Having only been to the Bristol Bespoke Bike Show before I was very chuffed to the invited to The Cycle Show at the NEC which follows hot on the heels of Eurobike in Friedrichshafen, Germany and frankly I don’t think that I’m ever going to get to Interbike in Las Vegas, so sadly no games of strip snooker for me and protecting a damsel’s modesty with my own naked body (or whatever Harry was playing/doing). Bristol Bespoke Bike Show is pretty small and most of the exhibitors are small too. Keen and niche and very interesting, from frame manufacturers to suppliers of some strange bike related accessories, but small. Bespoke, I guess. And with a preponderance of fixed wheel hipsters.
The Cycle Show is different. It’s bigger, it’s at the NEC (but obviously not all of it) and while not as a glitzy as Eurobike – let alone Interbike – all the major manufacturers are here, although some of them seem more like multinational brands. OK, I’m talking about the Americans, Trek and Specialized. I know they put a lot of money into R&D, and the new Specialized Roubaix SL4 as ridden to victory in this year’s Paris-Roubaix by ‘Cocaine’ Tom Boonen is an undeniably beautiful thing, but essentially they’re all made in the same stock sizes. Nothing really custom about them. Italy’s Pinarello are also here (as ridden by Team Sky) and the legend that is Colnago and although you could argue the same about both of them, they’re European and have heritage. Particularly Colnago who even have some 30th Anniversary limited edition steel Masters on display, so it’s different OK? But at the end of the day it’s still the NEC and at the risk of upsetting Phil Liggett, they have a fair smattering of Mountain Bikes and a BMX trick track with ‘performers’. I’m with him on BMX though. I know a lot of British Cycling talent has come up through this route but it is ridiculous. Grown adults on children’s bikes wearing baggy trousers and full-face helmets. It’s as bad as seeing 30 something men commuting on skateboards. Or longboards for that matter.
I’m with him on BMX though -grown adults on children’s bikes wearing baggy trousers and full-face helmets
So what’s good? Here are my top five things:
Colourbolt: Brand new company started rather accidently by ad agency creative director and TV production company boss Jay Pond-Jones. Being a bit of a snappy dresser (day I say mod?) as well as a cyclist he invented the ‘FlipFlip’ which is a hi-viz pad not much taller than a packet of fags which you slip over the back pocket of your strides thereby ensuring commuting visibility without the ignominy of a reflective vest, or worse, a Sam Browne belt. He started building up simple single speed city bikes for fun from vintage parts and frames that he had lying around which then got noticed by Tom Dixon who asked if he could stock them in his store. Wanting to keep this going he realised that he had to keep things simple so out went the second hand frames and vintage parts to be replaced with frames made to order and built by Coventry’s Lee Cooper using Columbus tubing, with varying, simple, good quality but limited specs by Nitto, Ambrosio and Brooks. Essentially taking a lot of the indecision and prevarication out of getting a new bike. Hell, he even has the brakes stripped of logos and the bar grips custom made. Two choices of frames, either all steel, or steel with a carbon fork and three choices of finish. ‘Black Nylon’ was my favourite, using the material for handles and supports on Underground trains, ‘Mirror’, which is hand polished unpainted steel and ‘Ratty Black’ based on the tough black material that the bottom of lampposts is coated in. Keeping logos to a minimum, the company name refers to the one flash of colour on each frame, namely one of the chainring bolts is either red denoting that the bike has some carbon parts, or copper, which denotes that it’s all steel. Beautiful, clean, subtle and hand built to order within a month to your own spec. Available at Tokyo Fixed, Look Mum No Hands and Micycle.
Campagnolo EPS: This is the much talked about and long awaited electronic shifting system to rival Shimano’s recently introduced and tour de France tested Di2. EPS stands for ‘Electronic Power Shift’. Having watched it being demonstrated it is quite magnificent and has one clear advantage over Shimano’s. With this you can shift both up and down with one movement. You don’t need to do one tap for each gear in other words. As the demonstrator pointed out, under heavy load and in race conditions this could be absolutely critical. Not that those circumstances are likely to trouble me anymore but nevertheless. The other thing that amazed me at least, although possibly not others, is that the computer adjusts the front derailleur automatically every time you change gear so no more annoying chain rub.
Knog: Australian manufacturer of locks and lights. They’ve been around a while but are becoming much more popular. Their modus seems to be to make mundane objects, particularly locks, ‘fun’ and most of the range has muted pastel coloured soft silicone skins. As they say themselves, they are ‘tough’ but ‘polite’. They also have an interesting attitude to assessing lock strengths and risk areas. There are ten security ratings ranging from the lowest, ‘Grandma’s House’ up to ‘Crack House’, ‘Slum’, ‘Ghetto’ and the highest, ‘War Zone’. Personally I’d put ‘Crack House’ higher than ‘Ghetto’ but then that’s based on personal empirical experience. No matter. The lights are bright, small and featherweight. Super easy to mount and remove, which isn’t always the case with other brands, they have just launched the ‘Blinder’ and quoting The Smiths this is ‘A Light That Never Goes Out’. What this means is that it is rechargeable via a USB port. I suppose that we are never far away from one of them are we?
Team cars and Vino’s Bike: I’m a sucker for team cars. When I see them I come over all fan like. In fact I have through windscreen video footage of me following a Vacansoleil car at vast speed along a French motorway, racing between two sections of pave at last years Paris-Roubaix. Gave me the tremors it did, good and proper. The Cycle Show has various UK ones fresh from the Tour of Britain. Raleigh, Node4, Specialized Neutral Service and Team UK Youth complete with race worn bikes on the racks. I like seeing top end bikes that are battle scared, zip ties holding bits on all over them and in the case of Team UK Youth’s rather hideous Windy Miller’s, great long strips of electrical tape hiding and holding the gear cabling. Crude. Also the Specialized stand has Vinokourov’s Olympic road race winning steed. So if you want to see what a slightly dubious character rides, now’s your chance.
There are ten security ratings ranging from the lowest, ‘Grandma’s House’ up to ‘Crack House’, ‘Slum’, ‘Ghetto’ and the highest, ‘War Zone’
Condor/Paul Smith collaboration: Condor Cycles have been going since 1948 and as far as I know have always been based in London’s Grays Inn Road. They’ve always had an eye for publicity and in their shop there is a ‘70’s era photo of Mick Jagger with his Condor, which he’d either bought or more likely had been given. To be honest it doesn’t look like he’d done much riding on it as the saddle’s far too low. Even more gruesome are photos of Alan Sugar with his Condor. Not because of the bike (Condors are lovely) but because he’s squeezed his portly pint sized frame into cycling gear. And his shorts are too long. And his little legs are very hairy. Still at least he’s smiling. And he genuinely does seem to love cycling. It’s just not a very pretty sight. Condor have pretty much always been involved with sponsoring UK teams and are currently co-sponsors of Rapha-Condor-Sharp and won the King of the Mountains in this years Tour of Britain with Kristian House. Lots of great stuff on their stand and they have a strong sense of heritage so there are modern versions of some of their classic frames from previous decades. Nice. They also have a display of the collaboration that they did with Paul Smith, Paris and Mercian.
Worst stand: Trek. Because they sponsor Lance Armstrong.
Check out Colourbolt here or follow the on twitter @colourbolt
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