Some of the planetâ€™s finest bicycles are made right here in Dorchester.
Years before Lance Armstrong won a single Tour de France, Tyler Evans was building bicycles.Â As an avid road and mountain biker, Evans welded frames at Cambridge-based Merlin Metalworksâ€”famous for pioneering titanium bike framesâ€”while earning his degree in sculpture at MassArt in the â€™90s (Merlin was acquired by Saucony in 1998). â€śIâ€™ve always been fascinated by the way bikes blend man and machine,â€ť he says. â€śTheyâ€™re the ultimate biomechanical object.â€ť
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 â€śwarm summer nights, lights flickering, and a sense of awe and comfort,â€ť 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.
Fireflyâ€™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. â€śTitanium is incredibly dent-resistant,â€ť Evans says, â€śso we can really shape it to make the bike more comfortable and performance-oriented.â€ť
The first step in creating a Firefly bicycle involves a consultation with the shopâ€™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 riderâ€™s personal biking preferences.
Wolfson then lays out the frameâ€™s basic geometry, and specifies the size and shape of the tubes that will be used to build it. â€śEven tube thickness and diameter affect how lively the frame will be,â€ť Evans explains. â€śYou can really tune it to the body to create comfort.â€ť
Customersâ€”from professional racers to serious cyclists trying to improve their riding experienceâ€”are encouraged to visit the studio for a fitting, during which Evans and his team of technicians use a stationary bike to measure the clientâ€™s pedal stroke and body angle.
Wolfson uses this data to generate a computer-aided mockup of the frame. â€śThe closest analogy is a tailor making a suit,â€ť he says. â€śWe take measurements, talk about style, and that informs the design and construction.â€ť
Finally, itâ€™s time to build the bike. Medeiros begins by polishing the tubes before cutting them at precise angles so they will fit together flawlessly. Next, the frame is tack-welded in place and checked for alignment.
Once the bike is completely straight, itâ€™s permanently welded, polished to a velvety finish, and decorated with custom graphics. â€śThe design possibilities are endless,â€ť Wolfson says.
A finished bike ranges in price from $6,000 to $20,000, depending on the frame style and additional parts, such as handlebars, seat posts, wheels, and saddles from top-end manufacturers like Chris King and Campagnolo.
For a three-man operation, Fireflyâ€™s output is impressive. â€śWe try to make about 12 bikes per month, and almost 150 per year,â€ť Evans says. â€śWe strive to get to know the customer by inviting him or her into our space for a front-row look at the process of building their machine. Our goal is to make the experience of buying a bicycle as personal as possible. â€ť
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/property/article/2013/09/10/firefly-bikes-boston/