In total Todd-Poquette fashion, he recently started spewing on social media about another crazy project that he just made up. When Made U.P. bikes first crossed my feed, I thought it was maybe a pipe dream, something on his wish list, or just a casual napkin brainstorm session he was sharing.
But as his social media musings accelerated, an official Facebook Page showed up out of nowhere and then a bona fide website, MadeUPeh.com.
I can only image he's been cooking this up for a while since planning graceful geometry and creating a prototype for something as nuanced as a friggin' Upper-Peninsula-adventure-dedicated bike doesn't happen overnight.
So I reached out to Todd for a 9am Zoom call.
And his response?
You have to admire somebody who is that relentlessly on brand.
(never mind that I showed up an hour late forgetting that the U.P. is on Eastern Time; sorry Todd)
Sometimes Less is More
So let me be a little transparent here.
When I first started seeing all the cryptic teases about a new bike brand that seemed to be alluding to a new niche category, I had to ask myself, "do we really need another bike category that we all have to subscribe to and continue with the endless n+1 nonsense?
Sure, I love bikes as much as the next person (I mean...I publish bike content almost endlessly), but there are a few ominous downsides to having a different bike for every single type of riding.
I''m personally a one-bike guy.
I have always been a wholehearted, lifelong bike believer because of the simplicity, community, and raw pleasure I get from riding two wheels with people I love. Now, I don't want to over-romanticize this because I love geeking out about gear, but when we jump on the "more and more of everything faster and faster" train, we lose something.
We lose simplicity (consumerism is addictive), the environmental benefits (most of our bikes are shipped from Taiwan and they can't manufacture them fast enough), and the equitable nature of an inclusive community (expensive sports leave out people who can't afford to keep up).
Full disclosure: I'm not opposed whatsoever to adding another bike. But I don't buy a bike just to sell it a year later and get a new one when my riding style shifts by a few degrees.
Our sport can be exhilarating and accessible. Bikes can be simple and versatile. They can be endlessly adventurous and still benefit the environment (and our own communities).
It was fun to see a neat bike project...
...but ultimate I just kept scrolling.
But when I gave it a little more a chance, I saw that the entire heartbeat of Made U.P. bikes addresses these exact issues that I see in the bike industry and that are also a part of my own bike story.
Meet the Made U.P. Lake Ehfect
Okay, before we get into the details of the bike, let's address the name itself.
The first bike announced under the Made U.P. brand gives 3 nods to the U.P. indicating that it fully intends to be be built around the adventurous heartbeat of the wild Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
First is the the play on being "made U.P." which has two meanings. It is actually made and manufactured right in the U.P. but it's also a playful way of saying they're making it up as they go. Todd says a core message at the heart of Made U.P. is to dream something U.P. and go for it… or spend the rest of your life wondering what would have happened if you had.
Second is the lake effect reference. Lake effect is a meteorological phenomenon that causes cooler summers and a butt ton of snow in the winter. With 1,700 miles of coastline, you better believe the Upper Peninsula gets a full dose of lake effect weather.
Third and lastly, the spelling of ehfect includes "eh". The yoopers in the U.P. have a little thing called yoopernese where they say 'yah' instead of 'yeah', 'de' instead of 'the' and end of lot of their sentences with 'eh'. Don't ask me why.
One bike. Four seasons. All surfaces. Less Hype.
Back to the downsides of the bike industry and where Made U.P. fits into that whole mess.
According to Todd, "I’ve been a fast food cook. Was a truck driver. Worked retail and construction. Spent a lot of years in food distribution and hospitality. Moved into the non-profit sector. Started youth programs and events encouraging people to discover the best version of themselves through outdoor adventure. My approach is simple: I remind myself every day I have a lot to learn. I work hard. I listen to people, figure out what they want, and give it to them. I don’t sugar coat things."
"I tell it like it is because that’s what I’d want from you. We shouldn’t be telling people they need a bike for every season or surface. It’s not responsible. It’s fake. It’s hype. "
The Lake Ehfect is Made U.P.'s first bike and it's built around 4 principles:
1. Steel is real
Not a new concept, so who cares, right? Well, expensive materials like carbon tend to cost a whole lot more and often come with goofy, non-standard tube and component sizing which increases the barrier to entry and decreases the serviceability and versatility.
But it goes deeper than that.
Yoopers are literally the people who brought the world iron ore - it's only fitting that their bikes are forged with the steel heritage they cut their teeth on. Further, the steel gospel is always preaching (and I happen to be a subscriber of steel, myself) the field serviceability and lifespan that comes with the simple, versatile, and sturdy material.
2. One bike. Four seasons.
If anybody understands how ridiculous weather and jacked up terrain demand a lot out of a bike, it's the yoopers. Full stop. If you've ever scratched your head wondering why the heck people do rides like The Crusher and Marji Geskick and go bikepacking in the Upper Peninsula, then you get it. Marquette, MI gets 154 inches of snowfall in the winter and summer rides are punchy with sand and boulders (that is if the road is even still there when you show up).
Lake Ehfect promises to carry you over anything you throw at: Bikepacking, mountain biking, gravel biking, and fat biking in the winter (but not water biking, those things look real dumb). With standard, no frills specs and a blend of mountain and gravel bike geometry, just swap out the wheels in winter for snow biking and again in the spring for mountain-y riding and junk.
According to Made U.P., "The fact Lake Ehfect fits a 4.6" tire doesn't make it a fat bike - it makes it capable of adapting to its environment. Riding U.P. here demands a lot of a bike. We wanted a platform that would handle whatever Lake Superior throws at it."
3. One bike. Every surface.
We all have that one friend who has a completely different bike for gravel, single track, bikepacking, bikepacking on sand, bikepacking on babyheads, fat biking, fat biking on slush, and fat bike racing (and a tall bike, but everybody actually should have a tall bike).
Lake Ehfect isn't for that friend and it just doesn't care.
This bike proves you actually can have a single awesome bike that will take you anywhere.
4. One bike. Less hype.
There is a lot of marketing noise around bikes. Made U.P. seems to be on a mission to put raw and genuine passion into a purpose built machine without the puffery of making something flashy in order to maximize profits. No doubt that's harder done than said, but I'm excited to watch this unfold.
Todd is known for his marketing “hype machine” but if you ask him about it he’ll be quick to counter.
“Lets talk about hype. Remember back a handful of years when Giant decided to blanket the planet with 650b and the industry declared the 29er was dead? That’s hype. That wasn’t about what was best for cycling or the consumer, it was a gimmick, and a lot of folks followed. Where are we at now? The 29er platform is alive and well. I had a bike brand guy tell me the other day “I’ve never understood why you would want just one bike”. Of course he can’t… he’s paid not to. Can people get by with one super versatile adventure rig? Yes. Will some people need more than one bike. Yes. That’s not hype. It’s the facts.”
Give me the Lake Ehfect details, please
2nd Full disclosure: I know nothing about bike geometry and will just smile and nod my head if you get on a roll about bottom bracket spacing pros and cons. I just want to ride.
That being said, here's what we know about the Lake Ehfect:
To kick things off, the Lake Ehfect is not a boutique bike. Everything about is meant to be utilitarian, not glamorous. You won't see fancy hubs and headsets. Instead you'll see an absurdly useful bike that's accessible to all riders on all surfaces.
Here are basics of what they call, "the one bike to ride them all":
USA steel frame and fork
Fat tire compatible (up to 4.6")
180mm q-factor (which they claim, "we don’t know of any fat compatible frame with a narrower q-factor ")
Direct mount packs
Drop bars or flat
All the bosses
Also, it's not a just a bike. Here's what else Made U.P. is cooking.
1. Bike Bags: Made U.P. is partnering with Morrow Packs to create a full set of bike bags including direct mount packs. These will even include panniers, yep panniers. This one was surprising to me but Todd took panniers on his Project Adventrus scouting ride last year and swears by the improved handling on crazy back roads that are offered by the low center of gravity on panniers over a seat pack. Plus you can carry a lot more stuff for longer trips without having to buy expensive ultra-light everything.
2. A rack: The Lake Eheffect will also come with an optional rear rack. I haven't seen any details but I have to imagine it'll be bomb proof and highly functional.
3. An iconic route called Project Adventrus: More on this in an upcoming story but Made U.P. will also be the home to yet another of Todd's projects called Project Adventrus. This is an epic 1,600 mile route circumnavigating the entire upper peninsula. It's a long term development with support of many people and organizations to build an iconic midwest tour similar to the Tour Divide.
How to follow the development of Made U.P. and the Lake Ehfect
Made U.P. is constantly teasing more and more developments related to the bike, build, bags, and rack. While carefully planning a bike that is versatile (and practical) to use in four seasons on all terrains, Todd loves to make things U.P. as he goes and you can count on their more plot twists and big reveals as this evolves.
As they're currently in the prototype and testing phase, Todd and Made U.P. are collaborating with Equinox Bicycles on continued design revisions during testing, Winnebago Bicycle, Morrow Packs, and Project Adventrus partner Marc Salm.