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.

The famous Moulton Double Pylon (£15,000)

The famous Moulton Double Pylon (£15,000)

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.

Roberts are a long established name in frame building

Rourke is a long established name in frame building

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.

this 'city cruiser' was built by a Hungarian builder

This ‘city cruiser’ was built by a Hungarian builder

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,

Titanium frame

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

Wooden frame

Wooden frame

and bamboo.

Bamboo frame and wheels

Bamboo frame and wheels

And these were not, by any means, rough and ready bikes. They were thoughtfully designed and engineered to the highest standards.

Roberts, another reputable frame builder

Oak Cycles, another reputable frame builder

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?

I bet even Chris Hoy couldn't get this going from a standing start!

I bet even Chris Hoy couldn’t get this going from a standing start! The gearing is 104/11

To engage these people to build your frame, you need to visit them in Croyden

To engage these people to build your frame, you need to visit them in Croydon

2013-04-13 15.08.22

And I just liked the simplicity of this design


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on April 13, 2013, in Cycling UK and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I take it you ended up just looking and didn’t find one in your price range.:-) There are some beautiful looking bikes there.

  2. Gosh! I never realised, we’re going to Bristol tomorrow which is only 18 miles from here…not sure we’ll have time to go, but I’ll definitely recommend it to friends who I know like bikes!

  3. ctcnorthhampshire

    Karon has a hand built Roberts, made to measure and in ‘Aston Martin green’. A lovely looking machine. Thanks for posting this Frank. We’ve not bothered with the cycle show for a year or so as it all got a bit samey. Will have to make an effort to get to this one next year.

    • This one is a bit different from your average cycling ‘knees-up’ that take place in much bigger venues, like Excel. This is relatively small, but packed with genuine enthusiasts who know a thing or three about bikes.

  4. I was away this weekend so couldn’t go unfortunately. I went last year and enjoyed the bikes as much as the beards on show!

  5. dashwoodhistory

    Did you see any bikes like this, I wonder?! It’s just popped up on the Science Museum twitter feed.

    On 13 April 2013 23:27, Serendipities of life

  6. Good report and pictures. I’ve missed this two years in a row as I always happen to be cycling somewhere else. Did you decide on your frame builder yet?

    • Alberto, I do have a few on the short list, but if you read my comment to Peter (below) you will see there is a whole obligatory process to go through. You know the motto: ‘buy in haste, repent at leisure’.

  7. No need to go to a show. Just get a Van Nicholas Amazon built up for your expedition needs.

    • Ah Peter, but that’s a very clinical way of doing it. You have to do a bit of window shopping (with intent), wallow a bit in the detail, change your mind a few dozen times……before you narrow it down to half a dozen possibilities…….and then spend a few weeks sleeping on it…..;-)

  8. That looks like it was a really interesting event. Had I known about beforehand, I would’ve gone. Not that I can afford a handmade bike (I can’t even afford a new mass-produced bike at the moment) but I’d still like to go along and stroke a few bikes.

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