One of the delights of building custom bikes is that we are able to put together machines that we otherwise would struggle to justify building, such as this copper Bates B.A.R. We are not in a position to be able to tie thousands of pounds up in esoteric machines which may or may not find a buyer, and so to a certain extent our custom builds afford us opportunities (for which we are immensely grateful) to realise some of our more outlandish imaginative impulses.
A couple of years ago Giles came to us having just received a bonus from his work to spend on a new bike. He’d seen a few Bates frames around the shop and was drawn to their unusual aesthetic and racing pedigree. The frames we had in his size needed refinishing; Giles didn’t miss a beat: “Can we do a copper Bates?”.
Copper plating is the second step in traditional chrome plating – so we were confident of finding a firm willing to take on the task. The Bates frame in question, while clearly well-used when we took it on, showed a few scars from its six-plus decades of use. Once the layers of paint and filler were removed, it was evident a certain amount of rust had formed and been removed prior to a previous refinishing – the tell-tale pock-marked orange-peel effect showing at various points over the frame. The plating process doesn’t allow the use of a filler in the same way that painting would, so we knew these irregularities would be evident in the finished frame. The end result is a textured appearance that offers a faithful representation of the age and history of the frame.
Giles’s build was to be a straightforward, fixed-wheel racer, true to the history of the frame – with its high bottom bracket, steep head angle, and extremely stiff proprietary Cantiflex (read cigar-shaped Reynolds 531) tubing. A beautiful, elegant Durax crank spinning on a still-silky Bayliss Wiley BB; reconditioned Airlite hubs laced to H+ Son rims – classic looks but a little tougher than the period alternative, better able to cope with the potholed roads; a vintage steel stem and shallow alloy GB bars to grab hold of; a copper-riveted (no option) Brooks to perch on.
We love the way this bike came together. It’s still heading up our ongoing ‘best-dressed old-timer’ competition!
(The only thing that could top this would be another copper plated Bates. Which we happen to have! Get in touch if you fancy one of your own…)