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Bespoked Bristol 2012
Photo: Steve Davidson
The word bespoke is a distinctly British one. You might think of tailors, cabinet makers, silversmiths or cordwainers, making quality, handmade products to order. Bespoked Bristol, the UK’s premier hand-built bike show, is certainly continuing this culture. The current trend for products with authenticity means tailor made cycles are seriously coveted objects.
Some may argue that any art expressing skill and imagination has to evoke a strong reaction from the audience. And before anyone had even discussed how well these machines ride and perform, the press, builders and public all seemed to be going weak at the knees in sunny Bristol. Anyone with an interest in bicycles had to recognise the artistry demonstrated throughout Brunel’s Old Station, the Victorian exhibition hall named after Bristol’s most famous engineer.
There was the good, the bad (also meaning good), and the incredibly beautiful workmanship of a spectrum of builders and designers. From the traditional grace of Mercian and Rourke Cycles, the new school shapes of Crisp Titanium and Shand to the steel couture of Dario Pegoretti. There was industrial skulduggery from Ted James and intricately brazed commuters from Tom Donhou. Fat-tyred types like Cotic and Surly sat aside the fine tubing of Waterford from North America. There were also hardware manufacturers like Royce of Hampshire and Paul Components from California. There was also an alien sculpture by Delta 7 Bikes, a MTB frame with a lattice-like tubing made from carbon and Kevlar…
Photo: Steve Davidson
Considering that the exhibition was twice as big as the inaugural show last year, and that a British builder, Demon Frameworks, won Best Road Bike at NAHBS earlier this month, it seems the scene in the UK is bursting with vitality. Judging the winners would have been a very tall task indeed.
And so here’s one of the judges and a man familiar with the pursuit of finding that dream machine, Rob Penn:
Walking through Bespoked Bristol last Friday, I instantly realised how rash I’d been in agreeing to judge. Choosing a winner was going to be horrendously difficult.
There is a lot of energy in UK frame-building at the moment. It’s a dramatic turn around from the rather down-at-heel scene I encountered when I started researching my book It’s All About the Bike a few years ago. Donhou, Demon, Feather, Paulus Quiros, Shand – there seems to be a new builder emerging from his garage every month. Collectively, they’re breathing vigour back into the more established marques like Rourke, Roberts, Enigma and Mercian.
Throughout the show, I saw pride in workmanship, and a connection to the tradition of British craftsmanship that has set standards worldwide for a century and a half. The frame is the soul of the bicycle: seeing the design, artistry and care being poured into frames by these builders is a source of immense satisfaction to me. Still, that didn’t stop me sweating up over choosing a winner.
- Rob Penn
Photo: Steve Davidson
And the winners…
Best of Show – Robin Mather
Best Road Bicycle – Ricky Feather for Rapha
Best Track Bicycle – Demon Frameworks
Best Off Road – Crisp Titanium
Best Touring/Randonneur – Roberts and Winter Bicycles (joint winner)
Best New Builder – Wilkinson Cycles
The Publuc Vote – Robin Mather, 2nd – Donhou Bicycles, 3rd – Ricky Feather
Congratulations to the winners and a big thank you to the organisers. Hats off to all concerned.
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