A few weeks ago I put out an open invite to anyone who would like to contribute a piece to CyclingEurope.org. Simon Stanforth from Stanforth Bikes was the first to respond and he has written an article about the inspiration behind the touring bike that he manufactures, the beautiful Stanforth Kibo:
“As a young child the feats of Antarctic explorers and Everest climbers captured my imagination. It was the idea of going to places where no one else had been. In 1985, soon after my father and uncle had taken over Saracen Cycles, the Crane cousins were doing talks about their cycle up Kilimanjaro. The fantastic images of the icy peaks against the blue sky, hearing how they overcame the struggles along the way, and the photos of them flying down the Kibo summit on their bikes all had the same affect on me as the tales of Scott and Hillary. But foremost, it showed what was truly possible on a bike. They took bike touring to a new level, to true expedition cycling.
The higher end mountain bikes of the mid 80s, or ATBs as they were better known as at the time, were great bikes. They were well made, used tough steel and quality components. Although not recognised at the time, the geometry was ahead of its time. The geometry changed on the MTBs of the late 80s and 90s to a shorter wheelbase, narrower bars, a longer stem and steeper headtube angle. But mountain bikes have moved back to their routes with a longer wheel base, shorter stems, wider bars and a slacker head angle. Not only does this geometry work well for mountain biking, but the stability it provides is great for expedition cycling under a heavy load.
The Kibo, named after and inspired by the Cranes’ Kilimanjaro feat (Kibo is the name of the summit), has been designed primarily as an expedition bike. As it’s been designed for long distance touring it has bosses for three bottle cages and front and rear racks, but it also performs as an urban or commuter bike – the riser Nitto stem can be easily raised for a more upright seating position for city riding, it has bosses for mudguards, and the Continental RetroRides work well on city roads.
Since the ’80s the quality of steel has massively advanced. The Kibo uses the strongest gauge of Reynolds 631 air hardened steel, stronger and lighter than its 531 predecessor. The lugged frame and forks are hand built by one of the UK’s most experienced frame builders, Lee Cooper.
All the parts have been selected with precision and attention to detail. When choosing the components I spoke to a few around the world cyclists; one of the main issues that Alastair Humphreys faced in his RTW cycle was broken spokes, so the Kibo comes with 36 hole Sputnik rims (hand laced in Brighton) – one of the toughest out there for all terrain touring. It also comes with Sturmey Archer thumb shifters, Shimano Deore/XT transmission, Velo Orange grips and a Brooks B17 (it had to be!).
The Kibo is a bike for exploring, whatever the terrain. It’s a bike inspired by the Cranes’ pioneering spirit, and is ready for a day of urban discovery but eager for a cross continent expedition.”
Simon doesn’t just make bikes, he rides them too and here is a picture of the Stanforth Kibo in Sweden, one of my destinations for 2015. If I weren’t so wedded to Reggie Ridgeback, I might be tempted…