There is an almost endless spectrum of bicycle categories out there. From the robotic looking enduro mountain bike, to the ultra-minimalist and clean lines of the classic track bike, to the post-apocalyptic looking bikepacking rig, bristling with braze-ons. Artisan framebuilders often define these categories, and sometimes help to stoke the evolution of existing styles into more refined yet beautifully original sub-genres.
This time, we chat to Flo Haeussler of Fern Bicycles and Allygn Components. He is renowned for creating perfectly dialed, modern randonneur-style bikes, with flawlessly executed colour schemes, feeding the fire of originality. Flo has made a name for himself purveying his craft since 2012, and has become one of Europe’s most iconic bespoke framebuilders. His journey began while out on a long-distance bike trip from Budapest to Istanbul, where he discovered the freedom accessible only via the bicycle. From there, Flo took his experience working as a designer in the automotive industry and blended it together with the art of bicycle frame fabrication. He later took over a framebuilding workshop which marked the birth of Fern Fahrraeder, and later, Allygn Components, in Berlin.
Now, as we catch up with Flo, he has just finished prototyping a new frame with capacity for larger tyres – a true ‘go-anywhere’ type of machine. The bike in focus stands out as an evolution of the modern randonneur bike concept, allowing the bicycle tour to be pushed a step further, down routes that might previously have been inaccessible. The bike (dubbed Biest Of The East) has been built to roll on SEIDO Acceleron 650b rims with an enormous set of 2.4 inch (61mm) wide tyres, truly living up to the phrase inscribed on its non-drive side chainstay – ‘Fat Farts Fit Fine’. The name ‘Biest Of The East’ has been inspired by the area where Flo’s workshop is situated - in the former eastern part of Berlin, and also because of a favourite bike from back in his days of youth; the Iconic Cannondale “Beast of the East”. Combined with the chunky tyres, it also conjures up images of ploughing though frozen lands, and is nicely tied in with a SEIDO STREAK stem, ROOTS seat, and not to mention the Allgyn Diamond front rack, a design that is popular with bicycle randonneurs the world over.
SEIDO: “Looking back at your numerous bike trips across Europe, how did this inspire your move to start making bicycle frames, did you feel there was something missing on the market?”
Flo: “By the time I did my first bike trips through Europe, there were no fast but wide tyred, drop bar touring bikes available and the Gravelbike had not yet been reinvented. So I took my inspiration from the likes of Rene Herse, Singer, Routens, Louis Pitard, Narcisse, and other french constructeurs. They had already built wide tyred randonneur bikes (something you could call Gravelbikes in today’s world) over 100 years ago. Finally, I decided to start building my own bikes.”
SEIDO: “Biest Of The East is branded up with the Allygn Components logo. What can you tell us about Allygn’s relationship with Fern?”
Flo: “I started the Allygn brand to make (until then) all my self-made components and frames more accessible to a wider range of customers. Whenever I released a new bike I got so many inquiries for just the racks and other components. It was impossible for me to make them all by hand in my workshop, since Fern is basically just a one man company. My main business is framebuilding and that keeps me busy enough already...So it was only logical to find a really good rack maker and have them produced to the highest possible quality and from high end materials, just as if they had been made by myself.
The next step will be to offer framesets off-the-peg, currently a Fern bicycle is only available as a completely built up bike. These framesets will all be handbuilt by myself in my workshop, but in stock sizes, with limited custom options, and TIG welded instead of fillet brazed.”
SEIDO: “This current prototype frame looks to have some serious capability to go anywhere. Was this something born from your own requirements while out riding?”
Flo: “My goal was to make that “do everything/ swiss army knife” type of a bike, which will perform equally well in many different settings. The frames are all made from superlight, thinwall Columbus tubing, the same that a super high end steel race bike are made from.
I believe, that for really hard off-road riding, there is no such thing as a tyre too wide. The frame can easily fit knobby tires up to 60mm, but could also be equipped with 650B x 48mm tires and 60mm fenders for randonneur rides. You could even equip it with 700c x 42mm wheels, thus converting the bike into a modern gravel-racer.
The frame also provides all the options for hub dynamo front and rear lights/ cable routing, and, features the full range of our new Allygn racks and Gramm bags rig!”
SEIDO: “Do you see requests for all-terrain type bikes becoming more popular?”
Flo: “Yes, I definitely do. People are starting more and more to realise that you don't need to have four different bikes for four different uses. You can pretty decently have just one really good bike with two or three different wheelsets. It will perfectly cover most of your bicycles adventures, and so, being a real “All terrain bike.”
SEIDO: “Do you have any specific plans for The Biest Of The East?”
Flo: “Yes for sure, I am planning to have a small batch production of these frames here in my workshop and I hope to see more and more people riding happily on high end steel frame bicycles!”
When looking at the Fern Bicycles portfolio, we certainly see a few features that have evolved with the bikes on display there. Choose from beautifully made custom stems, exquisitely functional porteur-style racks, seamless internal cable routing - all these are jewels are that define Fern’s image.
SEIDO: “Since building your first few Fern frames, how have things evolved with your designs? What would you highlight as your signature features?”
Flo: “I guess what makes Fern Bicycles a little bit different from other bikes is that I always see the bike for the complete machine that it is - even including the human being riding it. So every part on a bike, down to the last bolt, is equally as important to me and I select them all very carefully in order to achieve perfect aesthetics and flawless function. I like mixing the best technologies from today with the best parts from earlier decades, and if something doesn't exist the way I want it, I'll try to make it myself – not dissimilar to how the French constructuers did back then. My favorite parts are definitively my beloved square taper Dura Ace 1x crankset and V-Brake rim brakes!”
SEIDO: “Have you accumulated any of these features in particular to build this bike?”
Flo: “My goal was to condense all my experience from 10 years of making custom bikes into a simple but high end frame set, which could be built up by the customers themselves or at selected bike shops. It features superb steel tubing, combined with super wide tyre clearance and perfect fender fit, whilst keeping a narrow Q-factor. It also makes use of dedicated light mountings and cable routing, special racks front and back with a full set of custom made Gramm Tourpacking bags. Almost all the same features as you would find if you were to order a complete bespoke Fern Bicycle, but much more accessible.”
SEIDO: “Thinking about ride characteristics, how do you find your choice of parts influences the ride? How does the size and material of wheel make the bike behave?”
Flo: “In my opinion the wheel and tire selection makes the biggest difference to the ride and feel of the bike. The wheels should be robust, but as light weight as possible to give you that sensation of really fast acceleration and snappy handling. The perfect wheel size depends more on tire width/ outer circumference and should be always selected proportionally to match the rider’s body height, rather than blindly following the latest trend.”
Having a bike that can do the job of multiple different types of bike is many peoples’ dream. We imagine something with a nice low weight that can effortlessly cruise along the asphalt, but when it approaches rougher roads and trails, it will happily scramble along like a cross country mountain bike. But, when the mood takes it, this dream bike can be loaded up and haul whatever is required, be that all the gear for a couple of weeks of bikepacking, or the essential supplies for a week’s survival at home. Quite often, we struggle to find an off-the-peg bike that will meet all these requirements, so we look to bespoke framebuilders like Flo who have the magic at their fingertips to manifest the right kind of dream machine.
SEIDO: “Biest Of The East looks like ‘one-bike-to-rule-them-all’. Was the idea behind it to build something utilitarian that would tick as may boxes as possible?”
Flo: “Yes, I wanted to create that “Eier-Legende-Woll-Milch-Sau” – literally: ‘egg-laying and milk-giving wool-swine’, as we say in German, meaning the ‘Jack of all trades’. So, one bike which covers 90% of your riding styles, without sacrificing performance in any way. The whole idea is to have just one really capable bicycle and maybe two or three wheel/ tire sets instead of owning three or more different bikes.”
SEIDO: “Does Biest Of The East signify the next step Fern and Allygn’s stories? How do you see your designs and products progressing from here?”
Flo: “For sure, we will keep on working on the overall idea of this frame, with racks and bags in use as one integral and thoroughly designed system, rather than having a randomly thrown together pile of different components (as is the case with many modern bikepacking rigs). And there are still so many other ideas in my head which I have to build, so keep an eye out!”
Like the roads on a map, the journeys taken by bike design go all directions, and lead to destinations as varied and original as any settlement we see on our maps. Features define each framebuilder and to the custom bicycle community, their work becomes as distinct and recognisable as the work of classical artists and the great musical composers. We love to see the journeys their works take, not just in a literal sense, but in the development and evolution of their qualities and aesthetics, as trends change and technologies grow.
We warmly show our gratitude to Flo Haeussler for taking the time chat with us, and for giving us a sneak preview of the super cool and intriguing machine that is the Biest Of The East! We wish you all the best for the future with Fern Bicycles and Allygn Components.
Thanks a million!
Flo: “Thanks so much for giving me the possibility to share my thoughts! ;)”
By Peter Skelton