Mass-produced bicycles do serve a purpose, there’s no denying. For a basic, off-the-peg machine that will get you riding quickly, a one-size-fits-all bike can’t be beat. After a few miles, however, you might get the impression that it’s a soulless beast. Make no mistake, riding a bike that has been brazed together by hand has an intrinsic value that becomes more familiar over time and, over hundreds of miles, personally more valuable.
If you think the cost of a custom frame with hand-carved or bi-lam lug work and personalised touches is prohibitive, perhaps you’re not considering its unseen value. But if you’ve sat down with a calculator and really can’t justify the cost to the Minister of Finance, another option is a production frame from a custom builder. Take, for instance, the Tool Series from Oregon’s Winter Bicycles.
The Tool Series is as close to a stock model as you’ll get from one of Oregon’s most reputable and admired builders. Having said that, each Tool is built to order, individually sized, fillet brazed and in the case of the Road Tool, comes with Pegoretti’s Falz carbon fork. David Rangel has a story to tell about his investment in one and, after two years of hard use, took these photos of it:
“The process actually started about a year before when I met him at the NAHBS in Austin in 2012. After walking around with pipe dreams about a bespoke road bike, I saw his booth as we were leaving on the last day. He had the worst booth spot – stage left of the entrance. I must have gone in and out 10 times over the weekend and missed his booth every time until then.
“We talked a bit. At the time he was way out of my budget, even as far as custom bikes go, because he was building them all with these amazing carved lugs and hand built steel forks, or bi-laminate tube construction; crazy shit I couldn’t afford. And, honestly, didn’t need. But we got on and I kept I decided that if I ever was going to get a bike built for me, he was going to be the one to do it.
“I walked away with a bit of knowledge and a lot of angst. I wanted a one-off bike. Badly. We met again the next year in Sacremento, and talked again. He had a few more bikes out that year and they were even more impressive. Fast forward 6 more months and Eric emails to tell me about a new project. The Tool Bike, he calls it. Custom geometry and tubing, but without the fancy lug work and paint or fork.
“A strict road race bike built to me but a little more affordable (I mean, it still took me a year to pay for) and I would have the first one, besides the beta that he built for himself, of course. I couldn’t say no and sent off a deposit knowing my income tax return would be gone the minute it hit the bank.
“We emailed back and forth. Talked build and components. The 6700 Ultegra was the easy choice. Originally it also came with the matching wheels, but I had to sell those off. I would have destroyed them in a few months. Eric speced the Pegoretti FALZ fork, his first carbon fork (mine was actually in the first shipment to the USA).
“When we first talked about design I actually asked him to build the angles around the seatpost. I’d always wanted a Thomson layback. I just think they look extra trick and they are great products. So that was it. It was built and I picked it up at the next NAHBS in Denver, 2013.
“It was amazing. Less amazing was the fact it snowed 10 inches the night before I could ride it. So I took it home unfit and unridden. I put it together, went by and saw Matt Hamlin for a fitting at Bicycle Heaven and was off riding. It fit like a glove. I rode the shit out of it. I don’t know how many miles it’s got now, well over 2000 for sure, but it still rides like the day I put it together.
“I’ve used it as a club bike, a street bike, a commuter, you name it. I stripped it down to make it ugly during an ugly period in my life, but it didn’t matter. You can’t take the soul out of something like this, no matter what it looks like. I love this bicycle. Like almost unnaturally. I’ll never sell it. It will probably by buried with me.”
David’s Road Tool is getting sent back to Eric for a repaint, but even now it looks full of character and as resilient as ever. And still looks ready for more. Special thanks to David Rangel for the words and pictures. Head to the Winter Bicycles website for ordering information.