It isn’t often that I come across a frame for which the origin is unknown. Thanks to the world wide web so much information has been shared and collected that it is virtually impossible to not find any info about even the rarest of collectors items, be it a record, a stamp or a bicycle frame. That is what makes one of my recent projects so special.
It all started last year when I was searching for a mixte frame for a customer. Today in the bicycle world outside of france a mixte frame is one where the top-tube is made of two thiner tubes bisecting the frame’s middle point. The term “mixte” is actually french and it refers to something being mixed, or unisex. The french are great like that. The have no stigmas about bicycle geometry and back in the day you often saw men riding step-through frames. And so, what better place to look for a mixte than French eBay? Through my search I stumbled upon a beautiful gem of a frame in rose metallic, with well intact decals that spelled RAPHAEL. The frame was in perfect condition with the tiniest of scratches. The lugs were hand carved and curved and spoke of something hand made. The bottom bracket had the number 11 stamped on it. This was clearly something artisanal and no production bicycle. So I bought it. Searching on the internet unveiled no information. Admittedly I didn’t go all that crazy looking for clues, but simply rest assured that one day I would build it up into it’s former glory.
Being in the custom bike business is a great thing. Offering a customer the chance to design their own bicycle, pick out a color and talk through the details makes the experience extremely personal. It is rare that I would reject to repaint a vintage frame for a customer. So when the day came that an interested customer approached me and wanted to make this frame hers, I was confronted with my gut feeling to keep it original. Luckily convincing her wasn’t even necessary, as she immediately understood the uniqueness of the frame and decided painting it would be blasphemy.
Et voilà Raphael remained original and built in the style of the true french mixtes! I am extremely happy with the result. If there is any information relating to the brand or builder, then please do get in touch!