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Me and my bike: Ricky Feather

28 Nov 2018

This article first appeared in Issue 76 of Cyclist magazine

Words Pete Muir Illustration Danny Bird

This was a bit of an accident, really,’ says Ricky Feather as he props his bike against the wall. ‘I’d gone home one night and worked a bit on a design for my own bike in between working on a customer’s bike.

‘At the end of the night I closed down the drawing for his bike on my computer, but left my own design open and carried on working on that one the next day without realising it.

‘It was an almost identical frame to the one I’d designed for myself. It used nearly all the same tubing, but it was only after I mitred it all up that I realised it was never going to be big enough for a 6ft 4in guy.

‘I was scratching my head, wondering what had gone wrong, then I noticed that the drawing had my name at the top of it, and that’s when I clicked that it wasn’t his bike.’

So the customer’s bike soon became Feather’s own bike – ‘He was a nice guy, he saw the funny side of it’ – and the latest addition to his home-grown race team, Feather Cycles Racing.

‘We’ve had a team for four years now,’ says Feather. ‘It all started with myself and James Fairbank from Rapha.

‘He was living in York at the time and neither of us wanted to join a conventional club and be racing with a bunch of guys we didn’t know, so we started our own team.’

Between them they had everything they needed. Fairbank provided team kit and Feather produced the bikes, with all the steel tubing supplied by Italian company Columbus.

‘Except for this one,’ says Feather slightly sheepishly. ‘Because of the mix-up with the client’s bike, it’s got the wrong seatstays on it.’

Built for speed

Readers who have been following Cyclist magazine from its inception in 2012 will remember Ricky Feather from Issue 2.

Back then, when we profiled him, he was still fairly new to the framebuilding game, having started out as a welder in various industries beforehand.

But he was already garnering awards for the quality of his work at the Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show.

With ornate lug work, exquisite brazes and unique flourishes on every build, Feather’s frames were highlights of the show, and he’s acquired a pile of rosettes to prove it.

Yet with his race bikes the emphasis is entirely on performance over aesthetics.

‘They are all made to measure, every one of them,’ says Feather. ‘I want to make sure it’s a race pedigree bike – stiff in the right places, but also comfortable.

‘One of our lads goes out and does a lot of “Cent Cols Challenge” type things in the Alps or Dolomites or whatever.

‘He’s into super long-distance stuff, so the bike needed to be something he could ride 250km a day on, 10 days in a row.’

To achieve the balance of stiffness and springiness, Feather picks his tubesets with care.

‘I use a Columbus Spirit HSS down tube, a normal Spirit top tube, we use a Zona seat tube for the 31.6mm seatpost, and then it has Life seatstays and Spirit chainstays so it’s a bit of a mix really.’

He’s especially proud of the dropouts, which are of his own design. ‘It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I started. Finding someone who’s up for doing really small production is very difficult, especially in CNC machining.

‘If you want 10 sets of dropouts made every three months, no one is interested. Luckily I found a guy in Yorkshire who’s a cyclist, and we just made it come together.

‘I’d learned bringing the chainstays out makes the rear stiffer, so I wanted a hooded dropout, but I didn’t want something that was small and boring. 

‘I wanted something unique to my bike so you’d notice if you saw one.’

Down and dirty

As a bespoke framebuilder, Feather will create whatever his customers ask for, but he claims his race bike design is proving popular with clients:

‘The more of these I post up on my site, the more race bikes I seem to do. People come to the workshop with an idea in their head, and then they see this and they decide that they want something similar.

‘To be honest, other than the team, no one is really racing them, which is a shame as that’s what they’re built for. There’s a pretty slim chance of knackering them, really.

‘I’ve crashed mine a couple of times, gone straight over the bars, but you just get back up and finish your race. It’s a solid bike.’

Feather reiterates that he doesn’t want his bikes to be revered as precious ornaments, but ridden and raced.

‘I really like building bikes for serious cyclists,’ he says. ‘To send a bike out and see it being mounted on someone’s wall is heartbreaking.

‘For me there’s nothing better than building a bike for someone who lives locally.

‘To be out on a run one day and to see someone going in the opposite direction on one of my bikes, that’s what I love.’