The Building of My Bike : The Frame

Ryan & Marie

This past Monday, Kai and I stopped by to visit my frame builders, Ryan and Marie, of Folk Engineered.  We spent a couple of hours with them, collecting my measurements and discussing the details of my ideal frame.  It was very exciting to be able to spend time talking about my bike and our upcoming trip with fellow bike lovers, as well as to meet them and see their workshop in person.  

Months ago, Kai, being the more experienced bike builder of the two of us (he’s built up 3 of his own bikes), offered to be the lead in building my bike, which I immediately and gratefully accepted.  He’s doing all the leg work for me and I feel a little spoiled in this whole process because, basically, all I have to do is point to one after another photo of a bike or bike part and say “I want that”.   After answering any questions he had about my preferences, Kai has taken on this project as if he were building his own dream bike (which perhaps, vicariously, he is) and does all the research, scours online for new or used parts, makes phone calls, takes care of transactions and educates me along the way.  So, he was the one who researched and contacted a variety of frame builders over a few months time and laid out his top three recommendations of who I should consider going with based upon my specs, my desire to remain somewhat affordable (well, as affordable as you can get when building a custom bike), and our mutual commitment to patronizing a local, independent builder, if possible.    Folk Engineered Shop

Although we considered Bob Jackson Cycles and Roberts Cycles, both in the UK, and La Suprema in AZ, we ultimately chose Folk Engineered to build my frame, for several reasons :

Price : for what they offer (handmade, custom, lugged & fillet brazed) their price is very competitive

Materials Used :  they use True Temper steel which is made in the USA

Location :  they are based in the Northeast (Newark, NJ)

Work Philosophy : they understand that a bike is not only a means of transportation but is also a piece of art and an extension of the rider’s personal expression

Personal Philosophy: they have experience touring, have been actively involved in bicycle advocacy, and are taking risks and following their dreams (something we like to support)

Taking Measurements
One of the interesting things that came out of the measurement session is learning that I have a shin that is much shorter than the other (an arm is a bit shorter as well but not enough to care about).  I had already realized that one leg was shorter than the other via my body’s not so subtle messages over the last couple of years.  For instance, while training for a 1/2 marathon last summer one of my knees persistently complained, despite my giving it plenty of rest and time to heal between runs.  And, the summer before that, one of my ribs decided to randomly and repeatedly pop out of place.  My doctor’s office armed me with DIY instructions on how to put it back in its place but after almost passing out trying to pop it back in the third time around, it was a painful enough experience that I made an appointment to visit a chiropractor, which, for me, is a big deal since I have what I consider a very rational fear surrounding the pulling, prodding or popping of bones in my body.  There, I was told Tomatoesabout my leg discrepancy and was given an explanation of how it, or the adjustments my body was making in relation to it (like how I twist my hips or legs to compensate), might be causing the rib to continue to pop out of place.  After several visits, I, amazingly, felt more “aligned” and my rib hasn’t popped out of place since.  But, now I realize pulling my hip out of place in order for my feet to be aligned, which is what the chiropractor did, may not be the best solution (it just pulls my hip out of place instead of my rib!).  What I need for the discrepancy is a shoe insert.  So, in the near future I’ll be making an appointment with a podiatrist and will add inserts to my future packing list.

Anyway, back to the meeting with Ryan and Marie….I felt very comfortable the entire time we were there.  We sat down with them to go over the sketches they had prepared as a result of our previous email exchanges.  They were great in helping pin down the details and design of my frame so that it would meet all of my needs.  I feel confident I’m going to get a well made and beautiful frame from them.

Of course, once we saw Ryan and Marie’s hydroponic tomatoes and worm composter, we knew we had chosen the right couple to make my frame!

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