Direct sales or shop floor bikes? It's the question that we all have to deal with when buying a new bike, but what if there was a different option - just designing your own.

Photos: Antti Uusi-Laitila

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That's exactly what Finland's Markku Hautamäki did and the result is his very own Pässilä Bicycles Company Korpi 29er. Using a CAD program and a Far East fabricator, Markku was  able to create his own bike without frame building equipment and for roughly the same price it would have cost him to buy one in the first place.

This sets his story apart from the likes of Starling, BTR or Sick who were already competent frame builders that went on to form their own companies in cold sheds with jigs, tubes and fire. Markku has only built this bike for personal pleasure, not commercial gain, and he could theoretically have done the whole thing from his living room.

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He set out on his own path after finding himself unsatisfied with a field of bikes that he struggled to pick apart. Markku says: "The features and looks of the carbon and aluminium bikes of all the major brands that I was looking at were so similar that I started thinking I wanted something else. Over the years I have owned many different kinds of bikes but never really found just the right one that I would have wanted to hang on to. I thought: 'why not learn how to design my own bike and see what I can come up with.' And so I did."

The story of Adrian Smith and his 3D printed Wasp is well told now but Markku took a different path, choosing titanium as his sexy material of choice, inspired by the Merlins, Litespeeds and Kona Hei Heis he coveted years ago.

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He said: "Steel was the first choice because I thought it would be easiest to find a steel frame builder who would be willing to do just one frame for me. While searching I very soon came across Far East manufacturers who specialise in titanium frames and my old dreams from the 90s MTB magazines came very much alive again. After that there was no other choice, really."

Now on its second iteration, he reckons his "easy-to-maintain and modern trail bike with clean and simple looks" is perfect for the local, rocky conditions and is more than suitable for local enduro races.

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What stands out is how simply it all seems to come together. Markku has always been interested in bike design and has studied "the details of suspension design, details of geometry design, details of the material, details of the bicycle parts, possibilities of different fabrication techniques etc" but he has no official training. Even the suspension system, often a stumbling block for budding designers, was no bother with Markku plumping for a proven winner - a four bar linkage with 135mm rear travel - why reinvent the wheel?

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In fact, the hardest part of the process seems to have been finding and working with a Chinese fabricator. He says: "It’s not hard to find a frame fabricator in China but it’s not easy to find the correct one. I wanted to find a small but reliable fabricator with reliable and fast customer service in English language and experience in full suspension design. I spent hours browsing through different forums then I sent requests to few of them and chose the right one based on pretty much my gut feeling.

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"It is also very important to prepare yourself for the fact that the design process is not over when you send your design to the fabricator. That’s when it really begins. Anything can, and something will, go wrong during the process, so it’s really important to find a fabricator that you can trust and who is easy and fast to communicate with."

So the big question is, can anyone do this? Well, yes and no. In theory, anyone with a decent enough computer can pirate a CAD program and get cracking but Markku has had to put in a lot of hours of research, design and fettling into his Pässilä. As for the price, Markku reckons the frame cost him under two grand which, to be honest, is pretty good for titanium but that doesn't factor in all the labour it took to come together.

A bike from a recognised brand may not exactly match your needs but it's, much easier to get hold of... and you know it's definitely going to work when you put down your hard earned dough.

The bike industry probably shouldn't be shaking in its boots just yet but Markku has ended up with a very special, and totally unique, bit of kit.

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Pässilä Bicycles Companys Korpi 29er

The magic numbers of the Large-size frame are:

  • 29 inch wheels. Accepts tires up to 2.5"
  • 135 mm of progressive Horst Link-type rear suspension
  • 66 degree head angle
  • 75 degree seat angle
  • 495 mm reach
  • 1247 mm wheelbase
  • 813.5 mm front center
  • 435 mm chainstays
  • 25 mm bottom bracket drop
  • 110 mm headtube
  • 617 mm stack height
  • 2.93 kilograms frame weight without shock

And what about a production run?

Markku says: "If no reliability issues arise and there seems to be demand for 'something else' then I don't see any reason why not to run small production batch or batches of the frame. I have also some new product ideas brewing up in my head which I might want to try out. If anyone's interested to keep updated on how things develop or drop me a line you're very welcome to head over to Pässilä Bicycles Co. Facebook page and Instagram profile.