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13.015 – MADE.IN.ENGLAND Pt.1

I took a roadtrip down to Somerset for the weekend for a little bit of west country ‘cross training and to have a look around The UK Handmade Bicycle Show in Bristol. There was far far too much to stick in one blog so I’ve split my blog into two parts, each focusing on a couple of my favourite builders and/or bikes…so, deep breath and here we go with Part.1;

Having missed the last few years of the show I’d made certain to get down to Bristol this year, so on Friday night I spent an hour going through the show guide to work out which stands to head for. A few stands weren’t as strong as I’d reckoned and a few surprised me by being much better than I gave them credit for, but one in particular lived up to every little bit of hope and expectation.

After the long drive down and several oversized coffees, I made my way pretty much straight over to Stand 07 – Swallow. The duo of Peter Bird and Robert Wade, from Ironbridge Gorge, has made around 20 frames each year since 1981. I love the simplicity of the design and the intricate detail that they add to finish the frames. They seem to me to have all of the understanding of the past married up to the elegance of current design and a big helping of soul.

You can get on the waiting list by visiting and contacting the guys with your requirements or even enquire about building your own with their expert on-on-one tuition. The first of several visits to the Swallow stand was quickly followed by a big slice of banana bread from the Look-Mum-No-Hands cafe and then it was time to get some shots of Bike Science’s Andy Sexton doing a live bike sizing commentary.

Bespoked Bristol 135

On Friday night a name was selected at random and the winner would have their bike sized, custom tubing worked and welded, finished and then built using parts donated by exhibitors at the show. Amusingly (more for me than Andy) the guy turned up late and then announced he’d be using mountain bike SPD’s on his custom road bike, so it was down to me to find some SPD’s to do the bike sizing with – easier said than done at a show which is predominantly a very high end road bike show!

That sorted, it was time for a proper wander and instantly the 18 Bikes Ltd blew me away with a beautiful hardtail mountain bike (which importantly for my last mission had flats on), featuring an internal gearbox mounted in the bottom bracket area. I’ve been running a Rohloff in several frames for years now and I love everything about it. The only issue is that, although you obviously adjust you riding, all of the weight is over the back end. This can actually improve the way the bike works in the foulest of conditions, but the central position of the 18 Bikes solution is something I’ve wanted to see and try for a long time.

The gearbox is made by Pinion and features a couple more gears than the Rohloff, but essentially works the same way. 18 Bikes’ Matt Bowns bought in the black section including the gearbox and then custom fabricated everything else. He told me there are plans for a full suspension version in the future and ever since Honda did it in the early noughties I’ve thought the idea was the way to go.

So that’s two bikes on my list after one hour of being at the show…this can only end expensively (and before you ask, I didn’t even allow myself to ask Swallow or 18 Bikes how much their framesets cost. As they say, if you have to ask…)(…and I can’t)!

You can see all my photos from Bespoked Bristol by visiting my Facebook page; THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY

Glen runs THE.TRIBECA.SPORT.WØRKSHOP  which is based at 28 London Road, Southborough, TN4 0QB – 01892 533 339 – . The shop specialises in precision servicing, race prepping, 3D bike fitting and high quality bikes and equipment. Drop in, give us a call, visit our Facebook page or browse our website for more details. He also runs the shop race team and club as well as racing ‘cross, road and cross-country nationally.

All views and opinions are personal and should be taken with a pinch of salt – This blog is not for cissies or cry-babies – Please always adhere to rules V and X.

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