My job is to match bikes with riders. I use vintage and old school bikes as the start point and I specialise in commuter and casual riding. Ubuntu Bikes is not a carbon-fibre race face speed factory. Custom paintjobs are where I started, to give bikes an individual character for the client. But more and more recently, I find myself tailoring other aspects of the bike to fit personal preference and needs.
One of my recent commissions is an excellent example of this. Because I produce some very eye catching rides, in amazing colours, people often come to me and say “Oh wow I want that purple bike with the black leather, or that green and black one…it looks so cool.” But actually, once I sit down with them over a coffee, it quickly becomes clear that the bike I’ve produced, they’ve seen pics of, bears no resemblance to what they need other than it looks cool and they love the paintjob.
A paintjob, I can do on any bike in any colour – but the magic is creating a bike someone will love riding every day. If something isn’t right with the bike then the owner will not ride it, and if they don’t ride a bike I’ve created for them, then my job has failed.
To find the right bike fit for a rider I consider the following things – how tall are you, how often do you ride, where do you ride, where do you live, what distances will you ride and how fast. What will you use your bike for and who with? All of these things help guide me in advising a client from “the green and black one” they love to the perfect bike they NEED and love.
The elements of a bike to match to the above criteria include: frame shape and size, wheel size and weight, tyre size, brake set up, number of gears and shifting mechanism, style of saddle, basket or rack etc. This may sound confusing to some people, but that is the point of coming to someone like me to advise on this process. It’s the same reason people use bespoke tailors or interior designers…but I’ll be honest when it comes to a custom service, an Ubuntu Bike is about the best value for money you’ll get compared to an interior designer buying scatter cushions for you!
And so Cleopas – I was emailed by a lady in Jo’burg who said – ” I would like to order one of the super cool bikes you have.
I just have a few questions of practicality 😉
1. If I order the racer, would I be able to compete in the 94.7 cc and other road races?
2. I am on a student budget…what will it cost
3. If I want the whole bike in matt charcoal/ grey, with slogans lettered [here] and [here], can you do this?
Please let me know….
I NEED A BIKE THIS COOL”
This is not an entirely uncommon email and , but this was the first of an email conversation lasting 2 weeks and over 20 emails. I normally speed this process up with a meeting over coffee, but this client was in Jo’burg. Over the course of our conversation, we refined her vision together, identified exactly what she had in mind and came to a bike style and set up that seemed perfect.
I found a 1970s BSA racer set up with just 5 gears and with old heavy steel rimmed 27 x 1 1/4 inch wheels. The client wanted to retain as much old school vibe as possible “I’m a sucker for vintage” was her description, but she also wanted a modern style racer to complete long hard rides on. So, the bike comprises: original frame, forks, handlebars and stem. New – but vintage 12 speed Simplex gears and shifters (period correct for the original bike), new hubs, spokes and rims with 700c tyres, brake levers, saddle and bar tape.
We added the “Cleopas” slogan on the downtube and the “Matt 14:29” bible reference as per client specification. Overall, this is a very race worthy bike, but also an incredibly eye catching one what will get covetous looks from other riders around it. The perfect combination of style and suitability!