Art & Culture
Inside With Patty | Meet America’s Most Stylish Bicycle Builder
Brooklyn’s stylish bicycle builder known to many as the Ralph Lauren of the bicycle world
From working in a steel factory to building custom bicycles, Helio Ascari has been making bikes since 2011 but it wasn’t until Ralph lauren introduced him to the world, that his success skyrocketed.
Being a native from Brazil, he never envisioned to be contacted by Ralph Lauren to discuss design about a future bike for Lauren and life in general, “…the meeting with Ralph was a big endorsement for my dream.”
Not just mere design, but the technical skills needed for Ascari to construct these bicycles from scratch is truly amazing. Everything made by hand, his supplies that go into the bikes come from everywhere: from Boulder, Colorado to Como, Italy.
Using the brazing process into the bike’s construction, which bonds materials to create stronger connections, their prices are boosted to about $20,000 while other alternatives are available starting at $6,000. For a Japanese client, he hand applied ebony, white gold, and diamonds to the pedals at the client’s request. Doing this, took about 4 months to finish on its own since Ascari mainly works solo on his works.
To make one-of-a-kind-(and expensive) works takes time and the waiting list is so long, that Ascari doesn’t have openings until next year! Keep in mind that the making of a single bicycle takes its precious time when attempting to make an appointment for one of your very own.
“A guy like Ralph Lauren has seen pretty much everything there is to see in the world,” says Ascari, grasping a custom gold handlebar secured tightly in his South Williamsburg studio.
“I knew I had to create something special. We sat down for about an hour and a half talking about everything—design, but also life in general—and for me, just a guy from southern Brazil, the meeting with Ralph was a big endorsement for my dream.” The bike—a year and a half in the making—now sits in Mr. Lauren’s office.
Most of his frames are constructed through the fillet brazing process, a lower temperature method of bonding tubes that results in stronger connections than welds, which drives the average price for one of his creations to about $20,000 (conventionally welded options start at whopping $6,000).
Ascari, says each project starts with an idea that’s greater than its constituent parts. He recently completed a one-off for a Japanese client, inspired by the construction of the Bugatti Atlantic. “I really like to compare my work to classic cars—the kind of thing you maybe only ride on the weekends and during the rest of the time put on display,” he says. “It’s like a functional art piece.”
For the body, Ascari used Columbus chromoly tubes from Milan and nickel–plated brass rings around the fenders; at the client’s request he applied hand woven white gold, ebony and diamonds to the brake levers. The entire build took four months, and visiting the master builder in the studio, you can see why. Though he has two staffers, Ascari operates largely on his own, moving from one operation in his small atelier to another, painstakingly wrapping leather around handlebars or carving brake shifters out of wood. As you can see Ascari is a one of a kind artist in bicycle community.