THE WEIRD AND WONDERFUL BIKES OF BESPOKED
Words by Tom Owen
Bespoked is a funny sort of trade show – there are none of the massive stands you might see at the London Bike Show or NCC. There are very few people giving away free samples of this exciting energy bar or that new beverage which harnesses ‘the awesome power of the kumquat’.
In fact, it’s an altogether more chilled out affair, hosted in the gloriously airy space of the old Passenger Shed at Bristol Temple Meads station.
Bespoked, you see, is the UK’s biggest show for handmade bikes. It’s a celebration of craftsmanship, far more than an exercise in commercialism. The bikes here are expensive, yes, but they are also beautiful objects. Some could even be claimed to be works of art. We went down to Bristol to check things out and see what’s been going on in the world of bespoke bicycles.
Rob Quirk is not afraid to splash a bit of colour on his frames and – coupled with his great understanding of how a bike should feel and perform – it’s an approach that has won him lots of fans, both in the custom community and beyond. After grabbing a host of awards last time, Quirk returned this year with just a single machine on show as part of the Bicycle Academy stand (he is a graduate of the frame-building school in Frome).
This year’s model did not disappoint, bringing the trademark combination of super-tough, ultra racing capability and vibrant paintwork.
ColourBolt returned to Bespoked this year, with their particular flair for making really nice looking black bikes undiminished. Pictured is their Maximum Black, disc-equipped road bike, but the real star of the stand was their new Black Belter – built around the idea of making a bike that is at once fun to ride and capable of anything the city might throw at it.
This absolute bruiser of a track bike instantly grabbed our attention with those deep set wheels and the flashy faded fork paint. Granule is based out of Tenterden in Kent and this particular machine was built as part of a teamup with Romance Cycling.
Not all the bikes at Bespoked were fully bespoke. It seems there’s a strong trend in the custom market – especially among some of the bigger builders – to devolve a little bit of the brand and split into making bikes that remain absolutely gorgeous, but in stock frame sizes. Donhou Bicycles has lead the way on this for some time with their Signature Steel series, but Bespoked 2017 saw more of this sort of thing from other builders.
We loved this utility bike from Kent builders Rowan Frameworks – mainly for its sheer, bald-faced unclassifiability. What is it for? Everything and nothing the bike seems to say. And it comes with a bag.
An attempt to generate more income with less effort, or a genuine commitment to bringing really, really nice bicycles to more of the population? We’re not sure. It’s definitely pretty, though.
Whippet is a brand new British maker launching their first folding bike frame at Bespoked. While we have a lot of love for folding machines made by the likes of Brompton, they’re not what you’d necessarily classify as ‘cool’. Whippet, though, seem to have got the balance of form and function pretty much exactly right – and for that they deserve some serious kudos.
Is he an artist or a frame builder, or a little of both? Dear Susan has been bringing outlandish bikes to Bespoked (in a van which is actually a repurposed hearse!) for a couple of years now and his frames seem to bridge the gap between outrageous pieces and functional objects.
One that’s probably further toward the outrageous end of the spectrum is this gloriously odd-looking clunker, said to be inspired by old-timey proto-MTB bikes that were used to travel with heavy loads very, very slowly.
Want to know how he simulated that heavily worn patina on a bike that is ostensibly brand new? Well, he used a combination of his, and fellow frame-builder Timmy Rowan’s, dehydrated urine. Plus a hefty dousing of seawater. Delightful.