Monday December 17 2012 / Science & Technology - Art & Design - Entrepreneurs
When Francesco Bertelli moved to New York in the mid-2000s for a graphic design job, his interest in bicycles started to grow – but the Italian was unable to find a design that he liked from existing bike manufacturers.
“It seemed a lot of them did not have enough taste. They needed to put on big logos and use ugly colours,” says Bertelli. “I liked the Muji philosophy with a design that has to live within its own ‘natural’ primitive details and limits.
“I couldn’t find what I wanted in a bike, so I built it myself.”
And so Bertelli Bici – ‘Bertelli Bikes’ – Francesco’s one-of-a-kind bike assembly business was born.
Bertelli’s cyclical creations – built in the Bertelli Assemblate, his New York workshop – are inspired by racing bikes of the 1920s and ‘30s, combining “new old stock” and vintage components sourced through flea markets, collectors, regular suppliers and the internet.
Every part of the bike is hand-assembled, finished and fine-tuned by Bertelli.
“I make a rough sketch using Illustrator based on the parts I already have, just to have an idea, and then I buy the remaining parts that I need,” says Bertelli.
“Sometimes it happens that the final result is not as expected so I start form scratch or change some components.
“It doesn’t take lot of time assembling. The time I really spend the most is on the web in order to find the right components.”
Bertelli adheres to strict clean, minimalist design guidelines when putting together a bike.
He employs only traditionally lugged steel frames with track geometry, chrome forks, quill stems and vintage cranksets – all complemented by real leather or suede saddles and touches of wood where called for.
Bertelli’s philosophy also includes keeping the bikes free of logos and stickers, and keeping to specific colour schemes.
“I’m not going to do a pink bike with yellow grips and green tires,” he says. “The colours are inspired by army vehicles, airplanes and sports car from the 1960s and 1970s.”
The pared-down approach also means he makes only track bikes or fixed gear bikes (with the exception of some coaster-brake builds).
A fixed gear bike is a single speed bike without the capacity to free-wheel or ‘coast’ – whenever the bike is in moving, the pedals go around.
Bertelli also doesn’t fit lights.
“I might sound like an idiot but I don’t like lights or funny accessories,” he says. “If it is too dark to ride I don’t ride. If is too slick and rainy to ride I don’t ride, period.
“But the final result is that you won't find exactly the same combination (of components) in any other bicycle out there. Your Bertelli bicycle will be unique.”
And it will cost you between $1,500 and $3,000 per bike depending on the rarity of the components it incorporates.
To check out Francesco Bertelli’s two-wheeled wonders, please visit: www.bertellibici.com/.
And he has even created a “how to build a bike” microsite with piece-by-piece component descriptions and advice. You can visit it here: thebikestylist.tumblr.com