by Chris Ricketts
Above: Charlie Sekers at the Frost+Sekers stand during Bespoked 2019
At the beginning of this year I joined the Frost+Sekers team, a few months before we launched the brand. I work alongside the founders, Nigel Frost and Charlie Sekers, managing the digital side of business.
Charlie and Nigel are unstoppable tinkerers and avid urban cyclists. Most mornings as soon as I sit down with my coffee, Charlie presents me with a prototype for a new cycling product he made the night before. These prototypes can range from the brilliantly weird to the weirdly brilliant.
The commute to and from the studio by the way of the shops is the perfect testing ground for the two of us to trial revisions and prototypes. Charlie and Nigel have a ‘straight-to-making’ attitude towards product development.
I recently sat down with Charlie, the Sekers half of Frost+Sekers and the designer behind our range of products, to ask him about the story behind the brand’s flagship innovation; the Quick-lock Saddle Mount.
What is the Quick-lock Saddle Mount?
The Quick-lock is a fast and secure quick-release system that allows you to instantly attach luggage onto your bike’s saddle, it’s a product that eliminates the need for bike racks. It’s comprised of a beech wood handle and a stainless steel mount, the mount is attached beneath the saddle of your bike, and the handle is attached to your saddlebag. The handle is easily slotted in and out of the mount.
I designed it to be so easy to use so it can be operated with one hand when both attaching and removing your bag. When you push the handle in it locks in with an audible ‘click’, I spent a lot of time getting the sound and feel of the lock perfect. It’s very satisfying to use.
How does it work?
Basically the mechanism is a cantilever with an interference fit, when you slide the handle into the mechanism the handle’s U-bend passes over a spring head which holds the handle in place.
How secure is it?
Once the luggage is locked in it’s super secure. The handle only comes out if you pull it at the right angle. It doesn’t rattle and it’s not going to fall out because the handle is under constant pressure from the spring. For extra security we also provide a seat-post strap in our kits too.
What sort of cyclist is it for?
It is designed with the daily city commute in mind, so we’re looking at people who really need that extra convenience. Also riders who use their bikes every day, all year round. You shouldn’t be left fiddling with your luggage on the pavement getting people’s way, you should be able to detach your luggage and sling it over your shoulder on the move. The design is focused on looking smart and being practical to use in all seasons.
It works incredibly well on folding bikes, such as Bromptons, your luggage stays accessible while folded and the handle doubles as a great way to control your bike pushing the bike in trolley mode.
Both Nigel and I own lots of bikes of all types, our system works on all of them.
How is it made?
We’ve coupled contemporary design practices with traditional materials to try and make to try and make components that are cost-effective but are strong and sustainable.
We use a few processes to make the Quick-lock, all from U.K manufactures. The majority of the components of the Quick-lock are CNC wire bent from stainless steel. There’s a plasma cut plate that houses the spring, which is welded on. The wooden sections the handles are comprised of are cut down with a laser cutter, bringing the traditional timber down to size, and then assembled and routed, sanded and oiled by hand by a carpenter in Bristol.
The result is a very high quality and hard-wearing product.
What lead you to choose the materials? Why not use plastics? Or injection molding?
The choice of the material is dictated by the design specification at the beginning of the design process; we wanted products that would last, we didn’t want to make something disposable.
You could hit the Quick-lock with a hammer or leave it outside all winter and know it will still work
We chose to use the same type of stainless steel that you might find on boats, the reason being it’s stands up to the elements in all kinds of conditions, whereas plastics often deteriorate over time. Plastic parts are fine when you use them correctly but things get caught or snag or fall. Bikes are really given quite a beating. Bike lights are a good example. You kind of accept that you’re going to lose or break them or whatever. I can’t tell you the amount of orphaned bike light bits I have lying around. When you constantly take something on and off and subject it to daily use, the chances of failure are high. The bike is a vehicle that you use outside in all weather conditions. The people we imagine selling to aren't fair-weather cyclists.
It’s designed for people who are going to be taking their bike everywhere in any condition, they are also people who are going to be leaving their bike outside, locked on a railing, maybe storing it in the garden. That’s not something our customers should have to worry about, this really is a product that customers can use forever and rely on.
We don’t believe in contributing to throw-away culture, perhaps to our detriment. If you did somehow manage to break the Quick-Lock it can be fixed and serviced. When a plastic component breaks, it's pretty much broken forever, whereas with steel, it’s possible to bend it back into shape or re-weld. We are also pretty excited about the idea of people customising and adapting our parts too.
And going through the effort to have a handcrafted beechwood handle? What led to that decision?
Well plastics are often an easy solution and it’s sometimes I really wished we had gone down that route because it’s so much easier to work with, but beech is a sustainable hardwood and it’s been traditionally used as handles for tools because it’s very hard wearing and also it just feels better in the hand than plastic. It's also extremely light and strong. It can withstand different weather conditions and environments if you have designed, manufacture and treated the part well.