as a milestone on which we have gauged our advancement in bicycle building.
After ten years at Black Sheep I have now decided to move on in order to pursue my own brand. I have enjoyed my time immensely and know that this is an experience that has shaped the course of my life. Black Sheep has given me a chance to practice a skill and helped me to see where that skill can take me. This experience has also shown me how profound building something that ultimately gives you freedom to see the world can be. I cannot express how thankful I am of this opportunity and hope that Black Sheep continues to make its mark on the custom bike world. This has been a dream come true.
I would like to thank- James, Paul, and all the other people who helped make Black Sheep a reality. All the customers and fans that gave us support and encouragement. My amazing family and friends. My biggest fan and unconditional support, Jess -no other comes close. I would also like to thank Ryan Mckee, Jason Trujillo, Chris Winn, and the rad folks at New Belgium Brewing. Oskar Blues- Dale and Chad- These guys still have one of the coolest bikes we have ever made. Jason Oakes, Mark Norstad, and all the Ti producers out there- Thanks for making this wonder material accessible. Steve McGuire and the crew at the University of Iowa- Sharing my experience has been more rewarding than anything I could have imagined. To the dudes who inspire- Don McClung, Alexi Dold, Kent, Jeff J, Curtis, Bruce, Reynold Yip, Sean Walling, Jeremy Sycip, Sacha, and anyone else who has dared to pick up a torch and make something functionally beautiful- I follow your path in hope to find my own. There are many, many more to add to this list. Thank you all!
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it” –Maya Angelou
To the Moon and beyond,
Todd Heath