Bespoked - a celebration of handmade bicycles & those who make them
FRAMEBUILDER OF THE WEEK
Getting to know the people that make the bikes
Winston Vaz of Varonha Frameworks
London based, veteran frambuilder Winston Vaz has been making bicycles his whole life, initially with Holdsworth then for 27 years with Roberts.
Winston in the workshop - Photo Gerard Brown
How long have you been framebuilding and how did you get into it?
I have been building and repairing steel frames for nearly 40 years. When I left school at 16, I started a 9 year stint at The Holdsworthy Cycle Company, where I learned all about brazing, silver soldering, shot blasting, filing, polishing, tube selection, etc. I left to go and work with Chas Roberts, where I stayed for 27 years honing my skills before making the decision to start up my own business.
How would you define your style of building?
As an experienced fabricator and engineer, I can usually see where any issues could arise with a design that is unusual, and as a steel frame can last a lifetime, I would tend to advise against a design that could compromise the durability of a frame. So I would probably label myself as a conservative builder. But if a customer has an idea that is unusual, we can usually find a way to make it work.
Who or what has inspired you?
When building and renovating frames I am inspired by builders who were masters of their trade in the 1950s. Charlie Robert's and Bill Herlow's work, in particular, has lasted the test of time. Bill was a perfectionist in his field. His work ethic and precision inspires me to perform at my best on each frame. To this day, I use some of Bill's old tools, for example, a Fork Raker, which gives me a beautiful low fork rake. He trained most of the best frame builders at Holdsworth and was willing to share his expertise and experience.
How many frames have you built and which has been your favourite?
In my career I have built thousands of frames, but my favourite model to build was probably the Roberts D.O.G.S B.O.L.X., but as far as an individual frame goes, I built a stainless Reynolds 953 that was painstakingly hand polished to a mirror finish before being fitted with Campag Super Record EPS. I had to get Reynold to fabricate a 1" headtube for this build, but with so much work put into that frame, it was particularly satisfying.
If someone wants a custom bike from you, what’s the ordering process and how long is your waiting list?
It depends on what you need. If you want a new road frame that matches something you already have, of you know specifically what tube lengths, diameters and tube type you want, and the lugs, dropouts, etc. are in stock with my suppliers, I can get the frame built in a couple of weeks. My brother, Mario, paints my frames and he usually take a couple of weeks. If you want a frame design that is somewhat off the beaten track, this may take a bit longer if parts need sourcing or manufacturing, but we start with an phone call or email, then maybe come and see me at the workshop and we'll take it from there.
Where is your favourite place to ride and why?
To be honest, I don't really ride bikes except when I am on holiday abroad. Obviously I have a bike (built by myself of course) but it's only used for running around town on errands. My passion is for the materials and the process. I still have a frame which I built for myself in the 1970s when I was at Holdsworth.
What can we expect to see from you at Bespoked 2019?
I don’t carry a stock of pre-built frames, so I rely on the generosity of my customers to get frames or complete bikes on my stand, but one thing that will definitely be on show is me, and my many years of experience, so please come and talk to me about my most favourite thing; steel frames. Or fishing; I can talk for hours on that subject too!
And finally, if you weren’t a framebuilder, what would you be?
A beach fisherman in Goa.