Wheel World

Some of the planet’s finest bicycles are made right here in Dorchester.

By | Boston Home |
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Firefly bikes are handmade from high-quality titanium and steel. (Photographs by Mark Fleming)

Years before Lance Armstrong won a single Tour de France, Tyler Evans was building bicycles. As an avid road and mountain biker, Evans welded frames at Cambridge-based Merlin Metalworks—famous for pioneering titanium bike frames—while earning his degree in sculpture at MassArt in the ’90s (Merlin was acquired by Saucony in 1998). “I’ve always been fascinated by the way bikes blend man and machine,” he says. “They’re the ultimate biomechanical object.”

Evans eventually left Merlin for the custom shop Independent Fabrication (now based in New Hampshire), where he met fellow bike-building pros Jamie Medeiros and Kevin Wolfson. In 2010, the trio decided to start their own company, which they named Firefly to evoke “warm summer nights, lights flickering, and a sense of awe and comfort,” Evans says.

Out of their industrial-chic Dorchester workshop, they produce artisanal bikes for clients across the world who want to get deeply involved in the design of their custom-built machines and value exceptional performance.

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From left, Tyler Evans, wearing a Firefly racing cap, poses with a titanium frame that’s under construction; a drawing of a bike design is annotated with the customer’s notes.

Firefly’s frames are built from U.S.-made, aerospace-grade titanium tubes that were originally manufactured for building jets and spacecrafts. This very light material, which can cost as much as $10 per inch, is coveted among bike aficionados for its strength and stiffness. “Titanium is incredibly dent-resistant,” Evans says, “so we can really shape it to make the bike more comfortable and performance-oriented.”

The first step in creating a Firefly bicycle involves a consultation with the shop’s frame designer, Kevin Wolfson, who works with clients to determine how the bike will be used (commuting, off-roading, or racing), and to establish the rider’s personal biking preferences.

Wolfson then lays out the frame’s basic geometry, and specifies the size and shape of the tubes that will be used to build it. “Even tube thickness and diameter affect how lively the frame will be,” Evans explains. “You can really tune it to the body to create comfort.”

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Clockwise from top, a welding toolbox contains clamps, wrenches, and wire cutters; small titanium parts are welded to the frame for additional support; Medeiros measures tubing to ensure proper length.

  • Todd McClafferty

    It’s true that there aren’t many (and, I mean, anywhere on the planet) that can approach Tyler’s craftsmanship with Ti. Any article about Firefly should also give to mention the amazing work they do with stainless steel. Just as building with Ti requires skilled hands and a controlled environment, the steel many of their customers choose (over Ti and carbon, and when money is not part of the equation) is the finest ever produced, rivals high-grade Ti in cost and performance, and is used by only a select group of master builders who have the skill and have taken the time to learn how to use this incredible tubing in bicycle fabrication.

    For many, it’s the steel work of Firefly that draws us. Regardless of the material, however, all of their work is beautiful and they represent extremely well US custom bicycle builders in both craftsmanship, innovation, and attitude.