Inspirational discussion, briefing, costing.
The process will begin with some telephone and e-mail discussions, or even better direct in the workshop. For me to start to understand you, your cycling biography, and the kind of bike you would like me to build, and also your future cycling aspirations and inspirations for the bike of your dreams. We would make the first important decision if it’s to be lugged or fillet brazed, and a general idea of the frame components. And how you would like the frame to look and which components would compliment the look and function of the finished bike.
For tubing I work with Columbus and Reynolds. Dropouts I prefer Bear frame supplies, Paragon machine works, Ritchey and anything sourceable through Ceeways. For lugs Llewelyn, Richard Sachs, or others available at Ceeways. However with lugs the choice may be influenced by the geometry on certain projects. Lugs can also be reshaped or custom cut if required.
This is an important phase as both parties must feel comfortable and inspired to work together, as any bespoke handmade product should be an enjoyable collaboration for customer and maker. From here I would draw up a briefing/spec sheet for you to sign off on. If this looks workable we would further discuss the paint concept and components for the build. I would then make a summary costing. If you then wish to proceed I would then ask for a 25% non refundable deposit to cover the costs of the frame raw materials.
Frames start at 1900 euros, paint starts at 350 euros for one colour wet paint and logo, and forks start at around 450 euros either steel made by me or a carbon fork from any of the leading brands. This gives a general reference point for the starting point for frame costs. Finished bikes realistically start at around 4500 euros and then the sky is the limit. Please be aware all frames whatever the price receive the same care and attention to detail at Finnbar Trout, the price difference is merely a reflection of the raw material costs. Passion is priceless and democratic !
If it’s a complete build we would also agree on the components and a deposit for the purchase of the components, as with the present supply chain issues I prefer to order the parts as early as possible. As several projects with finished frames have been held up by component deliveries in the last year and a half, which is frustrating for all concerned. With components I enjoy to work with small specialist high quality and design driven brands, as well as the larger dominant players. They tend to think more long term in their standards and serviceability and add that little extra magic to a build.
Regarding wheels you can select pre made wheelsets, or go the full custom route and get wheels to match your specific riding requirements and look, something I would strongly recommend. In which case we would work with Zarko at. www.laufrader-tuning.com; A real master in his craft.
Bike fit and detailed frame design.
If you live near enough I like to go for a short ride on an existing bike, just to get a sense of your biomechanics in action. We would also take some detailed measurements. If you are further away I would get you to fill in a detailed work sheet with your body measurements, this is advisable with someone to help. I also advise a professional bike fit, it may sound excessive, however from experience I have found this extremely informative to have a professional review your fit, flexibility in relation to your bio mechanics. As cyclists we are sometimes victims of our own preconceptions, I have personally learned a great deal in the two bike fits I have undertaken over the years, this is especially relevant if you have sustained specific injuries which should be taken into account.
From here I would use this information to finalise the frame design in a CAD system. And make the final tubing selection to achieve the desired ride characteristics in relation to your weight, measurements and the type of use planned for the finished bike defined in the briefing.
The frame build
Now its time for sparks, saws, flames and files ! Those shiny tubes, CNC’d and cast pieces of steel and stainless steel begin to take shape into a bicycle frame. It’s physically and mentally demanding work, which requires precision and intuition in equal measure. Firstly everything is cut and filed to a dry fit in the jig. A lugged frame is then pinned together, a traditional technique I prefer to tacking, then brazed freehand. A fillet frame is first tinned at the seat tube to BB joint, then tacked and tinned in the jig, before again filleting freehand. After each of these process’s careful and reflective cold setting or feathering takes place to keep the frame true. Then comes the time consuming work of fettling and finishing each joint and adding the Christmas tree details and brazeons in silver. And finally fine detailing and finishing the frame before sending for paint. At which point my forefingers and thumbs have no finger print to open my I-phone touch lock !
Now the frame is finished I will invoice for the rest of the frame and fork cost minus the deposit.
Paint design, and painting.
The paint design is usually decided at the briefing phase, although I usually double check when the frame is finished, keeping in mind that components may be fitting to a very precise paint concept. In regards to the paint design, many customers come with clear ideas, others more a general direction which we can work through with the painter to a clear concept. I generally work with wet paint, although it is possible to have a frame powder coated. With wet paint you can work with just about any colours, either from car colours, RAL references or paint suppliers like House of Kolor, you can also bring a tear or sample which we will then match. The choice is endless, which can be thoroughly inspiring and sometimes daunting, always keep in mind with a bike for life, it should reflect your personality today and tomorrow, but I enjoy helping out if required, as I love working with colour.
I have traditionally worked with a couple of the traditional UK specialist painters like Argos racing cycles in Bristol, of course due to Brexit this has become logistically and cost challenging. Having frames stuck in customs is no fun !
In the last year I have begun working with Robert in Berlin at: www.velociao.com; I truly appreciate working with Robert due to his calm precision and knowledge of bike culture whether classic or ultra modern paint techniques, so a great source for inspiration and advise.
Bicycle assembly, and collection.
Once the frame is back with me I forward the final invoice for what is left to pay for the final project, which must be settled before pick up. Firstly I treat the inside of the tubes with a natural oil frame saver and let that dry out for a couple of days, which is good to repeat every so often as part of the rituals of care. And then it’s time to put the bicycle together with the same care and attention to detail as all the other steps in the process. Its a stage I prefer to spend a little extra time on, to ensure everything is spot on and ready for collection or delivery in a relaxed and enjoyable tempo. For me it’s very rewarding to see all the elements come together into one special and unique bicycle with some music in the workshop. I prefer a finished project to be picked up, or I deliver personally so we can have a shake down ride and fine tune any last details together, and we can discuss how to keep your frame in top condition and get the most from your bicycle. I also I find it nerve racking shipping a finished bike even by reputable courier services after all that hard work and time.
The only thing left is for you to saddle up and enjoy your very own custom hand made Finnbar trout bicycle as often as possible. It’s also the start of a relationship, a steel frame planes like no other frame material due to its elasticity and responsiveness, and you will learn which cadence and inputs bring the best out of your frame and bicycles custom tuned performance. If well ridden it will attain patina like a badge of honour, but if cared for and well maintained it will also bring a life time of cycling pleasure !
“ Never in doubt, when you ride a Trout “