I wanted to find a bike that made people drool all over the cover of the 2016 Bicycle Touring Buyer’s Guide.
So I took to my list of the 30 nicest touring bikes in the world to find a suitable candidate, but it was this relatively new build from Firefly that took the cake!
Firefly are three frame builders (Kevin, Jamie and Tyler) who sharpened their tools at custom frame manufacturer Independent Fabrications, before forming their own brand in 2011 which specialises in titanium frames. Based in Boston USA, they’ve quickly built a strong name for themselves by constructing some jaw-dropping bikes for people with a taste for detail.
The cover bike of the 2016 Bicycle Touring Buyer’s Guide started life as a pile of titanium in a box. You can see that the frame tubes have already been shaped in a unique way – a clue that this Firefly will NOT be any old touring bike. Yep, it’s going to be pretty darn special…
Welding titanium is a bit more complex than steel or aluminium. This is because oxygen is a contaminant to molten titanium and as a result, causes substandard welds. This Firefly frame has been sealed off completely, and replacing the oxygen is pure argon gas which ensures the titanium welds can be as strong as possible.
The bike has been built around a Shimano Alfine 11 speed internally geared hub, and a Gates Carbon Drivetrain. The hub shifts its gears via an electric motor, allowing you to pair it with Shimano Di2 road levers. Shimano have been working pretty hard to bring automatic shifting to their e-Bikes based on your travelling speed and pedalling cadence. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if this technology made it to their Alfine gear hub bikes sometime soon.
One of the most defining features of all Firefly bikes is the anodising. In order to anodise titanium, Firefly mask off the sections they want to colour, then apply trisodium phosphate to the surface with an electrified brush. When the brush is set to different voltages it can achieve different colours. Firefly have been doing anodising for a while, so they’re pretty good at working the colours!
Tubus stainless steel racks adorn this titanium beauty, matching the finish of the frameset. A Schmidt dynamo hub harvests power for the front and rear lights using magnets inside the hub body.
The final result is a lightweight road-going tourer which will require very little maintenance! Wipe off the belt, recharge the Di2 battery and GO. You could even pull off the fenders, run slightly wider tyres and it’ll be great for gravel road adventures too. What a cracking bike!