Modern Tradition

The man walking in front of me through the narrow aisles in a large shed filled with machinery lifts up his arms and says, “Yes, all the frames you see here have been made by these hands.” He says it with a quiet pride which comes from being at one with what you do, and knowing your trade inside out.

KStapelrunter

After 38 km of enjoyable cycling I arrive at my destination, one of the very few remaining bicycle factories in the Bielefeld/Germany area. The building is wholly unspectacular, reminding me of the Taylor brothers´ Green Shed in Stockton in its stance of being all contents and no flashiness. Two small children are playing in the forecourt in the sunshine, the owner´s as it turns out, riding bikes with their name on, which is something for a kid, I guess. Soon I´m greeted by Herr Krüger, owner and frame builder of KFS: Krüger Fahrradrahmenbau Spenge. The bicycle which has gotten me here has a KFS frame, and Michael Krüger eyes it with interest. It´s obviously not just another item which at some stage passed through the KFS works; one feels right away that the man you talk to lives bikes.

The small factory looks cluttered, but when all the machinery is explained to you it becomes clear that the building is laid out precisely to enable the man making the frames to work as economically as possible. Stacks of frame subassemblies are everywhere, but there are no shop or outlet facilities.

Kdamenrahmenstapel

Herr Krüger explains that KFS deal nearly exclusively with industrial or wholesale customers. Here is an example:

KQuittmann

So when Quitmann Bicycles state on their website that their frames are made in Westphalia in the traditional way, having a lineage down to Miele and other famous brands, this has a lot of truth in it as we shall see later.

KFS do not advertise in publications available to the general public, and also their impressive website is clearly not aimed at the single bike buyer. However, if private customers manage to find out about Krüger, or live locally, KFS will build complete bikes for them. Herr Krüger explains that it takes a long time, two to three hours, to talk a bike over, and that is why he can´t find the time too often to deal with individual customers. While explaining these things, there is a sparkle in his eyes, and you can´t help but notice that he likes talking bikes to customers, and that he is not only absolutely on top of his workshop, but on the latest developments in bike technology too, like using the latest exotic Sturmey hubs:

KSturmey

And, still more fascinating, all of the machines in the workshop, big and small, have their histories, inside KFS and outside, which is remembered sometimes with pride, sometimes with a smile, depending on what it is and where it came from. It took Michael´s father quite some time and energy to be able to buy this big milling and honing machine, for instance, but it facilitates the production process greatly. It was not only used by Miele, but actually made by them too. This is where Quitmann riders get their bike´s lineage from, although I doubt they know it´s as direct as this.

KMieleMillingMach

KMieleSerialNo

Another example is this brazing stand foot.

KBrazeStandFoot

It was obtained from the Rixe works when they closed down, and the legend goes that it was a left over bomb shell tip from WWII, filled with concrete.

When KFS was founded by Herr Krüger´s father in 1967, most German bicycle makers were in dire straits, or had actually already gone out of business, like Dürkopp or Miele. Consequently, an astute businessman could snap up all sorts of machinery and equipment. I am told that this cart came from the Westerheide factory, that machine from Rixe, or indeed the big four station milling machine from Miele. KFS at the time executed all sorts of metalwork for the cycle industry as they still do today and turned to fully fledged framebuilding only later.

More equipment I´m led past:

KAligningTableAn aligning table used to straighten frames after brazing.

KBrazepressA machine which holds parts together pneumatically while they are being brazed.

KMiteringdiffDiameter

KMiteringMachineA mitering machine with an additional set of tools for differing tubing diameters (top).

KPressingA machine used to press frame parts together. They will not fall apart when taken to be brazed.

Next I am shown ready brazed frames and subassemblies. This also showcases the range KFS are able to produce. Where applicable KFS bend most tubes themselves, but for some, like Dutch roadster bike rear triangles, one needs expensive equipment so these parts are bought in from a firm in neighbouring Herford who also used to make the self same triangles for Gazelle, for instance. Also all front forks are bought in, many from specialised firms in Taiwan, because they have the equipment to produce the multitude of shapes demanded by customers.

KRawFrames

KDiffRearEnds

Of late KFS have been experimenting with a made to order laser cut rear facing dropout end, not only to cater for the fixie crowd, but also for high quality traditional frames equipped with coaster braked geared hubs, which still have a large following in Germany. Those frames will have fully brazed rear triangles, as opposed to part welded ones used by the competition.

KFixieDO

And this is what all these frames are made of: Tubing ranging from cheap seemed to high end, depending on the price point of the end product. Most of the tubing is supplied by Poppe und Potthoff (P&P) in neighbouring Werther.

KColumBox

KRohre

After having made the round of the frame building part of the business we have a look at the shotblasting and painting facilities. KFS employ a mix of painting and power coating (clear coat) on each frame.

Colours are to choice, of course, so there are some colourful views in the factory.

KPaintedFrames

KKidsFrames

The two frames in this picture are for Herr Krüger´s children.

KKidsYellowStHead

There are always a number of demonstrators for trade fairs or visiting customers at hand.

KDemoBikes

After about an hour Herr Krüger had to carry on with his work, but he invited me to return during the winter season when there would be more time, and also to come on a day on which he will be brazing, so hopefully there will be more on KFS including some spectacular photos. I´m looking forward to see more live tradition at work.

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