The line that defines artist and engineer, in the world of the custom bicycle, is a fine one, and one that depends on your personal perspective. For Boston’s Nao Tomii, the line is even finer, having already a steady career as a sculptor on his resume before assembling his first frame.
This is Nao’s twelfth frame, which can categorically be described as a road bike, but one that has been created around the desire to leave the tarmac behind. Bobby Earle O’Brien commissioned Nao to build him a frame that you simply couldn’t find in your regular bike shop. Bobby was kind enough to give us an extra insight into this amazing creation:
“When I thought about this project, I knew exactly what I did NOT want: A cyclocross bike with fat slicks. I wanted a road bike with big fat slicks. This bike would be used primarily for pavement, but it would be comfortable on gravel roads too. Maybe some light touring. Maybe I’ll do some rides with the New England Randonneurs.
“I found Nao Tomii almost by accident. I sell quite a few bike parts on the web and one of my repeat customers mentioned Nao as he had built up cyclocross bikes for both him and his girlfriend. Curiosity got the best of me and I checked out the Tomii web site.
“What first caught my eye is that Nao fillet brazed many of his frames. There’s just a very nice quality with fillet brazing. It’s seamless. Plus, he’s a relative newcomer to the Boston frame building arena and I was excited to work with someone with a fresh perspective. After an initial consult, I decided very quickly to become customer #12.
“People often ask me about the bike and my experience with Nao. One description I always use is that he’s very deliberate. There were many things that struck me during the process to come to this conclusion. How he hand draws the frame geometry on an drafting table. Maybe it was adding the Tomii badge on the stem or when he filled in the opening on the fork crown. Or the attention to detail on the top of the seat tube.
“I was very explicit on things I wanted, like down tube shifter and disc brakes, but Nao was really left to his own devices during the process which is exactly what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, we had review meetings throughout the build process. I just wanted him to be more the creative force. He is an artist after all.