I’m in Germany for the 2023 Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show, which is taking place this weekend, October 13-15 in Dresden. Prior to traveling to Dresden, I was in Berlin with Flo and Tine of Fern/Allygn Bicycles and Gramm Tourpacking where we had an action-packed day visiting various makers around their workshop in the east side of the city. One of our visits was to meet Dan Pleikies of Wheeldan Custom Bicycles. Dan isn’t able to make it to Bespoked, BUT I was able to pull aside a client’s stunning randonneur bike he had on hand to document. Let’s check it out below!
Like many bicycle builders, Dan found his way to the craft via a confluence of training in architecture and experience metalworking. After taking a formal framebuilding course back in 2011, Dan decided to dive full-on into making bikes following a 10-year career as an architect. Yet, this was more of an evolution rather than a rushed decision, as he had learned to weld at sixteen working with steel to construct bridges and buildings. In his rare spare time as an architect, he would make drawings of small items, rode titanium bikes, and occasionally built them for himself. Recalling the hard and dirty construction welding work he did as a younger man, he imagined a much cleaner and smarter building process with lightweight materials. From the looks of his masterful two-wheeled creations, with so much attention to detail, he has clearly found his way.
Formerly based in Vienna, Dan’s first bikes were fat bikes that excited him during winter riding. He compares these to multi-bladed Swiss Army knives that can do many things well. But, eventually, he had customers asking for single-blade knives that had a more specific focus. These became randonneurs, commuter bikes, long-distance traveler bikes, and the occasional road bike. With an interest in making maintenance-free machines, Dan prefers working gear-box driven bikes (Rohloff/Pinion/Effigear and Gates Carbondrive are his go-to), but in the case of the more weight-conscious riders, he’ll happily incorporate traditional derailleurs, too.
This bike was made for a customer living in Singapore who has plans for very long tours and desired a chassis that was capable of efficiently carrying loads and was comfortable for multiple long days in the saddle. The straight top tube, raked fork, and thoughtful incorporation of fenders and integrated lights harken back to randonneuring’s French heritage, while the construction of the bike itself appears strikingly clean and modern.
Dan’s client originally asked for a fully coupled frame that could be easily disassembled for travel. In the end, the finished product is easily packable with clever detailing while retaining an intact frame. The racks, fork, and handlebars can be easily removed and reinstalled. The cable-actuated drivetrain and hybrid brakes utilize Ritchey BAB Cable Disconnectors aiding in the quick breakdown aspect, while the rear fender is customized to split in half for efficient packability.
Every element of the build is optimized for comfort and ride quality. There are many similarities in this bike to Dan’s personal tourer, including the striking thiccc sleeved segmented fork. Dan prefers to make his own forks when the need arises and, rather than using a truss approach or additional bracing (to prevent excessive titanium flex) he utilizes substantial tubing sections and construction making for a lightweight and still damped ride.
Nearly everything on this bike is custom-built or fitted by Dan, from the stem to the racks, wheels, and fenders. Additionally, the racks are set up to accommodate luggage from fellow Berlin-based Gramm Tourpacking. The Diamond Bag and Touring Panniers are well-paired to release quickly and ride solid, while the matching marigold-colored Seat Pack does the same.
Thanks, Dan, Flo, and Tine for the wonderful time in the workshop!