“Life by bike” is a favourite saying of W. Thomas Porter, an artist, metalworker, and framebuilder based out of Brooklyn, New York. Porter began working with metal after studying sculpture and interactive kinetic art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Porter runs a creative metal shop that designs and builds high end custom fabrications, museum displays, small batch prototypes, and custom machining. The move into frame building came as a way to combine his complete love and appreciation for metal work and bikes – he spent the last 8 years developing and refining his process by teaching himself machining, building all his own jigs and fixtures (including his own bending and radius tools), building his own alignment tools, and rebuilding and servicing all his 1940’s era machinery. In 2010 Porter traced the geometry of an old raleigh onto paper, cutting up and salvaging tubes and bottom brackets from dumpster bikes, and tig welding them all together into his first functional frame – a friend is still riding it to this day. He feels that after cutting his teeth behind closed doors for the better part of a decade, the Porter Cycles brand is finally ready to be shown to the world.
When asked if there is a particular style of kind of bike he’d like to be known for, Porter said he hopes to be known for his top quality craftsmanship and attention to detail, and for bikes that have a complete creative concept from geometry and design, all the way through to the best fit and experience for the rider – with a flair for shiny little bits and pieces.
The track frameset on display is a truly beautiful creation with no detail overlooked. The handmade stem and fork are fully nickel-plated to match with a polished stainless headtube cut out, the shape of which was defined from the edges of his acid-etched brass headbadges. This design ultimately inspired the shape of the entire hand-carved lugset, which Porter refers to as “hecko-deco” – like art deco but weirder. The frame is made from Columbus SL, with the exception of the reduced radius rear triangle which has a curved portion of rectangular steel tube. In-house designed and machined brass bar end plugs, brake bridge, and dust caps are featured, which pair beautifully with the pearly, rose-champagne white paint that Porter also applied himself. He also designs his own fork and rear dropouts, and is currently working with Paragon Machine Works to produce a production run of his prototype.
It’s worth noting that Porter also built the frame and fork displays on his table, which are just another example of his attention to detail and desire & ability to manage the whole building process from start to finish – the brass and wood holders are pieces of art in and of themselves.
Porter also brought a pearl-blue all rounder adventure bike to demonstrate his ability to build a bike you can use to choose your own adventure – a functional city riding bike that you can commute to the trails on, and then continue on exploring. This design features a modular touring rack system (also all handmade) that can be adjusted around the bike to suit your needs.
While Porter is not going to stop his other fabrication work, he does intend to move forward with a bigger focus on bikes – and would ideally like to build about 30 bikes this year.
And if these two bikes are the standard of work, we’re really excited to see what he creates next.