This year’s Bespoked Bristol is on at the Passenger Shed, Temple Meads. It’s a highly pornographic offering of hand-built bicycle bongo. It’s also very busy, to the extent that it had me harkening back to the days when cycling was deeply unfashionable and resolutely unmainstream. Only briefly though.
Wandering around the show is a strange experience. The endless number of carefully constructed frames creates a form of artisan framebuilder fatigue. There are only so many hand-cut, fillet-brazed, lugged creations you can see before it coalesces into an endless sea of reynolds 953 erotica. Certain items stood out; mostly the strange or quirky builds. Occasionally a staggering and sublime bicycle cut through the increasingly generic quasi-low-pro fixtastic norm.
Generally it was quite tricky to get near some of the tastier bits of metal. There were lots of men taking lots of pictures of bicycles. I was taking some pictures of some of the bicycles. Penny wasn’t that keen on standing still, she knew there were lots of other things to see, so I snapped infrequently. I took photos of men taking photos of bicycles instead.
The ‘dopers suck’ t-shirt made me laugh. I’m sure it’s worn in good faith and all that jazz. Reformed armchair cycling fans are like reformed smokers; they go that little bit further. Most of these built-for-the-flat, stravacommuting, evangelical straight-edge drum-banging ‘just say no’ grange hillers where kicking around in yellow plastic bracelets 18 months ago, having a jodrell over every spoken word from big lance, despite his obvious drug-taking and malodorous personality.
Some other observations from the show – retro is still very big business. There was a time when everyone got ridiculously excited over things that looked like the future; even if it looked decidedly funky. Those days are gone.
Most of the ‘newer’ marques and clothing companies were shamelessly mining some kid of cycling steampunk aesthetic, none more so than ‘Chapeau’, a new range of cycling garments. They liberally sprinkled their stall with lots of old broken things, like the sewing machine below. I presume to give the impression that they hand stitched each cap using the Singer.
They seemed to be going for the ‘gentleman’s attire’ market. It’s carefully thought out, slyly pitched. It’s also boring and cynical with an incredibly unimaginative name. It would be easy to blame Rapha for this current obsession with marketing and style over substance, they’ve certainly spawned a legion of imitators, eager to cash-in on the disposable income of the current crop of ‘new’ cyclists and the extensive and photogenic back-history of the sport. It’s bogus.
By far the ugliest things in the show were the wooden bicycles. They made my stomach turn. Well done to the chaps for showing that you can make a bicycle out of wood and for showing why bicycles aren’t made out of wood.
The Donhue stand near the front of the exhibition hall was attracting lots of covetous glances. They won the prize for the biggest ever chainring seen on a bike. Apparently it’s some sort of experiment to see if they can wring 100mph out of a fixed wheel.
One piece of craftsmanship stood out above all of the amazing frames and builds; a Reynolds 953 stainless steel racing tricycle. The builder had got the weight for the finished trike down to 10kg. This is staggeringly light for a tricycle. The Longstaff used by Dave Keene to set several comp records was much heavier than this beast. The welds are beautifully finished and it is a thoroughbred.
The framebuilder was a friendly chap and he gave me a leaflet for this year’s World Tricycle Championships, taking place in Kent in June. It features a trike criterium race. The general consensus amongst those who have seen a tricycle criterium is that it’s like the chariot scene from Ben Hur, but with more violence.
If you can get to the show this weekend, then do. It’s a fantastic day out and it’s in Bristol.