We seem to be living in an era of extravagant paintwork, where the skill of the frame painter is emphasised as much as that of the builder. And as long as we keep in mind the finely shaped metal underneath the paint, that can only be a good thing.
James Hoppe is the Graphic and Web Designer at Fabric, makers of those comely ALM saddles and innovative cageless bidons. They’re based in Frome, Somerset, and James recently attended The Bicycle Academy, another Frome local, to build his dream bike.
James may have dressed his new road frame in a flamboyant paint scheme, but he assembled the Columbus HSS tubes with the smoothest of fillets — the perfect combination of content and cosmetics.
Inspiration was drawn from The Memphis Group, an Italian design and architecture group founded in Milan by Ettore Sottsass in 1981. Their postmodern furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass and metal objects embodied the quintessence of the 80s.
The garish patterns have always held a fascination for James, and he combined The Memphis Group reference with a Hunter S. Thompson quote: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting Holy Shit, what a ride!”
The American journalist’s quote are words to live by, but for James, it’s significant from a personal perspective also, it was emblazoned on a t-shirt his dad bought on a road trip across America when James was younger.
James approached Andrew Denham at The Bicycle Academy with the idea for his dream bike: the aesthetics of a Vanilla Speedvagen, with flat mount discs and internal cable routing to keep the lines clean.
He’d read about the latest HSS tubes from Columbus and its ride quality, but James really like how modern it looked: “oversized without being over-the-top,” James says. “We ended up pairing an HSS top and down tube with extra light skinny stays, making the bike stiff but not harsh.”
He continues: “I had no experience with either bike design or metal work, so obviously I was a little nervous about undertaking the project. The initial bike fit and design day was led by Tony from Torke Cycling who gave an incredibly detailed explanation of how each part of the bike effects the body and ride characteristics — head angles, fork rake, wheel base etc. but the most interesting was saddle setback.
“Having had several ‘bike fits’ done in the past, using the old plumb line down from from the knee to the pedal spindle — which frankly just skims over the cracks of a properly fitting bike, this simple concept of getting you pedalling in a comfortable position where you can support yourself using very little effort – even in the drops, was eyeopening.”
“Once my fit was done, we worked on the geometry to make sure the bike handled just how I wanted. It’s the tiny details that add up — e.g having a slight steeper head angle to compensate for the 120mm stem and keep the handling sharp.
“Next up was a single-day fillet braze class with Andrew, which was split 50/50 between practical and academic. This day was brilliantly run; it was great learning something completely new with rapid progress.
“It was taught in a way that encouraged you to make mistakes, so that you can look out for what can happen when brazing your own frame. Along the way the course was run two-on-one (student/teacher) which allowed for a really intimate and encouraging learning environment.”
James says: “Really, the proof of that single day class is walking away with a bike that I’m 100% proud of. My mentor for the remaining 6 days was Paul from BTR Fabrications who took me through the ABC of bike CAD, setting up the Academy Tools jig, bench fitting skills, cutting, and mitring.
“Again, this was run 2-1 which gives you great confidence to crack on, but also while on the course, I gained advice from Robin Mather and Ted James. The Bicycle Academy was a buzzing hub of frame builders who all gave really meaningful insights and tips on becoming better, more efficient and accurate.”
James is now itching to make more bikes, describing the process as addictive, and that you can get lost in it, but also because “I’ve got countless more paint ideas that need come into existence — having to narrow down to this final design took as much effort as the rest of the bike.”
The paint was applied by Ali McLean at Fat Creations in Chichester, West Sussex, using a mix of House of Kolor Shimrin Purple with House of Kolor pearlescent white on the front and for the logos.
The forks read ‘Don’t Worry Be Hoppe’; an optimistic dictum, synopsised by the massive YES on the downtube, spelt ‘YESEY’, so it can be read from both sides. “Yes bikes,” says James. “Say yes more — it’s more fun!”
Words to live by, indeed.