If one were to take two different models of conventional road bike, place them side by side, dim the lights and squint the eyes, then be made to differentiate between the two, we would expect that the task would be attempted with some difficulty! The same could probably be said if we were to present two cross country mountain bikes together, or indeed any other genre of bicycle. However, if we decided a throw into the mix a bike built by the skilled hand of Konstantin Drust, we can be quite confident that recognition would be made in an instant, regardless of lighting levels or tightness of eyelid.
Konstantin Drust of Drust Cycles, Berlin, pushes bike design to new frontiers and creates eye-catching and superbly original bike frames, redefining what it is to be a bespoke framebuilder. He is great inspiration for many other framebuilders worldwide, and the answer to the needs of the cyclist who does not wish to be bound by the traditional mould of modern cycling. His bikes are distinctly ‘Drust’, yet come in such variation, each one of his frames is unique in its own right.
This time, we find the opportunity to catch up with Konstantin as he presents a new frame, equipped with a SEIDO MGV fork and Acceleron wheelset. Built for himself, he intends to use it to rediscover his passion for long distance and endurance riding. Careful attention has been paid to the geometry and part selection of the bike due to a wrist injury Konstantin sustained in the past – this is the first bike in a while that he has built for himself which is made for use with a drop handlebar.
SEIDO: “Looking at the components, what was your thinking behind the choice of parts?”
Konstantin: “When you contacted me offering components from your product range to build a bike with, I did not have to think too long about what I wanted to incorporate into this bike. The MGV fork offers big tyre clearance with possibilities for Mudguards, anything cages, and even low rider racks – great options for a front packer like me who usually throws all the luggage on the fork and handlebars. The Acceleron wheelset seems to come with a reasonable ratio of weight and strength. As a bike mechanic of many years, I was very happy to find the rear hub to be serviceable without tools. Also, to be able to follow my passion for cycling during the night, I had to switch the front hub to a SON dynamo. I think that a version of those wheels available readily with a dynamo would be worth consideration.
The remaining components I used on this bike are basically from my ‘leftovers box’.
I am still nervous about my return to long distance and endurance riding. The damaged nerves in both my wrists have made it impossible for me to use drop bars for the last 5 years."
The bike we are looking at today, the ‘Romantic Racer’, is more modestly shaped than some of Konstantin’s previous works, but nonetheless sports a paintjob like no other. The exquisitely executed rose theme is the product of Konstantin allowing the mind blowing skills of Robert, at Velociao, to be let loose, using the frame as a blank canvas. The outcome was something quite special, and it really goes to show that the sky is the limit when a painter has airbrush skills like those of Robert.
SEIDO: “The paintjob we see on this frame really is something special. What can you tell us about how it came about?”
Konstantin: “I think creative people deliver their best work when they have the freedom to create something completely outside of the expectations of someone else. I appreciate Robert’s work and I had great experiences with him when turning my ideas into real paintjobs.
I always try to leave room for his own interpretations and give my clients the advice to let loose a little, and to trust in his creativity. This time I asked Robert to just do whatever he would imagine this bike to be. I absolutely did not expect the rose theme you see here, and of course he must have had the idea to make this bike stand out from all my other work.
He told me his inspiration for this bike was ‘horrible post cards’. I think Robert and I share a certain kind of humour!"
SEIDO: “Like with many great art pieces, colours and paint choice are a key component. We see your frames with some interesting paint schemes, but also some with no paint at all, creating their own patina over time. What guidance do you provide to your clients when they are deciding upon these ‘paintless’ colour schemes?”
Konstantin: "Many peope love the idea of a completely raw frame. A fillet brazed frame just looks beautiful coming straight out of the workshop. But if one does not want to put a big amount of maintenance into it, I would never recommend keeping a steel frame unpainted. A less maintenance-heavy way is to clear-coat a frame, or use a tinted lacquer/ clear-coat – transparent enough to still show the craftsmanship underneath.
But it is always important to be aware that a clear-coat doesn’t provide permanent rust protection, and this should be considered during the planning process. The changes on the frame over time should be part of the concept of the finish, so the owner should be aware of this. In some cases we even allowed the frame to become rusty before halting the corrosion and protecting it. Now I am planning on experimenting with etching patterns into the tubes using phosphoric acid. The process will cause some passivation at the same time.”
SEIDO: “The frame you are showcasing here looks to have some nice subtle features, namely the method of achieving seat tube offset and boss placement. What can you tell us about these features and other considerations you made when building the frame?”
Konstantin: “After I had to change to flatbars and become a MTB/ATB rider, I started loving steeper seat tube angles. The seat tube offset on the frame mainly serves to let the angle appear more classic looking. The effective seat tube angle is about 2 degrees steeper than the real angle of the seat tube. I could also build the rear end a bit shorter, but still allow 55mm tyre clearance.
The boss placement just follows my wish to have one more easily accessible bottle when I am on the bike. On my MTB/ATB builds, I often place those double mounts under the down tube to clear the space for a frame bag, without making compromises on the amount of water that can be carried along."
SEIDO: “Now the bike is ready to roll, what excursions do you have planned out?”
Konstantin: “First, getting back on the roads. Getting back into this kind of riding and hopefully by next year, I will be able to do 800km+ long weekend rides again.
For a long time I was happy to just ride and travel off-road, but I missed the calmness in my head I would fall into when doing long days on quiet roads. Due to weather and other reasons, all my attempts to cross Poland had to be postponed. Maybe I’ll set this as one of my goals for 2024“
Konstantin’s work gives the spectator and end user a great impression of modern artistry, blended with well engineered functionality. We look at his frames and question why in this world of incredible variation, do we choose to ride conventional looking bikes? Drust Cycles proves that we can just as easily enjoy our favourite types of cycling on much more unique looking frames, and with that, if the creative mind allows it, the way bicycle frame tubing is cut and joined can provide a limitless spectrum of possibilities.
SEIDO: “In this world where it’s becoming increasingly tough to be original, how did you manage to find your style? What was your inspiration?”
Konstantin: “A question too difficult to answer. Everyone is taking inspiration from other builders’ work, objects other than bicycles. Motorbikes, buildings, construction machinery... you name it. I am happy that many people tell me that the style of my work is very distinctive. I think the difficulty is to turn the inspiration into something of your own instead of a copy of some else’s creation”
SEIDO: “I think it’s fair to say that your bike designs spark a lot of inspiration within the worldwide framebuilding community. How does it make you feel when other framebuilders reference your work?”
Konstantin: “Being quoted or even copied is one of the biggest compliments of one’s craftsmanship. I am happy if people feel inspired and everyone is welcome to try my solutions for themselves.”
SEIDO: “We see quite a few examples of your work featuring some really striking looking truss forks. What draws you to the truss fork design?”
Konstantin: “Probably the striking looks of it, or let’s say, the interesting looks of it. I want to build bikes that make their owners want to ride them. I want them to find their bicycle so attractive and beautiful, that this is reason enough to spend a day, a week or a month upon it.
Of course, truss forks are also quite an interesting structure. Strong, stiff and light.”
When we look at the works being produced by different brands, we can sometimes see quite clearly the type of riding their designs are aimed at. Drust Cycles has its roots in bikepacking and bike driven exploration. Drust’s designs have been inspired by experiences he’d had while out on the road, all over the world, and the utilitarian aesthetic often reflects this. We look at his bikes and can easily imagine them as part of the landscape, out on the Eurasian Steppe, mid-quest.
SEIDO: “When you think about possible designs for a new frame, are there any parts of the world that pop into your head, where you experienced a snap shot of the culture that you wanted to capture?”
Konstantin: “I think there is a certain feeling I connect with traveling by bike. I often have to think of a morning when I woke up in a desert with my bike. The sun just came up and the barren landscape unfolded around me. As well as this, I was listening to the perfect song to underline the moment. This is the feeling.”
With the wheel of the framebuilding world constantly turning, fresh ideas are always being sprouted. A new name on the Berlin Framebuilding scene is Akinn Cycles. They recently released photos and specs of a new off-the-peg frameset, Subsun. It is kitted out with a SEIDO MGV fork and Acceleron wheelset, just like Konstantin’s Romance Racer. The brand was the brainchild of Konstantin and André Roboredo of Vetra Bikes.
SEIDO: “The artisan bicycle framebuilding community is becoming increasingly close-knit. We recently saw that you joined up with André at Vetra Bikes to create a new brand, under the name Akinn Cycles. What can you tell us briefly about this new venture?”
Konstantin: "In early 2023, I moved my workshop to share a space with Andre. We now share the room, machinery, and some fixtures. In my eyes, there is not much competition amongst the Framebuilding community – for example, people who want to commission Andre’s style of work, want to for a reason. They feel a certain connection to the mindset of a builder. They should go there to have their bike made because they resonate with their style. For this reason, I reject all requests of recreating the work of someone else.
At the same time, it’s a tough world and times are hard economically. Sharing the workshop gives us the possibilities to keep costs low and even support each other when needed.
Akinn was born out of the idea to produce a stock model together. The geometry is customisable but not made to measure, so framebuilders who know how to do the job can produce a batch of frames in quite a short space of time. Many people don’t want the process of having to decide upon lots of details, but still want an artisan-quality bicycle, or want to embody the spirit of a locally crafted product. Also we plan to cooperate with bike shops and offer the frames to a wider public than just the framebuilding niche.”
SEIDO: “The Subsun model looks to be a frame for all occasions, what was the thinking behind its design?”
Konstantin: “You summarised it quite well. It’s a gravel bike with potential in many directions. From a sporty commuter to a long distance bike as with my bike we talked about earlier.”
We will hopefully catch up soon with Konstantin and André, for some more insight on Akinn cycles and their Subsun, so in the meantime, watch this space! But for now, we must thank Konstantin Drust for kindly sharing his insights into his beautiful Romance Racer, and wish him many happy miles, back on drop bars, and astride the finest paint job in Berlin!
Thanks kindly for reading.
By Peter Skelton