Sam Braxton was a skier, bicyclist and outdoorsman…as well as an eccentric bike shop proprietor who established himself as a touring bike guru.
From Derek Vandeberg
(“My father and Sam were close friends and fellow railroaders… I spent more than a little time at the shop as a kid. I worked for Sam from ’84 until his death in late ’88, and stayed on for one season after that…)
Sam Braxton began his bicycle career in 1969 when he got a job assembling and repairing bicycles for a local sporting goods shop. The job was short-lived, but Sam continued working from his home and opened Braxton Bike Shop in 1970 with the help of his wife, Shirley, and their sons Bart and Dalt.
Sam took an Albert Eisentraut course and began building frames in 1974; however, he credited much of his later success to the time he spent with Jack and Norm Taylor, and often said it was Norm who taught him how to apply heat and braze correctly. The Taylor influence is readily apparent in Braxton’s frames, from the reversed placement of the rear brake on early models to the custom fabricated and brazed on racks and the gothic font Sam used for his decals. A great many of Braxton’s expedition touring bikes were styled in the mold of the Taylor “Rough Stuff” model, a style Sam came to call the Combie for its ability to function well on all surfaces.”
Braxton Bike Shop thrived as a full service sales and repair business and Sam’s framebuilding career got a great boost from the shop’s reputation as “an oasis for the cyclotourist” among touring cyclists associated with the Bikecentennial organization (now Adventure Cycling) headquartered in Missoula. Others in the industry regarded him both as a guru of cycling knowledge and a curmudgeon with deeply set opinions – more than a few colleagues recall almost coming to blows with Sam about one thing or another, before forming a friendship with him. Braxton passed away in 1988 after a short battle with cancer, having built approximately 580 frames; at the time of his death, he had a 3 year backlog of frame orders.
“…the Braxtons spent more than a decade helping others who were realizing their TransAmerica dreams, as Missoula’s Braxton Bike Shop became one of the most popular watering holes along the Trail. Sam quickly became known as an expert wheelbuilder and framebuilder, sharing his extensive knowledge of bicycle touring with Adventure Cycling members in “Bike Stop,” a column written by former publications director Gary MacFadden (now executive director) for BikeReport magazine (as Adventure Cyclist was formerly known).”