I remember searching for alternatives to American and European custom made steel bikes and some googling then yielded the name “Rikulau”. Indeed it struck me as a very strange name for a bicycle brand. Apparently the name is actually a type of Leopard found in the wilderness of Taiwan and yes, this is a 100% made in Taiwan product.
Way back in 2006, a group of friends, out of burning passion and desire for steel and titanium frames started out small and building frames with exotic materials such as Reynolds 853 (stainless steel) and slapping on some really cool graphics. A bit unconventional I might say, the graphics, because it looks so unlike any bike graphics I’ve seen and best of all it can be customized. Fancy a sand blasted finish of your name engraved onto the chrome finish of stainless steel? No problem and methinks its way cooler than DIY decals.
5 years on, this little known outfit has grown from strength to strength and a recent visit to their website showed that they have since expanded the operations to a larger factory and a huge line up of metal-based bicycles. They now offer many off the shelf options using materials such as steel (stainless or conventional) and titanium. Customization is still possible, of course with a fee, but no other equipment can account for a well build bike, just for you.
Equipment and Design
I chanced upon a few of these bikes on display at TEF Bikes along Thomson Road recently and Wilson was kind enough to allow me a short week of test around the east area. The model we got our hands on was a 3AL-2.5V Titanium Customer frame. It was equipped with a decent Shimano Ultegra 10-speed and new brand of wheel (labeled under ORBIT DESIGN) unknown to me. Another part that looked cool was the integrated one piece stem + handlebar, again from and unknown brand (at least to us in Singapore).
The frame came with red paint over titanium design and is very unique, almost Taiwanese in flavor. The mildly compact frame design is built with 3AL-2.5V Titanium, the Ti type of choice in the bike industry, employing what seemed to be different sized tubes to form the main triangle. All the tubes are welded of course and with my faint basic understanding in welds, they do look clean and well done. Of course, the paint helps.
We took it out for a spin at the Coastal Road (incidentally, our terrain of choice for road bikes). The ride was as expected of a 3AL-2.5V frame…. smooth as butter. The sensation from the tarmac roughness was almost non-existent during the ride, which could be a good thing for those riding in a more relaxed manner. Power transfer was satisfactory and deemed more than enough for someone going out for a long distance ride. We did though find that the bike did not held speed too well. This was a bit mind-boggling for us and we took that thought back home.
Most of the time, the wheels are normally the culprit for this “holding speed” issue. We are not quite sure why as the wheel looks very well constructed and as can be seen from the rear hub, the design should have a pretty stiff performance due to the offset on the non-drive side. This means the lacing angle for the spokes on both side are very similar (something like a track wheel).
The 2nd time we took the bike out, we decided to sway out the unknown wheels for a pair of Fulcrum Racing Zeros (my personal favourite). It made all the difference. All of a sudden, the ride was much stiffer than before yet maintaining the buttery smooth feeling. Powering down the pedals seems a bit more responsive as well and for once, it held speed like it should on the Coastal road!
I was glad to be able to finally get a taste of what the Taiwanese had to offer in terms of custom bikes. Though Titanium is personally not my cup of tea but I do see this frame as being quite ideal for those in search some something that requires low maintenance (Titanium is virtually maintenance free!) and love to ride long distances without being too competitive. Don’t forget to choose a good set of wheels though.
If you have an interest in getting something a bit unique and a bit of the beaten path in the realm cycling, check out the work from Rikulau. You could just get a gem that is designed the way you want it to be for reasonable money.