Norwid steel frame – being hand made

This is the workplace of  Rudolf Pallesen aus, the owner of Norwid Bikes, where I had ordered the ultimate touring bike to be hand made for me.


It is here, where finest bicycle frames are being hand built. Meaning to all stipulations of the customer. And in this case the customer is me.

Arm length, leg length, shoulder width, desired seating style, type of steel, tube diameter, tube thickness and much more gets incorporated into my very personal bike frame.

The consultation process already took several hours, and in my case this perfect consulting was done by an expert for custom bikes at the shop Rad und Tat in Karlsruhe, Germany. Or, more strictly speaking, in a cafe around the corner, where we had several cappuccini during I was introduced to the secrets of different steels and all other details that I had to find decisions about.

And finally, during the most photogenic step of the making of my dream bike I wanted to be present.

That’s why the company Norwid had suggested that I should witness the soldering of the tubes and the spiking of the rear wheel at their workshop just north of Hamburg – which I did in February 2012.


So this is the frame of my new dream bike. Still in its 13 parts, which are already cut to the correct sizes.


Today Rudolf Pallesen will build my frame from these tubes today. All soldering work will be done by the master himself – and he is famous for the quality of his work.


Prior to assembly, the burrs are removed from all the tubes.


Not only outside but also the inside gets deburred and cleaned – here it is the fork head.


Visual inspection of the steerer tube from the inside.


Last holes are drilled before assembly.


The steerer tube is attached to the sleeve.


Now the most important part begins. The dimensions of my bike are transferred from paper to the frame jig, in which then all tubes will be clamped where they will become my frame.


The template gets adjusted to the very millimeter, so that all tubes are kept accurately.


Last visual inspection of the pipes before they are clamped. Here you can see the slots for the cables on the inside of my down tube.


Now the real craftsmanship begins, for which it takes decades of experience: the ends of all the pipes are soldered together. At the bottom bracket using a socket and at all other points in the so-called fillet brazing.


It is the result of years of experience in dealing with steel, solder and the right temperature. It needs to have the very right temperature (typically 650-750 degrees C) at the right moment and in the right place has. Only then it is drawn by capillary action between the parts of the frame.


The chain stays and dropouts are already there, but for a complete chain stray the seat stays are still missing. Unlike all other tubes, they are not prefabricated at their upper ends.


The sear stays are still missing at the seat tube.


The upper ends of the seat stays are applied to the seat tube and marked where they will be shortened.


The seat stays are manually cut off at the marks.

The sawed-off end of the seat stay is ground.


And then precisely honed by hand.


The fit is checked.


The seat stays now get another hole. The soldering heats the air, which then expands. Those holes allow the heated air to expand. Later the frame will be sealed with wax from the inside.


Prior to the soldering, a flux is applied to prevent oxidation.


At about 650 degrees Celsius, the seat stays are brazed to the seat tube. Here experienced hands and good eyes are required to allow the solder neither to become too hot and liquid, not too cool and laid. Only the right creaminess connects both parts for the rest of all times.


When the rear is finished, its symmetry is controlled – in this case, it is perfect.


The biggest forces  in a bicycle frame occur at the bottom bracket, where the force is diverted from the pedal to the chain.


Therefore, all four tubes are taken by a stable socket and soldered both from outside and inside the bottom bracket.



Now the frame is fully soldered. It now cools down in a water bath over the next night, where the flux is dissolved.

Meanwhile I watch René Louis, who manually spokes the rear wheel around my Rohloff hub.


In order to guarantee absolute stability, the spokes are not only pulled the trigger, but knocked off one by one. Thus, any distortions can be removed immediately, and no re-centering is needed later.


Later the tension of each single spoke is measured individually, and the result is a wheel as stable (and light) as it can be.


At sunset of this exciting day, my frame is finished. About three more weeks and my then powder coated and fully equipped bike will be ready for the first ride.

I can not wait …

Update from 20. October 2012:

Wanna see some Bike-Porn? Here are some photos of my dream bike by Norwid.