words by DOM THOMAS
I have a few friends who just have one bike for all their different types of riding. They use the same bike for commuting, weekend road rides, family rides and touring. They often have busy lives and cycling forms a part of their everyday lifestyle. They enjoy the familiarity and simplicity of owning and riding just one bike.
Throughout my career as a bike designer I have often chopped and changed my bikes at regular intervals to test new products or ideas. Throughout these times I usually have a single super versatile bike that I reach for when I’m not testing bikes, it usually acts as my commuter too. Adorned with a full time rack I can load it up for weekends away when all I want to focus on is the landscape around me. Up until 6 months ago that bike was my Wold Elm, which saw me through trips to Flanders as well as weeklong tours down country lanes and bridleways. Id change the tyres depending on the season or the trip but the bike always felt familiar whether it had 28’s for the commute to the workshop or 35’s with some tread for fast rides down farm tracks in the Wolds.
I really believe in the concept and usability of bikes like this, their potential encourages adventure and self-sufficiency while their practicality means they positively effect people’s lifestyles. The Faran is the evolution of my many years experience designing bikes like this and ill try to talk you through some of the design decisions.
COMMUTING, TOURING AND EXPLORING
Ultimately what decides the usage of any bike is: 1) tyre size, 2) geometry; and 3) features e.g. rack mounts. Tyre size and geometry are directly related because geometry needs to be changed to allow for larger tyres. When considering tyre sizes for Faran I felt that 42c was the largest tyre id design for. There are loads of great tyre options around the 38-42 range including the Compass Barlow Pass 38c and the WTB Nano 40c, all of which will fit perfectly well into the Faran with plenty of clearance for muck and debris.
The other tyre (&wheel) size consideration was the 650×47 road plus standard, the logic being that a 650b wheel with a 47 tyre has the same overall diameter as a standard 700c road wheel with a 28-30 tyre. This is a great solution for adding further versatility to a bike of this nature so I wanted to make sure the Faran would be compatible with this standard.
Taking into account a max tyre of 700×42 I settled upon a chainstay length of 430mm, which is as short as possible without bending the seat tube or offsetting the bottom bracket. If this bike was dedicated tourer then id have no issue stretching the chainstays out to 450mm (to increase the wheelbase for fully loaded stability) but I think 80% of the usage of this bike will be on the road (as a winter trainer or commuter) so a shorter chainstay gives quicker acceleration and efficient climbing. Also it was important to me that when unloaded this bike would be fun and agile in the woods and double up as a pretty handy cross bike.
With a 430mm chainstay combined with a 42c tyre (plus full compatibility with double and triple chain sets), the chainstays had to be double bent (s-bends) and dimpled to provide the necessary clearances for the tyre, front mech, crank arms and chainrings.
I designed a fork to have the exact same tyre clearances as the frame while keeping the axle to crown height as short as possible at 398mm. I opted for a steel fork so that a front pannier rack can be fitted, or even a porteur rack for daily town use. The steel fork also gives great compliance and comfort over rough terrain. The fork features mudguard and rack mounts while the hole in the crown can be used to install a dynamo or a randonneur rack such as the Nitto M18 or Velo Orange Constructuer. I used cast front dropouts that are forward facing and have inset faces so that the fork leg doesn’t need to be dimpled to clear a 160mm rotor. The fork legs are tapered to provide further comfort.
As with the Strael we decided to keep the Faran QR rather than adopt a thru axle system. I don’t believe that thru axles offer a superior [or inferior for that matter] ride quality on this style of bike but they do add a manufacturing cost and a little weight. The long distance touring capability of a bike like the Faran means that spares availability [in far flung places] is a consideration so that was a big tick for using QR’s. Nearly all thru axle wheels can be converted to QR, however not all QR hubs can be converted to thru axle. It just seemed that QR was the most sensible option and added to the versatility.
TUBING SELECTION AND DESIGN
I worked with my friends at Reynolds (https://fairlightcycles.com/inside-fairlight/reynolds/) to develop a custom 853 tubeset for use on the Strael. Not many people know that all 853 tubing starts life as Reynolds 631 but then goes through heat treatment and annealing processes to become 853. Therefore all of the work that we did in creating the oval and bi-oval tubes for Strael we were able to replicate for the Faran using 631. That means the Faran has a similar ride quality on the road so it makes a fantastic winter trainer or fast commuter. You can read more about the oval/bi-oval tube designs [and how they benefit ride quality] here: https://fairlightcycles.com/strael-concept-design-notes/.
The rear end of the Faran is made from 4130 chromo. The tubing is heavily shaped (for the clearances mentioned earlier) and it is easier to shape the slightly softer 4130 versus the harder Reynolds tubing options. All of the ovalising, tapering, bending and dimpling of the stays is done at the factory in Europe. The chainstays start life as 22.2 x 0.9mm plain gauge tubing while the seatstays are 16 x 0.9mm and are strong enough to carry large touring loads on a rear rack.
The headtube is also made from 4130 and has 6mm re-enforcement rings so that a thinner walled tube can be used without sacrificing strength where the load is highest. It is a standard 36mm (33.9mm inner diameter) headtube so compatible with tried and tested external press fit headsets like Chris King, Hope and FSA. Likewise the 68mm threaded BB was a no brainer and by far the most reliable standard out there.
The Faran’s strength is it’s versatility and it will become your companion on many adventures. I’ve focused on developing tubing to produce a fun and nimble ride while opting for tried and tested standards to give long term reliability and peace of mind when far from home.