With plenty of talk recently surrounding custom bikes we thought it was high time we shared with you the tailor made frame belonging to one member of our team, Rachael and her Swarf Curve.
Swarf Cycles is the brainchild of one man, Adrian Bedford, who can be most often found laying up carbon or welding beautiful frames together in his shed in Dorchester on the south coast of the UK. Rachael’s Curve is one of a batch of five bikes created by Adie, the design and completion of which won him the “Best New Builder” award at Bespoked UK Handmade Bicycle Show in 2014. My bike was originally made and built for her partner, Adam and when he decided to go ‘plus sized’ the Swarf was just too good to sell, so I got my mitts on a treasured hand me down!
In the weeks before the purchase of the Swarf Curve, many hours were spent trawling the internet with table after table of bike geometry blurring into one great numerical tornado whirling around the brain. With potential new frames discarded for being too short, too steep, too tall, the search for what Adam called his perfect bike was becoming seemingly endless. After meeting Adie on the off chance at the local trails, Adam found the perfect solution – a Swarf Curve with custom geometry.
Geometry for you – well, actually me…..
Adie set to work on his seventh and final Curve, a 150mm enduro rig, with certain angles and lengths set by Adam before the build began. As far as hand-me-down’s go, the geo set by Adam has proved pretty much spot on for me too, both with a similar riding style and penchant for longer, slacker bikes. The vital stats of my Curve comprise of the following figures, a confidence inspiring 64.5 degree head angle, a reach of 440mm, effective top tube is 590mm, the seat tube stands at 430mm, chainstays at 430mm with the wheelbase totaling 1190mm. And so the Curve was born, a frame built by just one pair of hands, the making of which was overseen by the watchful eye of ‘Bills’ the cat.
As many of you may have guessed already the Swarf Curve has a steel front triangle and carbon rear end taking many, many man hours to make! The steel is Renyolds 853 tubing for the top and down tubes and a plain gauge t45 tube to take on the big loads from the linkage on the seat tube. The frame itself was designed around 150mm of rear travel and using 150mm forks with 27.5” wheels. The frame weighs in at about 3.1kg (7lbs) leaving the weight of the whole bike at 14.5kg (32lbs) with pedals. The custom geometry adds up to a great ride for 5’4” tall Rachael, there is plenty of room in the cockpit and enough space to run a 150mm dropper post, something not often found on other frames. During my time testing bikes I have found that to get the desired reach I would often have to upsize on a bike therefore leaving her with a long seat tube and consequently a saddle left inadequately high for steeper descents.
So, how does she ride?
This isn’t a ‘bike test’ as such, and whilst I love my bike I can also be clear on the things this machine does well and acknowledges its pitfalls too. The suspension of the Swarf Curve works on a linkage driven single pivot, with the pivot placed high it means the use of an idler wheel is necessary to keep the chain line above the chain stay and eradicate pedal kick-back as the chain grows. The suspension action is very much a rearward axle path meaning the wheels moves up and backwards out of the way of square edge hits, soaking them up with ease, it’s plush and gobbles up small bumps for dinner, yet is a responsive ride using a Rockshox Monarch Plus RC3.
The long wheelbase makes the Swarf Curve a stable beast at speeds, enabling the rider to find a comfortable centre point to balance on descents, taking the weight through the feet ready to react at whatever the trail throws up next. Whilst the long front centre takes some getting used to during cornering where you really do need to ‘weight the front’, once mastered it’s a fast bike ready to plough through the rough stuff or dance and pop high over the smooth! With a seat angle of 74 degrees, climbing isn’t the Curve’s forte, it’s not all that bad though, setting the saddle forward on the rails and dipping the nose slightly makes it a much easier ride. The length of the bike wins here too, keeping the front wheel tracking the ground and the back wheel powering though with no unnecessary pivoting action as seen with shorter bikes.
As with all handmade bikes, the Curve takes a bit more TLC than the average aluminium ride, there’s no chucking it in the shed and forgetting about it here, every slight squeak or groan needs to be attended to and fixed right away! Attend to the Curve’s needs and you are rewarded with hours and miles of fun aboard a bike which is truly unique. Bills the cat is currently spending time watching Ady make custom hardtails, they are equally as gorgeous and unique as his endeavors into the full sus bikes, check out his website for more details and the full rundown of Swarf family history.