Since the very beginnings of Podia, we have always had a deep love for bespoke, handmade bicycle frames and it seems our friend Philippe Joie from Belgium also shares this passion. So much so, that he decided to learn how to make his very own frame.
Words by Philippe Joie
I have been a cycling enthusiast for many years and about six years ago, when I got my first road bike, I began to get interested in the craftsmanship of bicycles. My first road bike was an Italian steel frame made from Columbus tubes. I restored it, but also brought it up to date with modern components and had it painted. (see the bike in our ‘Machines’ gallery)
I was immediately captivated by the classic and timeless lines of the steel frame and when I rode it, the frames comfort and behaviour was something that will never leave me. I was so taken by it that I decided I didn’t want a carbon bike again. Since then I actually only have steel and titanium.
Recently I have become very interested in bikes that can do a bit of everything; road, gravel, trails, singletracks, bikepacking. Something versatile, an all-rounder – an adventure bike some call it. I spent a lot of time researching a frame that would suit my needs; steel, disc brakes, large tire clearance, thru-axel, rack and fender mounts, a third bottle mount etc. The problem was, through all my searching, I couldn’t find anything.
It was clear that the only route to get exactly what I wanted was to go for a bespoke frame, but an idea started to grow in my mind; why not go one step further and build the frame myself.
I spent some time researching where I could learn the craft of frame making and decided on oTm-bikes. Tom Bailly-Salins started out by learning titanium TIG welding and making frames for himself and his friends about 10 years ago. After following his dream to be a professional framebuilder and many years spent in Italy learning the art form, he is now based in the suburbs of Copenhagen.
After months of planning the frame and the geometry I wanted, the day finally came and I stood in Tom’s workshop surrounded by tools, welding machines and JIGs that were needed for this special work. I immediately felt something special and the old iPod disseminating good rock music only helped to bring the atmosphere of the workshop to life.
On the workbench in front of me was my frame, at least all the tubes that would become my frame. I could never imagine the allure that crude steel tubes could have. It only remained for me to assemble them in the way they deserved.
Seven days were spent practising TIG welding, mitring of tubes, adjusting and gradually seeing my frame being born step by step. Like anything that you enjoy, the days seemed too short and the light from the welding torch too addictive. Once behind the welding mask time seemed to freeze.
By the end of the week filled with deep concentration, stress, mistakes but a lot of fun too, my frame was finished. The pride I had holding it in my hands and the realisation that it was made by those very hands is not easy to put into words.
Once back in Belgium, I began to collect all the components I would need. I learnt how to build my own wheels and had my friend Phil’s help to paint it. The puzzle was starting to take shape.
A new bike day is always a good day. So, imagine what a new bike day feels like when you made the frame yourself. It was very special.
The smile didn’t leave my face for 50 kilometres during the first ride of the bike and it still comes back whenever I set eyes upon it. This bike can take me anywhere, no need to avoid the bad terrain with my road bike, no problems being glued to the tarmac on my mtb.
Of course the frame is not without it’s faults, and I don’t pretend to have reached the finishing line of professional frame building. But it is mine and I forgive it. I already think of the next one, maybe I already miss the tungsten light?
I recommend this experience to anyone passionate about cycling, but I warn you now, you won’t come out unscathed.
So why Venom for the name? Let’s just say my passion is like venom and riding is the only relief.