Bespoked Bristol, The UK Handmade Bicycle Show
There's something special about a handmade bike. There is absolutely nothing wrong with factory built bikes but they just don't have that uniqueness, that personal touch, that sense of timeless British craftsmanship. I've no use for a handmade suit, my furniture is all flat pack, but a handbuilt bike is a luxury I can just afford – a thing of beauty made especially for me. Now in its second year, Bespoked Bristol offers a unique opportunity to see the work of both long established and up and coming framebuilders under one roof. Pegoretti from Italy and Winter Bicycles from Oregon were also present.
Every single bike on display was absolutely superb, the craftsmanship was first rate. I don't know how the judges were able to pick 'Best in Show' or even best in its category but they did and some bikes were sporting rosettes to prove it. I was pleased to see that Roberts was awarded joint first with Winter Bicycles in the Touring Bike category. Full details of the show, the award winners and all the exhibitors can be found here.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words so these are some of the bikes that took my eye. Apologies for the quality of some of the pictures – people would keep getting in the way!
The first bike to take my fancy was this one by Ricky Feather, it won Best Road Bike and was incorporated into a display by Rapha before you entered the main hall. Their stainless steel bikes are lovely and I particularly like the way the builder's name appears in stainless steel under the paint.
Randonneur type bikes were much in evidence. I particularly liked Paulos Quiros' polished steel model which won last year. They had a very attractive stand with postcards showing pictures of their bikes in scenic locations in their native Camarthenshire. Best in Show went to Robin Mather's French inspired beauty. I have the same chainset on Roberta but the cranks and inner spider are black. According to TA's website the triple spider only comes in black so he must have machined it himself. I wonder if he would do me one...?
People tend to assume that a steel bike must be relatively heavy. Both Roberts and Mercian exhibited steel bikes with carbon forks and carbon rear end. The components on the Roberts were all carbon or titanium and it weighed absolutely nothing. Mercian will supply their version for a mere £5200. Roberts' was a special order and I dread to think what it would cost. Chas did say that it was not a bike for the real world!
Southampton based Demon frameworks recently won Best in Show at the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show. Tom has a passion for lugs. I usually like my lugs curly and lined in gold but his more geometric contemporary designs certainly work.
Best New Builder went to Wilkinson Cycles with a beautifully built bike with both horizontal and vertical dropouts so that it can be run either fixed or geared. It comes complete with a sprint wheel carrier at the front to carry the necessary spare wheel. He got the idea when he wanted to ride to the World Courier Championships and needed a fixed wheel when he got there but gears to make the long journey.
It was a most enjoyable day. Steel has a bit of a reputation as the material of choice for old men with beards but the number of young exhibitors and young people of both sexes admiring their creations proved that this is very much not the case. British bike building is alive and well!