It’s October. It started in January.
What started as a desire to create a bicycle frame that celebrated the hallmarks of a bygone era – lugs, steel tubing, artisan styled passion, simplicity – has pushed and prodded feelings of despondency to exhilaration. At times thoughts swam freely, the excitement of what may be. Other times, doubts, why bother? It is after all just a bike.
That’s just the right tension though. Enough brimming potential to drive the project forward, enough struggle to make it feel like an accomplishment. At the realisation of completion as it stood there before me, it was like wearing a blanket of pleasure. It almost impossible not to enjoy the sensation of cheeks tightening upwards and eyes creasing ever so slightly, a smile of deep satisfaction.
Then, it could be pedaled. Smiles for evermore.
The frame began with the order for the lightest and strongest steel tubeset available, lugs and long rear dropouts which would enable the frame the option of modern gears and derailleur or to be used as a fixie / singlespeed. The frame was sourced and produced in Italy, hand-made. The finishing coat a single colour, matte white. Four months ticked by. Doubts crept in. The frame finish was completely unknown and unimagined at this juncture. What could be done with such a bespoke frame these days? Fixie culture has exploded, they’re everywhere, every colour imaginable, every combination of tyres, wheels, grips. A technicolour travesty.
It arrived. It sat in the box. It was almost passed on as a blank. Thoughts were stewing though, they just needed time to develop and a catalyst to emerge from heavy slumber. The Vienna Art and Design show stepped in. Playing on an LCD screen in an obscure corner of the exhibition was a slide show of patterns and designs from the very early 1900s, the Vienna Secession period. The moment had arrived. Birds. Particularly Ravens, thousands of them.
The form of the finish was simple – a digital design wrap. Finding the design in an available form to manipulate and print was not. It took weeks of searching to locate an image of the design seen at the exhibition. Various libraries served up plenty of history books, but failed to give up a picture of the particular design. Even a high quality photo sample from the Gallery was impossible, Security pleasantly shooed me away like a fly, could they not understand the plight? Eventually a copyright-free image of the design was sourced from the internet superstore.
Six months had rocketed by. The design was successfully applied to the frame over a period of weeks but the original matte white colour dulled the senses. Hmpf.
Another skilled artisan of the Dutch kind was employed to bring further joy to the project, finishing the lugs and coating the frame to bring the project closer to its glossy finish. After collecting the frame in driving rain, the final build was executed in an afternoon dressed in sunshine. It was a treat to be chaperoned by the new season rolling in.
There’s something unique about the feeling of fulfillment, of seeing and appreciating the culmination of a whole team of effort from around the globe. Sure it took over nine months, it was not always seemingly going to end favourably or in fact end at all. The proof is in the riding though. There’s something special about steel, it just glides. Enough feedback from the road to know what’s occuring between you and the road, enough suppression of road noise to coast comfortably on any surface.
And that’s it, the conversation between design and production, at its best it glides, but not without at least some tension and fluid motion in between.
Welcome to the Raven.
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