A custom frame is a very significant and enjoyable investment, but not one that should be entered into lightly. Every detail must be confirmed, from the drivetrain to the smallest bolt. It can be an arduous process, it’s true, but that day when you finally see that bike freshly built up… well, you’d feel like a groom gazing upon his bride.
Tyler, Jamie and Kevin of Boston’s Firefly Bicycles are well versed in counselling the prospective customer to ensure the new frame is a perfect match. Even when the customer lives in Utrecht. Ad Vermaas flew from The Netherlands to Boston to receive his new Firefly, then promptly turned around and flew back to Europe with it to embark on a Romanian tour.
Ad tells the story: “I’ve been following Firefly from their start. I had been lusting after an Independent Fabrication for some time, but when Tyler Evans and Jamie Medeiros, and a bit later Kevin Wolfson, left IF and started Firefly, I knew I’d found my new dream bike. It took me some time to get there, but in 2013 I ordered an all-road bike.
“I picked it up in Boston at the end of July and left a day later for it’s maiden trip through Romania (together with Stefan Rohner, whose own Firefly has been featured on Cycle EXIF as well). Besides a ride in Boston there was no time for testing, but as Firefly built me a complete bike I was convinced it would work fine.
“It isn’t designed as a hardcore touring bike. For instance, it has less handlebar drop than my road bikes, but for a dedicated tourer I would have opted for even less drop. Most of the time it will be used for long-distance rides, for unpaved roads and as a bad-weather bike. It has clearance for 45mm tires or for 35mm tires with smooth stainless steel Velo Orange fenders.
“The Rohloff, SON hub and Supernova lights will get me through the dark and wet Dutch Autumns and Winters. Other components are a Phil Wood eccentric BB, XO cranks, Force spider, Race Face chainring, TRP Hylex hydro disc brakes, a Firefly post and stem, a Salsa Cowbell 2 bar, the brand new Cinq thumb shifters for Rohloff, a King headset and Velocity Cliff Hanger rims.
“The Blackburn front rack will be replaced by a custom rack later on. I’ll also be swapping out the pedals for Shimano XTR pedals and the saddle for a slate Brooks Cambium C15. The custom steel fork is made by Engin and has internal routing for the lights and the brake, forward-facing dropouts and eyelets for fender and rack.
“The frame is beautifully made, has the Rohloff cables running through the down tube, the rear-light wire through the top tube and the rear brake through the top tube and the seat stay. It is bead-blasted and has brushed anodized graphics. I moved the FIREFLY logotype to the seat tube.
“On the top tube I wanted the patterned headbadge logo design (which was part of Firefly’s logo design study) with yellow and pink anodization and polished diagonal lines.
“It was too risky though, because the thin lines might not turn out very crisp. So Tyler designed the final variant and suggested the fading colors. The matching fork is painted by Bill McDonald, former head painter at Serotta, who has his own paint shop now.
“When starting this project, I was like a kid in a candy store. Luckily, Kevin is not only a fantastic frame designer, he is also very helpful and amazingly patient. It was thanks to him that my wishlist was reduced to more realistic proportions. All our conversations went via e-mail, but that wasn’t a problem at all. I’m sure this will be my favourite bike from now on.”
Sounds like a marriage made in heaven. Kevin also had this to say about his contribution to the relationship: “We built it specifically for a tour through Romania he’s doing. Romania has some rough roads, so clearance for big tires was a must. We designed it specifically for weight on the front — there aren’t even rack mounts on the back. That means it has a short trail to reduce wheel flop when he is carrying weight on the front rack.
“I think my favourite thing about this bike is how simple it looks and how easy and maintenance free it will be to ride,” Kevin says, “but how complicated it was to put together. All of the cables and wires are routed internally, the gears are internal, there’s no battery for the lights, the light mounts are integrated into the frame and rack, etc. It’s basically ready for anything.”
And the anodisation graphics? “The graphic was inspired by an early logo concept ID29 drew for us. Ad saw the concept in a picture and loved it, then we figured out how to make it work on the frame and fork. The ano fade shows off two colours we use less often but that are really beautiful: pink and yellow. In between those two colours is a very subtle section of orange. All of those colours work with the turquoise Chris King headset.”
All of which should have culminated in a very happy reception for Ad and his new Firefly. The two of them should enjoy countless miles together, especially on their honeymoon tour around Romania. Bon voyage. Special thanks to Ad and Kevin for the words and pictures. See more of Firefly’s blinding portfolio on their flickr page, and get in touch with the team through their website.