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The Spooky MAVRK: Are These Aluminum Road Bikes History?

Spooky bikes has managed to come back from the dead a few times over the years. This Spooky MAVRK made me curious about the story behind this classic brand. Are American-made aluminum road bikes simply destined to live, die, and repeat?

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Bikes

When this beautiful blue Spooky MAVRK rolled by my desk, I ran my fingers over the welds on the head tube a wave of nostalgia washed over me. When I was a young 20-something, I was riding around on an aluminum Cannondale CAAD9.

To me, my CAAD was king, partly because it’s what I could afford, and partly because I wanted to reject the trappings of carbon fiber. At the time though, there was one bike I would consider trading my CAAD9 for — the aluminum Spooky Skeletor.   

My whole quiver is made of plastic now. But is a bike like this Spooky MAVRK cool enough to pull back to the alloy-side? And what even happened to the brand I used to think represented the peak of aluminum coolness? 

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Spooky 1.0: Easton Aluminum, Straight Edge T-Shirts, and Frank the Welder

Spooky bikes factoryThe Spooky workshop in Danbury, Connecticut.  Photo: Jeff Lockwood

Spooky got its start way back in 1993. The story goes that the founders — Chris Cotroneo, Kevin Hopkins, and another fellow named Bill — were eating dinner together after a mountain bike ride. They had spent much of the ride complaining about how their bikes were designed for West Coast trails. So they decided to do something about it. 

By the time dinner was over, the trio had drawn up the plans for their dream bike on a napkin (these stories always feature a napkin). This new mountain bike was the Spooky Darkside. It had a steeper head angle, a higher bottom bracket, and shorter chainstays to handle their tight and technical trails. Most importantly, it would be built using the latest and greatest tubing: Easton Taperwall aluminum. 

But how would they fund their new venture? T-shirts, that’s how!

Straight edge tattoosThe original Spooky team was made up of tatted-up straight edge punks. Photo: Jeff Lockwood

They made and sold t-shirts with the Spooky name and logo, and positive “straight edge” punk messages at races up and down the East Coast (most of the Spooky crew were straight edge). When the money started trickling in, they went looking for a builder. Since they loved the way that Easton Aluminum rode, they called Easton who connected them with Chris Herting, who built the first Spooky.

After an initial production run, Herting referred the Spooky team to Frank “The Welder” Wadelton. Wadelton is an industry legend who built bikes for Yeti and Mongoose and had a huge influence on early mountain bike design. After Yeti, he worked as a contract builder, and in 1994, he built 100 frames for Spooky out of his Arizona workshop.  

Frank the welder and the Spooky MetalheadFrank the Welder (left) / The legendary Spooky Metalhead. Photo: Jeff Lockwood

“The name sounded silly,” Wadelton wrote in his bio for the Marin Museum of Bicycling. “But they had a fresh attitude and the checks cleared so we stayed in touch.”

Eventually, Wadelton became a key part of the Spooky family, and he moved to Connecticut to build bikes for Spooky in their Danbury factory. 

Spooky 2.0: Back From the Dead, but Now We Make Road Bikes

The ‘90s were good to Spooky. Nimble and tough mountain bikes like the Darkside and Metalhead were cult classics. Spooky was showing up in mountain biking and lifestyle magazines and even the straight edge t-shirt side of the business was doing well with shirts selling by the thousands in overseas markets like Japan. Then, in 2000, it all fizzled out and Spooky closed its doors. 

Mickey DenoncourtMickey Denoncourt is a MTB legend on the East Coast. Photo: Zach Faulkner

Things were relatively quiet for the next 7 years until Mickey Denoncourt. Denoncourt was a young Spooky loyalist in the ‘90s who dreamed of racing bikes professionally. But when Spooky shuttered in 2000, he’d already decided to go to college instead of suffering and sacrificing to race in Europe.

Denoncourt studied sports science, universal and adaptive design, and science pedagogy and ended up starting a coaching business. Then, in 2007, he got Kevin Hopkins’ blessing to reboot Spooky in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

Spooky Skeletor bike

A classic Spooky Skeletor.

Spooky 2.0 wouldn’t be focusing on East Coast-friendly mountain bikes anymore though. In a post on Velocipede Salon, Denoncourt wrote: “We needed to build durable US-made aluminum road frames. My friends and I were all pretty damn good road racers, and no one could afford all the fancy wunderbikes that explode on impact. We needed to build a Metalhead for the road.”

The bike that put Spooky 2.0 back on the map was the aluminum Skeletor. Again, they were built by Frank the Welder. While they weren’t super lightweight, they were stiff, tough, no-nonsense frames that were made to be raced hard and could even fit fairly wide (27-28mm at the time) tires. 

Spooky Skeletor bike custom

Another classic Skeletor with custom paint.

It worked because much of the crowd that had grown up loving Spooky had aged into the skinny tire world. Plus, some seriously fast riders were ripping up local crits and ‘cross races on Spookys, which is when I first discovered the brand. Over time, Spooky 2.0 transitioned to focus more on building frames to order with custom geometry. Unfortunately, for various reasons, Spooky 2.0 shuttered again in 2012.

Spooky 3.0: Back From the Dead, but With a New Look

Spooky 3.0New tubes, who dis? Photos: Spooky

Former shop owner, Brandon Elliot, loved the Skeletor. He began scouring the used bike market in 2014 to find one, and the journey led him to the former head salesperson of Spooky 1.0, Adam Mitchell, who then led him to one of the founders, Kevin Hopkins, who had become a lawyer.

Spooky Mulholland frame

Spooky 3.0 featured new, more modern graphics.

Spooky was in limbo. After many back and forths with Hopkins and Mitchell about the direction of the company, he got their blessing to revive it. Again, Frank the Welder would be behind the torch, building small batches of frames in Bellows Falls, Vermont. 

“One call to Frank was all that it took to get him on board,” Elliot told The Spoken

Spooky Mulholland bike

A Spooky Mulholland.

So Spooky 3.0 rose from the dead (again) in 2016 with a new road model, the Mulholland. Based on Frank’s recommendations, the frames were built with Dedacciai tubes. The designs, graphics, and colors were revamped to become a more modern version of Spooky — Spooky 3.0 — and for a few years, it looked stronger than ever. 

Spooky 4.0/5.0: Who the Heck Makes the MAVRK?

Spooky MAVRKThis MAVRK road bike is a 2021 model and it’s thoroughly modern. The aluminum frame is made of tempered 7005 series Italian aluminum and it accepts 32mm tires. The drivetrain is a SRAM Force AXS group.

Spooky MAVRK ENVE componentsThen you have some blingy carbon components like the color-matched ENVE stem and seatpost, Lightweight bars, and Roval CL 50 wheels. If you want a stiff, tough, no-nonsense aluminum racer, the MAVRK is pretty solid.  But there’s something a bit different about this bike: It’s not made by Frank the Welder. 

As far as I can tell, Spooky’s leadership/ownership changed sometime between 2018 (the last year Brandon Elliot was there) and late 2020 (when Spooky’s website changed). The last time Frank the Welder was tagged on social media as Spooky’s builder was in late 2019. The late-2020 frames are still made in the US, but by a builder in or around Phoenix, Arizona.

Spooky MavrkHas Spooky 4.0 (if that’s what we should call it) lost its soul? It’s certainly changed a lot since its East Coast straight edge punk roots. And Frank isn’t welding for them anymore, which for me, was part of the appeal. 

But there’s no denying that this MAVRK is still beautiful. Next to modern-day aluminum racers like the Specialized Allez Sprint and Cannondale CAAD13, the thick and round tubing just pops. You know a bike is unique and good-looking when a steady stream of bike nerds in the warehouse will stop to look it over.

Is Spooky bikes out of business?Spooky has been MIA for a while now.

The story doesn’t end here though. Spooky dropped off the map (again) sometime in mid-2021. So is it dead (again)? Maybe. The Spooky Facebook page changed its address to Castle Rock, Colorado. The website has been teasing a return in late 2023. Now, it’s January 2024, and there’s been no update. 

I have no idea who owns or runs Spooky now. Whoever they are, I hope they can successfully bring Spooky back. It’s always good to have more aluminum options out there, especially when they’re as pretty as Spooky’s bikes have been. Maybe give Frank the Welder a call too!

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