Handmade: Raphael Cycles
Rafi Ajl is one of the few artisans handcrafting custom steel frame bicycles in San Francisco. Rafi was kind enough to lend us his personal fixe for our September photo shoot.
I found Raphael Cycles while perusing the SFMade web site. I was interested in a custom bike and learned that, while I could readily customize something from stock components, a truly custom bike –hand built from the “ground up”– is a very different animal. My interpretation of a custom handmade bicycle is one in which the frame is made-to-measure in the builder’s workshop. The finished product is crafted and skillfully assembled from meticulously selected components – many of which are handcrafted by other like minded artisans.
I was angling for a fixed gear, thinking that it would provide a ample dose of street “cred” and urban camouflage. Rafi had just built such a machine (can I classify a bicycle as a machine?) The steel frame had oxidized a bit prior to the application of a clear coat, locking in the slightly rusted patina required for truly effective urban camouflage pattern. The bike was kitted out with understated yet aficiando-grade components. At first glance, it looked like something you might find at an SFPD unclaimed/confiscated property sale.
The genius of Rafi’s approach to camouflage is that the bike does not attract unwarranted attention – to the extent this is possible – from petty thieves. While on closer inspection, this fixed gear would stand out without standing out, which is what Mobilized is about.