Adventure

Bespoke Touring Bicycles: The Search Begins (Perhaps)

I would love a new bicycle. Who wouldn’t? Reggie, the Ridgeback Panorama, has served me well for nearly 10 years, although admittedly he hasn’t seen much action since I bought Dale, the Cannondale CAADX 105, a cross bike that I now ride whenever I need to get on two wheels. Reggie would need a very good service before going anywhere. Dale is good for commuting, day rides and, potentially, a little ‘adventure cycling’ with the bike packs I bought earlier in the year. Neither of them are up to the job if I choose to embark on another long trip. But that’s exactly what I have now committed myself to: Japan 2020. See this post for more details. Hence my desire to ‘invest’ once again…

I dare say with that good service mentioned above, I could ride Reggie from Cape Soya to Cape Sata with few problems. Or rather, with no more problems than those that I encountered on the long European trips in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Those who were reading the posts on this website way back in 2009 may remember that after buying the bike – an off-the-peg Ridgeback tourer – I spent several months tinkering with things, most notably the handlebars. This fundamentally changed the geometry of the bike for which I had been measured to the millimetre. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that although I had a good touring bike, Reggie would never be a great one simply because of the changes I had inflicted upon him.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a bike made-to-measure according to my whims… Well, I know there are clearly cost implications but let’s set that significant hurdle aside for a few moments and imagine we lived in a world where everything came for free.

If I were going to buy a bespoke bicycle for touring, where would I go to have one made? Well I could start in worse places than Bespoked: The UK Handmade Bicycle Show. It has been taking place in (mainly) Bristol since 2011 and in 2013 I got on the train and went along to have a look at the bicycles. You can read how I got along here. It’s a sweet shop for bicycles to beat most others and every year they give awards in various categories. The following are the winners of the touring bike awards since 2013 (the website is no longer available for 2011 & 2012). I’ve tried to hyperlink them to the makers website where it exists. Thoughts, as ever, are welcome.

2018

Woodrup Cycles are Leeds -based – handy…

2017

Feather is Yorkshire-based; York, I think… I was chatting to the people from Sven Cycles only the other day at the York Bike Rally. Here’s the picture I took of one of their beautiful bikes:

IMG_0447

2016

2015

2014

2013

  • Oak Cycles (seemingly too cool to have a website…)

Here’s a picture of the Oak Cycles bike that I took when I visited Bespoked in 2013.

IMG_4415

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4 replies »

  1. I am a very satisfied Woodrup customer. Mine is not a tourer but an all roader, which incidentally was on display at Bespoked this year along with the Mr Williams you noticed. They’re one of the most experienced builders around and are very pleasant people with whom to work. There’s no point in starting a bespoke commission with people you don’t get along with or those that don’t listen to your needs. The former is simply a matter of having a pleasant experience or not during the process, but the latter will have a direct and enduring impact on your experience riding the end product. The boys at Woodrup listen: the type of riding I do, how I expect the bike to behave, how I expect the bike to look, etc. Of course, the customer has the responsibility to articulate his / her needs and wants (and don’t wants) clearly for any of the expectations to be met. It’s very much a collaborative process, so the customer must be prepared to do his bit, as well.

    To be honest, I had very high expectations and wasn’t sure they would be met. What I got exceeded expectations.

    I am based in Belgium, so I flew to Leeds for the project. If you are in or near Leeds, then you should take advantage of your geographical happenstance! I recommend that you go have a chat with them in the first instance.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Andrew. One critical thing is the builder’s ability to actually take the requirements and build the frame set according to those requirements. That is where nice theories must turn into tangible reality, which is always harder than it sounds. I think that that transformation is heavily dependent on the depth and breadth of experience. It’s not about a sexy IG feed or a slick web site.

        A fact that may be of interest for someone looking to have a tourer built, Woodrup’s master builder Kevin Sayles spent a few years with Thorn, the tourer specialists in Somerset, in-between his two tenures with Woodrup. And, as you noticed, he has continued to build tourers at Woodrup.

        On another note, if you are planning to tour the length of Japan in summer, I would consider going from south to north lest you head to warmer climes as the summer progresses, provided they don’t have crazy weather like they are having this year (very hot up north and cool down south). Also, mind the rain season (typically mid June to mid July) and the typhoon season (typically early September), depending on when you plan to start and finish. August is reliably disgusting (too hot and humid) unless you are up north — not the sort of climate a typical Brit is accustomed to :). It will be difficult to cover long distance at a clip in that climate, so plan accordingly.

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