Tom Warmerdam is the man behind the uber small scale frameworks that is Demon Frameworks. Making custom designs and now a signature series available at Mosquito Bikes in London, Tom’s tiny workshop in Southampton, England has never known it so busy. Winning the ‘Best Road Bike’ category at the 2012 NAHMBS earlier this year has just gone to put Demon on the radar of the bike world globally and so I went down to sunny Hampshire to catch up with Tom and get to the heart of what he’s all about. For more on the subject, this month’s Peloton Magazine no 14 (out now) has a feature on the workshop tour I received when we hooked up recently.
Retrobike: Hi Tom, tell us, how’s business in 2012?
Tom Warmerdam: Hello Retrobike. It’s picking up speed. The future’s bright, the hook up with Mosquito Bikes is awesome.
RB: Tel me, who are your heroes? Biking or otherwise…
TW: My grandfather the cabinet maker. He made things with his hands and it always stuck with me from an early age, watching him, he was amazing. His copper plate etchings were beautiful. My dad, he’s probably the greatest supporter of the things I have chosen to do. Bike wise, I always liked Hetchens- intense, awesome. Gary Woodhouse, Brian Curtis, Cliff at Royce. There are so many more though.
RB: I was intrigued by your references for a new steel frame design. What were your ‘brutalist’ and ‘elegant’ influences referring to?
RB: And why a new lug design? Science or romance? They remind me of the insides of the Empire State building elevator doors. An influence?
TW: Well both really, I’d sooner make less money and epic beautiful bikes, so maybe it is all about romance isn’t it? It was also clear to me that I needed to make my own lugs for a frame to really be ‘my own’. They’re not directly influenced, but in ethos yes. That era of architecture is so interesting.
RB: What other influences do you draw on for frames and lugs apart from architecture and design?
TW: Greek and Roman mythology. The Hermes track bike was born out of an afternoon watching the (1981 version of) The Clash of the Titans. Winged sandals man, that’s got to go into the pot.
RB: Steel is indeed real. Is Ti more real?
TW: For a road bike, no, I think it’s too flexy. For a mountain bike yes, but then I’m making traditional road bikes. Lugs work, and I love lugs.
RB: I see the aesthetic, but how key is the science?
TW: Its key, but the aesthetic must be spot on. The Science has to fit in with that.
RB: Form and function in perfect harmony then? Or Function ever so slightly ahead like Japanese bike parts, or form just out in front like the Italians?
TW: A perfect balance. Both complimenting each other. Beauty, but nothing that will detract from the function of the bike.
RB: When you design a frame for somebody, are you imagining the build? Do you ever end up disappointed with a punter’s finishing off of your creation?
TW: Yes and Yes. But you can’t be like Henry Ford and say any colour as long as it’s black, this is custom bike building after all.
RB: What about the finishes, do you not like paint?
TW: The first thing I think people see is paint/ finish, then shape, then components. I like raw finishes, finishes you can see the workings through. Finishes that highlight how a frame’s made. Paint is lovely, but it hides what I want to show you.
RB: Are there ever components you wish existed you could put on your bikes that don’t currently? To me the holy trinity is Chainset/ seatpost/ stem. I think they all need to compliment each other as they triangulate the design visually. What are your most important as it were?
TW: All the time. Components I like…I had to have some of the Royce cranks I saw at the handmade show in Bristol. Curtis Odom hubs are gorgeous, silver Thomson seatposts are pretty.
TW: Not yet. I do have dreams though.
RB: Do you miss anodised Purple?
TW: I’m certainly upset they took Worcestor Sauce crisps away.
RB: Did they? What do you do instead?
TW: Always have a bloody mary with Worcester sauce on an aeroplane.
RB: What thing are you most proud of to have achieved in cycling to date?
TW: The track ends on the Hermes bike. I’m proud and grateful to still be here doing what I love too, alive and kicking.
RB: The RB Cake-o-meter has pegged you as a carrot cake type. So, is it correct, what’s your favourite cake?
TW: Choc fudge brownie.
RB: Mrs Wu asks if you’ll ever design jewellery like your lugs?
RB: Have you ever designed your dream bike? Do you need a likeminded millionaire to walk in one morning and ask….?
TW: Close and yes.
RB: If you could design a bike for anybody who would it be?
TW: Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.
RB: What’s in the ‘steel’ pipeline for Demon?
TW: Working on some steel/ carbon application with Matt Appleman. And instigating the UK Framebuilding alliance with Tom Donhue and Ricky Feather is a prioirity.