Vive la Difference with TIME

TIME carbon tubing and framesLyon, the third largest city in France, occupies a strategic position dominating the valleys of the Rhône and Saône. It therefore acts as a gateway to the mountains which form one of the most important battlefields of the Tour de France.

And just outside this battlefield, in Vaulx-Milieu, lies one artisanal bicycle manufacturer, dedicated to high-tech, luxury procedures, helping a number of riders in their pursuit of victory. It’s TIME (Time Sport International), maker of carbon tubing frames, pedals, handlebars, bar stems, and bottle cages. TIME is just one of the 29 bicycle makers and designers featured in the new book The Elite Bicycle.

France is of course known for many luxury goods, as is Lyon, whose principal industry is the manufacture of silk. Although it’s not a textile company, TIME is celebrated for a fiber some consider as fine as silk: carbon. And their process of weaving this lightweight, durable material, is what sets them apart from others.

TIME carbon loomTIME’s extremely high production values and constant refinement of everything they make, through incessant, tireless research and development, is reflected in their unique process of Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) of carbon fiber. Like spiders’ silk, carbon is known for its lightness and strength; as a result, TIME frames are renowned as probably the lightest bikes on the market but endowed with a resistant strength seemingly at odds with the airy thinness of their structure.

Although the process of weaving might seem homespun and outdated, when it involves carbon fiber, it’s anything but. The extremely high-tech process begins with a monstrous loom equipped with dozens of bobbins of carbon, Vectran, polyamide, and Kevlar. It spins together “stocks” of these fibers, adding more or less of each to enhance such qualities as stiffness, vibration damping, and compliance. The end product is flattened by a roller,  then cut to size and layered onto wax tube formers and steel mandrels to give it it’s basic shape. Strands of fiber are used to tie stocks of carbon onto the mandrels, and with that, the frame begins to take form.

TIME carbon layeringExtra carbon is applied to high stress areas. A hot air gun aids the process of fitting the fibers more closely together. After excess carbon is trimmed, the mould containing the carbon goes through the RTM process, which simply put, involves placing the carbon in two halves of a mould which is then closed up and injected with resin.

The RTM process is carefully controlled. It’s a precise operation that takes time. But TIME believes in high quality and in luxury. It’s no wonder that high-end car companies like Lamborghini and Ferrari also believe that this unique carbon-weaving process is well worth the effort.

This brief portrait of TIME was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.

The Elite Bicycle by Gerard Brown and Graeme Fife

The Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.

Enjoy beautiful photographs and profiles from inside the workshops of the world’s leading bicycle builders in The Elite Bicycle, now now available from your local bookstore or bike shop and from these online retailers.

Amazon – The Elite Bicycle
Barnes & Noble – The Elite Bicycle
Chapters/Indigo – The Elite Bicycle
IndieBound – The Elite Bicycle
VeloGear – The Elite Bicycle

The Spirit of Columbus

Columbus tubingThe name Hephaestus is unfamiliar to most outside of the study of Greek mythology. He was the god of fire, chiefly the blacksmith’s fire. As a result, he was the patron of all craftsmen, especially those working with metals.

According to myths of Hephaestus, early blacksmiths of the Olympian gods were ritually lamed so that they could not run away in order to hire out their unique and magical skills to the highest bidder. For they alone could take the lumps of glinting meteorite dug out of the earth and fashion of it swords, spear heads, braziers, and cauldrons.  One could even say that they transformed raw materials into living things. This is what goes on at Columbus, the Italian manufacturer of tubing and one of the 29 bicycle artisans featured in the new book The Elite Bicycle

The transformation of steel into tubing happens on a vast shop floor. It’s as cavernous as any subterranean goblins’ hall, full of machines, dull grayness, wooden racks, greasy with use and age, home to lines of mandrels, dyes, and formers. The machines found here are of an elderly breed. That’s because the company dates back almost one hundred years, to the year 1919.

Columbus TubingAngelo Luigi Colombo founded the company the year the Great War ended, making tubes of all kinds. About fifty years later, his son, Antonio, a lover of  art, became involved. But he had his own agenda. Having studied architecture, design, and fine art, he wanted more for the company than just producing metal tubing. He found that the only way for him to survive was “…to give some soul to the metal…” To this day, Columbus products remain a testimony to Antonio Colombo’s first love: art.

Columbus tubingUnlike other companies in the ’70s and ’80s who were mass producing their products with the touch of a button, Columbus maintained its old ways of production: by hand. Maybe Colombo thought that it gave their products that extra bit of vitality and artistry, and that’s why he kept the old plant with the older generation of machines.  Those machines depend on the feel, the hands, of those who operate them. With the help of a small work force, Columbus products are given soul, and for them, as a result, cycling is given soul.

This brief portrait of Columbus was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.

The Elite Bicycle by Gerard Brown and Graeme Fife

The Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.

Enjoy beautiful photographs and profiles from inside the workshops of the world’s leading bicycle builders in The Elite Bicycle, now now available from your local bookstore or bike shop and from these online retailers.

Amazon – The Elite Bicycle
Barnes & Noble – The Elite Bicycle
Chapters/Indigo – The Elite Bicycle
IndieBound – The Elite Bicycle
VeloGear – The Elite Bicycle

The Good Will of Chris King

Chris King HubsIt’s the pivot, the holding pin, the axis round which it all turns. It’s the hub. And who’s making these tough, light, finely manufactured hubs in colors for every taste? It’s Chris King, one of the 29 bicycle artisans featured in the new book The Elite Bicycle.

Of his own components, King writes:

“Inside the hubshells, the business transactions of putting your power to work, is where you’ll find what matters most…it’s our bearings, axels, and engagement system that have earned the trust of discerning cyclists. We make our own bearings in-house, each hand-checked for precision and built with a robust sealing system. Best of all? [You can] service them yourself. Our strong, constant diameter axels run through the bearings to the frame and fork dropouts for precise handling and stiffness under power.”

And Chris King isn’t just another Portland-based bicycle component maker churning out reliable, hand-crafted goods. They’re also a company that’s community oriented and philanthropic.

Chris King Precision ComponentsEver seen a bright pink Chris King hub and asked, why pink? Here’s the answer: Pretty and Strong. In 2004, the company launched a limited edition series of pink headsets and hubs to help raise awareness for breast cancer research, to which a portion of the proceeds are donated. They even encourage their customers to replace a ride with time out to take themselves or a woman they love in for a mammogram or clinical exam during the month of October.

Reasons to put them on the “nice list” don’t stop there. Chris King also makes limited edition headsets and other products for Wheels4Life, a charity founded by former Mountain Bike World Champion Hans Rey, providing bikes for people in developing countries in need of transportation to get to work or to school, including health care workers.

Chris King Precision ComponentsIn addition to their sustainable manufacturing and to encouraging their employees to bike to work, Chris King organizes the Gourmet Century, a 100 kilometer, non-competitive bicycle ride through pastoral, northwest Oregon. Through farms and barns, vineyards and fields, across a single track wooden railway bridge, throughout tree-shaded stretches of loose-stoned bridle-path winding across the arable land, participants ride by colonial-style clapperboard houses and churches, soaking in the scenery. Besides scenic views, this event serves up three strategically spaced epicurean rest points to keep “the appetite piqued and the legs energized.”

The next time someone looks at Chris King hubs, invokes the spirit of Gertrude Stein, and says, a hub is a hub is a hub, you can smile knowingly. Because there’s more to a Chris King hub than meets the eye.

This brief portrait of Chris King was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.

The Elite Bicycle by Gerard Brown and Graeme Fife

The Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.

Enjoy beautiful photographs and profiles from inside the workshops of the world’s leading bicycle builders in The Elite Bicycle, now now available from your local bookstore or bike shop and from these online retailers.

Amazon – The Elite Bicycle
Barnes & Noble – The Elite Bicycle
Chapters/Indigo – The Elite Bicycle
IndieBound – The Elite Bicycle
VeloGear – The Elite Bicycle

Mavic: The Rims of Champions

MavicIt is for wheels that Mavic is, and was from the start, best known. Mavic is one example of the 29 handmade bicycle manufacturers featured in the new book The Elite Bicycle

1889 marked the centennial of the French Revolution. Three legendary things were born in France that year. The Eiffel Tower (as part of the World’s Fair a.k.a. Exposition Universelle), the Moulin Rouge (the famous cabaret), and Mavic (the French bicycle parts manufacturer).

Mavic started with two friends, Charles Idoux and Lucien Chanel, who began a different kind of revolution that year. First, two brothers, Léon and Laurent Vielle, set up a nickel-plating business in Lyon, France with Henry Gormand as president. Shortly afterwards, Idoux and Chanel, also sponsored by Gormand, launched another enterprise for “the fabrication and sake of spare parts for bicycles.” They called their business Manufacture d’Articles Vélocipédiques Idoux et Chanel. Thus, Mavic was born.

Around the time of World War I, a huge cycling craze swept over France. To accommodate the ill-surfaced roads of the early years, the basic components of any bicycle, wheels and frame, needed to be robust and, to a degree, flexible, sturdy enough to endure the shocking onslaught of man and bike imposed by (for example) the Tour de France, but resilient, too, to absorb the rough nature of the roads.

Mavic

Bearing this in mind, the Vielle and Mavic operations combined under the Mavic name, and, in 1925, they relocated to Lyon, adding mudguards and steel rims to their manufacturing line. (Today, Mavic, is located in Annecy, France).

With Mavic’s innovation and top-quality materials, their link to professional riders and champions nearly began from the start. For example, Antonin Magne, winner of the 1931 Tour de France, secretly used Dura rims from Mavic in the 1934 Tour, which were painted to look like wood (rules stipulated the use of wooden rims). And with them, Magne rode to a second victory. The connection with top cyclists continued years later with Eddy Merckx, arguably the greatest cyclist of all time; he insisted on using Mavic rims. The list goes on and on.

MavicMavic has also become famous for their bright yellow neutral assistance cars that have supported most professional races. Not just anyone can be a support car mechanic. From the time a mechanic jumps out of the car to the launching of the cyclists back on the road, it takes an astonishing 30 seconds. That’s the kind of efficiency and perfection that goes on at Mavic because their ethos is forever rooted in their love of cycling. It’s no wonder that “a better bike begins here.”

This brief portrait of Mavic was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.

The Elite Bicycle by Gerard Brown and Graeme FifeThe Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.

Enjoy beautiful photographs and profiles from inside the workshops of the world’s leading bicycle builders in The Elite Bicycle, now now available from your local bookstore or bike shop and from these online retailers:

Amazon – The Elite Bicycle
Barnes & Noble – The Elite Bicycle
Chapters/Indigo – The Elite Bicycle
IndieBound – The Elite Bicycle
VeloGear – The Elite Bicycle

Richard Sachs Is…The Bike Whisperer

Richard Sachs“What drew me in was the combination of a beautiful sport with beautiful bikes. They spoke to me, and they were used for racing.” These are the words of the immortal Richard Sachs, one of the 29 bicycle artisans featured in the new book The Elite Bicycle. 

When the name “Richard Sachs” is uttered, a number of images are called to mind. Perhaps one of those is of a crotchety Dickens’ character with a particular distaste for the holidays. But, believe it or not, there’s more to this bicycle builder than meets the eye.

Let The Elite Bicycle paint a different picture of Richard Sachs for you. Once upon a time, a teenage boy destined for a career in writing and journalism, constantly found himself in the treasure trove that was Kopp’s Cycles near Princeton. Trip after trip to this bicycle haven, young Richard Sachs eyed the two-wheeled machines like a kid in a candy store. Having been smitten with bike racing for some time, a hankering grew for the sleek machine, the goblin-silver components, the wheels, so frail in look, but so strong in use.

Richard Sachs CyclesUnable to deny his feelings for the bicycles, he made his way to Manhattan, searching for a position with a bicycle mechanic. But his search led him much farther away than The Big Apple. It led him across the ocean to Britain to labor without pay in return for training.

Sachs landed at Witcomb Lightweight Cycles in Deptford, by the Thames, where the diarist John Evelyn grew lettuce all year round, near the shipyard where Peter the Great of Russia learned to build vessels for his navy, and where Ferranti lit The Light (the power system) with his new system of electricity. And it was here that the 18-year-old Sachs devoted his life to bicycle building.

The Witcomb environment taught Sachs a lot of things. He developed an undeniably profound bond with bikes that perhaps only a few will ever understand. According to him, “If you can’t feel, discern, use intuition, or listen to the material, all the quality checks and dial indications in the world will add misery to the process.”

Richard Sachs CyclesFor Sachs, that process now takes place in a spotless, white-painted workshop, amply lit by natural light.  It’s situated not far from the Connecticut River, in a Thoreau-esque, New England, backwoods retreat. He functions best in silence and solitude. Silence carries “the sound of my own thoughts,” he says, “I can hear my own voice clearly  without interruption. When I work alone, it’s me, the metal, and the heat, and we work out this little passion play between us.”

In this contemplative place dedicated to the practice of excellence, with only one power tool, metal whispers to this passionate frame builder, and sometimes, he whispers back.

This brief portrait of Richard Sachs Cycles was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.

The Elite Bicycle by Gerard Brown and Graeme Fife

The Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.

Enjoy beautiful photographs and profiles from inside the workshops of the world’s leading bicycle builders in The Elite Bicycle, nownow available from your local bookstore or bike shop and from these online retailers:

Amazon – The Elite Bicycle
Barnes & Noble – The Elite Bicycle
Chapters/Indigo – The Elite Bicycle
IndieBound – The Elite Bicycle
VeloGear – The Elite Bicycle

DiNucci: The Portland Pioneer of Frame Builders

West of the Blue Mountains, the last formidable obstacle which the American pioneers tackled on the Oregon Trail (the historic route linking the Missouri River to the Oregon valleys and the Pacific coast) sits a large house on a hill, in the middle of nowhere. The house is surrounded by pine trees, which play home to the only neighbors around: birds and squirrels.

At the end of a rugged road facing Mount Washington, the house is so remote, it might be at one of the imagined “corners” of the round earth. The man who lives there prefers it that way. It provides him with the right kind of atmosphere to do what he does best: build bicycle frames. In this forested oasis, Mark DiNucci produces award-winning, hand-crafted bicycles; his work is  just one example of the 29 bicycle builders featured in the new book The Elite Bicycle. 

One could call DiNucci the Portland Pioneer of bicycle frame-builders. The first modern bike frame built in Portland was built by him, but not in his secluded mountain home. This was back in 1971, around the time when he was a young bike racer. In his first ever race, a rider forced him off a bend in the road, leaving him with a broken collar bone. DiNucci used his time off the bike to evaluate why his machine didn’t take the corners as well as others. The rest, they say, is history.

DiNucci CyclesWith no formal training, DiNucci operated on instinct. It took time to get things right, of course, but with desire and native intelligence, he has built some very special machines indeed.

It’s about the feel of the bike, DiNucci says. And while this technique may not impress techno geeks, it’s certainly worked for him. In the 2010 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, he took the prize for Best Lugged Frame: a cherry-red lip-gloss glistening steel frame, olive green mudguards, stitched leather-bound handlebars with matching brake hood, large flange hubs, and a single speed for fast coursing.

In 2011, DiNucci’s building intuition paid off again at NAHBS with his Best of Show townie. For just a one-man operation, where every lug is shaped, brazed, and filed by him, where dropouts and fork crowns are cast by his own two hands, the recognition he has received for his craft is rather impressive, and it is a testament to this man’s calling: bicycle building.

This brief portrait of DiNucci Cycles was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.

The Elite Bicycle by Gerard Brown and Graeme Fife

The Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.

Enjoy beautiful photographs and profiles from inside the workshops of the world’s leading bicycle builders in The Elite Bicycle, now now available from your local bookstore or bike shop and from these online retailers.

Amazon – The Elite Bicycle
Barnes & Noble – The Elite Bicycle
Chapters/Indigo – The Elite Bicycle
IndieBound – The Elite Bicycle
VeloGear – The Elite Bicycle

 
 

Tony Pereira: Inspiring the Next Generation

Tony Pereira CyclesFrame building is often described as an art, but it is also a craft. Perhaps most importantly, though, frame building is an engineering discipline. Tony Pereira not only understands this, but he also embraces it in his building endeavors. He’s one of the Portland, Oregon-based frame builders featured in the new book The Elite Bicycle. 

Pereira and his fellow frame-building friend, Ira Ryan, have similar philosophies when it comes to bikes and riding. They both love to build practical bikes, useful machinery to be ridden daily to and from work whatever the weather, and Portland has plenty of weather. Many of Pereira’s bikes feature racks and fenders and a sensible place to stow a U-lock. He also offers neat accessories such as machined aluminum fender mounted taillights.

The symbiosis between Pereira and Ryan has led to the creation of Breadwinner Cycles in 2013, a joint venture offering a range of TIG welded custom steel bikes built by hand in Portland with the best US-made components. Both of the signature builders will continue to build under their own names however, but Breadwinner will offer something a little less expensive, produced a little more quickly (in eight weeks to be exact). Their five-year plan includes establishing a factory, hiring welders, and making 1,000 bikes per year.

Tony Pereira United Bicycle InstituteBut Pereira’s passion for the craft and for the engineering is perhaps most visible in a classroom. He’s a popular lecturer at the world-famous United Bicycle Institute also located in Portland. Founded more than 30 years ago, with the aim of making learning about bicycles fun, students come to soak up valuable two-wheeled knowledge, either to further their careers within the industry or simply to gain a better understanding of what they’re riding. Many graduates have gone on to become successful bicycle builders, mechanics, and bike shop owners.

Pereira lectures in the frame-building department on the theory and practice of brazing steel. He wants to pass his experience on to fellow lovers of the sport, the craft, and of the bicycling industry as a whole.

Tony Pereira United Bicycle InstituteSince no prior knowledge or experience is needed to take the class, Pereira starts with the basics such as the correct use of a saw, which can make a huge difference to the way that tubes fit together before they are assembled, by keeping gaps to a minimum. He then gives them advice on cutting the metal to size, using a file (the right file), and insists that only when you’re completely happy with the dry joint should you light up a torch.

Once he’s finished his demonstration like that of fixing a dropout into a piece of chainstay, he takes questions and lets the students get to work at their own benches. With Pereira’s teaching skills and building expertise, his students, with practice, are on their way to producing their own high-quality road or mountain bike frames as promised to them in the course syllabus.

This brief portrait of Pereira Cycles was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.

The Elite Bicycle by Gerard Brown and Graeme Fife

The Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.

Enjoy beautiful photographs and profiles from inside the workshops of the world’s leading bicycle builders in The Elite Bicycle, now now available from your local bookstore or bike shop and from these online retailers.

Amazon – The Elite Bicycle

Barnes & Noble – The Elite Bicycle

Chapters/Indigo – The Elite Bicycle

IndieBound – The Elite Bicycle

VeloGear – The Elite Bicycle