Cycling Weekly visited Rusby Cycles in Dulwich to see what’s involved in making a bespoke steel frameset
Jake Rusby trained as a sculptor before launching his bespoke framebuilding business five years ago and his artistic approach can be seen in his custom frames. Many feature artistic flourishes such as off-centre brake bridges and there’s some impressive paint jobs on display.
Always a keen cyclist, he learned his trade sharing space with other London custom framebuilders before launching out on his own. Each frame is designed to the measurements and requirements of its individual purchaser, with Jake laying out the design on BikeCAD before cutting the tubes to size. Typically purchasers will have had a bike fit beforehand or ask for the new frame to mimic the geometry of one of their current bikes, although Jake makes tweaks to reflect the different feel and ride characteristics of steel.
Jake works with stainless steel as well as non-stainless alloys. Most frames are fillet brazed, where the tubes are connected without lugs. This gives a bit more flexibility on geometries as well as a more modern look. It’s a labour intensive process: Jake reckons a frame takes between 100 and 200 hours to build. Rusby Cycles turns out one or two frames a month, with Jake normally working on two bikes simultaneously. There’s a six month waiting list for his frames.
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Having cut the tubes, joining them to make the frame starts by spot brazing the joints. This is followed by brazing one half of each joint followed later by the second half, to ensure frame alignment is maintained. Jake works to 1-2mm tolerances in the frame, whereas mass manufactured frames typically have tolerances of around 5mm. After brazing, smoothing off the welds can take over a day before the frame can be painted.
Forks are typically bought in carbon models like the Enve gravel forks on the bike that Jake was working on when we visited, although he does make custom steel forks too.
There’s a mix of buyers, although Rusby bikes are typically bought by experienced cyclists looking for something more personal than a mass-manufactured carbon frame. Although some are raced, many are used for club runs and audax bikes are popular too. One of the bikes Jake was working on when we visited was to be used in the Transcontinental race.
A top notch Reynolds 953 or Columbus XCR stainless steel frame will cost from £2200, with a Reynolds 853 or Columbus Spirit frame costing around £1700 and a frame built in cheaper Reynolds 631 or Columbus SL coming in at £1400.
At the end of 2016 Jake will be moving his workshop from London to Bristol. He says he’s after a gentler pace and some better cycling.
For more info visit Rusby Cycles‘ website