When I started to build my first bike frame, I wanted o have a “brand name” written on the down tube. At that time, that was something of what I thought of as “professional”.
The model name was found quickly: I planned to have the frame painted in Alfa Romeo’s “Rosso Competizione”, so Competizione seemed to be a good name for a road bike frame. But the virtual brand name did not come easy.
My family name is “Gebhardt”. While German names on bike parts may be kind of fancy, noboda outside Germany knows how to pronounce it. “Tom”? Well, I think very short names look kind of lost on downtubes. So I looked for something more neutral – but these relults lacked personality and a deeper connection to me as a person.
And then I thought of nicknames. One of them has been “Major Tom” or just “Major” for many years. I believe, it came up in the harrdbooter’s community somewhen in 2004/2005 based on Peter Schillings song from ’82: “Major Tom” (völlig losgelöst)
Major Tom Youtube (I will try later to make that video directly visible here)
At that time the idea of “Major Cycles” came up, which in some fields like finance or statistics hhas quite a meaning (not related to bicycles at all.) I then interviewed some English native speakers about their thoughts. Nobody tried to stop me.
So the “brand name” mainly started as something to fill the down tube. I was not even suure about any future frame building activity at that time. But when I started to build my second frame, also that one needed a downtube name.
So that’s why my bikes are callled “Major Cycles”
Today I want to describe how I got to the paint job design of my latest build completed.
The paint job of my first frame was easy to define and to decide. I’m not saying that I did not put any time or thoughts into it. But the main color (Lamborghini Rosso Competizione) was part of he project and even matched the model name: Competizione”. And at that time, a banderole was a perfectly fine design for me. So the first design was quite close to one of the most calssic paint schemes ever, the Colnago Saronni.
Major Cyles No. 1: “Competizione”
Ever since I’ve been collecting “cool bike colors”. One of those that I really loved from the first moment was the Toyota GT86′ Inferno Orange.
When I started to think about the design of my wife’s frame, I found that much more difficult than designing a paint scheme for yourself. I wanted the mein color to match her idea of bikes and cycling. I also wanted it to be kind of feminine (by the way: I totally overestimated her desire of having a feminine bicycle). So I pretty much started thinking about an inverse color scheme to my first frame, like some of the early Merckx frames. I thought, that was very classic, she found it boring.
Still with lots of white in mind, I developed the idea of longitudinal stripes on the tubes. And I asked her tons of questions about colors. I learned, she loves orange for bikes. Great. So after only some weeks I already had a solution. White with orange and blue stripes.
I prepared the frame with colored paper. I really liked the look. My wife appreciated the effort, but found it too pale, too “nice”. Not powerful.
But based on that, we could develop more ideas. With the help of “Paint” and some friends, I came up with what went to be the final paint design. I even drew “top tube views” in paint showing the lugs to give an impression to her and to me.
So what did I learn about making bikes for someone else?
- It’s incredibly hard to imagine what someone else might like or not.
- We tend to become victims of our expectations and clichés
- I need to talk and discuss with the future bike owner about colors and designs
- The result can still be 100% mine and 100% hers
As a result we are both incredibly happy with the paint.
Next week I’ll show the painted frame and final bike.
The last complete bike I built, was a ladies’ road bike for my wife.
There were a lot of peculiarities in this project:
- a very demanding “customer”
- a “customer” with very little experience in road bikes
- a lot of time for the fit
- very well known riding biases
The funniest fact might be, that it took me more than 3 years to finalise the geometry. This was mainly due to the fact that the framebuilding only started to late. But all that time gave me the opportunity to optimise my wife’s riding position on two other bikes until I felt very confident with the result. An that leads to the first finding:
Fit is the main priority.
The picture on top of this post was my first manual drawing. It was already a good fit regarding saddle-to-bar-position. That means: I had to find a solution to build a frame for only 6cm saddle elevation. That’s the main reason why I opted for a 6° sloping top tube and 1cm steerer tube ecxess. So I could achieve a nominal frame height of 55cm from where the top tube is lowered by 1cm and then descending at 6° towards the seat tube. That measures were found based on the inseam length, torso and arm lengths, known preferred saddle superelevation and my knowledge of her riding position.
Then the frame had to be really short due to my wife’s short torso length. It came out with a 52cm top tube at 73° seat tube angle. This was based on a strictly “Outside-in”-appproach starting at the saddle position. Based on saddle-bar-length I then considered the planned stem parameters (6° rise, 90mm length) and the conventional headset.
Different from most production frames, I could not cheat with super-steep seat tube angles, as the correct fit was my personal motivation. But usually short frames means toe overlap. So there is a big advantage for me building a “private” frame: I can accept some toe overlap. But in this case, I still wanted to avoid it. At the same time I knew very well how bad flat head tube angles can feel. So went for a moderate head tube angle of 72,5° and some more fork rake of 48mm to achieve my personal sweet spot trail of 55mm.
The result of all this is what I aimed for: A perfect fit frame for a person with shorter than normal torso AND a perfectly neutral-yet-lively road bike. The bike fits very well in all handlebar positions due to the moderate riding position and the compact handlebar.
A nice side-effect of the outside-in-engineering approach is surprisingly balanced visuals for a short and high road bike.