I tried to hint at this subtly in previous posts, but judging by some recent conversations I was a too subtle. So it is time to announce this formally: I am getting a custom bicycle from Royal H. Cycles.
track bike mentioned earlier! My Royal H. will be a classic Randonneur-style mixte, inspired by the early French constructeurs: fully lugged, with twin lateral stays and a touring geometry. Even as I write it, I do not really believe it. Yes, it will be utterly glorious, and no, I cannot afford it. But I've been finding some creative ways to scrimp, save, and earn extra cash, and it's all coming together nicely (the deposit system really helps as well!). The frame will be ready in November, and then I will spend the winter fitting it with components. In the springtime, the complete bicycle shall emerge just as the crocuses come into bloom and the swallows sing their song.
Royal H. studio (pictured above) is a 5-minute bike ride from my house, so my bicycle is being built in my own neighborhood. There is nothing quite like this.
Open Bicycle, after I saw a purple Royal H. bike belonging to one of their customers and was taken with its elegant styling. "Who made that?" I asked. And the rest was history. I met Bryan in person, discussed my ideas with him, and it was immediately clear that he understood exactly what I was talking about and would enjoy making it. It was an exciting, high-energy first meeting and in the end I had no doubt that this person was the right framebuilder for me. This might seem trite, but it can be very helpful for the framebuilder to get a good sense of the customer's individual style by interacting with them. And getting a sense of your individual style will enable them to use their creativity to make a truly personalised bicycle.
Royal H. has also allowed me the unique opportunity to visit my frame at various stages of completion, watch it develop, and give Bryan feedback to any questions or new ideas that came up. I have held the different parts of my frame in my hands before it was a frame - the lugs, the tubes, the dropouts, the little braze-ons! - and I watched Bryan arrange them on his drawing-board. This was a thrilling experience, and it has deepened my sense of connectedness to this bicycle. It is definitely my frame, I was there as it evolved! Thanks to Bryan's generous narration about his process, I have also learned a bit about how bicycles are built in the meantime.
framebuilder for Seven Cycles, where, interestingly enough, he specialises in carbon fiber frames. Recently Bryan has branched out into a private frame building practice and started Royal H., with a focus on classic lugged steel bicycles. The art nouveau aesthetic of his work appeals to me very much, and I often find myself admiring his frames even when the bicycle is completely inappropriate for me - like the cream track bike I mentioned earlier.
custom dropouts!). Bryan has impressed me on more than one occasion with his ability to combine innovative solutions with classic looks, and I will no doubt dedicate several future posts to boring you with the technical details and pornographic close-ups of my bicycle. But not to worry, that won't be for another couple of months.
Fat City Cycles and Merlin Metal Works in the 1980s and '90s. In fact, the Union Square neighborhood where Open Bicycle and Royal H. are located was the former home of these manufacturers. Today, the Boston area boasts famed artisanal framebuilders such as Peter Mooney and Mike Flanigan, the internationally renown Seven Cycles and Independent Fabrications, the innovative Geekhouse, and attention-worthy young builders including Icarus and Royal H. When the context and history of your bicycle's production are meaningful to you, owning it will feel truly special. I plan to have future posts dedicated to local framebuilders, to the framebuilding process, and to the history of bicycle manufacturing in Boston, and I hope that these will be of interest.