Bespoked Bristol 2013

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.

Paulos Quiros Randonneur

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.

Man taking picture of bicycle
Man taking picture of bicycle
man with ‘dopers suck’ t-shirt taking picture of bicycle

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.

Time travel space ship from the future

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.

Serves only to remind me that Cycling Weekly used to be about bike racing, rather than the privilege of 9 hours soft-pedalling for £54. 

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. 

Has it gone yet Dad? Make it go away. Please.

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.

The mother of all dinner plates

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.


12 thoughts on “Bespoked Bristol 2013

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  1. I made the error of heading down there yesterday morning with Martha in the pram. I had to pay Dene (il) soigneur for a musette I’d picked up on Friday evening, when it was a lot quieter. There was already over 2,000 people through the door. It was pretty bonkers and I lasted about 15 minutes before I gave up. The chap on the door said the capacity of the place was 5,000. I wished him good luck.

    1. there was a lot of fixie lo pro action, which is almost the same thing.

      would like to have seen the Rob English TT bike.

      i’m not sure TT bikes were ever that cool…

  2. I disagree about Bamboo Bikes. The engineering that goes into them is far more complex than any other material used in bike manufacturing, but then as a mechanical engineer I guess I am quite biased towards them! In my view I think they are gorgeous.

  3. I’ve been disappointed each year so far that there hasn’t been anything like the “jetpacks are the future” equivalent in bicycle form. I always want to see something outrageous that will never work. Isn’t that what these trade shows are meant to be about? The nearest that it got to that was the loopy looking 20″ suspension wheels.

    Some lovely bikes for sure, but I just found by the end that I was expecting everything to be beautiful and just felt a bit deflated when I went to get on my own bike to get home.

    Standouts were anything that looked slightly different, even if it didn’t have ornate lugs and sublime paintwork. The main things my brain could actually see after being numbed by the roadbike repetition was the expedition 29ers and cargo bikes. Oak cycles Rando 650b was my high point.

    1. i’ve been pondering the fetishisation of the bicycle in recent years. there might be a post there somewhere, although there are many inherent contradictions.

      it’s some sort of ‘creative’ or marketing man’s wet dream. reminds me of the demise of Witcomb – first the tie-in with the marketing team, then the exorbitant price-hike, followed by the death of the company.

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