A little story about about Glasgow and my good friend Stuart Mack, a.k.a Fu the Booze, before I show some pics of my current project. Stuart was a fellow messenger during my days on the grimy streets of Glasgow. He’s an original 1969 Punk, a very talented comic book illustrator and artist. Those too traits combined has created a very individual style, and more importantly Personality. Yes, capital “P”. While everyone else is scouring the internet or glossy magazines to find out what’s hot and what’s not, Fu is rockin’ his own style that no one else could even come close to imitating. There has never been anyone like Fu, and there never will.
Fu’s style/wardrobe was comprised of many different elements, but I would say his personal style signifier was what he referred to as his “flair”. Others’ might call these items “accessories” but they were more than accessories to Fu, they were integral. Fu’s arms, legs, and neck were adorned by items of “flair” in the form of necklaces, chains, bands, bracelets, string, beads, rings, etc. Overtime Fu collected more and more “flair”. Some were bought, some given as presents, others made or found. The more “flair” he acquired, the less he could be seen without. Also, the more “flair” he collected, the slower he seemed to go on his bike due to the weight. Though, that might have been due to the fact that his water bottles had been filled with booze for years, hence the nickname.
Now, this is me partially reminiscing about the good auld days in Glasgow, a simpler time when all that matter was what size gear you rode on your track bike, and your only bit of bike gear was your messenger bag and a rain coat. But this post is also intended to discuss the personality/style/aesthetics/flair of bikes.
Obviously, the function of the bike is the highest priority of designing and building a bike. But aesthetics and style are important too, especially when things are custom and one has the opportunity to make these decisions. And let’s face it, it’s a lot of fun choosing how things are going to look, be it paint color or decals, bar tape or cable housing.
As kind of an inside joke, well, mainly just a joke with myself as there is no one else in my workshop, and also as an ode to Fu the Booze, I have started to refer to little details on my frames as “flair”. Lugs are a great place to individualize a bike appearance, and I refer to this as “lug flair”. Now, by no means I am saying to add so much “flair” that bike gains weight and you have to put on your sunglasses to look at it. I am definitely a “less is more” kind of builder, and like to keep things understated and tasteful.
I have predominantly used Henry James lugs as most of my frames have used standard diameter tubing, and for many reasons they are the best lug set to use for standard tubing. They, however, don’t leave much room for adding flair. So far, lug treatmeant has been mainly in the form of a little “drillium” and lug thinning. If I am going with over size tubing I will use Pacenti, Richard Sachs, or Llewellyn Lugs. These offer a little more material for customization, but I have mainly used these when going stainless so other than cleaning up the shore lines I have not added to much “flair” as it would eat up drill bits and files.
My current project is starting out a little different. I am using stainless, standard diameter lugs made by Long Shen. The customer requested some kind of customization. At first I was a little reluctant because they were stainless and I knew that it would be extremely laborious, if not borderline painful, to make alterations.
Once starting to do basic lug prep, it did not take long before I knew these lugs had to be altered. I found the lines of the edges to have a really odd flow to them, and they simply did not agree with my eyes. Any reluctance was now a distant thought, and I began what would be a several day process of adding “flair” to the lugs. You can hopefully see from the before and after photos, how I changed the lines and form of the lugs. Though the changes are a subtle, and the pictures are pretty bad.
Even though it took a long time to alter these lugs, which in this case plays no functional purpose, the more I worked on them the more I was enamored by their transformation and personal “flair”. I pretty much had a smile on my face while carving them out, each little bit of progressed yielding a bigger smile. It ceased to be work, and became a “lug affair”. OK, this spring air is definitely going to my head.