My Kirk Terraplane

I posted photos of the frame, and now I will post the build itself.

This is a Kirk Terraplane, built by David Kirk of Kirk Frameworks ( It’s a custom-made bicycle, this particular one somewhere between 160 and 170 in his ouevre under his own label. This particular bike is a filet-brazed steel frame, most recognizable for its distinctive curved seatstays.

Old Fart with Kirk Terraplane

While a framebuilder for Serotta, David Kirk developed a suspension system for road bikes, relying on curved titanium stays and an elastomer piece that restricts the flex in those stays while increasing their “rebound.” While not an active suspension like those of mountain bikes, this design increases the vertical compliance in the rear of the bicycle significantly. This suspension, called the DKS (Dave Kirk Suspension) was available from Serotta on the Hors Categorie (“without category” in French) model. Only about 600 Hors Categorie DKS were ever built.

The Kirk Terraplane recreates some of this design in a unique curving seatstay. Like the DKS, though perhaps not quite as effectively, the curving stays absorb some amount of roughness in the rear of the bike, resulting in a remarkably smooth ride over the worst roads. It’s a great design for a touring bike, though Dave has had some luck with this design in his racing-specific frame, the JKS Special. My own Terraplane is somewhere in between the lightweight JKS Special and a touring frame. While it has clearance for 28mm tires, it is a lightweight frame that still feels right in the hills. It’s not my Moots or my Ridley, but it’s plently light enough, and the quality of the ride more than makes up for any shortcomings in weight.

Beach Kirk

My build is setup to be a quick, comfortable bike. I’m still not sure how high I’m going to go with the spacers, and I suspect that I may need a slightly longer stem, perhaps another 10mm or so, to be perfect. As built, however, it’s a wonderful bike. Last night at St. George Island, I rode end-to-end and back (34 miles) in 1:45 without really trying too hard. I was in the drops the entire time and finished up with a comfortable tiredness and no problems in my hands.

Kirk Terraplane, fillet-brazed steel bicycle frame with stainless steel dropouts
Shimano Dura Ace 7900 components, including compact crank
Shimano Dura Ace 7810 pedals
Shimano PRO Plt stem, saddle, and bars (classic bend) in ice grey
Selle Italia SLR Gel Flow, Team Edition, saddle
Chris King 1″ headset and spacers in pewter, with UCI World Champion colors
Mavic Cosmic Carbone Pro carbon tubular wheels with Mavic Carbon hubs and bladed spokes
Vittoria Corsa tubular tires, 23 mm width
Fizik bar tape in metallic silver

Most striking, perhaps, is the unusual paint job provided by Joe Bell. Joe is known in the cycling community as painter to the pros and the stars. Indeed, all Kirk bicycles made have been exclusively painted by Joe. Throughout the cycling community, Joe is known for his amazing attention to detail. My Kirk is no exception; the paint is loud, but absolutely flawless. The yellow spots are crisp, clean, and perfect and the fade to metallic silver is a technically difficult detail rendered with the highest precision. Between the perfect joins Mr. Kirk acheives and the “clean teeth” smoothness of Mr. Bell’s paint, this is a stunning bike to behold, as it seems almost created in one piece.

Beach Kirk 2

But, you say, what ABOUT that paint? Well, I fully intended for this bicycle to be a statement of both the builder and the painter. I gave Dave my measurements and we talked at length about my style of cycling. He created a masterpiece. I gave Joe some color ideas (red, white, silver, black and yellow) and said, “Do whatever you want. Go wild. I want it to look fast, even when standing still.” After some weeks, Joe expressed some apprehension about creating a design that, while swoopy with the curves of the stays and Dave’s logo, still created some impression of speed. “I’ve got some ideas, though,” he assured me.