There is a joy in finding new things in the over-familiar. A new track winding through the woods where you ride weekly, a road you’ve never previously noticed climbing a scenic mountain, a hidden track on your favourite album, but it happens rarely. So when I read about frame builders Paulus Quiros being based in my home town I scoffed and assumed that the writer meant Swansea, Massachusetts or Swansea, Western Australia, not my scruffy little Welsh town. Nevertheless a quick search of the internet revealed that I do indeed have an exotically-named, award winning frame builder located just down the road. Based, in fact, in a building that I ride past almost weekly, a smart red brick Pilot House in the marina, just five minutes from my house. I wondered how I could miss it. How I could be so blind? Thankfully, during a meeting with the owners, it was revealed that they had only moved to the riverside building in January of this year, so my eyes don’t need testing.
Jonathan Paulus and Jose Quiros started the company about five years ago. Jonathan is a medical doctor, but both also have engineering backgrounds. They wanted to make bikes different from everyone else, well-engineered and well-behaved. They began by investigating extreme bikes, looking at why designs failed or why they didn’t take off. They worked with Swansea University using Finite Element Analysis. They built prototypes which were roughly based on Art Deco, or Modernist themes. From this period they developed one of their signatures, the polished ‘Dragonfly’ motif on the junction of the seat and top tubes. After eighteen months of experimentation they opened their doors. The hard work was validated in 2013 when they were joint winners of the Peer Award at the Bespoked Handmade Cycle Show. Being voted for an award by their peers suggests that Paulus Quiros are doing things the right way.
I couldn’t get a grip on the company though, while talking to Jonathan and Jose. I couldn’t get into my mind what they were trying to achieve. I assumed that it was my unfamiliarity with frame building, but it finally slipped into place when I looked through pictures of finished builds. Each set of pictures was completely different from the rest. The designs can be simple or complex, depending on brief, but it was obvious that Paulus Quiros love a challenge. They told me that there is nothing they won’t build, as long as safety isn’t compromised. I was shown pictures of an astonishing unicycle, built from 853 steel with stainless steel detailing; a standard-looking road bike with electronic gears and hydraulic discs, but with a beautifully-realised Welsh theme; a frame that Jose built for his daughter themed around a campervan, with lights controlled from the steerer and with a wooden rear rack; a recreation of an 1892 New Speed Diamond Sunbeam; and, to my eyes the most unusual, a Pedersen bike with a hammock saddle and cantilever frame. I hope that the pictures do more justice to these than my words, but it was obvious that I couldn’t find a central theme in their work because it isn’t based around any particular design. Paulus Quiros “adapt modern engineering to anything,” Jose pointed out.
Jonathan was keen to emphasise that the bikes, as beautiful as they are, are meant to be used, to be ridden, and to that end he had asked a customer to pop in with a recent build. Stephen arrived with a perfect illustration of the elegance and complexity of Paulus Quiros’ work, a Pinion gearbox, disc-braked, flat-barred bike. Everywhere I looked there was a new detail to examine, but none of this detracted from the clean lines of the bike. As my eyes moved along the bike drinking in the deep pearlescent white paintwork, I noticed that there was a faint blue tinge to it. The top tube extended past the seat tube, past the polished ‘Dragonfly’, into an afterburner-style tube incorporating an Exposure rear LED.
There was some jokey discussion over the merits of the tyres, 28mm Schwalbe Marathons, but there was plenty of clearance for wider rubber. I had a quick chat with Stephen about the process. He had started with a brief which incorporated the Pinion 18 speed gearbox, belt drive, disc brakes and flat bars, and had been inspired by German hybrids from Schindelhauer. He told me that he doesn’t race, but spends long days on the roads of mid-Wales, occasionally travelling with the bike to somewhere more distant, more mountainous. He chose Paulus Quiros based on a friend’s experience with them. Jose designed the frame around Stephen and his intended use, of course, and even while I was visiting, he was advising Stephen on saddle position.
There were two other points which show what a discerning customer Stephen is, the unusual Rivet leather saddle and a bell. Stephen had searched the internet for the optimally-designed bell, and had found one in Germany. He only hoped that his wife didn’t notice the bill…. £45! In Stephen’s words the bike was “positively different” from his previous custom Bob Jackson frame. I felt it would be vulgar, rude even, to ask the final cost, and similarly didn’t do the car-park heft test as this bike was not going to be lightweight, with a Pinion gearbox. But expecting it to be a svelte light-weight would miss the point. This bike was built for an individual brief, and as Jose said later, their “reward is to make people achieve their dreams.” Although he did also add that it’s, “difficult to achieve perfection,” but his wry smile spoke louder than words. This was after he had spent a while describing their search for the best decals to replace the current silver leaf ones.
As I was leaving, having spent an enjoyable morning chatting to the very personable Jonathan, Jose, and Stephen, I asked if there was anything they would like me to say, any message to get across. Jonathan thought for a short time and said that despite the aesthetics, despite the fact that people think that their bikes are beautiful, their main intention is to build bikes that ride well. Engineering and aesthetics. Jose summed it up very well, “Bikes to grow old with”.