Consider for a moment riding a bike specifically designed and handcrafted for you… awesome eh?! We caught up with Harry of Field Cycles based in Sheffield, who builds bespoke handmade bikes to find out more about his growing artisan business.
R&E: Hi Harry – It’s great to catch up with you! Firstly, tell us a little about your company and how it was set up?
Field cycles started about five years ago, very slowly at first. Initially we built a frame for myself, then a friend, followed by another friend and then customers began to turn up. We now build framesets for customers all over the world and work with some of the world’s finest cycling brands like ENVE Composites and Columbus.
The name Field is derived from the second half of the name of our city Sheffield, it’s also a rather clunky pun on the fact that everyone involved is from a different 'field' of expertise.
R&E: Nice one! When building the bike, which part of the process do you prefer?
I really enjoy the collaborative nature of Field - Luckily bicycles are like Catnip to creative energetic people. A big reason Field is so well received and known for its innovative work is because of this collaboration. It allows us to keep the whole process in house and under complete control.
We are now a small group made up of designers, frame builders, prototype engineers and painters working together with a shared passion, each taking on our own specialism within the process. I love the interaction of working alongside very talented people all focused on the refinement of the already beautiful object, the bicycle.
R&E: Yes - we agree good teamwork is key and your bikes look amazing. What is the most challenging part in building a good frame?
There are lots of challenges involved in building a quality frame as every step has to be carried out with attention to detail, but I would say the most challenging aspect is brazing the tubes together. Modern steel tubes are extremely thin down to .4 of mm thick, and the brazing technique has to be spot on to produce a strong and straight frame. When the torch is lit - it’s the point of no return, you only get one go and it has got to be right.
R&E: Our knitwear is made in a local factory in the UK and they've proven to be really popular. Have you seen an increase in interest in UK craftsmanship over the past couple of years?
There seems to be a return to craft, which I think is a positive move. We seem to be valuing our makers again. Individuals and companies are investing huge amounts of time and energy to make some really fantastic things. Consumers are getting more and more interested in where their products are made and who made them and ultimately owning something that is uniquely theirs.
Our home - Sheffield puts its energy into making remarkable things, rather than just talking about them. It’s a great city to be a maker in; its pioneering industrial heritage and tradition generates a collective confidence and a constant source of inspiration. Sheffield is full of creative energetic people, which makes for a great place to live and work. We just need a bit more real support - at times it feels like some big institutions feed off it without investing properly in it. It needs investment and support to properly develop and sustain this rejuvenation.
R&E: We know you've taken paint design inspiration for a few of your bikes from the WW1 dazzle camo print (big thumbs up from us)! What other kind of design work inspires you?
I tend to gravitate towards objects that are made by designers rather than designed by someone then made by a third party. I am fascinated by bicycles, I think they about the best thing we have managed to make between us. Most inventions create problems, I can’t think of a single problem with the bike, they are the solution to so many contemporary problems.
R&E: Ah - true. We've never thought of it like that before. How do you go about tailoring a frame to a customer?
We build the frame to fit the rider, so we take measurements from the person and we also use bike fit drawings. Many customers are abroad so we gather lots of information from them for example - riding style, physique, build parts (groupset, wheels etc) and the sort of terrain they will be using the bike on. We make a CAD drawing of the frameset and select the appropriate tubing and frame parts.
We then take all the angles and dimensions from the drawing to build the frameset.
The CAD drawing is used by our designer to create a unique paint design that fits exactly to the customers frame.
R&E: Out of all the bikes you've made is there a particular one that stands out for you and why?
We have just built a bike for a chap who is moving to San Fransisco from London. We built him a great bike to explore his new home and also put him in touch with a Field bike owner based in San Fransisco to go out riding with. It was a beautiful Californian inspired 'sun drenched’ bike and a great catalyst to help with the move and settling in to a new country.
R&E: Looks awesome - the lucky chap! Finally, where is your favourite place to go cycling?
The Peak District is on our doorstep and a great place to ride a bike, there is a variety of roads and landscapes but the hills are always a constant!
R&E: Incredible views. Who doesn't want to get their bike out now? Thanks Harry for such an interesting insight into your craft!
All images courtesy of Tom Smith Image at designedbysmith.co.uk
Harry wears the Realm and Empire Seal Tee Grey Marl