Bend of Islands, Victoria
This year’s Handmade Bicycle Show Australia (HBSA) will feature a tribute to a giant of the industry, Ewen Gellie, who died suddenly of suspected heart failure earlier this month.
A display to remember the 53-year-old will be featured at the heart of the exhibition space, when the 2022 HBSA is held at Melbourne’s Seaworks in Williamstown on 3rd to 5th June.
“Ewen always had a premium position at the show because he was one of its earliest supporters,” according to HBSA founder and a close friend of Ewen’s, Nathan Lorkin.
“He was definitely one of the premier builders in this country and was referred to as one of the elders of the industry in terms of experience”
“We will certainly have a number of Ewen’s bikes on display and some photographs.”
Nathan said his former mentor would leave a large hole, both at this year’s show and in the industry in general, and many people in the industry were struggling with the news of Ewen’s death.
“The bike community has been wonderful in putting up their hands and completing his unfinished jobs Ewen had on the go – and to archive his work,” he said.
“He was definitely one of the premier builders in this country and was referred to as one of the elders of the industry in terms of experience, along with Darrell McCulloch from Llewellyn and Darren Baum.
“Ewen was the epitome of those frame builders who loved to do the whole process from end to end and loved the fact their hands are the only ones to touch a bike during its construction.
“He was even one of the very few to do their own painting.”
Not only that, Ewen also rode his own bikes to national championship victories in downhill mountain biking and trials, winning in 1989 and 1991 in both disciplines.
He started riding mountain bikes in 1982 while studying mechanical engineering at university and soon began modifying and then building custom frames to order.
From the early 1990s, he turned his mechanical engineering abilities to the automotive industry, working for Holden, Ford and then Toyota.
Equipped with the experience of working for some of the world’s leading car manufacturers for over a decade, Ewen returned to bike building in 2006 as a full-time pursuit.
Nathan said Ewen remained a rider first and foremost, with “crazy skills” that ensured he always took the A-line and always quickly.
“He was finishing his racing career just as I was starting mine and we become great friends as a result,” Nathan said.
“He was a quirky character; very dry and honest and always told it like it is.
“While he was a quiet person, he was also very cheeky and rode into last year’s bike show doing a mono.
“He loved the engineering side of bike building and the precision involved.”
Based at Bend of Islands, north-east of Melbourne, Ewen was also one of the industry’s leading innovators. He was among the first custom bike builders to incorporate disc brakes and began producing gravel and touring bikes long before they were in vogue.
“He had a large following. Some of his customers would have three Gellies in their collections,” Nathan said.