The author of today’s bike is Jeremy Nathan, editor of Life Is A Beautiful Detail, one of the most excellently curated blogs about Art, Life and Bikes. This is the story of Jeremy’s dream bike.
My hometown, Toronto, has its fair share of internet-melting custom bikes. And, over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph and write about some of them. Each article has been inspiring, beyond the fact that none of them were mine, something always seemed to be missing.
The story of these super-bikes focused solely on the end product while passing right over the process that produced them. In my opinion, the real value of a dream bike is how personal and unique the experience of building it was. The more I shoot these lust-worthy rides, the more I became curious.
So I began looking around for more insight into the design custom. When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I knew we had a story.
But this story wasn’t supposed to be about me. It meant to record and chronicle the story of someone else going through the custom build process. I never dreamed it would be me. While trying to identify and line up someone to shadow, a series of life events happened. I found myself in a rare and fortunate position.
And that’s how this became “The Perfect Project.”
The scope of the story never changed. The Perfect Project is about demystifying the custom build process by opening up each step along the way in order to share the experience with others. It’s intended to shine a light on the real value of designing, building, and delivering a bespoke bicycle.
The hope is that anyone curious to know what is involved will find what they are searching for. For anyone considering a custom build but remains unsure about what the process, the journey, or the end results will be, The Perfect Project hopes to inspire them to take the leap.
It’s truly worth it. Trust me, but if you need more reassurance, read the whole story.
Truth be told, the idea of my own dream bike wasn’t something new. Like anyone, I’ve always wanted one. It’s just the reality of making it happen that wasn’t feasible.
However, all things change. Now with a green light, the first step was to find the right partners. My relationship with Blacksmith Cycle, aka the dream bike factory, goes back a few years. In that time, they’ve become more than just a local bike shop to me. They are my local club, friends, and mentors.
So since nobody knows me better, they were the perfect partner. Together we set out to find the right material, the right builder, and to create the right design.
The bike itself is a Mosaic RT-1. A butted wall titanium road frame. Why this frame? Part 3 of the story explains it in detail but I’ll summarize it as: I wanted a frame that would last a lifetime whilst having a distinct personality. The first instinct was to go carbon.
But there is something about the way an alloy frame provides feedback from the road that is unmistakable. I had to have that. When I shot and wrote the March Mosaic’ness story it was my first time really getting up close and hands on with Mosaic’s craftsmanship. It’s exceptional and I was in love. When we selected Ti as the frame material, the people to call for a fully custom build were Mosaic.
My greatest industrial design influence is Dieter Rams. His belief in “Less, but better” drove my overall approach to create a bike that appears somewhat stark. It doesn’t need flash and bling. I’d rather it be appreciated for its meticulously tailored angles and applauded for its fine craftsmanship.
The end result is a bike that from the sides and top down, looks naked. But as you move around looking closer, there are endless new perspectives, details, and styles. Different angles show different colors, textures, and graphics. Up close, the bike looks very different than it does from a few steps back.
The details pull your interest inward. But the frame can’t do that all on its own. Much of that is attributed to the custom paint.
True, skipping paint would have been an easy way to expedite the delivery process. And yes, doing so would have still delivered a beautiful bike but it would come at the cost of truly making this my forever bike. Beyond a custom fit, it’s the paint scheme that reflects my personality.
The theme for the design is the Maglia Nera Jersey. It’s the black jersey that was awarded to the last place rider of the Giro D’Italia for the 5 years ending in 1951. A bit of iconic cycling history. I drew inspiration for the paint from a collaboration Maglia Nera Jersey by designer, Rapha and Paul Smith.
The applied paint is a combination of matte blacks and pearled pinks. Giro pink of course. Textured details of polka dots and my logo are hiding in tone on tone gloss treatments. The tone on tone ensures subtly and the contrasting finishes catch and throw light under varying light conditions.
In Toronto, we are lucky to be home to renowned paint shop, VeloColour. This is the second time I’ve worked with them on a project and they absolutely nailed it. The team of Noah and Suzanne took my raw idea, rounded it out and brought it to life. Their reputation precedes them for good reason.
Everything they’ve done here is so impeccable that I have a hard time deciding which is my favorite detail.
Just getting the right frame and paint done isn’t the whole story. Putting together the component list for the final build involved as much collaboration with the in-house mechanic, Jesse James, as it did with the fitter, builder, and paint shop. The devil is really in all the details and Jesse helped flush out a component list that would complement the custom frame and importantly ensure it came alive on the road.
But doing so wasn’t easy, nor was it straight-forward. In a dream bike factory, nothing is impossible but there were some considerations and concessions that had to be made. A lot of it was budget driven. Being cautious and conservative may be a Canadian thing, but I wanted to ensure that I made the right choices and only have to make them once.
Pulling from my experience riding with and writing about cycling, I started identifying the components that I really enjoy and rely on. To help ease the budget I used some of what I already had, mixed it with what I love, and sprung for a few things I dreamed of. My mindset through this part of the journey was that I should put as much of the budget into the frame and paint as I could.
That’s the part that will last forever. Parts are far more transient and can or will change over time. Upgrades can happen at any time but I’ve got one shot at the frame and paint. I settled on a mixed selection of components from Chris King, ENVE, Shimano, Tune, eeCycleworks, and AbsoluteBlack. Looking at the final build list now, I can’t think of anything I will change quickly.
Maybe just black Ti all the bolts. Who am I kidding? Of course I will.
In the summer we casually joked that my forever bike could be a Christmas present. There is wisdom in saying that all comedy contains truth because the project completed just a week before Christmas. It really doesn’t matter because I would have been happy to wait as long as needed.
I’d waited a lifetime already and good things can’t be rushed. So what’s next? There’s only one thing left to do now. Ride… My… Bike… A lot. My plans are to ride this thing anywhere and everywhere. Winter has firmly taken hold here in the northern hemisphere so I’ll likely spend a lot of time getting familiar with the bike while on the trainer playing Zwift (watch out for me!) and dialing in the setup. I’d like to iron out the kinks and settle on the final position before spring.
Thankfully we did get out and onto the road for a break in and a photoshoot. I can already feel the life this bike is putting into my years. Every time I turn around in the studio I see it sitting there. The reality that this is my bike never really settles in. Still seems a dream.
The pinnacle chapter may be over, but I’d like to be positive and rather say that the best part of the story is just beginning. The past 6 months have been an incredible time and one that I’ll never forget.