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Bicycles before bombs

In the last 18 months Ukraine has found itself in a perpetual state of disorder; first with the toppling of their now ex-President Viktor Yanukovych via the euromaidan movement, then with Russian aggression in the Crimean peninsular, to where it is today with a civil and geo-political war being played out in the east of the country.

Ukraine hasn’t fallen but many people have, of which a huge portion are civilians. These victims of warfare have in many instances lost not only their homes, land and possessions but limbs and loved ones. And it’s these people Takhion+Tsubasa Mass want to help in an unique way: by building a bicycle and auctioning it. The the proceeds of the auction will go to The International Committee of The Red Cross in Ukraine, to provide victims of war food and shelter.

Takhion+Tsubasa Mass is a collaboration between two men a continent appart, one in Ukraine and one in London. Reginald Vavilovas is the founder and designer of Takhion, a legendary Ukrainian brand that has made track bikes for gold medal winning Olympians, and Edvinas Vavilovas (Ed) a Lithuanian designer of bespoke frames residing in London.

Flint sat down with Ed to discuss Takhion+Tsubasa Mass, Ukraine and goal of the project.

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Flint: Who are you?
Ed: I was born as a human being and I would like to remain like that. Too often we drown ourself in social statuses and labels – architect, writer, frame builder. Titles provide comfort and this is when human looses their humane part. All this is what we do but has little to do with who we are.

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Flint: What are you doing?
Ed: I’m trying to be honest. Honest to myself then others. Honest in whatever I do, whatever I say. Sometimes it might be rough, but at least it comes from my heart. I hope it can be seen in my work, too.

Flint: Why are you doing it?
Ed: As I’ve mentioned above, I believe that first of all, the foundation has to be set first. No matter how long it takes. Once it is set correctly, the rest will follow naturally.  A couple of days ago, I had a conversation with my wife and we were talking about the human’s life. We live our lives – walking through time. And if, at the end of our life, we look back and we can’t see our footsteps then the question is – what was our life was about? Coming back to your question, my answer is – to leave footsteps. Positive footsteps.

Flint: What is the goal?
Ed: The goal is to spread the message, that man is greater then war. We – humans – are divine creations and we are capable to create equally divine things. The question is whether we chose “to be or not to be”.

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Flint: You mention growing up in a time in instability, how has this driven you towards this product?
Ed: We have a saying, “The one who is satiated, won’t feel sympathy for the one who is starving.” In other words: if a person hasn’t been in a certain situation, he will never understand the one who is in that specific situation. When I saw what is happening there (Ukraine), it felt like I’m time traveling in to the past. It felt that I’ve been there and we wanted to show that there is a way out. There is always a way out.

Flint: How is this project going to help Ukrainians?
Ed: Once we loose everything, we are left with one thing – hope. But often, in a difficult times, we loose hope, too. Hope is a capability to believe in unbelievable. I hope that this project will bring hope back to the people of Ukraine. And not only Ukraine.

Flint: T do something like this, you must have a passion for cycling where has this come from?
Ed: I would say I have a passion for making with my hands. I like going through the process of making and witnessing how human’s touch transforms into physical object. A bicycle is just a form through which a human can express himself. I like the idea of bicycle itself. I like its genius at it’s simplicity. I like how much freedom it carries within itself.

  Dispatch from Crimea

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Flint: Would you like to go into wider production with this frame?
Ed: No, I don’t. And we all know why… At the end of the day, our life is not about production of goods. I don’t believe that human’s mission on this planet is to worry about production – it would be incredibly narrow perspective of human’s capabilities and evolution of humanity itself. Production is the last thing I’m worried about.

Flint: You searched out Reginald Vavilovas, how has this process been connecting with him?
Ed: Reginald and his son Vadim, are kindhearted human beings, therefore it is difficult not to have a positive connection. At the same time, I feel very grateful to have had a glimpse of Takhion’s history. I think, often, especially these days, we don’t pay attention to our history. We don’t fully realise that we are now because there is a history. We are who we are and the way we are is because of history. I believe, that not knowing history does not allow us to fully know who we are. Therefore, this project, from personal perspective, was very important for me – I found out more about myself and the others.

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Flint: Without going too deep into the technicality of such a project, could you explain the process of making such a creation?
Ed: First of all it is historical piece, which has historical impact in a sports history and it had to be understood. I didn’t wanted to transform it into something else – I didn’t wanted to change the history, it would have been a childish thing to do. I wanted it to work as a reminder that human is capable to make greatness and show that collaboration is more productive then war. All that had to be established prior starting making actual object – clear goal/message had to be established first.Then, I think, technical and aesthetical expression naturally followed once core idea been set – Single Piece construction (frame is one, single, monolithic body. It doesn’t have joints. Same fibers run continuously through entire frame, forming solid, responsive tool) – which works as a metaphor to a solid human being. Even we have different body parts, organs, we function as a single volume. At the same time, I like the idea of having internally bridged down tube and chain stays as they are the spine of the bicycle frame. In order to have well functioning body, it has to have strong and healthy core, same applies to Tsubasa’s bicycle frames. Finish-wise, I never liked objects finished up to the standard of socially approved aesthetics. Altho I appreciate great craftsmanship. We, human, are perfect imperfection or in other words – imperfect perfection. This is why I always try to find the balance between perfect and imperfect.

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Flint: What is your hope for the future of Ukraine?
Ed: I hope people will find peace and strength within themselves. In my mind, it leads to a harmonious life. As one man said: “People are destined to be happy”. I strongly believe in that and I hope that people will manage to establish harmony, which will lead to happiness.

Flint: How can people get involved to bid for the bike?
Ed: We had to change our strategy and at the moment people who support the project can donate whatever amount they want on ammado: www.ammado.com/community/153621

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x Flint

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