Bespoked... the ultimate in DIY!
The UK Handmade Bike Show
We're just back from a trip south to Bespoked 2016, the handmade bike show that brings 100 exhibitors of artisan and handcrafted frames, bikes and accessories all under one roof.
Photos: Ben Winder (some) & Mike Rose (some others!)
Now in its sixth year, this show at Brunel's Old Station in central Bristol is well worth a visit if you appreciate a place beyond the mass-produced and mainstream. It was our first visit and we found a world of contrasts where glossy paint, polished metal and silky smooth fillet brazing sit next to work-worn hands and just finished prototypes. It's become the highlight of the frame builders' calender and you'll find their best work to date with sneak peaks at the future. Sure, there's a strong focus on road bikes, but full suspension frames, dirt jump and BMX are all there with mud on their tyres, fresh from the trails.
So, what caught our interest? We were barely through the door and we greeted with a fine display of bikes all custom built and ridden in the Hack Bike Derby, an annual two-day bike race event organized by Andrew Denhem of The Bicycle Academy in Frome. This was the first year for the event and sixteen framebuilders were invited to make a bike (as cheaply as possible) and then race it over the weekend. The theme this year was a 'Klunker', harking back to the early days of mountainbiking with 26" wheels and a single speed.
"It's an opportunity for builders to make some bikes for the hell of it" Andrew says, "get creative in a less formal way, and most importantly have fun"
The Bicycle Academy were exhibiting in their 'shed' ready to talk through the framebuilding courses they offer in bike design and manufacture. With Ted James and Paul Burford (of BTR fabrications) on the list of staff it's on our wish list for the year ahead.
Ted James was exhibiting as usual and has been building since 2010, winning the Peer award at Bespoked 2013. Ted builds all types of frames from custom 'one-offs' to small batches in steel, stainless steel and titanium. He was chosen by Reynolds to build the first 921 stainless frame for testing. On show was his Hack Bike Derby machine and a cool steel hardtail which was bang up to date with progressive geometry and stealth dropper routing, a real ripper!
Ted was sharing a stand with Rideworks, a small UK component builder showing some really high quality hubs, chainguides, chainrings and bottom brackets, all lovingly crafted here in Coventry in the UK. He had partnered up with Ted and have been working with the new threaded T47 bottom bracket standard recently pioneered by Chris King and Argonaut Cycles. The custom production and numerous standards gives the customer the ability to really tailor a bike to their exact preferences. We'll be getting in some Rideworks components so keep an eye out for a feature on the Dirt website.
Starling Cycles are local to Bristol and produce a mid travel trail/enduro full suspension frame that we've recently tested and fallen for. It's now at 'Mark III' stage and we were shown new developments with an added gusset for improved strength and stiffness. Two bikes were on show and sizing was discussed in depth and it's great to see that subtle tweaks and changes can be made, giving an ever improving frame design as time goes on. This is one sweet riding bike, designed, developed and tested here in the UK by an aerospace stress engineer; it's what this exhibition is all about...
Curtis are a brand with a long running pedigree in building anything from a BMX frame through to a hardcore 26" wheel dirt jump rig. Gary Woodhouse has been on board since '79 and persuaded Brian Curtis to start building BMX frames at a time when they had just started to arrive in the UK. They know them as well as anyone, and the quality is unbeatable.
The Bespoked show runs over this weekend (15th - 17th April) and if you're in the area we'd recommend a visit.