For the first time ever, Krzywe Koło is going international.
So hold on to your seats, exceuse my Pigeon-English and enjoy my interview with Bartek Basiński, CEO of Exigo Bikes.
Pictures courtesy of Renata „Morrighan” Iwanicka and Exigo Bikes.
Bartłomiej Basiński, 34 years old, CEO and MD of Exigo Bikes.
Born in Łódź, engineer by passion with experience in family buisness, in UK since 2007.
Married and proud dad of little Zuzia.
How does it happened that you started to have interest in frame and bike building?
It all started when I was young of course. Bicycles always were my passion in many ways. Servicing, fixing, long rides, extreme downhill… But no bike was ideal. There was always something missing. Either some parts, wrong geometry or material. In England alloy and carbon is not the end of the options. I made some re-search in the internet, started reading bike magazines and that way I found The Bicycle Academy. Lucky enough I meet Brian Curtis, founder of Curtis Bikes. Thanks to his over 40 years of experience I gained extremely important tips how to braze bicycle frames. What happened next was the natural consequence of my way of thinking, dedication and passion.
A bit provocative, but very important question, especially in light of last few years steel renaissance. Why steel?
Alloy is so yester-year and carbon fibber massively over advertised like some new washing powder. When I arrived to England I found out how much positive buzz is on around steel bikes. They are light, comfortable and beautiful. On top of that steel is very rewarding material to work with. The only limitation is builders own ideas and creativity. You only need to unchain it and bring up to the light.
But why not titanium or such a novelty like bamboo?
In my opinion steel provides such necessary balance between stability, comfort and low weight. Sure it is nice to have 13.2lb bike but on a daily use even the slightest breeze will push the whole bike to the other side of the road. Bigger side surface of fat, CF tubes is not helping as well. Bamboo as such is not expensive but everybody forgets that you cannot glue one piece of this oversized grass into another like two sheets of paper. You need to use some CF ribbons or sheets and binding resin. And that is adding up to higher costs of production.
How long does it takes from the idea to release of the frame to customer’s hands?
All of that dpendes on customer, because customer is the most important…
Let’s assume then the most trouble free customer Mr I-Know-Exactly-What-I-Want-Please-Build-It-For-Me.
You are suggesting miracle or divine intervention? There are no such customers in the world (laugh). Even the one with the most made up mind tends to change something at the end. That’s why I reserve safe period of 8 to 10 weeks from first sketches to fully painted and finished frame delivered to customer’s hands. But if by any chance it is taking less time it is only a bonus for both customer and me.
What is the most time consuming operation during frame building?
Apart of decisions making by far cleaning, polishing and filing. Sometimes you need to create your own lug from scratch using 2 or even 3 separate tubes. That might take up to 3 weeks. If we are talking about design based on popular and widely available bits brazing is not taking much time. Anyone with bit of knowledge and practice can braze the frame. Rule of thumb is simple: the cleaner lug, the less filing job it require. Personally I’m doing my best to keep my lugs spotless that would result in less time spent on filing of course.
A word you are using the most often during frame building?
Only that sedate?
For the sake of interview I wouldn’t say anything more harsh (laugh). If truth to be told there is no such thing like ideal, trouble free build. Even Thunder in its 4th incarnation can surprise me. One to deep pass with a file and “Shit!!!”. Steel provides particular set of properties and even most careful and precise mitring and brazing sometimes require slight corrections. The better preparation, the better. And be sure if you will be sloppy in some place steel for sure will use it against you.
There would be some bending and moving I guess?
Exactly. Everybody got this initial problem. Thanks to hours and days of analysing and practice I’m pass that time.
Lugs or lugless?
Both options got advantages and disadvantages. For sure lugs are adding texture and character to the bike. From the very first look you know that bike would stand out. In case of lugless frame you need to have serious tinkering how to make design unique. Also it is worth mentioning that however brazing itself takes much less time on lugged frame, filing is much, much more time consuming. And sometimes it require pretty unorthodox approach.
How much selected componentry is affecting frame’s design and final look? Not talking about obvious like 135mm rear hub for 135mm rear spacing. How about something like cables, grips, cranks, mechs?
As already mentioned the design heavily depends on customer ideas. But the choice of such things like paint, cables, handlebar tape is open process with decisions popping-out throughout the whole building time. I’m trying very hard to have best possible contact with every customer. I’m making some suggestions colour or componentry wise. But if customer made up his mind into something I recognize as not particularly fortunate I’m offering computer renders and simulations. Just to make sure that it is what customer really wants. Because once is done there is no way back.
Is there anything that you can’t do today either because of lack of skills or some complicated and expensive tools, build wise?
There are certain things I never tried to do, but mainly because there was no need for them. But I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to crack them anyway. At the moment I’m not offering stainless steel frames, but that is only matter of time…
So what tubing are you using for your frames?
I’m building with various Columbus tubing and I’m recommending it. Can built with Reynolds tubes if this is customer’s request but I believe that Reynolds is better serving bikes for more extreme or demanding purpose, such as heavy duty MTB, transport bikes, expedition bikes. If you want your bike to be light, agile and responsive I recommend Columbus.
Who is doing paint job on your frames? Can you elaborate a bit?
That is actually quite interesting subject, because till not long time ago I had serious problems with finding someone with proper skills and dedication. Finally I found old VW car body restorer who is also an avid cyclist. Since then cooperation is thriving.
Custom built frames but also custom built forks. Why not available on the market off the peg carbon or steel forks?
Forks building is not such a difficult task. To do one from scratch only take about one working day. In my opinion putting off the peg forks into custom made frame is like small cheat. Sure if customer wants so I oblige but for unique steel frame, unique steel forks makes much more sense composition wise.
Let’s jump back a bit. How long it took you to have a crack on frame building bases?
I have my rudiments from week long basic course in TBA. That was intense and extremely informative 5 days. Also my experience in family business as well as general interest in bikes helped. Few test frames and I was good to fly.
How long it took you to build your company? From the business idea to first brazing?
It consumed surprisingly big amount of time. I estimate 4 years in total.
I know that gentlemen do not talk money, but I need to ask it. How much it was to start Exigo Bikes?
Costs are significant and you always need to take into account unseen and unexpected expenses. Each frame builder got different workshop and not everyone can splash money for every desired piece of kit. My estimated cost of starting company tolled at 30 grand but I can easily spend twice as much for more handy tools. That’s why most of my work is handmade. And it is providing you with absolutely priceless skills.
What would be your next step in frame building? Do you make plans such as: I would like to build that, I would like to learn how to…?
Hopefully the bike you want me to build for you would be such a next step and challenge
Hush-hush about it. Especially at front of my wife (laugh!!!)
What would be next time will tell. I got the ideas, just need to buy tubing and start putting them together.
Simple question: passion or way to make your own living? Or maybe both?
Both for definite. It started with passion of course. Money will come in time, as long as you are offering very good and totally thought through product. Like in any type of business.
A bit personal question. Your frames stands out from both custom made and mass made crowd of other bikes. Why triple triangle?
You need to distinguish yourself from the others by something more than paint job. Triple triangle is not only aesthetics but there is some serious engineering behind that. That idea, especially with road bikes was to add stiffness without loss of comfort. I analysed many existing bikes and brands. Everyone was pounding about how stiff it should be around bottom bracket junction and down tube with head tube junction. I beg to differ. In my opinion pedalling efficiency comes from how cyclist is seated and what is holding in his hands. My British colleagues had an opportunity to test ride my bikes and were very surprised how good Thunder can accelerate. Better than top shelf carbon fibber frame. Thunder’s design allow all generated power to go straight into areas where it is needed and used the most. There is quite a bit of interest for my frames from semi-professional cycling teams. I’m arranging with them for some test rides. And even if they won’t accept it as a flagship race machines I believe my bikes can deliver as an ideal training rigs. And I’ll be very happy with such outcome of tests.
What exactly „Exigo” means?
It means „Complete” and „Finished” and comes from Latin.
Right… Few less serious questions. Do you remember your first bike?
Yeah… Yellow and pig-dog ugly… On top of that without top tube. Shod with 18 or 19 inch wheels. I was probably 7 when I had it. We parted very quickly. No long lost love left behind…
How many bikes you have at the moment?
That is a bit bizarre, because you have more bikes than me…
Oh, but remember that the shoemaker child goes barefoot…
Yup, that is the saying. And there is some wisdom in it. Now days I have 2 bikes roadie and MTB.
When was last time you spent some time on the bike you haven’t built yourself?
Hmmm… Do not really remember. Probably last year during summer holidays. Since then I’m only riding Exigo bikes.
And the last one: what would you do if you have more time?
I would build another bike (laugh!!!).
Perfect recap. Thank you very much for your time.
Some practical informations:
Columbus basic tubing frame £700-750
Columbus basic tubing forks £120
Columbus top shelf tubing frame £1000
Columbus top shelf tubing forks up to £150
Single colour wet paint solid/satin/metalic £225
Single colour wet paint candy or pearl £275
Any additional colour £75
Complete gallery of pictures taken during the visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/39409125@N02/sets/72157651107105354
Some websites to tickle your fancy:
Exigo Bikes: http://www.exigobikes.co.uk/
Exigo Bikes Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/exigobikes2011/timeline?ref=page_internal
The Bicycle Academy: http://www.thebicycleacademy.org/