Bamberg in Upper Franconia is known for its breweries and the dark-coloured ‘smoked beer’ they produce. Handmade bicycle aficionados probably associate Bamberg with Ulrich Vogel. The former architect started to build bicycles full-time in 2007 and quickly has gained a reputation to create highly individual pieces of art in his workshop. Besides meticulously crafted steel frames, he makes stems, forks, lugs, dropouts and even racks with his own hands.
To accommodate adequate stiffness, oversized components and the elegance of slender steel tubes, Ulrich Vogel chose a mix of tapered Renyolds 853, Columbus Spirit and stainless steel XCr tubes for this sportive long-distance racer.
What inspired you to build? What does the craft and the material you are using mean to you? Is it a job, a passion, an attitude?
As a child I enjoyed taking things apart and re-assemble them afterwards, at least I tried. When cycling developed into a passion of mine, also my interest in bike mechanics grew. Being the centrepiece of any bike, I was particularly interested in how to make a frame. Some day I enrolled in a framebuilding course and from then continued to build frames.
I use steel because this material gives me the most opportunities to work creatively in a manual process. In my view, other materials don’t offer that wide variety of possibilities. Only with steel so many different ways of joining the material are available: welding, fillet brazing, micro fillets, lugged brazing and bi-laminated joints. Every joining technique has its own language and form, its own character – this is very exciting.
Framebuilding is my job which originated from my passion. Of course, passion and work are linked to my attitude towards life. I believe that these two cannot be separated if you want to do something with a sense of fulfilment.
How do you make a bike? What’s important to you in the process and what is it that sets you apart from other builders?
I work with my hands in the true sense of craftsmanship. So far I use machines only to a very very limited extent. This way, coming from a different background, I was able to get to know the material/steel better, to somehow “understand” it. Working like that helps me to develop my own “signature”. I have the impression that this approach sets me apart from my fellow framebuilder colleagues in Germany, most of the time they work with a lot more machines.
What does the Rapha Continental mean to you and to the bike you’ve built for us?
The Rapha Continental accomplishes to merge a tough sport, a unique, classic design as well as quality into an attitude towards life and it conveys that sensation. I am happy to get to build a frame for the Rapha Continental and hope that my bike mirrors Rapha’s qualities.
Tell us about your favourite bike ride.
I don’t have a “favourite” bike ride. Each ride is different and each ride has the potential to turn into an unforgettable experience. Touring through beautiful scenery with wonderful weather can be as much memorable as “fighting” winds and sleet in a forlorn area. There is a great sense of satisfaction to ride against all the odds and to have made it. That is cycling for me.
In our journey to explore the Hidden Europe, where do you think we should go and ride and why?
Of course in “my” region. The countryside is so diverse and fragmented, there is constantly something to discover. Athletic tours with challenging ascents, as well as relaxed touring along the riverbanks. From the cherry blossom in spring around Pretzfeld up until autumn when the beech forests of Steigerwald glow in the prettiest colours: the nature as well as the cultivated landscape are wonderful here. The region offers history, nature, culture, tradition, many places where time seems to have stood still, numerous breweries and distilleries, wine-growing areas, hearty food…
What would you do, if you weren’t building bikes?
I would work in my former job as an architect – with enthusiasm and passion.
For more information visit: vogel-rahmenbau.de