Bespoked Bristol 2012

The UK Handmade Bicycle Show

Bespoked Bristol marked a special occasion for Headset Press this year. It was on this day (23rd March) that we started to get people viewing the website, a year has passed now and the show has given us a chance to meet the people we showcase, and talk to on Facebook and Twitter. It was also a great opportunity to meet some new and highly skilled people but, we will come back to that.

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As we entered the Passenger shed, we were greeted by four of the six Rapha Continental bikes built by Robin Mather, Brian Rourke, Ricky Feather and Tom Donhou. Dave Yates and Neil Manning [for Condor] are also making bikes for the Continental rides but, were not ready in time for the show. The Continental rides have been around since 2007 in North America but over this year, they will be rediscovering the lost spirit of cycling in the UK, Europe, South-East Asia, Australia and Japan. If you are unaware of what the Rapha Continental involves, Rapha describe it as;

“The Continental is about the view from the road less travelled but it is not touring. It’s about riding hard, far and fast It’s about being tested, about fading daylight and fading patience. Yet the Continental is also about those days your bike seems to sing, when you glide up every climb and descents feel like flying.”

Then, moving into the main hall, we were overwhelmed by the amount of frame builders spanning the entire length of the shed. The show has grown so much since 2011, it has many more exhibitors, including a few from outside of the UK, like Eric Estlund (Winter Bicycles) who travelled from Oregon for the show. Eric brought along some stunning hubs made by a friend of his, Curtis Odom (Pictured above). We spoke to many different exhibitors that will feature throughout the week in blog.


Swallow bicycles’ stand was the third we stopped at after entering the hall. On their stand, we were shown a beautiful road bike that summed up how a custom bike can hold so much value for the owner. The bike was designed for Mike Spiro who was looking for a way to mark the recent death of his grandfather, Ludwig Spiro aged 99 who was an engineer with a passion for high quality British engineering and manufacturing. Mike had a previous history with Peter Bird from Swallow who had put together a 4 seater bicycle for a charity Lands end to John O’Groats ride a few years before. When Mike heard that Peter and his business partner Robert Wade had started building bikes at Swallow again he commissioned a bespoke bike made from 953 steel, fitted with Campagnolo and with a paintjob inspired by the jersey that was donated by Sir Chris Hoy from the charity ride a few years before.


Shand Cycles are a frame building company based in Scotland. It has to be said, that what drew me to their stand was a stunning photo of a road on the northern part of the Isle of Skye. Think extreme wilderness, dirt, rough tarmac and stunning landscape with a spot of threatening weather on its way. That kind of sums up what the Stoater is for. An Alfine equipped disc brake version of their Stooshie cyclcross frame, it’s designed for all-road use and handbuilt in Scotland using Reynolds 853.

It can take mud-guards and panniers for touring, commuting, fast road riding, general getting about the place type of riding and even a dash of cyclcross if you wish. Where we think this sort of bike really excels is camping. You can pack all your camping gear on it and ride over pretty much any terrain in comfort and be able to ride comfortably all day. If only one bike was allowed in my flat then this might just be it.


When we saw Royce were exhibiting we were pretty excited. Royce are renowned for their very high quality hubs, so off we went to take a look. Royce had it all on show, the full range of titanium and gold products including the new quick releases and prototype track crank and bottom bracket setup. Whilst looking at the stand Cliff came over to say hello. Cliff, now in his 60s has an abundance of passion for engineering and helped Chris Boardman break the hour record in 2000 when he built the wheels for his run using Royce hubs, nipples and customised spokes. Cliff talked to us about different engineering problems like making the bottom bracket and crank connection stronger for track use and showed us his solution for this. Although in prototype stage it has taken Cliff about 30 years to be able to produce his design as the manufacturing is so difficult. We are hoping to bring you a feature on Royce in the future so keep a look out for it.


Mercian had a really nice stand showcasing all their frames but, there was a new one at the front. Jane Mosley’s [from Mercian] bike is a traditional step through design equipped with a 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub, stunning wooden leopard grain mudgurds and finished with Brooks leather handlebar grips and saddle. The art deco influenced lugs were very intricate and the rear carrier was also painted to match the frame. We can see this bike selling really well if it went into production and we would love for them to do that, and figure out a way of getting it noticed by women – who’s only real similar option at a local bikeshop is currently a Pashley. It’s this type of traditional bicycle that, for years was seen all over Britain and we want to see a whole lot more of them. Superb.


Return of the curly! I’ve got a thing for Curly Hetchins and in the new frame builders room we got to see something that had a very slight resemblance to one. Designed and built by Christy Boothroyd, the Slate had lovely curved seat stays that aimed to reduce stiffness and give a nice plush ride, yet having strong straight chainstays so not to lose any power. It must have taken a lot of skill to weld so well and overall the bike was very well refined. For me, Christy is one to watch.

We have included some of our favourite pictures in this feature but, have uploaded all of our favourite pictures to our Facebook page, if you haven’t “liked” us already, head on over and check out the photos!

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