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Keepers of the Flame

timv's picture

Besides celebrating old bikes, this weekend's Cirque du Cyclisme is also a celebration of those individuals and small businesses who continue to build bikes inspired by the classic style--typically made by hand out of steel tubing, and usually brazed (joined by melted brass or silver alloy rather than by welding, a higher temperature process that actually melts the steel) with "lugs" at each of the frame's joints. Dale Brown has dubbed this class of builder "Keepers of the Flame," a pun on the flame of the torch that's used to create the brazed joints.

There was a time, particularly in Britain, when serious cyclists had frames made to order for them at the local bike shop. There's also a long tradition of elaborately shaping and customizing the metal pieces used to build the frame, and of applying spectacular plating and paint to it. But contemporary custom builders are taking the decorative aspects of the bicycle to entirely new places while also creating great-riding bikes that exactly fit the dimensions and riding style of the rider--something much easier accomplished in steel than in aluminum or carbon fiber.

Any list of such builders that I could post here would be hopelessly incomplete, but here's a hopelessly incomplete list anyway:

Richard Sachs, maybe the pre-eminent maker of handbuilt steel bicycle frames.

Brian Baylis, a living legend.

JP Weigle, another true master.

Mike Berry of Toronto, father of pro cyclist Michael Berry and an icon himself.

Australian Darrell McCulloch, proprietor of Llewellyn Bikes and creator of some of the most stunning stainless steel work I've seen.

John Slawta of Landshark Bicycles, known for his brilliant and often whimsical paint, and a favorite among local riders.

Quite a few of these folks (at least the first four, according to the signup list) will be on hand Sunday at Lewis Recreation Center, just the other side of the tennis courts from our Country Park skating loop, to meet and greet and display their work.

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