From any angle, 20″ wheels on a full-sized road frame look strangely intriguing — their small size beguiling their power, like the front wheels on a Top Fuel dragster. Belgium’s Noble Cycles show us how to do a minivelo right.
Nicolas Noblet has been consistently building very refined bikes, including fast road bikes, randonneurs and tourers, so this minivelo was definitely a departure from his usual stijl, and presented a unique challenge.
Sparrowhawk was designed for a cyclist who works at Luxembourg airport and commutes both by bike and bus. Normally riding a 700c road bike and dissatisfied with how the current crop of folding bikes rode, he turned to Nicolas for a solution.
A minivelo works well in theory, the tyres’ contact patches are in the same location as a standard 700c, the challenge is adjusting the rest of the frame to fit, keeping the angles in proportion and bottom bracket height in the same position.
You won’t find a set of lugs for geometry like this, but combined with the oversized XXL Columbus Zona tubes that Nicolas used to increase rigidity and stability, a fillet brazed construction contributes to an very modern-looking frame.
The massive sans serif Helvetica Bold headline splashed across the top tube helps, too. In contrast, a Pacenti crown on the forks tilts a hat towards the classic lugged form and reduces flex at the front end.
To construct the frame, Nicolas had to bring his Bringheli jig out of retirement because his new Sputnik jig wouldn’t accept that massive headtube. Sparrowhawk is a good illustration of how a custom frame can solve a unique problem.