The UK Handmade Bicycle Show 2011 - A Review
On 11th and 12th June 2011, BespokedBristol hosted the inaugural UK Handmade Bicycle Show
, with a nod to the well established North American Handmade Bike Show
. Obviously the bikes featured would be handmade in the UK. On the evening of the 10th, The Guvnor and I, living the dream, went along to check it out.
I’d not been to a press launch before and had visions of scantily clad lovelies plying us with special edition freebies in exchange for a few hard bitten words pf prose. Arriving to be met with a complimentary gin’n’juice had me feeling like Snoop Dogg, with my mind on my money and my money on my mind. It was a good start indeed.
First impressions were of quite a few young men sporting beards, tweed caps and looking overly serious. Determined not be be swayed by my prejudices against hipster chic (and secretly a bit envious that a) I hadn’t the foresight to grow a beard; b) I can’t grow one anyway. The lack of a tweed cap was a schoolboy error though), we plunged in among the bikes. Although there was some diffidence, the reality was that behind some ‘too cool for school’ facades there was serious enthusiasm and some top drawer workmanship on display.
A few highlights included:
The chaps at Milk Bikes
with their belt drive bikes featuring the neatest, least obtrusive ‘frame break’ that I’ve yet seen.
Milk belt drive close up
– along with the John Player Special inspired black and gold Nagawasa track frame, these guys had their own frames, fresh from the build. The all purpose fillet brazed, Columbus Thron tubed frameset looked great and not too dissimilar to a Surly Crosscheck (bar the addition of fillet brazing and bosses for low rider front panniers). Built up with Paul’s cantis, White Industries chainset and downtube shifters (yes, rather belying their name, this was a geared bike although they had the same in singlespeed/fixed version) it looked just the thing for long, lazy miles in the saddle through sun dappled lanes.
Tokyo Fixed Cantis and Fork
featured Rob Penn’s “The Story of the Bike” 953 special, great to see it close up and from the bar tape it’s most definitely a rider. Also on the stand were a host of beautifully finished traditional looking steel frames that had all the up to date features that you could wish for – a SRAM Red equipped 953 beauty in stealthy black with red and white highlights looked super fast. They also had a great number of framed photos on their wall including a very casual looking Nicole Cook, out on a training ride, leaning against a dry stone wall. We’ve all done that when we fancied a quick stop, difference is that we haven’t earned the rainbow jersey that she’s wearing. Cool.
Rob Penn's Rourke 953
Lee Cooper / Alex Hatfield concepts
– possibly my favourite stand with four stunning bikes accompanied by Alex Hatfield who could wax lyrical about them and explain how he’d wanted to keep everything as centred on Coventry as possible. Best story was how he’d got some wooden rims from Italy and decided to build a bike around them. Sensibly deciding against rim braking (I understand you can use cork blocks but with polished wood I wouldn’t fancy it too much in the wet), he’d gone with a kickback brake leaving everything cable free and stripped back, Unplugged if you will. The beautiful matching Nitto stem and post were the clinchers, particularly as the ‘not available in the UK and rudely pricey’ stem illustrated that in creating something beautiful there’s no point in scrimping, a point I must learn when lashing together another build.
Lee Cooper Celeste Cruiser
Lee Cooper Sky Blue
showcased all the tidy Velo Orange range. If you need some retro inspired parts and are struggling to find what you want, or don’t want to wear out your Super Record pedals on the daily grind, there’s quite a bit of classy looking polished alloy stuff available. The Nuovo Record equipped Alan on display wasn’t too dusty either.
Fresh Tripe is served!
– I’d not heard of Feather before but was taken by the classic lines of a customers track bike with the full set of NOS Dura Ace Pista kit and blue Concor saddle. The fillet brazed bar/stem combo really topped it off.
– a ti frameset looked a bit vanilla against the other stuff on show but we were drawn to the graffiti painted ti frame, not built up but it would really be riding a work of art. Take that, Wolfman.
Enigma graffiti headtube - a homage to the wolfman?
– another new one to me but some really interesting frame detailing and the top cap steerer lock was a particularly nice touch.
Donohou stem detail
A few other highlights from the show
Demon headtube lugwork detail
A whole host of further photos can be found here.
Best bike? A really tricky one to call as I was particularly drawn to offerings by Feather and Donhou but it would have to be the wooden rimmed Lee Cooper – cable free and super clean, gets used and my size. The owners wan smile when I offered to take it off his hands confirmed that it’s special.
There were also quite a few bikes that didn’t do much for me but the vulgar WyndyMilla Massive Attack wouldn’t have been out of place on EuroTrash. Fast? Undoubtedly. For me? Probably not.
I really didn’t know that there were so many frame builders in the UK and more power to the organisers in bringing it all together. Hopefully this will continue into a second year and personally I’d like to see a few of the traditional British builders represented, the likes of Roberts, Mercian and Bob Jackson.