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Rapha Mechanics Collection - Rob Quirk

Meet The Mechanics: Rob Quirk

To ensure our recently launched Mechanics collection withstands long days in the workshop, we had three builders and fixers test it out. Here, we catch up with the first of them, British frame builder and ultra-endurance rider Rob Quirk, for his take on a job that is one part profession, two parts passion.

27 September 2019
Can you tell us how you got into frame building? How long have you been at it?

I've been building frames under the Quirk Cycles name for four years. I’ll be onto my hundredth frame soon! The company was built on my love of simple engineering, bicycle design and mechanics. The drive has always been finding ways to build on that foundation to make bikes that ride like no other.



You’re an ultra-distance rider. What’s the toughest race you’ve entered?

Each throws up a different set of problems and ways to approach them. The Transcontinental for me was a race of the mind where each day was a constant battle of wills. The Silk Road Mountain Race on the other hand was just a huge physical challenge, coping with the terrain, altitude sickness and the constant stomach problems that everyone encountered.

Tell us about GBDuro, looked hard! Will you be back for a second attempt?

For me the race turned into a total @#$& show and goes a long way to illustrating that if you haven't got your head in the right place, it'll all fall apart. It was great riding as a pair and even in the midst of dog attacks, bike crashes and heat stroke we never stopped laughing. A previous knee injury flaring up was the final nail in the coffin and we called it a day. Definitely down for another attempt.



How much does your experience in ultras inform your frame design?

Every bike model that I offer has been designed and raced in an ultra. The Durmitor was the bike I designed for TCR and is so named after the mountain range in Montenegro where I finally got my act together. Likewise, the Kegety is named in honour of the 3850m mountain pass at the start of the Silk Road Mountain Race. I do this to test out designs and put models through their paces so I can be sure they are up to task.

There seems to be a debate around whether custom frames are about precision engineering or posh paint jobs. Where do you sit on this one?

This question does seem to have a circular life and often comes up. Personally, I think most talk on this is quite reductive as the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Some builders spend more time on the manufacture of the frame and machining parts while others focus more on how the bike looks. Both aspects are important; the key for me is to unite all of these points into a great riding bike.



Every racer in the country once rode a hand built frame. Why do you think frame building is enjoying a resurgence?

It's hard to say but I think in general there has been a movement against mass production, a will to know where your bike has come from and a desire to be part of the journey. I also think that people are starting to realise that many of the materials that have been used in bikes over the last few decades aren’t necessarily up to much. Steel tubing has continued to improve and offers one of the best ride feels you could ask for.

The resurgence in hand-built frames must have been good for you. Does it also bring increased competition?

A whole market that has sprung up around custom bikes because of the amount of people interested. If anything, the growth in interest has created more opportunities for everyone in the industry. All the custom builders know each other and are a big community sharing ideas, it's a great thing to be a part of.



Could you tell us about your workshop?

The workshop is based in an old industrial unit in Hackney Wick. There’s a long and rich history of manufacture here, and it's great to work in an area that once upon a time would have been home to several frame builders. Quirk frames are built one at a time with great care. My process mixes the traditional and the modern, with mills older than me standing beside 3D printed stainless parts.



A word on the kit. What do you look for in the clothing you wear while building?

One thing: it has to be is tough. The amount of wear my clothes go through means they won't last a day in the workshop if they aren’t.

Rob is wearing

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