Stunners from BTR, Curtis, UOI, Carbon Wasp and Wooden Bike.
Words and photography: Sim Mainey
With a hundred exhibitors in attendance at this year’s Bespoked handmade bike show, these are the five key bikes that stood out for us.
Walk into most bike shows and you’ve probably got a good idea what you’re likely to see on the showroom floor. Not so at Bespoked. This annual show pulls together the finest frame builders in the UK as well as a few from overseas. Without the limits of mass production or the burden of budgets, the makers are free to create unique frames which show off their talents.
Somerset based frame builders BTR Fabrications were showing off the second iteration of their Pinner full suspension frame. Designed for ‘riding hard and having fun’ the steel framed Pinner uses a single pivot linkage actuated suspension design to extract 130.42mm (the .42 is important) out of a coil shock.
The suspension design has been tuned to work exclusively with a coil shock as BTR believe they deliver greater sensitivity, linearity and reliability over an air shock. It probably helps that a coil shock looks right at home in between the steel tubes too.
The Pinner is offered in four standard sizes and, interestingly, with 27.5” or 26” wheels. If BTR’s geometry doesn’t match what you’re after then custom geometry is available.
The frame with an Extreme Storia Lok shock, as shown, comes in at £2,800.
In a room full of standout bikes Curtis do a grand job of not blending in. Their trademark gold braze on raw steel is enough to turn the head of even the most hardened carbon fetishist. While Curtis are best known for their hardtail and BMX frames this year they had something a bit different to show.
This 160mm full suspension frame was built for team rider Jim Davage and sports a 64.5º headangle. The single pivot design keeps things straightforward and the motorbike influenced swingarm allows for huge amounts of mud clearance, even with a decent sized tyre fitted to a wide rim. While steel might have a reputation for flex Gary says the rear end of the frame is incredibly stiff and more than up to the twisting and thrashing Jim can inflict on it.
A price has yet to be settled on but a figure about £2,000 was being mooted and as every frame is handbuilt geometry is completely customisable.
University Of Iowa ArrowHED
What’s a University doing exhibiting at a bike show? Well, it turns out the UOI has a handbuilt bicycle programme and, while singlespeed, titanium, fat bikes aren’t usually our thing this bike built by tutor Steve McGuire had a certain appeal. Maybe it was the fact that rather than being used for going up and down a beach it had been designed to take on races like the Arrowhead 135, a 135mile endurance event in snowy Minnesota, and the even more gruelling Iditarod 350 which takes competitors 350miles over the Alaskan wilderness.
The super-long wheelbase helps with tracking through rough snow and also leaves a lot of space for bags and racks – if you’re riding 350miles unsupported through snow you’ll need to pack a lot of Mars bars. It also helps with weight distribution, keeping the mass central means handling isn’t adversely affected. The frame can split for travel and, potentially, allows for a different length rear triangle to be fitted.
Carbon Wasp Enduro 29er
If you thought that the show would be all steel this and titanium that you’d be wrong. Adrian Smith from Leeds based Carbon Wasp were showing off this (you guessed it) carbon 150mm travel 29” trail bike. The idea is to offer it in a couple of off-the-peg sizes but they can offer the same suspension design but with the geometry of your choice.
While carbon frame manufacture has a reputation for being expensive, with single moulds rumoured to cost in the region of £30,000, Carbon Wasp are able to create bespoke carbon frames for a tenth of that. Using 3D modelling and rapid prototyping everything from a full frame to individual components can be manufactured cost effectively in their workshop. Whether you have a back-of-an-envelope sketch or a full CAD model of what you want Adrian can help bring it to life.
Wooden Bike Vari Head Angle
While the fact that a full suspension bike made of wood is an unusual sight, even at Bespoked, it’s the front of this frame that caught our eye. Peter Charnaud was showing this maple framed trail bike with a unique aluminium headstock that allows the head angle to be changed without the use of tools. By loosening the two levers on the side of the headstock and turning a dial on the top tube it’s possible to adjust the headangle between 70º and 50º.
While geometry adjustment on frames is reasonably common few offer the range or speed of adjustment that Peter’s design does.