I was at the first annual Bespoked Bristol, the UK’s version of the NAHBS (North American Handmade Bicycle Show) and named it as my favourite bicycle show of all time. And I’ve seen a few let me tell you. And I exhibited (the Cyclorama book) at the second annual Bespoked Bristol after which I declared it better than the first and still the best bicycle show of all time. This year was even better, a subtle change of exhibitors including the very welcome addition of The Brompton Bicycle Co. who seem to go from strength to strength … to strength (BTW – their new brake levers will be available ‘in a few weeks’ I was assured. Yay). In the first year, and the second (and at the European Handmade Show held in Germany four years ago) I wandered the hall for hours in thrall to the assembled loveliness. Round and around I went, inspecting the lugs and mitres, paint finish and components, as if searching for the holy grail. These bikes are the cream of the crop. The very best that you can buy. There were a few more ’showstoppers’ than in previous years, blatant attempts by exhibitors to capture the attention of the media/visitors. And, actually, my favourite part of the show. Donhue had his wicked looking draft speed racer – the like of which we haven’t seen since the seventies. (as ever – right click and ‘view image’ to see full size)
What appeared to be the most technically advanced Bakfiets in the world was present with this extraordinary front suspension incorporating the first bicycle ‘hub centre steering’ set-up I’ve ever seen (it crops up occasionally on show/custom motorcycles). Very awesome, if a bugger to keep clean – and I enjoyed the irony of such an over-engineered front end on a ‘utility’ bike. It didn’t have a rear mudguard either. Tut!
My highlight of the show – I was really chuffed to have an opportunity to shake the hand of Paul, of Paul’s Components. He was, by all accounts, taken aback and somewhat overwhelmed by the fandom and hero worship he felt from the British crowds. Nice. I didn’t take so many pics this year, partly because trying to get a clear shot was a nightmare with the sheer number of droolers present (I couldn’t make the press day on Friday), but mostly because, about two hours after I arrived, I ran out of any desire to see another bike. In a moment of profound realisation, standing there amongst the throngs and with some of the most finely crafted and beautiful bikes on the planet, I realised… that I was bored.
I hadn’t seen that coming at all.
I love handmade bikes, don’t get me wrong, and I’ll definitely be there next year. It’s not you Bespoked Bristol, it’s me. What I wanted to see wasn’t present at Bespoked. What I wanted to see was not elitist, posey, hyper expensive bicycle shaped jewellery. Without me even knowing it I’ve moved on. What I wanted to see was ‘usefulness‘. None of the bikes at Bespoked are going to persuade a non cyclist to take up cycling to work. None of these bikes are the answer to the problem of how to transport kids to school. I want solutions to everyday folk’s everyday problems.
This feels like my Damascas moment.
I am really excited by a bike which was sent recently from Barcelona. It’s sort of mass produced (once they get going and hit some production numbers) it’s heavyish, slowish and (relatively) cheap. I’m riding it home tonight. Watch out for the review. This. Is exciting. This: