De Rosa: Il Miglior Fabbro
Doriano De Rosa started building frames in 1975 as a teenager under his father's severe gaze. Thirty-five years later, with a critical eye and attention to detail, he's the craftsman in charge as De Rosa's head titanium and steel framebuilder.
The following story is from NAHBS 2010 in Richmond, Virginia. Doriano De Rosa will be at NAHBS this year in Sacramento with his new brand, Bixxis. Meet Doriano and see his new bikes at Booth #89
Pleasing a master and perfectionist is never easy. If your father is the famed bicycle builder Ugo De Rosa, it's a downright terrifying prospect. Doriano De Rosa started building frames in 1975 as a teenager under his father's severe gaze. Thirty-five years later, he's the craftsman in charge as De Rosa's head titanium and steel framebuilder.
Attention to detail and a critical eye produce a superior product. "Doriano is completely involved with the whole process of producing a custom steel or titanium frame, from start to finish, " explains Trey Henderson of Trialtir USA, De Rosa's American importer. "From measuring the customer to testing the strength of the frame, he's totally committed to the process of building a masterpiece."
De Rosa explained the eight steps on the path to building a frameset that bears his family's name. First,the customer is meticulously measured. Second, these careful measurements are converted into customer-specific tube lengths and frame geometry with the aid of CAD software in a process he calls "projection".
The next two steps are the most critical, especially for a titanium specialist like Doriano De Rosa. The raw tubes are "mitered", or cut angularly, with the help of precision machines. Next, the tubes are fitted together on alignment tables in the "positioning" step. This is a crucial and exacting step for the lugless Ti and steel frames in which De Rosa specializes, because there is no room for error to produce a solid, strong tube joint. Next, the tubes are cleaned and welded in a pristine environment - again an especially important step to get right for a titanium specialist like De Rosa, and one at which many less experienced builders stumble.
Finally, the frame's alignment is checked, and its durability and quality are tested in a rigorous process that again employs a combination of cutting edge technology and the immeasurable intuition of a craftsman. "For me, weight is not as important as durability and strength" says De Rosa.
That those two latter ideals are emphasized is shown by the results of De Rosa's in-house stress test. A De Rosa frame constructed from 6/4 blend titanium tubing has been shown to be theoretically capable of withstanding 200kg (440 lb.) dynamic force cycles repeatedly and constantly for 400,000 years before fatigue will cause breakage!
Much as keeping the business a family affair is important for De Rosa and his two brothers, having a strong relationship with titanium tubing supplier Reynolds is strongly valued and has been cultivated over 10-12 years of working together. De Rosa built his first Ti frame in 1993, and in 2002 made the switch to 6/4 alloy titanium - stronger and stiffer than its more popularly used 3/2.5 alloy brother - all sourced by Reynolds. "The testing I do gives me important data on optimum tube thickness and shape parameters", says De Rosa. "Reynolds is a great partner and takes pains to develop and give me exactly what I need to produce a strong, durable and elegant frame."
So there you have it: invest some (serious) cash in high-tech frame design tools and follow the eight-step process and you'll have your own version of a De Rosa, right? Not so fast, Doriano cautions. "Being a framebuilder is not just about making the frame. It's about putting your philosophy behind the design. It's about developing and making your own tools if the right ones don't exist. It's about being open to new technology. It's about..." De Rosa's hands grasped in the air as he struggled for words in his highly self-underestimated English.
It's about passion, tradition and an enduring legacy of excellence. You're born with it; it's not earned. So if you want to build a De Rosa, you'd better be a De Rosa.