We, bike nerds, have all dreamed about our ultimate bike, some of us going as far to doodle them on napkins at a diner much to the dismay of our friends, just as every DH racer has claimed that they know exactly what a race-winning bike design is and how it would crush the competition. As the saying goes, words are wind, so unless you take pen and paper and turn it into CAD and metal, its a moot point; enter, Neko Mulally.
I have known Neko since we were teenagers, we overlapped for a few years racing Jr.X, creating some memorable and hotly contested races as we traded wins across the northeast. Though we were each other’s toughest competition, we were always cordial and respected each other greatly. As he turned his sights on the World Cups, we remained friends and always enjoyed a quick catch-up at the annual domestic events, like the US Open and National rounds.
Quite a few years later, we would once again be at races together, this time overseas, myself in the B-Zone shooting, and Neko between the tape going flat out in the Elite Men’s World Cups. It was wild to consider that we’d gone from racing in hard-to-find-on-a-map places like Plattekill Mountain to riding the lift in Morzine, France during an off-week. Though we’d both taken different paths in life, it was wild to land in very similar places as adults, at the highest level of the sport that we have both lived and breathed from the earliest of ages.
The most surreal moment for me was in 2017, when the US Open was brought back to life, I was there to shoot and write about the event, and Neko ended up taking the win. He repeated this feat the following year in 2018; A decade prior, he and I had stood on the podium together in 2008 in the Amateur Open, 1st and 3rd respectively. Clearly, we both were committed to the two-wheeled life.
At the end of 2021, Neko reached out for a completely different reason: he was going to be in the area picking up a new project bike from my old sponsor and long-time friend, Frank The Welder. This project bike was the beginning of one of the most compelling stories the sport has seen. Eschewing the normal trend of athletes trying to find a place on a team, Neko created his own place on a team… his own team, Frameworks Racing. With the help of friends and family, this unusual approach caught the attention of literally everyone, and overnight, the world of DH racing had a new People’s Champ.
Known for his tenacious, do-it-myself, nose-to-the-grindstone attitude through his other various exploits (DH Southeast, Windrock, Ride Kanuga, Ride Rock Creek, etc), he was already heralded as the the Blue Collar dude who really walks the talk and simply wants to do all he can to make the sport better and more fun. It only then made sense that the natural progression from creating his own bike park(s) for training in the off season and forming his own race series for practicing in the off season would finally lead to also making his own race bike. Necessity is the mother of invention, and while perhaps Neko hasn’t “invented” anything, his various enterprises have been a commendable paradigm shift in the sport.
Within this larger story of seeing a vision through, I have my own little adjacent personal quest, which Neko has been a significant contributor towards: for the last fews years, I’ve had a quiet personal goal of returning to DH racing, simply because I miss it. And, now that I’m approaching Masters category age, I am challenging myself to aim high and shoot to race Masters World Champs in 2025. It’s a goal, not a guarantee, but this summer, I started onward towards this idea by racing National Champs at Ride Rock Creek. And I only managed to make this happen because Neko was kind enough to donate one of his prototype frames to my cause and thus provided me with a frame on which to race. The two most important takeaways from that event are this: his design is everything it is hyped up to be; I may have duffed it in my race run [“That’s racing! Pushing to win means you sometimes find the line and ride over it!”] but I had so much fun being back on a big bike, a feeling that was further elevated knowing it was designed and welded by two people I deeply respect and have the privilege of calling friends.
I don’t need to retell the story of Frameworks racing, but I am just simply too stoked on this project now being available to the public to not write about it. After shooting the offical press release photos of the project in December 2021, it has been a seriously awesome year of being back behind the lens in 2023 capturing more photos of the frame’s iterations at Frank’s shop, frame analysis with Faction Bike Studio, and race coverage with the team at the US Open and Mont Sainte Anne. This is the coolest project happening in the sport right now and I am so stoked for Neko, Anxo, Logan, Frank, Callie, and all of the passionate contributors who are part of the success of this passion project.
The next chapter for this intrepid group is going to be as exciting as ever! Good Luck, and Good Racing as Bob Fox once said!