There are a few brands that occupy the very top of most peoples most wanted bike list, with few managing to combine as much beauty and stunning attention for detail as those frames produced by Independent Fabrication, a company with a talent for blurring the line between technology and art.
Independent Fabrication produces frames that enjoy some rather exclusive company. Think Merlin, Serotta, Seven, all small US-based frame builders but all sharing a passion for building the best possible, most gorgeous looking and great handling frames money can buy. They also all share similarly stratospheric price tags, but sometimes quality of this high level don’t come cheap.
The Independent Fabrication SSR 953 is the latest to come out of the factory in Somerville, Massachusetts, and is one of a few to exploit the new Reynolds 953 tubeset. I say new, it’s actually been around for a couple of years, but the uptake so far has been slow with only a handful of frame builders dabbling in it.
When steel was the predominant choice for all cyclists, Reynolds enjoyed an enviable reputation as one of the leading tubeset suppliers, and brought forward many significant developments in making lighter and stiffer steel frames possible. The advance of other materials has led to steel taking a back foot, but the development and subsequent release of 953 brings about hopes of establishing the company as a supplier of top-end tubesets.
953 “…takes steel alloys into a new league. Based on a specially developed “martensitic-aging” stainless steel alloy that can achieve tensile strength in excess of 2000MPa, this has a strength-to-weight ratio that can take on the best in the world.”
Once built into a frame, this bold claim is meant to translate into a structure offering the resilient ride of steel (since small diameter tubes can be used), high impact strength for fatigue life and dent resistance and corrosion resistance (it’s stainless). 953 can be cold-worked, so that butted profiles down to 0.3mm wall thicknesses for low weight are possible.
But enough about the tubeset, what about the frame? Indy Fab builds custom frames. There is no ‘stock’ option. And custom means that every customer is taken through the same process, whichever frame you’re buying, and can specify every tube, every length, every angle and every option such as the colour. Needless to say, it’s one of the most beautiful frames to pass through the RCUK office – let’s hope it rides as well as it looks.
The price is rather credit card flexing though, at £2,350 for a frame and fork, including the custom geometry and a choice of decals. Custom paint is also available. Weight for this 56cm tester comes in at about 1-1.1kg. The weight will vary from frame to frame though as each is tuned to the requirements of each rider, taking into account the sort of riding, their weight and so on.
For this test Bespoke Cycles built the frame up with an equally tasty selection of parts, befitting of the frames credentials (I’d doubt that many would spec a budget groupset on such a frame anyway). A SRAM Red groupset does the shifting and braking. Keeping with the Reynolds theme, the company supplies the bars, stem and seatpost. Also the MV32 tubular wheels, which weigh just 1.19kg with a 32mm deep section all-carbon build. Tyres are 22mm Veloflex Carbon tubs which are handmade in Italy. They’re billed as a “fantastic everyday tubular”, weigh 240g and a Calicot puncture resistant layer underneath the thread should shrug off glass and thorns. Bottle cages are Arundel carbon items: a 30g Dave-O and the interesting Sideloader. There’s a Chris King headset, Fizik Arione saddle and Fizik bartape finishing the bike off. Full test soon.