By Sim Malney
This weekend saw Bristol play host to the Bespoked Bike Show for the sixth year running.
Bespoked is Europe’s biggest gathering of handmade bicycles and framebuilders. If you like your welds smooth, your paintjobs on point, a quality flat white and a craft beer you’ll be in heaven.
While skinny tyred bikes make up the majority of the show there are still some very interesting bikes for the discerning mountain biker.
1. Cotic Prototype
Despite attempts to build frames here in the UK Cotic’s frames are currently manufactured overseas. However this prototype frame points to the potential for a UK built offering along with some new thoughts on geometry.
Cotic’s production 150mm trail bike, the Rocket, uses a steel Reynolds 853 mainframe, so it’s no surprise to see the same material being used here. In this case however it’s been put together by Scottish framebuilders Shand, who are also responsible for the superb matte olive paint, including the masked and painted graphics.
While Cotic might be well known for steel they aren’t known for carbon, which is what this frame uses on the seatstays and chainstays. These have been made by another framebuilder, Swarf, making this frame not only a unique mix of materials but also of minds and expertise.
While a lot of manufacturers are claiming their bikes are long and slack this Cotic prototype is certainly at the more extreme end of that scale. Cotic wouldn’t be drawn on numbers but the headangle looked to be at least 63º, and this was without the angle-adjust headset that had been installed until just before the show.
This is no show-pony prototype either, Cotic have been testing this around their Sheffield office as well as further afield. Whether they decide to pursue either the manufacturing possibilities or the geometry ideas Cotic wouldn’t say, commenting that it was an exercise in possibilities and they were still evaluating performance.
2. Starling Cycles
Bespoked is full of frames made by men-in-sheds. Joe McEwan runs Starling Cycles from his shed in Bristol. His shed sounds much better fitted out than most though, with a raft of tools and machines that allow him to produce the 150mm travel Swoop frame.
Joe lives by the K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid) mantra, using True Temper steel and a single pivot design to give the frame clean lines and the ability to shrug off anything British trail conditions can throw its way. Simple doesn’t mean dull though, details like the starlings cut into the headtube gusset and the integrated seatclamp add a touch of class without adding complication.
Frames start at £1,500 without a shock and being a custom made product Joe can build a Swoop to your specifications.
We’re suckers for a pretty paintjob so the green blue ombre fade on this Toad caught our eye. While the paint made us think of Klein paintjobs of old the frame itself is bang up to date.
It’s builder Toby, aka Toad, wanted to play with 27.5+ wheels and to experiment with some ideas on geometry.
By using a custom machined chainstay yoke and a bent seatube he’s managed to keep the back end as short as possible while also providing plenty of mud and chainring clearance. Toby has conversely increased the length in the front end, essentially moving the wheels forward in relation to the bottom bracket.
Next stop after the Bespoked bike show was Bike Park Wales…
Another man experimenting with, what he was calling, ‘progressive’ geometry and 27.5+ tyres was Gary at Curtis. Curtis frames have always been easy to spot with their gorgeous fillet brazed joints and this frame was no different. The golden braze, slender polished Reynolds 853 tubes , which made a large 2.8” tyre seem even bigger, all hinted at a frame that would be a whole lot of fun.
This particular frame has been built for a mountain bike journo who has been working with Curtis to find the right balance of angles.
5. BTR Hack Bike
The Hack Bike Derby Invitational is the brainfart of Somerset based framebuilding school The Bicycle Academy. Select framebuilders were challenged to produce a Klunker style bike that would then be raced.
Rules dictated that only 26” wheels with a set of control tyres were permitted. No stock forks, V-brakes or disc brakes were allowed, fancy paint was frowned upon, skip diving encouraged and a recommended budget of £300 was set. To top it off as well as building the frames the entrants had to dig the course before racing it.
The results ranged from the minimal to the incredible. BTR’s entry was probably the most ambitious with its multiple tubes, truss fork and disc brakes (they were let off the no disc rule as they were entirely homemade). It also looked the bike we’d like to ride the most, although maybe with some proper brakes attached.