Give us a brief introduction to Tom Sturdy and Sturdy Cycles.
Sturdy cycles started as a limited company in 2014 although the idea had been brewing for a little while before that. The first workshop was in the midst of the lovely Brecon Beacons, where my family and I lived at the time. I'm now based in Frome, Somerset where alongside building frames I am head of education at The Bicycle Academy. I set up sturdy cycles to build the best performing bikes that I can, truly optimised to their rider.
Other builders describe you as having a rare breed of knowledge where you can both fit someone and manufacture beautiful machines. What is your background, and how do you think that affects your design process?
I have an academic background in both aerospace engineering and sports biomechanics. I also used to race at a respectable international level at triathlon and dabbled at a bit of road racing too. I've worked in a number of roles within the bike industry and gained a breadth of experience doing so.
I have always been drawn to the 'softer' side of cycling performance: the hard to quantify relationship that rider has with their bike. I put a huge about of work and effort into understanding the link between man and machine so that I can fine-tune each build to be properly optimised to suit their rider.
What drives you to help other enthusiasts learn how to design and build bike frames with your work at The Bicycle Academy?
It keeps me on my toes. The topics can be challenging to teach and communicating them week in week out to different students helps me to keep evaluating my understanding of what I do and why. It's also very rewarding to see the students develop their new skills.
You solely design and manufacture Titanium frames, what was your reasoning for this?
I used to offer a more "custom" service but have converged upon something that is more made to measure: bikes that assume some specs that I know understand fully and believe to be relevant, these are then optimised for each rider.
Material choice is one of those specs. Titanium is an excellent material to build bikes from and gives me more design versatility than any other material. This is the most important thing to me. It also suits my ethos in a number of different ways. I love seeing how things are made and enjoy the purity of being able to leave the frames essentially raw; they have a timeless, elegant and understated aesthetic which also feels representative of the way I want them to ride.
How long have you been experimenting with the additive manufacturing process for your bicycles?I started looking into incorporating additive manufacturing about 3.5 years ago. Initially, this was in relatively isolated applications to try and learn more about the technology and understand how it could be useful to me. It's come on a long way from there, and I now use it extensively, and it's intrinsically linked to the way that I now design and produce frames and helps me produce structures that would otherwise not be possible to create as well as streamline the manufacturing process improving accuracy, reliability and efficiency.
What is your favourite part of the process of creating a frame?
Seeing it out to good use! Bikes are built to be ridden.
Name a cycling brand that you have massive respect for and why?I've always admired Cervelo for their diligent approach to engineering their frames.
Do you have anything in the works that you are excited about and can share with us?There are loads of projects in the works. I can't share the full details yet, but I'm working on several other parts that can be made to complement my frames and further improve integration for customers and streamline the design process for me.
One last question, a bit of a curveball. If you were a cheese, what kind of cheese would you be?
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We wanted to start sharing with you some of the fantastic independent frame builders from around the globe. We go into a little detail about the brands, but generally, we want to show the beauty and craftsmanship of frame builders. We are firm believers that it is better to spend on a custom frame from a frame builder than from one of the larger brands models that aren't to your specifications or body.