Francis Quillon, a former amateur
racer who honed his skills in frame
building by repairing, then ultimately
creating, his teammates’ frames,
founded Cyfac in 1982. Today the
company is co-owned by Aymeric
LeBrun, a former managing director,
and Eric Sakalowsky, an American
and Cyfac’s first overseas importer.
Producing roughly 1,200 frames
each year in the tiny village of La
Fuye, Cyfac remains staunchly
artisan in nature, with a reputation
for exquisitely crafted frames.
Sakalowsky’s passion for the custom
philosophies espoused by Cyfac
is never more clear than during a
discussion of mass-produced frames
and the marketing involved in
promising a personalized fit on stock
frames. It is true that most riders can
be made to fit on a bike, employing
the myriad options available in stems,
seat posts, and saddle setbacks, but this
approach does not sit well at Cyfac.
“We go with a different mindset,
which is to make the bike to fit you,”
Sakalowsky says. “You can set up a
bike so it fits a lot of people, but there
will often be a compromise when it
comes to fit. Stand-over height may
be too great, stem too long/short, or
too many spacers may be required.”
When Cyfac considers fit on a bike,
the company’s belief is that the
geometry needs to be tied in not
only to the physical measurements,
but also what the rider wants the
bike to do. Is he a racer? A fast
recreational or cyclosportif rider? Or
is he new to the sport and seeking
a more forgiving machine? How is
the rider’s confidence with a fast-
handling race machine? These are
all questions that must be asked while
measurements are being taken.
Philosophy Before Technology
When Francis Quillon began building
frames, every pro rider had a custom
frame and this market represented a
substantial portion of Cyfac’s business.
Clients such as Laurent Fignon
may have had the same position
on every bike, but the geometry
would differ for a Paris-Roubaix
bike versus a Tour de France bike.
One anecdote from Cyfac’s past paints
the picture most clearly. Fignon had
a bike for Roubaix and he loved it.
He felt comfortable taking it to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but Quillon cautioned
it wouldn’t work well in the winding
Ardennes hills. The bike was built for
a straight line, designed to be solid
over the cobbles. Quillon knew of a
particularly tricky descent in Liège
and told Fignon that bike wouldn’t
handle sharp turns.
Fignon did what he wanted and took
his Paris-Roubaix bike to the hills of
Belgium. Sure enough, he was off the
front in the race and missed a turn, as
Quillon warned he might.
“A normal person doesn’t need
a separate bike for cobbles, the
Ardennes, and a Grand Tour,”
Sakalowsky says of this anecdote.
“But being steeped in that history
and experience means that we have a
process and we ask questions. We’re