James & His New Bike
I’ve ridden many bikes over the years; you’d expect it, from a man who started pushing a pedal around before he could walk. It’s not just that I have worked in the trade for 10 years as a mechanic, but cycling is my hobby, my passion.
I’ve ridden almost every type of material over the years, from the highest end carbon, woven in house in Lyon France (Time) to mass-produced aluminum (Cannondale, Bianchi) Steel (Genesis) and Titanium (Van Nicholas).
But the one material I will always go back to is steel. It’s that magic ride, stiff, yet compliant. As I’ve grown older, my style of riding has changed, but my choice of frame material has stayed relatively stable.
It all began way back when I was at school. I grew up in the countryside and as a young teen my evenings were spent making mischief with the gang in the local woods making dirt trails. I was a mountain biker. I bought a second hand Carrera Krakatoa butted tange steel frame from a family friend. It was steel, and it rocked. I saved all my pocket money, babysitting, car cleaning, pot washing money, wherever I could make it money to rebuild this bike. It lasted about three months before I broke it.
That year I saved everything and was promised a new bike in France during our summer vacation. I researched and researched, read every MBUK magazine I could. All I wanted was a GT Zasker, but that was well beyond my budget.
The summer came and while driving through France we came across Decathlon. At this time Decathlon was still a French only company, not the European discount monster it is now. My choice was a beautiful royal blue Rockrider 600. Steel of course. With all the useless knowledge about bikes, as my dad would say, I knew I had got a real bargain. Compared to an equivalent GT back in the UK I just saved 250 pounds, a lot for a 14 year old.
This bike cemented my relationship with steel. I still have it. If you have ever seen Only Fools and Horses, my Rockrider is like Triggers broom. It’s had countless rebuilds, but that Steel frame is still going strong.
This winter was my time to celebrate 10 years in the industry and with that I decided I wanted a custom-made steel road machine. A bike for LIFE.
I’d been riding a Demo bike from the shop for 4 months, a Legor, hand Tig welded by master frame builder Mattia Peganotti. Mattia is an Italian with a family history deep in the cycling world. Now based in Barcelona, I’d met him a couple times in and around Girona, every time on some new wild project he’d just finished. I knew that I wanted him to build my bike.
You know how you can meet someone for the first time and just trust them, Mattia was a bit like that. I’d seen his beautiful craftsmanship, built a couple of his bikes up for The Service Course clients and just loved his crazy Italian way of thinking,
After a few discussions on what I wanted from the bike, my current measurments, Mattia went away and came back with a drawing 2 weeks later.
YES……. Build it.
I wanted a bike that could almost do everything. I enjoy climbing so it had to climb well, stiff. But it also needed to be compliant to deal with 200km day rides plus a bit of famous Catalonia gravel, 28mm tires must fit.
The rest was up to him, a crazy Italian, but the trust was there.
3 weeks later I get a message, its being built today. My day just got a whole lot better and better still. This the massive advantage of having a custom frame made, the builder is not just an artist with a Tig gun, but a real person. A person who sends you pictures and Instagram stories of your bike being born, magic.
The hardest part of the whole project. Unless you have something etched in your mind that you really want, paint scheme is so hard. Do you go simple, bold, low key, arty or nothing at all? My first choice was nothing at all, bare-naked. I’d had a shop Brompton in the past, raw-steel was its paint code. Steel tubes brazed together, cleaned and then clear coated. Trouble was my frame wasn’t brazed, its Tig-welded. Tig when done well is very pretty, but it’s not quite brazing. Mattia was also not so sure on the longevity of this finish from his recommended painter. They had tried it once, but it was still in the testing stage. Again, this is where trust is appreciated, without it I could have made a costly mistake and had to have the frame re-finished sooner than expected.
In the end I decided to go simple, yet bold. I wanted my bike to stand out from the crowd. That crowd of matte black, lifeless carbon that stands outside the café on a Sunday morning.
Purple and Sour Green.
It is a bold statement, a marmite colour, but I love marmite.
It was another 3 weeks until I got another message from Mattia, its going to paint today, its will be with you in a week. I couldn’t wait; it was like being 5 again at Christmas time. A week passed and in came a delivery, a box, a box just the right size to be a frame. My frame. Everything was dropped and all the staff gathered to see me open Christmas. Lets just say pictures do not do this paint job justice.
The next part was agony, like sitting on your hands, starving hungry while a plate of your favorite food is sitting in front of you. I had the frame, I had all the parts, but it was a normal working day and my job list was only half way through. A coffee was needed, the push was on.
3 hours later I was done, it was build time.
Legor custom Columbus frame
Columbus SL carbon fork 1 1/8th
Chris King headset
Chris king T47 BB30
Zipp Course SL handle bar 40cm
Zipp Course SL Stem 120mm
Zipp Course SL 27.2 x 330 seat post.
Zipp 303 Fire crest wheels
Continental GP4000s tires
Sram Red eTap complete group set
Sram Red 52/36, 172.5 BB30 cranks
Fabric Flat carbon saddle
Fabric Silicon bar tape
Arundel carbon cages
Look Keo carbon pedals
Total weight 8.0kg
You can also find this and some other great stories by our workers and friends here at The Cycling Chronicles