08 May 2023
To showcase the ultimate in optimization, comfort, and customization, PRO commissioned Ricky Feather (Feather Cycles) and Rob Quirk (Quirk Cycles) to each build two unique Columbus steel bikes. All four bikes were designed, built, and finished to complement a range of PRO components.
For many cyclists, the ultimate dream bike is a full custom build. In order to showcase PRO’s road and gravel components, including key accessories, four custom bikes were commissioned from British bespoke frame builders Feather Cycles and Quirk Cycles. We spoke with the frame builders to learn more about the bikes, the thought processes behind the designs, and how they showcase PRO components.
The idea behind the four custom bike builds was to create beautiful, bespoke, platforms upon which to showcase PRO components, such as the PRO Vibe Evo integrated cockpit on the Quirk Kintsugi bike, at bike shows across Europe.
PRO was looking for four beautiful bikes to showcase their leading road and gravel components at European bicycle shows. Rather than bedeck two superbikes in Vibe Superlight and Vibe Evo components and two modern gravel bikes with the various Discover options, PRO’s global Marketing Manager, Alexa Cunningham chose to order four bespoke beauties. Working with a pair of British bike builders, Feather Cycles and Quirk Cycles, she conceptualized bikes developed from the ground up to showcase PRO’s unique products.
“Each of the four bikes were needed to give consumers the opportunity to envision how they can make their own bike(s) ‘truly theirs’ as part of our ‘Make It Yours’ campaign,” Cunningham explained. “To kick off the project I reached out to the team from Two Tone Amsterdam to help me find bespoke builders up to the task. Fortunately enough, they already had Quirk and Feather in mind. As the saying goes, one thing led to another, and soon we were designing four builds, each with a different theme.”
“The first has a ‘Kintsugi’ theme, providing an homage to our Japanese heritage. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The bike was equipped with the PRO Vibe Evo integrated cockpit, a Vibe Seatpost, and Falcon Team Saddle, plus a Shimano Ultegra Di2 12-speed groupset and Shimano’s aero Ultegra C50 wheelset,” Cunningham noted.
The eye-catching Kintsugi artwork, created by Lucia Bru-Alva of Velofique.
“The second was actually the hero of the project, as it was the bike on which we launched the new PRO Vibe Superlight cockpit. It was dubbed the ‘Superlight Feather’ and it was probably the easiest bike of the group to conceptualize. Given the Superlight components, which include the full PRO Vibe Superlight Cockpit and Stealth Superlight Saddle, as well as Feather Cycles’ name, lightness and feathers provided the visual ques for the Jack Kingston artwork. For the frame itself, Ricky Feather built one of the lightest possible steel, disc brake, bikes, and Jack’s artwork completed the job, making the Superlight Feather look both fast and light.”
“Third up was the Feather Cycles Trapezoid gravel bike,” Cunningham continued. “We use trapezoid designs quite prominently in the PRO design language, so that inspired the artwork. The hard angles work really well with modern bicycles and the team from Two Tone showed me a trapezoid design, which Jack did on his motorcycle, it sold me on the concept immediately. Along with the beautiful artwork the bike features a PRO Discover Carbon Handlebar and Discover alloy stem, a rigid carbon Discover Seatpost, Griffon Team Saddle, Shimano GRX 1x groupset and Shimano’s GRX wheelset.”
“I don’t have a favorite yet,” PRO’s Global Marketing Manager Alexa Cunningham admitted.
Cunningham added: “The final bike is a Wed Anderson-inspired Quirk. I’m a huge fan The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It’s quirky as heck and the color palette is not at all common on bikes. We went pretty wild with the adventure gravel/touring SUPRACHUB, which is an interesting bike on its own, and Jack really brought this theme to life. It has a Discover Handlebar and Stem, the PRO Discover 70mm Dropper Seatpost, a PRO Stealth Offroad Saddle, a Shimano GRX 1x groupset and the Shimano GRX wheelset to complete an incredibly capable build.
“I can’t say I have a favorite yet – they are all so special and so beautiful, this whole process is so special, everyone should experience this process at some stage of being a cyclist, the relationship with the builders is so personal. Your bike is TRULY YOURS. It’s made FOR YOU. It’s not stock off the shelf, each part is curated, welded, and painted for YOU, it’s a reflection & extension of you and your personality and a great conversation starter when you arrive at that weekend group ride! I loved this process.”
“Feather Cycles began in 2009,” Ricky Feather explained. “It started as a plan to escape the monotony of the factory life. Working 40-plus hours per week, making things I didn’t care about for £8 per hour seemed like a huge trap to me, a trap I saw others stuck in. If I was going to work hard and go home tired, I wanted it my work to mean something. The industrial jobs I worked were all a bit rough and ready, the main objective was to get the work out, and what it looked like was not a priority – that didn’t sit too well with me.
“I had to work in an area where I knew I would care about what I did, and as I had been trained in fabrication and welding, building bikes made perfect sense.
“I have ridden bikes since I was three years old and at around the age of twelve, I became obsessed with riding BMX,” Feather continued. “I bought my first road bike at age 22. It was an old Woodrup, from a chap I worked with. I realized I had been making my commute way harder than it needed to be for the previous four years. As I became self-employed, BMX was too risky, so road cycling was a natural progression for me – following that, my focus shifted to building road bikes almost exclusively for quite a few years.
“I think what makes Feather unique, in the custom frame building world, is the consistent standard of work that is put out. I believe that my background in welding and fabrication has put me one step ahead of people who transfer into it from a different background. I have always understood how steel reacts when being cut or heated for joining. I know what to look out for which people coming straight into building frames from a design background for example might miss.”
Ricky Feather getting the Feathers for Superlight bike just right at the Velofollies 2023 PRO stand.
“I have always stood by the philosophy of the next bike being better than the last. I always want to do better, and I work with a very tight-knit group of individuals who have the same ethic. I use the same bike fitter for each build if required and I always work with Jack Kingston for the paint on my bikes. This way, I know that every single build I put out into the world upholds a standard I would want if I was commissioning my own bike from a builder.”
“I mostly use Italian Columbus steel,” Feather noted. “Their steel and stainless steel is wonderful to work with and performs fantastically. I build Columbus Spirit frames for myself, as I just love that material. I love to work with it and the ride quality is unparalleled. I get everything I want from this material in terms of stiffness, comfort, and complete bike weight.”
Rob Quirk founded Quirk Cycles in 2015.
“March 2023 marks eight years since I started Quirk Cycles,” Rob Quirk said. “I’m a research architect by training, which I came to via fine arts actually. But I’ve always had an obsession with bicycles.
“It was that obsession with bicycles which got me into frame building. I was always riding, fixing and modifying them. Through the process of modifying bikes, I reached the point where I wanted to do it full-time. I felt like I had something new to bring to frame building.
“There have always been quite a few frame builders on the UK scene, but Ricky Feather is one of the first of the new wave,” Quirk said. “I was looking at what guys like Ricky were doing, how they were pushing the old boundaries. Frame building had come from a traditional or conservative place, and I wanted to do something modern.
“I also knew I wanted to use steel, I owned and had ridden carbon bikes. But I liked steel. Especially new, modern racing steel. The Columbus tubing I use to construct my frames is very different from the old steel bicycles used to be made out of. They’re lighter and made from amazing alloys, making for a high-quality ride.
“One of the reasons I exclusively use Columbus steel is because they are the only tube manufacturer in the world that only makes bicycle tubes. They invest a lot of time and money in researching and developing new steel alloys – developing their latest one with BMW. They’re pushing the envelope of what you can do with tubes.”
Rob Quirk prides himself on building bikes that are real-world tested and proven.
“Columbus tubing also welds and rides well,” Quirk continued. “I use a process called TIG welding, and I always back-purge the tubes with argon to avoid sugaring. Sugaring is when impurities form in the welds. Because I’m already familiar with this process, it hasn’t been tricky to start testing with titanium too. There’s a project with titanium in the works now. But at this stage I’m just playing around with it to see how it rides.”
“I have carved myself a gravel/offroad niche,” Quirk explained. “That’s the riding I do. The way I built Quirk was from my personal interest in ultra-distance races. The first Transcontinental race was held in 2013 – I watched it unfold. At the time, marketing focused a lot on what professional road riders were using, which was beyond the reach of normal people. But when races like the Transcontinental came around, they related to people because they were attainable in a way the Tour de France isn’t, for example. It was all about planning, strategy, food strategy, sleep strategy, how you carried your luggage. I was enamored by it.”
“In 2016 I did the race on a bike I built – that became what Quirk was about. Most of my bikes have been designed and raced in an ultra. I’d build a bike and then test it in these demanding races. So, many of the customers who came to me, especially in the early days, came to me because they wanted to do these races. Or maybe not because they wanted to do the race but because they saw that I had experience in these races, in gravel/offroad or ultra, and they could see how my riding experience could lead to good bikes that ride well.”
Columbus steel tubing, by its very nature, provides a remarkably comfortable ride.
“I prefer a slightly slacker head tube angle for my road frame size than what would generally come on an off-the-shelf bike of the same size,” Feather pointed out. “Most customers don’t need an aggressive steering geometry and when I talk to them about it, most don’t want it either. Still, I raced it on those tight-cornered crits and the bike performed perfectly well. But it’s on club rides and long road rides that you really feel the difference. The bikes climb like a dream and a lot of customers email me to tell me how much more confident they feel when descending.
“Steel is generally a comfortable choice due to the natural elasticity of the material. An important sidenote: the larger the diameter of the tube, the stiffer the bike will be. Going back to geometry, if a bike has a slightly longer wheelbase or front center, will be more absorbent, which is another place where the slightly slacker head tube angle gives you an advantage.
“The main thing I would advise would be to visit a well-established bike fitter. I had some serious problems with my hip flexors a few years ago and by looking into other options for my bike fit, I got through this constant issue with very little physiotherapy. I now stretch more often too. I can’t stress enough how important stretching is. I found out the hard way. I have noticed a pattern in this with the few hundred customers I have built bikes for, and I think it’s prevalent in cycling in general.”
Ricky Feather advises dialing in your shifter angles to improve your comfort on the bike.
“One thing I am very particular about is the angle of my shifters. The second I get on a bike with shifters that are not positioned how I like them, I know I won’t enjoy riding it. I would imagine that there is one thing a cyclist could tell you they’re particular about with their setup, but there are also many who don’t know it yet. Once they do, or you help them find it, it will make a huge difference to their experience riding. From a posture standpoint, being on a bicycle is completely unnatural. So anything we can do to help ourselves is worth taking advantage of.”
A bike fit will help you get as comfortable as possible on your bike.
“The first and foremost thing you can do is have a bike fit,” Quirk said. “Every bike I make is custom for an individual, and I make one at a time. 99% of my customers have a bike fit and I build the bike to their dimensions. Most people think bike fit is sizing. But a good bike fitter will look at balance, injuries, and how these things will affect your power output. A good bike fit will distribute your weight in the most effective way for power output. If you’re racing you might sacrifice comfort for power, but most people will do the opposite.
“Once we have the bike fit, we can build a custom bike. When you learn to ride a bike, you’re learning to correct the fall from side to side. Learning makes that conscious process occur automatically. My job is working out how to balance the bike under you, and subconsciously you’re using energy to balance yourself. If the bike is designed for you, you will use less energy to balance yourself. So, you can use more energy to power yourself forward. I work to balance your weight across the contact points of the frame.
“The material a bike is made out of also affects how comfortable it rides. Aluminum is quite soft, but when used for bicycle tubing it has thicker tube walls, making it more rigid. Steel tubes can be thinner on account of their strength – making them more forgiving. The length of the tubes will also affect that. For smaller sized riders, requiring shorter tubes, I can use smaller diameter tubes so that it maintains the flex. Taller riders, with longer tubes, will need larger diameter tubes. Interestingly, steel tube wall thickness doesn’t really affect strength and stiffness, but tube diameter does. Off the top of my head, thickening the tube diameter from 35mm to 38mm will increase the stiffness by 20%. While the increase in tube thickness from 1mm to 1.5mm will only increase stiffness by 2-3%.”
The Feathers for Vibe Superlight bike weighs more than 8 kilograms, which is remarkable for a steel-framed bicycle.
Built to showcase the new PRO Vibe Superlight Handlebar, Stem, Gap Cap Expander Carbon, and Vibe Computer Mount, the Feathers for Vibe Superlight is a lightweight steel road bike. Ricky Feather explained: “My objective with this bike was to display as many parts from the PRO range as possible. The frame isn’t necessarily as customized as many of the bikes I build. One thing I often do on my frames is give them an integrated seat bolt or even an integrated seat post. But with this one, I wanted to make sure it had the full range of PRO Vibe parts, down to the seatpost clamp.
“I wanted to build something that was understated and classy. PRO Vibe parts fit this bill and I wanted the frame to do the same. It is built from the lightweight Columbus Spirit tube set. The bike overall weighs 8 kilograms, which for a steel disc brake bike is fantastic!”
The Feathers for Vibe Superlight build includes the PRO Vibe Carbon 0-Offset Seatpost and the PRO Performance Seatpost Clamp.
“The joining method used on this frame is called fillet brazing, which is how I build my top-end custom road bikes. The process is extremely strong in the application of steel bicycle frames and gives the frame its unique smooth transition from tube to tube. For this reason, it will always stand out in a crowd of other steel frames. The bike was being built to exhibit the amazing new PRO Vibe Superlight parts and was finished with a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and wheels. I felt the only way I could do the build justice was by spending those extra couple of days smoothing out the joints.
“Starting from scratch with the bike design means I was able to choose a stem length and a seatpost setback based on the frame’s proportions, which means the bike would perform and look much better than any store-bought bike. Ready-mades might have a 60-millimeter stem fitted to it because the frame is too long or an inline seatpost with the saddle slammed forward because their correct knee over pedal is unachievable. You will never see a Feather which is not within a couple of millimeters of the saddle rails being perfectly centered in the seat clamp hardware.”
The bike’s hero components are the PRO Vibe Superlight Handlebar and Stem.
“All of the bikes I own are finished with PRO Vibe,” Feather said. “My summer bike has PRO Vibe Superlight, and I love how the handlebars transition perfectly into Shimano shifters. As I said before, shifter position is very important to me, and is even more of a bonus if the parts work together seamlessly.”
“Saddles are probably the most important thing when it comes to bike fitting. Saddle width, saddle profile, saddle cutouts are all to be considered when conducting a bike fit, and PRO has a fantastic range. I ride a 142-millimeter PRO Stealth Superlight Saddle and it works perfectly for me, but I could have a bike fit with a customer tomorrow for a road bike and the PRO Griffon Saddle might be the best saddle for them. It's very personal and a sensitive area with most of your weight relying on it, so it’s an area we give a lot of consideration.”
The Feathers for Vibe Superlight artwork was done by Jack Kingston, the aim was to complete a classic and timeless bike with the paint job.
“For the PRO road bike, the objective was to keep it classy, stealthy, and timeless and I think Jack [Kingston] nailed that perfectly,” Feather praised. “Many people commented on social media that it was their favorite bike at the whole of the Velofollies show, where the bike was debuted. To see these comments meant as much to me as seeing the very happy faces of the staff from PRO.”
The Life Aquatic Quirk SUPRACHUB is a fun and quirky drop bar 29er.
“The PRO-inspired SUPRACHUB is my take on the drop bar 29er,” Quirk smiled. It was built to fit 2.3-inch 29er tires and is influenced by mountain bike design. It has a 69-degree headtube angle and a longer wheelbase, making it feel stable and allowing it to roll over things with ease.
“I used a high bottom bracket and low BB drop to counter the sluggishness arising from long bikes with a wheelbase and a slack head angle. This allows it to respond well to weight shifts. It has a 3D-printed seat cluster and stainless steel dropouts – made using fusion additive technology. The 3D printed seat cluster increases the strength of the frame at a crucial junction, making it lighter and more evenly distributing stress through the frame. It also provides bigger tire clearance. I’ve also integrated the seat clamp into the cluster, hiding the clamp inside the frame. Most importantly, the 3D-printed seat cluster makes the bike look neater. For someone like me, who builds each bike individually, 3D printing is convenient tool. It doesn’t have scalability benefits, which means the big manufacturers don’t use it.”
The bike, like most of Quirk Cycles’ rigs, features a 3D-printed seat cluster, which increases the tire clearance to fit 2.3-inch rubber.
“The Life Aquatic Quirk SUPRACHUB was finished with a PRO Discover 20 degree flare Carbon Handlebar, which makes it super stable. I also used the Discover Dropper Post, which we internally routed. All cables, in fact, are hidden, which looks super slick and clean. One of the things I found on my bikes was that external cables make it difficult to clean. But internal cables make cleaning easier, which keeps the paint job looking sharp.”
Jack Kingston took inspiration from the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for the artwork.
“The Life Aquatic,” Quirk explained, “was painted by Jack Kingston, and it’s a super fun paint job. It’s bright and happy. The back of the frame is yellow, representing the film’s submarines, the middle is ocean blue, and the front is red to signify the little hats which Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and the rest of the crew wear throughout the movie. The blue and yellow sections also have little specks to provide the feeling of depth and show the subtle color changes of the ocean.”
The Discover Trapezoid by Feather Cycles is a pure gravel racer.
“I built this frame using the slightly different Columbus Zona tubing. Zona is a tubeset I use more frequently on offroad bikes,” Feather said. “It’s a touch heavier and works perfectly for gravel bikes. I joined the bike using TIG welding, which is a cheaper offering. It is no better or worse but requires no finishing work, which saves a couple of days of labor.
“I have found that many customers looking for gravel bikes want to spend slightly less on the bike overall, making this the perfect option and allowing the customers to put more funds into a higher spec finished bike. I really enjoy big welding frames as you can easily increase the volume of work while remaining confident you are handing over a flawlessly performing bike.
“The geometry of the gravel bike is intended to be used for fast rides on finer gravel and canal paths using up to a 38mm tire. It is loosely based on my own gravel/winter bike – only in a smaller size with a slacker head tube angle and more fork rake to give the smaller bike similar handling properties.”
Featuring a PRO Discover Cockpit, complete with Discover Carbon 20-degree flare handlebars and Discover Stem.
“I’ve built a few gravel bikes using the PRO Discover cockpit, Discover Seatpost, and PRO Griffon Team Saddle now. I have always been a fan of PRO components for the simple reason that they work well and feel nice when riding, they’re high tech and classy looking. They work well with the limitations of steel frame building and never seem centered around futuristic carbon road bikes.
“The Discover carbon seatpost will take away a little more buzz than a road seat post and combined with steel, this is win-win. The saddle too will help in this department, using round stainless-steel rails, adding more comfort compared to a saddle with oval carbon fiber rails.
“The Discover aluminum handlebars come in a range of different angles of flair to the drops. But wanting to build a fast, light gravel bike, with just the right amount of stability for its intended use, the 20-degree flair of the Discover carbon handlebars were the perfect option for this bike. They are fast and aero in the hoods, providing plenty of stability in the drops with a slightly more ergonomic shaping than their aluminum counterparts. Once again, these bars match perfectly with Shimano GRX shifters for that perfect fit and feel when moving your hands around.”
The Discover Trapezoid features on the Feather Cycles gravel bike’s fork were inspired by PRO’s design language.
“It might seem crazy to get funky with the paint on a gravel bike,” Feather said,” because it seems more likely to get damaged. A little secret is that the more colors, textures, fades you have in the paint, the less likely damage will stand out. Jack [Kingston] also gave this bike a matte clear coat, because gloss shows scratches a lot easier and it’s easy to put marks that hyper glossy finish even when you’re just washing the bike.
“Any mud or grit in your wash brushes will score the glossy coat, so a final matte clear on this one was the perfect answer. Of course, it’s wise to tape up if the bike is likely to be really put through its paces.
“The design idea came from the ‘trapezoid’ theme amongst the graphic design within the PRO Discover range and was the perfect opportunity for Jack to use the geometric design he wanted to use on a bike for a few years.”
The Quirk Kintsugi bike is visually stunning and superbly practical.
“The Quirk Kintsugi is based on my endurance road bike model, the Dermitor,” Quirk said. “It’s the bike that comes from my Transcontinental race, though it wasn’t called that at the time. I named it afterward, taking inspiration from the Dermitor National Park in Montenegro – a milestone in the race.
“For PRO, the bike has a shorter wheelbase to make it racier. I stripped the design down to its basic elements and created a bike that features faster handing to make it a pure racer. This was all inspired by the PRO Vibe Evo integrated handlebar. I saw it and wanted to use it!
“I’ve been pushing integrated setups. They make everything super slick and aerodynamic. Achieving this in steel takes a lot of customization though. On the Quirk Kintsugi, I used a custom oversized 56mm headtube. The tubing allows me to internally route the caballing through the headtube and gives it a modern look. It does add 15 grams to the frame, but it’s worth it as it looks great!”
The 3D-printed seat cluster includes an integrated seat clamp with the PRO Vibe Carbon 0-Offset Seatpost in place.
“As with the Life Aquatic Quirk SUPRACHUB, I used 3D-printed tech to further the bike's sleek, modern, and aerodynamic aesthetic. It has an integrated seat cluster and integrated dropouts. The 3D-printed seat cluster allows me to build the seat stays thinner for more flexibility. This makes the bike more comfortable while retaining traction.
“As I said, it has the Vibe Evo cockpit, complete with the Vibe Carbon 0-Offset Seatpost and a Falcon Team Saddle, making it perfect for flexible road riders.
Lucia Bru-Alva’s hand-painted design brought the Kintsugi idea to life in a beautiful style.
“The first thing everyone notices about this bike is the paint job!” Quirk said, enthusiastically. “I worked with Lucia [Bru-Alva] from Velofique. She cut her teeth painting for WyndyMilla and is known for making incredibly gorgeous, deep, hand painted designs and finishes. Preferring a great range of techniques, rather than just using spray guns.”
“The design is based on Kintsugi, which is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery in such a way that it becomes even more beautiful. I think the final product is stunning, thanks to the blue and turquoise taken from PRO’s logo. When we started to leak pictures, people were keen to come to the show to see it!”
The Feathers for Vibe Superlight features a PRO Stealth Superlight Saddle, to help further reduce the weight of the overall bike build.
Feathers for Superlight
PRO’s Discover Stem helps complete the Discover Trapezoid gravel racer.
The PRO Dropper Post Lever neatly integrates with the Discover Carbon 20 Handlebars and Shimano GRX Shifters to allow for ergonomic and efficient activation of the Discover Dropper Post 70.
Life Aquatic Quirk SUPRACHUB
The PRO Falcon Team Saddle completes the Quirk Kintsugi and complements the PRO Vibe Evo Cockpit to help create a bike which will suit flexible riders who can hold a stable position on the saddle.
Photos by Irmo Keizer and Studio YK.