Made By Hand

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From Belgium, with love

It wasn’t so long ago that the majority of bicycles were made by hand, from raw materials, in places that aren’t China or Taiwan. While some of these artisans are still around, their wares are increasingly harder to come by, and to procure an example of their work means an outlay of time and money which is more than most are willing to commit. This is a problem with not just bikes; mass consumption is big business, not only in everyday necessities but for ‘luxury’ items as well. A bicycle can be considered a luxury item for some, so to bring them to the masses, they must be produced in ways that lower the cost of materials and labour to a point where the average consumer can feel like they are getting a quality product at a reasonable price. And they usually are.

They just aren’t getting anything unique.

Now that three of the four bikes in my possession are made by hand, I have made a commitment to only own machines produced not by robots, not from composites and not from ‘factory farming’ methods. While there are many excellent bicycles produced en masse, the little bit of personality that is instilled in each of my rides sets them apart and I know I’ll see not many, if any, similar steeds on my roads or trails. How many dudes you know roll like this?

Riding the cobbles of KT12 on my Merckx Team SC and KT13 on the Pavé steel Cyfacs re-opened my eyes to the subtleties of a well-made frame and the characteristics which can be incorporated into the bike by the maker; each one can be tweaked to offer a ride quality specific to each frame, each rider, even the environment in which they are created and which they are intended to be ridden. The Merckx was fairly hard to come by, and I stumbled upon it by chance rather than through any concerted effort to find it. I sometimes think it found me. It’s a bike I love to ride, but also to just appreciate its lines, its pedigree, its Made In Belgium heritage, no doubt welded by a grizzled Flandrian who cut his teeth in the very factory he still works at 40 years later. I’d like to think so, and there’s some small likelihood of it, at least. Maybe I will return it to Belgium once more, in Spring, from where its journey started and where it made its mark in history more than a decade ago.

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/brettok@velominati.com/merckx sc/”/]

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170 Replies to “Made By Hand”

  1. @mouse

    @VeloVita

    So I thought my next n+1 would be a cross bike, but instead a handmade steel Engin road frameset sort of fell into my lap. I’m going to have to cannibalize Bike #1 for parts, but I think the new frame warrants that sacrifice. My Ridley Orion will have to hang on a hook in the garage for a while.

    Fuck, you got hit in the ass with a rainbow while you we’re riding your unicorn.

    We demand photos!

    Nearly choked on my coffee, humerous stuff, is there copyright on the rainbow/unicorn thing ?

  2. @G’rilla

    @VeloVita Even as a proponent of CX I can say that buying handmade steel from a reputable builder is never the wrong choice.

    What I should have said was that I had thought that my next n+1 would be ANOTHER cross bike as I do already have one in the stable (though its not nearly as nice as yours)

  3. @grahamr

    Build complete , apologies for the mudguards, but very wet in the UK at present…………….

    Nice looking bike.  Is that a threaded to threadless adapter for the stem that you’re using or is that a threadless fork?  I’ve never seen a black adapter.

  4. @brett

    Lovely bike and nice photos.

    I agree with Frank about the bars angle/tilt but it’s probably cause you are more comfortable like that.

    Also black carbon top cap i/o silver would be awesome, ideally with EM written on it.

  5. @Mark1   Wow…sweet set.  Props for having the guts to use carbon rims and high end hubs to build your first set.

  6. @mouse

    @VeloVita

    So I thought my next n+1 would be a cross bike, but instead a handmade steel Engin road frameset sort of fell into my lap. I’m going to have to cannibalize Bike #1 for parts, but I think the new frame warrants that sacrifice. My Ridley Orion will have to hang on a hook in the garage for a while.

    Fuck, you got hit in the ass with a rainbow while you we’re riding your unicorn.

    We demand photos!

    I posted this over in The Bikes with more of a description, but seeing as @mouse made his demands here I’ll repost the photo

    IMG_1744-2

  7. @DCR

    @VeloVita Now that’s a top tube! interesting geometry. Is this particular to Engin?

    No, the geometry is just particular to the bike and in direct contrast to the V-Locus article Frank just posted.  The seat tube and ETT measurements are actually pretty normal – 59.5cm square, but the head tube is really long which raises the standover height of the bike even with the sloping top tube.  The wheelbase is longer than your typical 59mm race bike as well and the head tube angle slacker and with more trail.  Considering the atypical frame dimensions, I think Drew did a fantastic job with the design to keep the bike looking proportional as opposed to having smaller frame with a shit ton of spacer and an upturned stem.  The design shows through in the ride quality and handling as well.  My XL Ridley Orion and Ridley Compact position me essentially the same as this bike, but the Engin feels worlds better to ride – more planted to the ground and able to dive into corners without feeling tippy and effortless to ride no handed for dressing/undressing.

  8. Hello Brett is it your 56cm Merckx team SC? I have the same frame I love it but it seems small to me could you tell me how tall are u and your inseam? thanks

    Best regards

  9. @brett Hello!Iis it your 56cm Merckx team SC? I have the same frame I love it but it seems small to me could you tell me how tall are u and your inseam? thanks

  10. @kantonin

    Yep, that’s mine… I am 183cm/6ft tall, no idea on my inseam. My frame is actually marked 55 on the BB and is probably a tad on the short side, but the geometry (slack headtube and seat tube angles) coupled with a 130mm stem makes it work ok. I probably would be better on a 56 or 57, but I’m comfortable on this configuration.

    Hope that helps.

  11. I was trying to figure out how to fit this into “The Bikes”, but knew it wasn’t right, since it’s a 29er.

    But it’s handbuilt.  I cut and welded the frame, I built the wheels, I spec’d (with the VMH’s [also the CFO’s] approval) the components and put it all together.

    As @Marko commented after my first ride down some slightly technical singletrack, where it cause me to lose a significant portion of skin on my right side – “Crashed on maiden voyage. That’s tits. Gonna be a good bike”.

    Build details and pics here.

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