It's an exciting time for handmade bicycles in the UK and the organisers of Bespoked - The Handmade Bicycle Show 2014 - organised an impressive line up of over 120 exhibitors at one of the biggest and newest all-round cycling venues in Europe, the Lee Valley VeloPark, London. The VeloPark is nestled in the newly opened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which includes a brand new one-mile floodlit road circuit, the remodelled and floodlit Olympic BMX track and 8km of mountain bike trails.
Cycling in London has a new home for fans of track, road, BMX and MTB.
Centred in the iconic and award-winning 6000-seat velodrome where Sir Chris Hoy and his Team GB and Paralympic GB compatriots set the London 2012 Games alight, Bespoked was awash with companies and individuals representing a broad cross-section of the handmade bike industry and unlike other big cycle shows in the UK, this event had depth and heart, with people passionate about their own craft willing to let you talk about and test out their works of art and engineering mastery.
It's not every day you get to visit an historic venue like the Olympic velodrome, let alone hold a bike show there!
The bespoke bicycle industry is seeing more and more mountain bike-orientated frames being built, which, for a section of the industry where the traditional focus is on fixies and track bikes, is encouraging for those who design and build their burlier cousins.
- Swarf Cycles -Swarf Cycles
were showing two bikes at the show, firstly their Curve trail bike and the Spline, their custom-geometry hardtail. The Curve uses a high-pivot design with an idler and the frame is made up of a fillet brazed steel front end with a hand-made carbon swing arm. We were hugely impressed with the detail in the craftsmanship and the story behind how the bike came into being. Adrian Bedford, the man behind Swarf, is a designer engineer in the aerospace industry, so it's no surprise that we see this sort of attention to detail in the form of the frame. Adrian has been working on the Curve prototype for a few years, as you can see from Swarf's Facebook page
. The bike can be run in either 130mm or 150mm travel settings, depending on shock stroke, and has a variable head angle (65.5-66 degrees), via a flip chip. The bike can work with 26" or 27.5" wheels and has bolt-on dropouts to cater for either 12mm or QR axles in either 135mm or 142mm spacing. In total, a small Curve frame weighs in at 6.5lb/3.1kg, excluding shock.
The Curve's beautifully formed carbon swing arm is made by hand at Adrian's home workshop in Dorset, UK.
- BTR Fabrications -
We were pleased to see BTR Fabrications
slap bang in the middle of the show this year, moving from being 'New Builders' to 'Exhibitors'. BTR has come a long way since we filmed them in their shed in Littlehampton just last year as they've upped sticks and moved into The Bicycle Academy in Frome, Somerset. Not only have they been busy settling into their new workshop and building frames such as the Ranger, Belter, Ripper and Ignitor, but they've also been hard at work designing their next entry into the mountain bike market, the Pinner.
The Wrath was custom built to a client's exacting specifications, down to a custom linear, progressive leverage ratio similar to an old Turner DHR. The frame was also designed specifically to accommodate a BOS fork and shock.
| We're going to be launching a Kickstarter campaign in May for a new full suspension bike called the Pinner that we want to bring in to production. The idea behind the Pinner is that we wanted a tough, durable bike that we could ride all day, so it's 140mm travel, which is trail travel. It has got enduro-like geometry but not similar to bikes already on the market. The build is similar to a downhill bike, so you'll be able to take it to an uplift day and ride it and not worry about breaking the bike and then you'll be able to go to a trail centre and ride it all day and be nice and comfortable in either situation. The Pinner will have a retail price of £2,200 ($3,700 USD) which will include a Cane Creek DB Air rear shock and the plan is to have all these bikes nickel coated, giving them an extra special uniqueness. We're going to have a couple of different tiers for the Kickstarter campaign, none of which have been finalised yet, but they'll range from pledging £20 ($33 USD) for a T-shirt, up to somewhere in the region of £3,000 ($5,000 USD), where you would be invited to come to our workshop at The Bicycle Academy and assist in building your own frame. Along the way we'll teach you some of the basics, such as TIG welding. - Paul Burford, BTR Fabrications|
- Reynolds Technology -Reynolds Technology
, (founded 1841), are a British brand who have been synonymous with the bike industry for over 100 years. Although famous for their steel tubing, the company now makes custom aluminium, magnesium, titanium and carbon fibre products, together with their huge range of steel alloys.
Reynolds have been in the business longer than most and they're always developing new alloys, such as 953 'SuperSteel'.
| From a custom-build standpoint, we've certainly noticed steel growing again. For instance, you have the likes of Madison's Genesis bringing steel back into racing, which is great to see. There's now a greater choice of alloys available although some people still have a very old fashioned view of steel, so it's a case of educating people. Bespoke bikes have come on a long way and we're now seeing incredibly high-strength light-weight frames, so it's still the case that steel is just as competitive as aluminium and carbon fibre. Our new 921 tubing - 21% Chromium, 6 % Nickel and 9% Manganese - is a lot more ductile so it means that builders can do a lot more custom shaping, giving them a lot more options to build beyond the standard triangular frame. Custom bending and shaping of tubes is certainly something we're looking at increasing our capabilities in - people want steel and want to be able to do things with it - so we're constantly looking into how we can develop new alloys. - Tom Cleverly, Reynolds Technology|
- Cloud 9 Cycles | PIM Cycles | Curtis Bikes -
Built just days before the show, Cloud 9 Cycles
' latest build was designed by a mountain biker who likes to race through the streets of London. He wanted best of both worlds, something capable of getting up to speed fast and maintaining it, but also capable of taking in drops down kerbs and stairs. Just think what Chris Akrigg could do with a machine like this!
According to the designer-builder, this bike is a blast to manual in straight lines or around corners. Watch out London!
If you're not a fan of big-wheeled bikes, look away now! There are ten of these 36er bikes in the world at the moment, build by PIM Cycles
in York, UK. Four are in the UK, with others as far afield as Switzerland, Australia and Canada. The owner of this one said that he often rides it in Dalby Forest, used as a UCI World Cup XCO venue in 2011, and has managed to cut 30 minutes off his usual ride around the the Red Run by riding his 36er.
Big wheels...getting bigger!
It was great to see Curtis Bikes
together with company boss, Gary Woodhouse, at the show, showing off more or less their full range, from XC 29ers and all-mountain 650B machines to their 24" BMX cruiser and prototype 4X rigs. As with all the bikes at the show, all of Curtis's frames are hand made, although with a Curtis bike, every frame has a customer’s name on it, and they still offer either 'factory' or 'custom' options for each model. Factory frames are based on tried and tested geometry, with customers able to choose some personalised touches, whereas their custom frames can be tailored to specific geometry requirements, with personalisation right down to what dropouts you prefer and of course, a matching custom sticker set!
The super-slack prototype 4X RaceLite in Reynolds 853/525 steel, what else!
- The Bicycle Academy -
Known for their popular frame-building course that teaches novices how to build a bike from scratch - with that bike then being sent to Africa to transform someone's day-to-day life - The Bicycle Academy
is now two years old, and going from strength to strength. TBA was established after an incredibly successful crowd-funding campaign in 2011, and is one of the top 20 startups
in the UK...proof indeed that the bespoke bike industry is very healthy.
A home away from home...TBA's stand reconstructed their workshop at the show in a small but perfectly welded way.
| The Bicycle Academy is a frame building school. It's not just about going along and making something that looks like a bike, it's about really learning how. We've been going for two years and we now teach more than all the other places in the UK put together. As well as frame building courses, we also hold skills masterclasses which are courses focused on one thing, so fillet brazing, fitting and design or TIG welding, and we teach in a way that means we get really high results in a relatively short time. We get all sorts of people, from those who don't know anything about frame building to professionals, as there's always something to learn. Separately, we now have our Academy Tools and Work Wear which we unveiled at the show this weekend, including our own jigs, fixtures and wax-cotton work wear. I'm really pleased to see that out of the award-winners at the show, three of them are past students of ours and 80% of the new builders are people who have come through the doors of The Bicycle Academy. - Andrew Denham, Founder, The Bicycle Academy|
- Ryde | AOI. Cycle -Ryde
(formerly Rigida), has been producing wheel rims since 1908, mainly for the city bikes sector, but are now moving in to the mountain bike sector with a couple of exciting and innovative products.
Ryde's new Trace XC, Trace Trail and Trace Enduro rims.
| We produce 2 million rims in the Netherlands, and our aim was to come up with something lighter and better than Stan No Tubes rims. We came up with three different rims with 21, 25 and 29mm internal widths to makes the tyre work better. For the width, these rims are extremely light-weight and the 25mm is 80g lighter than the Flow EX from Stans but has the same strength and stiffness. Our rims feature offset eyelets which give much better spoke tension. We started production of our new rims in December and right now the German and French market is going crazy, although the rims are currently only available in Europe. We're constantly developing our technology and we are looking at much sturdier rims for downhill and street racing, with our current rims more suited to trail riding. - Lars van der Wansem, Product Manager, Ryde|
Hailing from Taiwan, AOI. Cycle
is a rare breed indeed; a hand-made bicycle company from the traditional home of the mass-produced mega-brand production lines. AOI. Cycle's bikes probably won't appeal to the gravity-thirsty masses, although their attention to detail is laudable. The company produces less than 100 bikes a year, offering extensive customisation, and Ken Aoi, the company's designer, treats every frame - made from SUS304 stainless steel and hand-ground and hand-polished - as a work of art.
Futuristic hand-made chic from the home of industrialised bike production.
- Limit Fabrications | Strada | Loopwheels -Limit Fabrications
’ August Wheelworks (in Volkswagen Manilla Green, below), is the first 29er to feature an ultra-compact 410mm rear end, courtesy of a structurally integrated kinked carbon seat tube. With internal cable routing and super detailed engineering throughout, this was an incredibly well put together machine. Built from a design from reputed wheelsmiths, August Wheelworks, Limit’s Pat Banks worked wonders to cram so much good stuff into one cracking piece of custom building.
With a strong heritage in designing and building custom BMX frames, Limit Fabrications now produce unique road, track and mountain bike frames from their base in Norfolk, UK.
Whilst on the subject of wheelbuilders, the guys at Strada
not only build a whole variety of custom wheels - from fat bikes to road bikes - they also use a hydrographic printing technique to apply custom graphics to their rims, so if it's skulls you fancy, skulls it is!
With a stand full of wheels of all shapes and sizes, could we see a fashion for personalised graphics on MTB wheel rims soon?
Breaking with a few hundred years of tradition in wheel building, Loopwheels
brings to the market something slightly different with their carbon fibre-spring based system. The loop design is aimed at reducing 'road noise' vibration that travels throughout the bike and up through your arms to the rider's wrists and shoulders, giving a soother ride. Unlike suspension forks, which only work in one plane, the Loopwheel is designed to provide tangential suspension so they respond to square-edge hits head-on in the same way as they do with impacts from below. We rode a Dahon commuter bike, set up with the wheels, around the show and it was a noticeably smooth ride, although testing these out on something more that a carpeted floor would give them a proper real world test.
Taking the wheel debate to the next level. We're looking forward to seeing the 26" version of Loopwheels.
Currently, Loopwheels only come in the 20" size, but are supplied either as a wheelset for retrofitting, or come included on the off-the-peg Dahon Mu Uno commuter bike. The wheels can also be set up with a built-in gearbox hub or for use with a traditional cassette, and both hub and disk brake versions are available, with weights comparable with traditional spoke-based wheels. The team behind the invention is currently developing the technology for both 26" and 29" wheel sizes as well as for other applications like wheelchairs.
- Titchmarsh | Festka -
With a background in motorsport, Dan Titchmarsh
's days of working on designing and building motorcycle frames with his father have culminated in an obsession with bringing quality bespoke bikes to the discerning rider. From his workshop just outside York, Dan builds unique one-off tailored bikes for people around the world that share his love for clean aesthetics and sleek form. Dan is softly spoken though immensely passionate about his creations, giving us a description of his latest show-winning build for a Swedish client, in the minutest detail, covering its design and construction more or less from start to finish. Dan spends long days in his workshop crafting all the elements of the bike, down to custom machined stainless Maxle dropouts, whilst ensuring the cable routing has just the right balance between art and function. Dan's bike won 'Best Off Road Bike' at the show and we can't wait to see what he turns up with next year.
Elegant cable routing and an all-round masterpiece from the hands of Dan Titchmarsh. Designed as a sleek, minimal commuter bike that would excel during the toughest of Scandinavian winters - frozen lakes, snow-covered trails and pot-holed roads - most people would be tempted to hang this up in a museum rather than ride to work on it.
Coming from Prague in the Czech Republic, each Festka
bike is built from parts all hand-made by a collection of workshops across the country. Each frame comes with a birth certificate, signed by all the bike's builders, adding that ultra personal touch.
The incredibly distinctive Festka bike has become a bit of a regular at bike shows, but that doesn't diminish its beauty or the Festka team's passion for creating these awesome bikes.
- Rohloff | Shand | 18 Bikes -
Over the years, we've seen numerous types of gearing solutions that dispense with the traditional cassette and derailleur system, with most designed to allow for some combination of faster gear changes, shifting gear without pedalling, weight reduction or minimising damage to expensive componentry. Even the big manufacturers have entered into this space, with products such as the SRAM G8 and Shimano Alfine (as used in the Zerode G1 and G2 DH frames) and Nexus. However, in general, the mountain bike sector has stuck to more specialised products from companies such as Rohloff, Pinion, Fallbrook (Nuvinci) or Universal Transmissions (G-Boxx).
At the show, we counted numerous bikes fitted with IGH (internal gear hub) devices, and the odd few with bottom bracket-based systems, using both traditional chains and belt drives, although the most popular replacement gearing system was definitely the Rohloff
Speedhub 500/14. The Speedhub comes in two main versions, suited to either rim brakes or disk brakes, and of the 190,000+ units in service, Rohloff claim not to have had even one returned due to wear or internal component failure.
Whether you like the idea of IGH devices or not, packing 14 gears into this 4lbs/1.8kg unit is quite a feat of engineering!
The Scottish-built Shand
Stoater Plus uses a Gates Carbon Drive system with a CenterTrack carbon fibre reinforced polyurethane belt combined with a Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 for ultra slick pedalling and shifting efficiency. Shand's range of bikes are aimed at road, off road, cyclocross and mountain-bike crossover uses, and we'd love to see them come out with a mountain bike hardtail fitted with all these innovative gearing systems.
The Shand Stoater Plus...dripping with innovate drive and gearing technologies.
, based in Hope in the Peak District, are a company with two distinct sides. On the one hand they are a traditional bike shop, custom-building bikes based around well known chassis from Santa Cruz, Transition and Cotic, whilst on the other hand, they offer a range of hand-built 'Workshop Series' frames or can start from a clean slate on a 'Custom Frames', so the sky's the limit on what they can produce. Fresh for 2014, they have developed their Pinion P1.18 gearbox Custom Frame, and whilst the model they had on display was a classic MTB hardtail, 18 Bikes can adapt the gearbox-centric frame design for other applications such as on a tourer, tandem or fat bike. In addition, you can chose how you want your frame welded - TIG or fillet brazed, depending on the tubing you select - with geometry, cable routing, colour, dropouts and just about anything else you can think of, available as an option.
Pinion's P1.18 gearbox, nestled at the heart of 18 Bikes' new custom hardtail.
- Show Randoms -
With over 120 exhibitors at the show, and practically every conceivable style of bike on display, we couldn't get the lowdown on every product out there, but here are some of our show randoms, with practically everything being handmade. Ted James Design
is almost a one man army, crafting these insanely desirable BMX frames (and almost anything else you can think of), in Stroud in the UK. Peter's Bike
's Peter Tomasz - trained at The Bicycle Academy - brought along this amazing ready-to-ride roadster.
Fat bikes, road bikes, epic trekking bikes covered in dirt, bikes with trailers, twin shock bikes and of course Guy Martin's land-speed record bike (clocking 112.94mph/181.76km/h) and built by Rourke
, were all on display. Saffron Frameworks
won best in show with this fully stainless steel road bike.
You can't beat a bit of King...or I9, come to think of it, courtesy of Evolution Imports
and Just Riding Along
Of course the show featured a lot of road bikes, with production quality and attention to detail way higher than industrially-produced machines, together with some unusual machines such as Inspired Cycle Engineering
's trans-Antarctic 'ice-trike', complete with fat tyres, built for British polar explorer, Maria Leijerstam. Veloboo
brought this sleek, svelte and super-tidy looking bike along to Bespoked all the way from Hungary. From a distance it looked like hydro-formed aluminium or expertly laid carbon...but was in fact a patent-pending all-bamboo construction, weighing less that 22lbs/10kg fully built. With only 30 bikes being made and each one finished in 24K gold plating, it's probably not ideal for a quick ride down to the shops! Prepare to part with £31,250 ($52,500 USD) for your bit of bamboo bling!
- 2014 Show Award Winners -
|Best In Show - Supported by Reynolds||Saffron Frameworks|
|Best Road Bicycle - Supported by Columbus||Baum (Prestige Cycles)|
|Best Off Road Bicycle - Supported by Middleburn||Titchmarch Cycles|
|Best Touring/Randonneur - Supported by Reynolds||Sven Cycles|
|Best Track Bicycle - Supported by Columbus||Winter Bicycles|
|Best New Frame Builder - Supported by Brooks||Swarf Cycles|
|Best Utility Bicycle - Supported by Brooks||Donhou Bicycles|
|Steve Worland Innovation Award - Supported by Hope Technology||Talbot Frameworks|
|Spirit of Cycling - Supported by Brooks||Moss Bikes|
|Best Alternative Material (non-steel)||Woodelo|
|Public Vote - Supported by Vulpine||Woodelo|
- Pinkbike's Take -
| The Bespoked 2014 show brought us some incredible bikes from across the spectrum and across the world, with each and every bike on display having been hand built. The engineering knowledge and craftsmanship that has gone into the bikes and hundreds of other components at the show was truly impressive, and Bespoked has certainly now fully developed from being a niche show for bike builders with one-off machines into a major show with some seriously impressive gear on display. Of course, a bespoke bike is an investment that is both deeply personal and usually totally unique to your requirements, which you may think would have a similarly unique price tag attached. And whilst some of the bike at the show were stratospherically expensive, many were just a few hundred Pounds or Dollars more expensive than off-the-shelf models, churned out in their thousands. So if you're after something a bit different - from a custom frameset to some unique componentry or just a custom-designed headset cap - get down to a local bespoke bike show, and show these amazing bike builders some love! - Oli da Costa, Farah Ahmed, geebeebee media|
You can check out the full photo gallery here