23 March 2015

Beauty of the Build: VCG meets Darron Coppin of Sven Cycles...

The beauty of frame building is something I have come to really respect and admire. Over my 5 years in the world of cycling, I've been lucky enough to become the proud owner of a British hand-built bicycle, and become friends with some of the incredibly talented UK artisans in this field.

One of these frame builders I recently had the pleasure of meeting was Darron Sven Coppin, of Sven Cycles. Hosted in the stunning B1866 Brooks England store, Darron & Keith Noronha of Reynolds Tubing gave a Q&A session on "The Custom Bicycle". Elements of a custom build from fit and geometry to tube selection was covered at the event, with everyone having the chance to have a feel of some raw tubing and check out some of the amazing bespoke builds Darron had made, including the 'El Loco' single speed...

The turn out for the talk was huge, and Darron was of course a man in demand that evening. I managed to grab a few moments with him for a quick chin-wag about the joy of riding a hand built bicycle. Pleasingly this lead to meeting up with Darron the following morning back at B1866 for a lengthier chat and spin through Covent Garden together...
Darron founded Sven Cycles 3 years ago, and is no stranger to the world of cycling and builds. He's been a keen mountain biker since the very early days of the sport and was taught by his father (a jeweller and vintage car enthusiast) how to braze when he was a teenager. Spending a good few years as a cycle mechanic, it seems to have always been in his blood. His talent, skill and hard work in frame building became even more evident when his Rohloff bike won 'Best Touring Bicycle' at Bespoked - just two years after launching his business. 

His Ladies Roadster which was on display at the talk had caught my attention, but with the crowds it was tough to get a proper look. I could now relish the chance to see it up close! It was indeed a splendid build, with subtle detailing providing a good few "oooh, just look at that!" moments when spotted...
The paintwork design on the Roadster was glossy and incredibly smooth: both to look at and to the touch. All of the paintwork for Sven Cycles is done locally and under their careful supervision. From what I'd seen and been told, care to detail is key and the painting / polishing is a meticulously well done job: each frame is initially polished, then powder coated for strength and then polished once again before the wet coat is applied. After that comes the graphics, lacquer and finally it's treated with an internal frame saver. Nothing is skimmed on at all.

Not only is it a visual treat, it's a sturdy steel build too: with Reynolds 631 tubing, the alloy used is a development on their 531 range (which I've previously tested out on the Pashley Clubman), with 10% higher strength. As Darron explained, this was great for the build as it provides a tough but comfortable frame - excellent for long distance rides, and durable enough to last.
Although a steel bicycle it felt incredibly light and fluid to ride, and sturdy at the same time. It wasn't a heavy feeling pedalling along on it, and the the ease of the Alfine electronic gearing system fitted on the Roadster was a new one for me! I'd never been on a bike with this on it before and its one-press smoothness was something I could quite get used to when cycling...

Touches like these give an insight into how Darron goes about his frame building and the design of Sven Cycles. It's a mix of the traditional with his classically styled bikes, but with a modern twist. I love the idea of designing my own custom build, but openly admit I also find the idea quite daunting: I'm not an expert by any stretch so would feel a bit out of my depth about what to ask for other than "it looking nice, please"- people like Darron and this ethos on frame building makes it that bit more approachable. 

It was an absolute pleasure meeting Darron and riding with him. Sven Cycles (along with this Roadster and those gorgeous Michaux Liberty print bags - more on those soon) will be at Bespoked Bristol this this year - if you can make it there, I strongly recommend you visit his stand.

Many thanks to Darron, B1866 for allowing us use of the store, and Ian James for all photography for this post. 

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