Originally, we thought to make this a group buy in NZ to encourage local bike dealers to buy European bikes. However, our thinking is now changing a bit. If we can, we would like to make the bikes mail order world-wide; dropped shipped to customers anywhere. We probably will price the bikes in Euros so as to not deal with changing exchange rates, and to do a simple cost-plus pricing to cover our middle-man services.
After buying and riding English (both new and an old DL-1), Dutch, Danish, French, Austrian, American, Taiwan, Japanese and Italian, we decided we like Italian best. They handle well, are comfortable on five day bike-road rides, can be carried up stairs and they look great, especially the Frascona curve which makes it easier for older legs to hop on.
The challenge is that while Italians make great bikes, they rarely sell them beyond their own borders. They mastered frame design a century ago, and they understand beauty as well as performance.
So first, it required finding the right bike manufacturer. That took a while, especially given the language barriers. But we sorted it.
Next we needed the right geometry. so we went to Constance Winters (Velouria) who wrote the blog lovelybike.blogspot.com (inactive since April 2017). It was her blog that introduced us to great European bicycles back in 2011 (wow, time flies). We commissioned her to give us her ideal bicycle geometry for an all-purpose city bike that would be comfortable on city streets, potholes and gravel cycle trails... essentially a bicycle as recreation and as a machine for daily transport in all conditions, rather than for speed or performance. Most notable was a more relaxed front fork more akin to the old DL-1 fork intended to smooth out the bumps rather than handle like a sports car.
In Sept 2017, we went to Italy, visited the factory and met the team, having placed our order earlier. We collected the frame and fork made to Lovely Bike specifications, painted black as were the mudguards (fenders). Why not a bright colour? Primarily because even the best paint gets scratched and shiny black is easy to match. Also, traditionally, bikes were black (as in Henry Ford's any colour as long as it is black) and it matches most accessories such as brown leather saddle, brown grips, silver rims and handle bar, etc. For the prototype we were not so interested in colour as specs.
The frame's light-weight Dedacciai tube set is more about carrying up stairs than shaving grams to get there faster.
After lots of emails back and forth, we finally arrived at the factory on our last day in Italy (we did not want to be carrying a bike frame in a box while driving around Europe). Wonderful to meet the team, see some of the amazing bike frames (one in stainless steel is a work of art... not inexpensive, but we may add it to the portfolio) and see the factory. They packed up the frame and two forks which fit in the Fiat Punto back seat, and there was no problem checking it in as luggage... it arrived safely in Auckland.
As of this update, we have not yet assembled it, but we are getting closer to making great European bicycles available world-wide. Putting it all together (the process, not the bicycle) is complicated, and as a charitable trust, it takes a back seat to other projects, but stay tuned.
In the meanwhile, here are some pics...
Not the best photo, but this shows the Frascona curve fresh out of the special bending machine (see bottom right in the pic).
This is a factory that has been in business for over 50 years. Small, functional, well organised and staffed by a small team that has been doing it for decades. With more manufacturing moving to Asian mass production, keeping small, family businesses like this one going is important. Our role is to make it easy for people outside of Italy to buy their product. It's a labour of love.
Below is the new stainless frame they proudly showed us (used a bit of Photoshop to blur the background). The lugs are beautiful.
Use the contact page to get more information.
This project is sponsored by the Renaissance Aotearoa Foundation, a NZ registered charity and IRD approved charitable trust.