In Part II of our interview with Dazza, we discuss his love of polishing, his wait and how he plans to live a long time.
BKW: Do you work with stainless steel very often?
Every frame I make has some stainless: the dropouts, cable guides and stoppers, chain hanger, front derailleur mount, and the heart detail between the stays. I use stainless here because it has merit. I like frame parts that function well, keeping paint tidy, no corrosion from road salts, or from people who perspire battery acid. Aesthetic is important but durability and function should never be sacrificed, intentionally or through ignorance. I see/hear people chatter on about so and so’s dropouts or some other design feature they see on a frame, but 30 years of experience tells one that there will be grief and tears with some designs currently in fashion. There is reason why the long time professional builders have not done the design of a part or a frame that way.
Having said that, then there is my reputation for the bling bikes; but you know, I only do three to four of those elaborate stainless lugged frames each year. They get a lot of attention. Some of those have 250 hours of metal work in them. They hurt in many ways to make. This year I will make only three of those and two slots are already taken and the other one is being finalized. So if a client wants one, they need to sign up/deposit for a 2009 slot now.
BKW: Where are most of your customers located?
DLM: Mostly in Australia.
Most of my export frames go to the USA and these typically feature hand-cut, polished stainless lugs.
BKW: How many bikes do you deliver in the average year?
DLM: I have given up counting. Truly, I have not counted production for five years, but I can say, not as many as I would like to get out the door. Running the show takes more time than it used to when compared to the good old days.
Also, those elaborate stainless lugged frames take up a lot of energy, time. Each one is big black hole for 5 to 6 weeks.
BKW: How long is your waiting list?
DLM: It fluctuates from 6 to 12 months.
BKW: Tell us a bit about the red bike that was at the Handmade Bicycle Show. You said you had 250 hours in it.
DLM: Yes, 250 hours, that is not counting customer discussion time and sending pictures of the build process each night.
I cut a set of Pacenti lugs, crown and BB, in a variation of a theme I have done before, and I was very pleased with the results. I machine the seatstay plugs and hand miter them to the seat lug to fit and look the way I desire. Cut stainless details for aesthetics and many other extras. But I would like to stress, that bike frame is made to be ridden and be used, it is not fragile or for the mantle piece. No compromise is made on the ride and longevity of the bike because it has shiny bits.
Typical frame, fork and stem like that one is $9,500 AUD ($8,500 USD) or more depending on what the customer desires.
Compared to my normal build style road frame, fork, stem which still has stainless fittings, polished dropouts and other details for $3,800 AUD ($3,350 USD)
BKW: Do you paint your frames?
DLM: No, never, never want to, I am too young to die!
My old training partner from the early 80′s, Joe Cosgrove, paints my work, he does a splendid job. He was very chuffed recently to receive high praise from Joe Bell and other paint legends while at NAHBS 2008.
I also think painting is so specialized, it is a full time Ph.D. that will never be finished. I think that builders compromise their painting if they apply themselves to the metal work and design of their bikes properly, or painters compromise their painting Ph.D. if they put time into metal work. Some do reasonable work in both skills, but they are limited or perhaps have to keep to a narrower pathway, and some are not always progressive or attuned to the changes and progress of today’s market for hand made frames.
BKW: You seem pretty proud of your lug designs and other casting projects, are there delights on the drawing board?
DLM: If the handmade bespoke/custom bicycle scene is to stay healthy and vibrant, we builders cannot go on producing frames that are just repros of circa 1985 with the additions of some extra windows in the lugs with leather handle bar tape and pastel coloured paint jobs. These have their place and is super cool, but the demographics of these clients is dwindling each year.
The new generation of clients/enthusiasts are the new buyers. All they have seen is carbon this and carbon that but they can be shown the merits of both the traditional build methods and styles, fused with contemporary designs and styles. A better bicycle is the result. The best of the past with the best of today. We build better bicycles today than 30 years ago.
This desire prompted me to invest a lot of time and resources in designing and producing lugs and dropouts to strengthen what I do. I have to admit, it is a lot of toil, thrown on top of workshop production, added with the hiccups along the way. I have as much pride in these casting projects as the attention my stainless lugged frames receive.
As for new projects on the drawing board, the answer is yes and no for the time being. No, but yes, when time allows.
BKW‘s recent trip Portland, Oregon, for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was our first opportunity to see the work of a builder we had heard of for some time. We’d been hearing about Llewellyn Custom Biycles for years from folks who know great work and when confronted with his work, well, we were blown away. BKW’s editors do not suffer this much lust easily.
Darrell Llewellyn McCulloch, “Dazza” to his friends, is one of a rare breed of framebuilder whose work inspires such an instant sense of awe that your first thought is, “Gosh, I’d love to have this frame.” We talked with him at the show and made plans for an e-mail interview to follow.
BKW: Where are you located? Are you a native?
DLM: I was born in the city of Brisbane Australia, 1963. I live and work in my home located on the outskirts of Brisbane, where I can still ride away from the traffic and can still go for walks in the state forests across the road.
BKW: How long have you been building?
DLM: I have been associated with handmade frames and bike racing since 1979. I started building the “Llewellyn” marque in 1989 (Llewellyn is my middle name).
BKW: How did you learn your craft—were you self-taught or did you apprentice under someone?
DLM: I was a bit lost at school, looking for something to do with my hands. Was it going to be art, wood work, aviation, or…? Then, after reading a magazine article on frame building in a 1978 copy of Bicycling magazine, I fell in love with the notion of making bicycle frames. That article is responsible for sending me down the path of this tragic lifestyle. (Giggle.)
BKW: If you apprenticed under someone, can you tell us a bit about the builder?
DLM: I started work at Hoffy Cycles in Sandgate in 1979. The owner was Eric Hendren; he worked his whole life in that shop from age 13 till he retired 53 years later. I learned to fix coaster hubs, Sturmey-Archer 3-speeds, wheel building, frame repairs and some new frame work. Eric built frames with a vice, power drill, three files, and a surface plate. He was a good boss to me, but after 6 years I got restless and bored and wanted to move on.
An opportunity came to work for Brett Richardson (Berretto frames). This allowed me to get my hands into full time frame building (circa 1986), but the shop went through some partnership troubles so I ended up leaving and working in a bigger retail bike shop. A couple of years there and I was prompted to start Llewellyn Custom Bicycles as a part-time affair. The time was right.
Llewellyn was a part time affair while I raced in France and worked the summers in the shop. Then I worked full time with the Australian Institute of Sport—head road mechanic for two years—then I went part time with the teams and only did the Euro season from May to October. Based in Germany and then Italy, I did not see a Brisbane winter for 8 years.
The rest of my education is self discovery from inside my cave, absorbing as much as I can cope with.
BKW: Do you work in materials other than steel?
DLM: Oh yes, but only with splendidly fine materials; like a couple of glasses of good red wine with my fiancée.
BKW: In addition to working with lugs, do you fillet braze or TIG weld?
DLM: I used to do lugless fillet brazing with oversize shaped tubes, but it drove me nuts. The in built stresses from shaped (squashed) tubes annoyed me. So I created my own compact angled lugs for round oversize tubes and banished shaped main tubes from my life for ever. (Until recently, these were known as the Slant 6, and Mini 6 lug sets, now known as OS Compact and XL Compact.) The lugs are much better for the purity of the build processes, so this pleases me. I don’t do funk or what this year’s brochure has to have.
I want a good fit, accuracy of the build and no stresses in the frame. And it has to look pleasing while lasting a couple of decades.
No TIG here.
BKW: If you do work other than lugs, are lugs your preferred form of expression?
DLM: My chant is, “It’s steel, it’s lugs, let the others get on with the madness”
BKW: What is your preferred tubing these days?
DLM: I use lot of Columbus “Spirit for Lugs” tube sets. Good to work with, well made with sensible butt lengths. If I need special tubes for some frame designs or for bikes that have different tube requirements I will use a mix of suitable tubes from Dedacciai or True Temper.
BKW: What lugs do you like to work with?
DLM: My Llewellyn designed and produced lugs, like the standard oversize compact lugs (was Mini 6, now OS Compact ), and the extra large compact angled lug set (was Slant 6, now XL Compact), my socket stainless dropouts and lugged handlebar stems.
I created the stem and compact (sloping top tube lugs) lug sets to meet my needs, as there was nothing out there in the market and they blend traditional lugged frame construction with the merits of contemporary designs. I cannot understand builders who make a attractive lugged bike and plonk a CNC machined alloy handle bar stem on it. Makes me puke. I provide the lugs for other builders to use, and it was pleasing to meet these builders at Don (Walker)’s show (NAHBS) and see their good work with them.
For horizontal top tube frames I use Kirk Pacenti’s artisan lugs for elaborate designs and I use Richard Sachs’s lugs. Both are good mates and are life time tragics with bikes.
While wandering around the pits on Prologue day at the Amgen Tour of California, BKW ran into Classics specialist and all-around nice guy, Tony Cruz. Over the course of his career, Tony has raced with some of cycling’s best and, like the team here at BKW, Tony is crazy about the Classics. Tony was gracious enough to answer a couple of questions for us.
BKW: What is your fondest memory of the Classics?
TC: Out of all the classics, my fondest memory is actually finishing Roubaix, I want to say I finished 47th or 48th.
BKW: What year was that?
BKW: How many Roubaixs do you have under your belt?
TC: Five, and 2004 was the only one I finished. I felt like I won the race. When I came into the velodrome I wanted to just throw up my hands. Probably one of the hardest one day races ever.
BKW: So, you are a part of history?
TC: Yeah, exactly, I got to go in the showers and clean up with the rest of the guys.
BKW: That’s a victory in itself.
TC: Yeah, it is, it really felt like it.
BKW: So with BMC as your team for 2008, is there anything you will miss out on?
TC: Well, we may be doing Roubaix. BMC has really stepped it up for this year. I, personally, will be doing 20-25 races in Europe. Maybe more…we will be doing Tour of Romandie and we have a wildcard status, which means more race possibilities. I have never been able to race Roubaix for myself, so maybe a different approach for this year.
When Basque rider Iban Mayo of the Saunier Duval team tested positive during the Tour de France for EPO, hardly anyone was surprised. Those who follow professional cycling took the single non-negative test result of Mayo’s A sample as yet another example of how cycling had distinguished itself as the most corrupt of sports.
According to a release by the Spanish Cycling Federation issued Monday, Mayo has been cleared, thanks to a negative test result of Mayo’s B sample. Testing was performed on his B sample at a laboratory in Belgium and the results reviewed in Australia, neither of which confirmed the initial positive test.
WADA’s own rules indicate that should have been the end of the story, more or less. BKW spoke to a doping expert who requested anonymity for this story; he said it was curious the lab in Gent, Belgium, was chosen to test the B sample. According to the expert, the lab in Belgium isn’t particularly competent to perform EPO testing. On the other hand, he said that while the Paris lab’s IRMS group is “atrocious,” their EPO and blood group is “quite good.” Remember, the doctor who helped to formulate the EPO urine test is based at this lab.
According to our source, any result from testing the B sample that does not confirm the non-negative A sample is ordinarily considered a negative test, and the end of the case. It is not unheard of to test the sample further, but the case is closed once any result other than positive is returned, and we are told that judging an EPO test is very simple, that the results are very “cut and dry.” So when the UCI’s Anne Gripper said that “Mayo’s B sample wasn’t negative, it was inconclusive,” the testing community would ordinarily judge such an outcome negative, the end of the case. For further testing to take place, the UCI must allege something extraordinary took place, say, incompetence at the Gent lab. Gripper has indicated a willingness to appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Mayo’s situation is exactly the converse of the Landis case. If all lab work was performed properly, Mayo is innocent of doping. If, however, the A test was properly administered and the B test alone botched, Mayo could conceivably have doped and still be acquitted. Gripper has indicated she believes the case is worth pursuing. But for this case to go forward, it appears that the UCI will have to accuse a WADA lab of shoddy work.
The question is: Why would they be willing to risk such a self-indictment? Pursuing such a case seems a lose-lose for the UCI. If they won the case against Mayo, it would undermine the case against Landis by demonstrating faulty lab work. And if the UCI lost the case against Mayo, their professed doubt of a WADA lab would certainly fuel the Landis defense team’s contention that the labs do not perform without flaw.
Photo courtesy: Saunier Duval-Prodir Pro Cycling Team