“There are many other secrets to frame-building,” Maldea says. Some of them he learned during his apprenticeship, but most of them he mastered after rigorous self-study, reading manuals and watching videos.
Intimate knowledge of materials and their properties is also important. The steel tubes that Maldea works with are butted, meaning they are thicker at the ends for strength and thinner in the middle to save weight. Maldea either fillet-brazes them or builds them with lugs.
Lugs are cast end-pieces that hold the tubes together. Maldea uses silver instead of brass to braze the tubes to the lugs, resulting in a frame that is considerably more expensive but which many old-school cyclists prefer for its retro flavor.
He also doesn’t skimp on the materials. There are fake welding rods and even fake welding flux in the market, he says, the use of which will result in weak joints that could come apart under the stress of riding. Maldea is confident enough in his workmanship that he can offer his clients a “lifetime guarantee of craftsmanship.”
Word of mouth about the superb frames coming out of Maldea’s shop soon spread among the local cycling fraternity, and pretty soon, there was a steady stream of customers beating a path to his door.
Today, says Maldea, he builds an average of four to five frames a week. He could build more, he says, and make more money, but he doesn’t want the quality of his frames to suffer. A client will have to wait an average of two weeks for delivery, but an Ave Maldea frame, they say, is well worth the wait.
One of Maldea’s strengths is the fact that he is also an avid rider. On any given weekend he is usually out on the road on one of his own bikes, one might say field-testing the equipment. This gives him valuable insights into what makes a superior bike, and how minute differences in angles and dimensions affect the way a bike handles. This allows him to advise clients on the right frame size for their needs. For instance, he recently built a frame for bowler Paeng Nepomuceno, whose height necessitated an unusually large 60-cm frame.
Ave Maldea is one more example of Filipino artistry and craftsmanship that gives meaning to the phrase “proudly Philippine-made.