Bespoked in Bristol
What a crowd of self-indulgent nerds! The entire floor space of the Old Brunel’s Watershed was completely occupied by geeks and techies. People with notebooks, iPhones and iPads, videocams and SLR cameras.
At first you would think that most of the attendants were short-sighted……but all they were doing was scrutinizing the detail at very close quarters, discussing the details avidly with companions, pointing to nuances of style and design that would only have meaning to those in the know…..and for those who couldn’t resist touching, I detected some secret caressing going on when no-one was looking!
I had spent nearly four hours on a train to join this crowd of anoraks and boffins……and yes, you have guessed by now, it was a cycling exhibition that took place in Bristol over the weekend.
Fittingly so, since Bristol was nominated as Britain’s 1st cycling city. But this was no ordinary cycling exhibition. Entry for exhibitors was severely restricted to those who hand-build their own frames. This meant there were a number of one-man businesses represented, some operating out of a garage or shed in the garden, and most with waiting lists stretching into next year.
Now in its third year, Bespoked has developed an international reputation, such that frame builders are now travelling from all over Europe to display their skills and wares. One Hungarian builder had spent two days driving to the UK to occupy his reserved space. Another came from Germany. And both were one-man operations.
My own focus was to survey the market of hand-built frames to replace my expedition bike, which had come to grief in New Zealand. The weld is still holding, but it may well be temporary. So my attention was grabbed by the heavy-duty mile-eaters that can carry a bit of luggage. Apart from the odd titanium frame,
most of the frames on display were made of Reynolds steel or Columbus tubing. There is, currently, a huge surge back into the market of steel frames, especially those with retro-designs.
And for those who really enjoy the somewhat esoteric concepts of frame-building, there were even frames built of wood
And these were not, by any means, rough and ready bikes. They were thoughtfully designed and engineered to the highest standards.
And to the vast majority of the cognoscenti and velophiles present, walking around this exhibition of cycling art would give them an adrenaline-rush that could only be surpassed by actually owning and riding some of the bikes on display. But, as you would expect, most of the prices of these glorious frames were either invisible or discreetly hidden. After all, you wouldn’t want to scare the punters away, would you?