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Old 04-13-2018, 11:58 AM
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William William is offline
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Herding nomads won't
Posts: 29,595
Wittson Custom Ti Cycles

Kevin from Cryptic Cycles has been at the front of the Paceline for a while but its time for him to peel off and let the Lithuanian designer & builder Vidmantas “Vitas” Zukauskas to come to the front and take a pull. So, this week keep your eyes open and watch Vitas's wheel...

... I still believe that nothing rides and feels like titanium. It prevents energy loss through the tubing, but at the same time it absorbs road vibrations giving the most comfortable ride possible. And there will always be cyclists searching for the best.

Vitas was kind enough to take a moment and answer a list of questions for us that are a mix of standards and member a few off-the-wall thrown into the mix. Our hope was to convey the builders love of their craft, hard details, and offer a few questions that bring out a bit of the human element that that helps them create the works that we love.

Also check out more of their work in the Showcase section of the Paceline Forum:


How / why did you decide to become a frame builder?

I was working as a cycling coach for more than 12 years. Five of those years I spent coaching the Lithuanian National Cycling Team. All of this led to close work with many high-end European manufacturers, such as CAMPAGNOLO, VITUS, MAVIC, SAN MARCO, DIADORA, BIO-RACER, etc. Towards the end of 1994 I got an offer from investors to help establish a bicycle frame building company specializing in titanium. They knew that I had good contacts in the industry and had language skills both in English and Russian. I was like a bridge between the West and the East. For our facilities, we have chosen Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia. They had one of the best Titanium Welding Schools in the world, aerospace engineers and specialists in building titanium submarines. First, I created some designs, and after testing, they were ready. I used my contacts and reached Mr. Ernesto Colnago. He was impressed with the quality and frame characteristics. We soon started cooperating and many models were born: Monotitan, Ovaltitan, Ovalmaster, Master BiTitan, CT1, CT2 etc.

What influences the artistic side of your designs?

Simply desire to create something new and unseen in titanium framebuil
ding. In 1994 when I started to work with titanium there was no one else besides MERLIN and LITESPEED working with this material and all steel frames at that time had very alike designs. I had an extensive background in cycling so once I started designing frames my aim was to be innovative. I had great passion and willingness to experiment and so my team and I created the first titanium frames in the world with star-shaped and aero tubes. Later on we came up with the technique of bonding titanium with carbon seat and chainstays. Again those were first titanium carbon mixed frames in the world. This process was refined and first carbon frames with titanium lugs in the world where born. It was sold under the Dutch name VAN TUYL TiCa. For that era those were game changers and you can see this legacy continues with our Suppresio.

What is your method to determine fit?

There are three ways in doing it right. First, and our preferred way, is to get fitted at your local bicycle fitting studio. Only when your fitter sees you in person on the position simulator he knows your riding position and preferences, knows your pain areas and past injuries if there are some. He knows your preferred components, and lets you ride the geometry you have agreed on the simulator, so you can have a precise geometry that fits you. Second option is to send your body measurements, current bike saddle height and current bike setup to determine fit. And lastly, the easiest option is to create a replica of your existing frames geometry assuming it fits you perfect.

What is it that keeps you passionate and focused?

I have been involved in cycling since 1970s so if there is one thing in life that I am passionate about that is - cycling. No matter if it is coaching youngsters, working with the pros, working on sport strategies for public organizations, or building new frames it’s all about cycling. This is my life’s engine.

Can you tell us about your first bike? What did you love
(or love to hate) about it?

To give you a little background about my childhood - I was a teenager during the Soviet era. In those days, even the worst road bike seemed like an unreachable goal, especially for a village kid like myself. So the first bike felt amazingly good. We appreciated things differently back then living under the iron curtain. In Soviet Union there was only one road bike available and it was called HVZ Start Shosse. It was made in the territory of nowadays Ukraine and like everything in Soviet Union it was a cheap copy of Western Brands and the worst part about it was the saddle. It was a very bad copy of BROOKS that came apart just after few rides and we had ten and more ways how to fix it. Thinking about this now it is strange that we did not start a saddle business as we have a good practice at it.

How many times have you burned yourself or get carbon

Working with metal is always badass.

What's your favorite beer or wine?

We are a beer country My hometown is well known for brewing beer and our local beer SVYTURYS has earned numerous awards worldwide such as Gold in World Beer Awards. This year SVYTURYS is opening a new craft beer brewery that will be open for everybody so I am really excited and looking forward to a visit.

Heard any cool music lately?

The one and only - BEATLES.

How did you meet your spouse or significant other?

Though we went to the same LITHUANIAN SPORTS UNIVERSITY I noticed her at the dance evening and this is how everything started.

What's there to do for fun in your town?

This is what I love about Klaipeda - in 15 minutes your are in the most beautiful place in the world The Curonian Spit and its UNESCO national park. 15 minutes more and you have a sandy white squeezy beach for you alone to enjoy. And the best part about it - there are cycling paths everywhere. There is a concrete velodrome for the track enthusiasts. Besides cycling we have the only Sea Museum in Baltics, huge Amber museum and for those enjoying extreme sports - one of the best Kiteboarding spots in the world, Biggest wakepark and concrete skatepark.

Do you put mustard or ketchup on your _Hot Dog_?

Not a fan of Hot Dog to be honest, but if necessary than mustard. However, what I love to do is BBQ evenings in our terrace with fresh vegetables from our garden and old fellow cyclist friends.

What type of bicycle is requested the most for you to build? Road, cross, track, fixed gear?

My roots are in road cycling and I guess therefore we mostly build custom titanium road frames. However as long as it is made from titanium and has two wheels, it can
be machined by us.

Who would you want to build a bike for you?

My childhood’s dream was to have a frame built by Ernesto Colnago. Surprisingly it came the other way around. And looking backward it’s still hard to believe.

What is it about your approach to building/designing bikes that makes you unique, or separates you from the other builders out there?

Like building the frame from any material steel, carbon or titanium the huge difference is in raw material that the builder uses. We are proud to be able to source the best quality titanium in the industry, same that BOEING and AIRBUS use. There has been rumors that titanium can be flexy. The reality is it depends what kind of raw tubes you have. The key difference to Chinese suppliers is that our supplier does not use recycled titanium, so that means better alloy characteristics. Having wide range of those stock tubes and capabilities of machining it to any headset, bb standard on the market I guess sets us apart. And of course our crew and the experience we have gained in working with titanium makes us trustworthy too.

Through your growth and progression as a frame builder, can you share a high point, and a low point that you feel helped shape who you are as a builder today?

Working with COLNAGO and building all of their titanium range in our workshop was definitely the high point for us and I hope we haven’t reached the low point.

In any line of work, there is always something in the process that people feel they really excel at. What is that part of the process for you?

We are happy to accept any challenge and any request thrown at us by the client. We offer fully custom frames and that means any type of geometry, any type of design, any type of bb, headtube etc. As long as we can achieve it technologically we will be happy to build it.
Simply everything is achievable it’s only question of time and money.

How long is your wait list?

It’s still one of the shortest in custom market - 30 to 45 business days.

How long have you been building frames.
Since 1994.

Is there any type of bike, or request that you would decline to build?

We still get inquiries for full suspension titanium frames but titanium is simply too brittle for it.

What does the future hold for Wittson Cycles, where do you see the business in 5 years? Any top secret innovations on the horizon?

At BESPOKED Bristol we have launched a titanium triathlon bicycle Ventu, which is technologically the most advanced frame we have ever built. It features all seamless aero tubes, which was extremely difficult to source out. Also, it has a matching aero shaped integrated seattube and aero shaped THECNO seatmast. Integrated stem, which allows for height adjustment and internal cable routing. There is nothing on the market similar to this frame made of titanium. Other than that we plan to stick to what we know best - building frames of titanium. I believe there will always be cyclists appreciating this material as the best choice out there.

Do you have a favorite part of the building process?

When the frame is built and I can compare the BikeCAD drawing and the real world frame. And of course, receiving the feedback from the cyclists after they first ride it.

What is the most unusual / unique bicycle you've ever

One of the most interesting projects to work on was a titanium racing tricycle with TryKit conversion axle for a Paralympic athlete Jay LaPointe from USA. We’ve never built anything like that before and getting the geometry right from first try was a real challenge. Nevertheless, we managed to build Jay a frame which has brought him many victories. And even afterwards we consulted British NISSAN engineers building similar trike project to UK Paralympians too.

What is your favorite non-cycling obsession?

If you ever meet a Lithuanian, I guess you know we are mad about basketball, so I am and a die-hard fan of ZALGIRIS basketball club since 1976.

Many thanks to Vitas for taking the time to answer our questions! Please feel free to ask any questions that pop up while admiring his work.


PS: In case you missed it, the previous Builder's Spotlight can be found here...
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Last edited by William; 05-28-2019 at 09:28 PM.
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