The Freedom To Explore

“It’s simplicity and great engineering”

Born in Sheffield, it was surely only a question of time before Marek Reichmann, Aston Martin’s Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, added a steel-framed bicycle to his collection

Coffee machines, wrist watches, fighter planes… conversation with Marek Reichmann swoops as smoothly as the curves of the cars that have left his sketchpad and made their way into the dreams of petrolheads the world over.

The man responsible for some of the most beautiful and desirable cars of the last decade, from the Aston Martin Rapide S to the new Vanquish, Vulcan and DB11, traces a tantalisingly simple trail between icons of design, from the vintage Rolex Daytona of the early 1960s to the magnificently engineered espresso machines of Rocket Espresso Milano to the Supermarine Spitfire of the Second World War.

If it looks right, it is right,” he says. “Great design always looks as though it’s doing the right thing. The Spitfire wasn’t designed for its looks – there was no thought among the engineers to create a great looking plane. But they understood that what works looks right. It’s simplicity and great engineering.”

The same philosophy applies to a drool-inducing steel framed Jack Laverack Classic bicycle that Marek has commissioned from specialist bike builder JLaverack to take part in a series of heritage rides. L’Eroica events celebrate cycling’s rich history by setting some basic ground rules. Participants must ride pre-1987 bikes that use the technology of their era, such as steel frames, gear shifters on the down tube and toe clips. Carbon frames, STI shifters and clipless pedals are pure science fiction at L’Eroica, and as for the electric gears of Shimano DI2…

Coffee machines, wrist watches, fighter planes… conversation with Marek Reichmann swoops as smoothly as the curves of the cars that have left his sketchpad and made their way into the dreams of petrolheads the world over.

The man responsible for some of the most beautiful and desirable cars of the last decade, from the Aston Martin Rapide S to the new Vanquish, Vulcan and DB11, traces a tantalisingly simple trail between icons of design, from the vintage Rolex Daytona of the early 1960s to the magnificently engineered espresso machines of Rocket Espresso Milano to the Supermarine Spitfire of the Second World War.

If it looks right, it is right,” he says. “Great design always looks as though it’s doing the right thing. The Spitfire wasn’t designed for its looks – there was no thought among the engineers to create a great looking plane. But they understood that what works looks right. It’s simplicity and great engineering.”

The same philosophy applies to a drool-inducing steel framed Jack Laverack Classic bicycle that Marek has commissioned from specialist bike builder JLaverack to take part in a series of heritage rides. L’Eroica events celebrate cycling’s rich history by setting some basic ground rules. Participants must ride pre-1987 bikes that use the technology of their era, such as steel frames, gear shifters on the down tube and toe clips. Carbon frames, STI shifters and clipless pedals are pure science fiction at L’Eroica, and as for the electric gears of Shimano DI2…

Holding a torch for this festival of the vintage may seem peculiar for someone at the cutting edge of performance car design, but in Marek’s eyes it’s easy to trace the parallels between the power, beauty and soul in Aston Martin’s DNA, and the history and heritage on which his new bike draws.

“Pure and simple is often the most beautiful answer,” he says. “Purity is in the tubes, the curvature of the forks… it’s the same purity and simplicity I design in cars. We are all hankering after a time when life was simpler. James Bond will be driving an Aston Martin DB5 in the next film. He’s a modern agent in a 1964 car.”

Marek could have dusted down and renovated any old cobwebbed bike languishing in the back of a garage or shed, but, he says, “it was never going to fit me perfectly. I wanted the geometry of a modern bike, but made as if it were an old bike. This [Classic] bike could have been made back in the day.”

The result is a frame that eschews the outsized tubes and joints of modern bikes in favour of a neat, narrow construction where the tubes meet in lugs as shiny and polished as anything in the window display at Tiffany’s.   

“Just look at how elegant the tubes and lugs are on this bike compared to a modern frame,” he says. “It’s a step back in time and it’s glorious. It’s a living museum. The lustre, the colour, the original groupset…”

Holding a torch for this festival of the vintage may seem peculiar for someone at the cutting edge of performance car design, but in Marek’s eyes it’s easy to trace the parallels between the power, beauty and soul in Aston Martin’s DNA, and the history and heritage on which his new bike draws.

“Pure and simple is often the most beautiful answer,” he says. “Purity is in the tubes, the curvature of the forks… it’s the same purity and simplicity I design in cars. We are all hankering after a time when life was simpler. James Bond will be driving an Aston Martin DB5 in the next film. He’s a modern agent in a 1964 car.”

Marek could have dusted down and renovated any old cobwebbed bike languishing in the back of a garage or shed, but, he says, “it was never going to fit me perfectly. I wanted the geometry of a modern bike, but made as if it were an old bike. This [Classic] bike could have been made back in the day.”

The result is a frame that eschews the outsized tubes and joints of modern bikes in favour of a neat, narrow construction where the tubes meet in lugs as shiny and polished as anything in the window display at Tiffany’s.   

“Just look at how elegant the tubes and lugs are on this bike compared to a modern frame,” he says. “It’s a step back in time and it’s glorious. It’s a living museum. The lustre, the colour, the original groupset…”

The Campagnolo 50th Anniversary groupset (the ‘Gruppo del Cinquantenario’), based on Campagnolo’s top of the range Super Record, deserves a story all to itself. Manufactured and available only in 1983, to celebrate the brand’s half-century, just 15,000 were ever made, of which the first off the production line was gifted to Pope John Paul II, and the second is on display in the Campagnolo museum. Rutland-based bike builder Oli Laverack tracked down a new-in-the-box groupset in Germany, for a hefty €6,000, thrilled to find the components had been protected for the past 35 years in their original presentation attache case. And in a happy surprise, this groupset was number 0777 of the limited edition production run – something of a coincidence for a designer responsible for 007’s car. 

The finished bike is spellbinding, functional engineering presented as priceless jewellery, and all set off by a spectacular cromovelato paint scheme where a transluscent scarlet laquer has been applied over dazzling mirror-finish chrome.  

The question is, of course, whether the new bike is too pretty to ride. For Marek, a self-confessed social rider, “not a bike lunatic”, the question is as absurd as an Aston Martin being too beautiful to drive. The Jack Laverack Classic is simply “a piece of art that I can really enjoy” in the hills of the Cotswolds or Chilterns, as well as inside, where the bike is likely to find itself on display in the house he is building in Henley-on-Thames, alongside its sister titanium bike, also by JLaverack.

The Campagnolo 50th Anniversary groupset (the ‘Gruppo del Cinquantenario’), based on Campagnolo’s top of the range Super Record, deserves a story all to itself. Manufactured and available only in 1983, to celebrate the brand’s half-century, just 15,000 were ever made, of which the first off the production line was gifted to Pope John Paul II, and the second is on display in the Campagnolo museum. Rutland-based bike builder Oli Laverack tracked down a new-in-the-box groupset in Germany, for a hefty €6,000, thrilled to find the components had been protected for the past 35 years in their original presentation attache case. And in a happy surprise, this groupset was number 0777 of the limited edition production run – something of a coincidence for a designer responsible for 007’s car. 

The finished bike is spellbinding, functional engineering presented as priceless jewellery, and all set off by a spectacular cromovelato paint scheme where a transluscent scarlet laquer has been applied over dazzling mirror-finish chrome.  

The question is, of course, whether the new bike is too pretty to ride. For Marek, a self-confessed social rider, “not a bike lunatic”, the question is as absurd as an Aston Martin being too beautiful to drive. The Jack Laverack Classic is simply “a piece of art that I can really enjoy” in the hills of the Cotswolds or Chilterns, as well as inside, where the bike is likely to find itself on display in the house he is building in Henley-on-Thames, alongside its sister titanium bike, also by JLaverack.

“In my old house I had a Ducati 996 in the living room,” says Marek. “I’d dry it, defuel it and wheel it across the travertine marble floor! These bikes will go in the hallway and why not? They are beautiful objects. They won’t be leant against the wall; they’ll be upright in stands. It’s so easy to wash and clean them after a ride and have them in the house.”

This concept of functional beauty finds strong echoes at Aston Martin where, “We make limited production, artisan cars. We are a company where man is more important than machine. More than 200 man hours go into our cars – they’re not made by robots,” says Marek. 

“I like working with people who make things. You can see in the detailing in this bike all the love and passion that has gone into making it. If commissioning a bike like this keeps artisans in work, making lugs and brazing frames then I’m happy to do it. My old man was a blacksmith. He could forge tungsten steel by eye. He knew the colour it had to be. We’ve lost the skills of these people.”

And finally, what about Bond on a bike? Marek shakes his head. The association between the British agent and Aston Martin is the strongest connection of any brand with any film franchise, and the spy is going to stay on four wheels. And in any case, it wouldn’t work – Marek says Daniel Craig is the only A-list global superstar he has hosted with whom even the security detail want to take a selfie!

“In my old house I had a Ducati 996 in the living room,” says Marek. “I’d dry it, defuel it and wheel it across the travertine marble floor! These bikes will go in the hallway and why not? They are beautiful objects. They won’t be leant against the wall; they’ll be upright in stands. It’s so easy to wash and clean them after a ride and have them in the house.”

This concept of functional beauty finds strong echoes at Aston Martin where, “We make limited production, artisan cars. We are a company where man is more important than machine. More than 200 man hours go into our cars – they’re not made by robots,” says Marek. 

“I like working with people who make things. You can see in the detailing in this bike all the love and passion that has gone into making it. If commissioning a bike like this keeps artisans in work, making lugs and brazing frames then I’m happy to do it. My old man was a blacksmith. He could forge tungsten steel by eye. He knew the colour it had to be. We’ve lost the skills of these people.”

And finally, what about Bond on a bike? Marek shakes his head. The association between the British agent and Aston Martin is the strongest connection of any brand with any film franchise, and the spy is going to stay on four wheels. And in any case, it wouldn’t work – Marek says Daniel Craig is the only A-list global superstar he has hosted with whom even the security detail want to take a selfie!

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