Everyone’s Nice at Brother in the Wild Dorset

Petor Georgallou steals his sister away as a (reluctant) partner in crime to check out the Brother in the Wild Dorset, hosted by Brother Cycles. He’s pleased to find a “field full of weirdos” and a plethora of equally unique and odd bikes and, it turns out, everyone’s nice. Stick around near the end for a lengthy discussion on the merits and cost of silver brazing, and a sampling of the bikes that made an appearance.

“Your friend Burt’s really nice!”

Everyone’s nice, that’s why we’re here. I don’t have a friend called Burt?

“You know…. Burt”


“With the camper?”

Everyone has a camper!

“The green camper next to us. You know him, you were talking to him, I think he plays polo?”

You mean Kris?

“No he’s called Burt. It says Burt on his name tag”

I play polo with Kris every week. Why is he wearing a name tag?

“I think he’s called Burt.”

I was relieved to be in a field full of weirdos who wear fake name tags for no reason other than, presumably, their own self-amusement. A fog soothed the heat of the day. The edges of campfires and camper vans softened into a pastel sky, and the previous few hours of van chat about dating in London fizzled into the quiet clatter of setting up tents. At least Christina was making friends already. I felt compelled to drag her along—to drag her out of her funk—although she didn’t know anyone, which was fine except that I had no intention of cycling around with her all weekend. She tried to fob me off with some story about back pain, but I took a gamble on knowing my little sister well enough to know that a weekend out of her comfort zone riding bikes with “not Burt” between pub stops and swimming spots would do more to heal the ailments of modern desk life than moping around in Molesey. Knowing me well enough to understand my lack of empathy, she tried to wheedle her way out at the last minute on a practical basis. To fight me on my own terms.

“Why can’t I just ride my own bike?”

Christina’s bike is a 15-year-old Ribble carbon road race bike, which I put together for her out of the best junk I’d been hoarding, in kind of a hurry after her previous bike was stolen. It’s at least one size too big and is kitted out with 10-year-old SRAM Red, set up 1×10 with a 50-tooth ring. To make up for how much too big it is, it has north town bars rather than drops, with ancient Brompton brake levers which offer more power and less modulation than is even remotely reasonable from hanging old caliper brakes. Rolling on aged 700x23c tires it’s lighter and stiffer than any bike I’ve ever owned or would want to own. It’s absolute hell and she loves it. It’s a ridiculously rigid, plastic perennial pounder, which couldn’t be more unsuitable for the Brother in the Wild Dorset.

I have a bike you can use….

Defeated, I coaxed her into the van and just four short hours later we were in Dorset.

I first met Will and James 12 years ago at the bicycle film festival in London, where they were selling a single steel track frame. Since then the two brothers (hence, Brother Cycles) have grown their business into a small brand, offering an ever-evolving stable of bikes that span from “tark” bikes to fully fledged off-road touring, adventure bikes, as well as running a series of rides and events throughout the year. It’s a fun-led approach that’s built a community of shops and riders around affordable frames and ready-to-ride bikes. Potentially their most niche creation is also the latest, Mr. Wooden, a batch-produced, relatively inexpensive modern randonneur built around 650b wheels with rim brakes. I was keen to see what a £699 rim brake all/off-road bike meant in 2023. I was offered the prototype, built up with all the fun stuff by The Woods Cyclery to ride the Brother in the Wild Dorset on, but it felt at odds with the ethos of the bike for it to be pre-built and somewhat fancy. There was one on display at the start/ finish/ basecamp that Brother let me take home to build as my own for a review… more on that later.

I set Christina up with a quick fit on her loaner drop bar Krampus before setting myself up to eat breakfast and shoot some portraits, which meant she got a head start on me for the ride, along with “not Burt” and the Canterbury Bike polo crew. I’d intended to leave early and ride slow, so I could stop and take pictures, and ride with a bunch of different people throughout the day, but the morning hadn’t worked out that way. I set off somewhere near the back with a broken Wahoo, which meant always following someone. I sort of acted out my plan backwards, starting slow, and always attaching myself to an overtaking group, so I still kind of got to ride with a load of different people without needing to know where I was going. Everyone’s nice, that’s why we’re here.

With the exception of “The Biggun”—a series of writhing convolutions of the Kent Downs—all of the rides/camp-outs hosted by Brother are super people-centric. Basically, anyone can ride one of the routes on an okay bike, so there’s no emphasis on going fast, or slow, or on it being easy or hard. It’s just a great excuse to go somewhere a little out of the way and spend a couple of days riding around the countryside with friends and relaxed strangers. It’s proper leisure that’s super inclusive. A weird side effect of modernity is that it feels like a rare physical meet-up for internet friends. I got to ride with Sam, from Freshtripe, who I’ve not seen in ages, Zahir who set up @fasted500, and photographer Simon Weller. I rode with almost everyone who owns a bike in Margate (where I live), who I almost never ride with when we’re at home, with my sister who LOVED the Krampus, and with Kris and Rupert from polo, on bikes with more than 40 gear inches. It was the first time I’ve ridden with Taylor Doyle, who set up the Ultra Distance Scholarship and Plastic Free Ultra Pledge, and I rode with all of this year’s scholars; I hung out with old friends and made new ones, riding bikes in the sunshine on the Isle of Purbeck. Then we ate pizza and danced until the grown-ups (ahem, Will and James) turned the power off and sent us all to bed.

The whole event felt like a celebration of the people who rode it, so instead of talking too much about the route, here’s a series of portraits of some of the fun people I met, and their bikes, as well as a few of my favorite bikes from basecamp, and why I liked them.

Simon Weller’s Clandestine Carrier

Simon’s Clandestine wasn’t just one of my favorite bikes at Brother in the Wild- it was one of my favorite bikes ever. The carrier is designed around go-anywhere freedom, which means big tires, and rock-solid racks, but it’s also designed as a “do everything” everyday bike, so it doesn’t feel like a big, fully laden touring bike. While the carrier frameset includes paint, racks, and a brazed stem, Simon went full dream build on his new forever bike. It’s perhaps one of the best-looking and nicest kitted-out carriers ever in luxury beige with a polished build kit from white industries, paul component, SON Dynamo, Nitto, Sim Works, and Hope with soft bits from Brooks, Wizard Works, and Ultradynamicos. I passed him a few times throughout the weekend, but even mostly laden and with a camera, Simon made it round in good time, looking too comfortable. If I had time to do any serious touring ever again, this is the bike I’d want to do it on. It’s a weird mix of constructeur level integration, seeing racks and a stem as integral parts of a frame set rather than an afterthought, and slight overbuilding, which make Simons Clandestine suitable for under-biking and over-biking with probably more goldilocks-ing in the middle than most. It’s somehow an extra British approach to an “everything bike” in Simon’s choice of fancy yet clandestine parts which can be repaired on the road or by most bike shops anywhere.

I especially love the mostly external cable routing, with mostly internal dynamo cable routing and the little dynamo light mount integrated into the front rack. I enjoyed the mounting of the sine wave charger strapped to the outside of the front basket sitting neatly out of harm’s way. I really like Pi’s (Clandestine) solution to tucking a post-mount brake into the dropout at the rear without cutting into the chain stay, and It’s been a minute since I’ve seen a modern bike with bar end shifters. I rate separating brakes and shifters for touring because although they are a bit more prone to damage out there, at least they can be used as friction shifters even when they’re broken. I was also glad talking to Simon, that he has the same tendency to overload his wizard works alakazam as I do. It’s like a messenger bag, when messenger bags were a thing, you can just throw anything in/on it and it works. forever. Since owning one I’ve increasingly started using it on a Clydesdale fork, where I can fill it until it bulges over the handlebars.

Jade’s Ultradistance Scholarship Stayer Groadinger

This is Jades Groadinger. There are many like it but this one is Jades. There are many like it because Stayer supports the ultra-distance scholarship with a fully custom Groadinger UG for each scholarship awardee. This one is Jades because Jade is one of this year’s ultra-distance scholars. Almost every part of the build is super utilitarian and chosen for its ability to be punished. Unique to Jades Stayer, looking chic in the house rawrawraw finish, are a one-off wizard works Voila bar bag, made from a reworked leather jacket, and block caps valve caps. The Groadinger UG is somewhat of a super workhorse, with clearance for a variety of wheel/tyre sizes, as well as pretty much every option for braze-ons you’d ever want at no extra cost. They’ve had great reviews for pretty much anyone who’s ever ridden one, and they look both zippy and comfortable with more or less as burly a steel chainstay as exists, with a relatively spindly wishbone for the seat stays. The Groadinger is respectably light as an ultra-distance racing platform, with a Columbus Zona/T45 butted tube set which is TIG welded, and a Columbus Cross+ carbon fork plus a headset and seat clamp made by Hope included with the frameset.

Bennet’s Bonkers Singlespeed Monster Fixie

Whose is that bike? I asked Taylor Doyle (who just has one of those names you have to say all of).


Who’s Bennet?

“You don’t know Bennet? I can’t believe you haven’t met. You’d get along”

What does he look like?

“Like a tall German raver.”

So I found Bennet to photograph his bike, and we did get along. Mostly he met me at the tops of hills where he’d hold gates open for ten minutes at a time, before descending quickly enough to hold gates open at the bottom, too. I’d have thanked him, but I was too out of breath because—unlike Bennet—I’m not 50% lungs and 50% legs or 100% Ballern. Ballern Cycles is the name of Bennet’s business building bag supports for saddle and bar bags.

What’s Ballern?

“Well actually it has three meanings.”


“So, one meaning is when someone is riding really fast and hard or driving dangerously. So, when you go to the race, sometimes you’re hitting the sides and shouting ‘Ballern!’ The next meaning is when someone is in the club and they are really going hard and eating all the drugs all the time without stopping, this is also ballern.”


“And then the last meaning is to fire a machine gun randomly into the air with no target without a cause. This can be ballern too.”

Why is there a word for that? More importantly, those filets are HUGE!

“That’s because they’re silver.”

You probably know that framebuilders sometimes use silver to join tubes. However, its use it’s mostly limited to joining stainless steel because bronze filler rods don’t stick to stainless steel. A few builders (for example the late Bruce Gordon) also use silver to join chainstays, or occasionally top tubes to seat tubes, because it’s a lower temperature filler material. This means little-to-no distortion of the seat tube, which in turn means less or no reaming of the seat tube, and (in theory) a stronger frame. Others—for example, Morassi—don’t use silver as a filler material at all because it’s not as strong as bronze. I’m not sure that this should really have an effect on the strength or longevity of a finished frame, because, unlike a TIG welded frame, a brazed frame gets its strength from the precision of the miters and how well they fit together, with the filler material just holding them in place. I am however acutely aware that at the time of writing a cadmium free 55% silver brazing rod retails for £18.95 + tax. These are really, really big filets. That’s a gratuitous amount of silver for a not-stainless frame.

As well as making stainless bag supports under the name Ballern, Bennet works at Suicycle under the surprisingly old yet alive builder Hagen Wechsel, who works exclusively with silver and has been building this way full-time since 1982 with no PPE. I remember doing the same for a bit when I started building, dreading the braze-ons and dropouts which I’d always use silver for. The vaporized boric acid flux would sting my nostrils and eyes, and for the rest of the day my lungs would feel heavy and wheezy like inflating and deflating a drybag, and when I’d go home and wash my face the acid would become activated again somehow and make my skin sore and red. The idea of only building in silver- from a practical point of view terrifies me.

I asked Bennet how is Hagen still alive?

“I think if he stopped now he’d go into withdrawal.”

Big filets used to be a thing when tubes were heavier. People used to think that that big, webbed filet would better support the ends of the tube, and filing it smooth would make a nice curve that eliminates stress risers. However, current dogma seems to hold that the additional heat required to produce such a big filet in bronze causes hardening of the heat affected zone. Sometimes, especially with larger frames, the edge of this heat-affected zone coincides with the edge of the butted section of the tube, which can lead to a crack developing over time. That said, if you want big filets to support the tube ends it makes sense to use a lower-temperature filler even if it has less absolute strength as a material, since there’s more material there supporting the joint. Who knows if this is better or worse or stronger or not; there are arguments for and against and I’m not sure there’s a lot of bicycle-specific testing to prove or disprove the theory. It’s clear however that Bennet has made the most of the low-temperature silver filler as well as having used most of it. The top tube and down tube meet the head tube at its extremities, with the u¨ber fillets reaching right up to the faced ends of the headtube, which you can do without fear of the head tube distorting, in a way that you can’t with bronze. The fillet at the seat tube top tube junction also laps elegantly up to the neatly scalloped point at the front.

What’s the point in having gigantic fillets made essentially of money if you’re going to paint over them? Bennet let them all hang out with a raw, post-rust lacquered finish which might or might not protect the tubes from further corrosion, but is definitely easier to clean than straight-up raw. I love the contrasting clean raw titanium seatpost and 135mm long bar stem combo. I hope that as people start to convert offroad-centric frames designed around drop bars to flat bars that 135mm to 150mm stems make a comeback! Ironically Bennet was running the front end SLAMMED with a wizard works saddle bag strapped directly to his head tube with a voile strap, that has worn away the lacquer leaving an even rustier ring under it, rather than using one of his own bag supports.

The Post-Fancy Rockhopper

Having so much interaction with exceptionally fancy bikes has instilled in me a fetish for moderate, well-loved, okay production bikes. Partly because it’s the bike that my parents bought me when I was 12, one of my favorites is the 1998 Rock Hopper, which came in a brushed nickel plated finish and cost £250 in the UK complete with a Dia-Compe/Shimano STX RC 8 speed groupset. It was the last of the steel Rockhoppers, with a 1 1/8th headtube, Ritchey tubes, and dropouts. It’s such an okay bike for most things, the most average bike going. I love it. This Rockhopper was earlier (perhaps ’94?), as it still has semi-horizontal dropouts and a 1” head tube. It felt fancier than mine with a Shimano Deore “deer head” drivetrain. The bike was unrestored and mostly all original with the exception of new perishable parts, and carefully chosen super classy accessories.

I loved the front rack with a matching red vintage DAHON bag, attached at the bottom with a matching bungee. I was impressed with the impeccable, evenly spaced loops of wire running around the rack stay to the dynamo light and the equally well-wrapped section of red cord protecting the drive side chainstay from chain slap. Perhaps the strangest original part to see was the unscathed and somehow un-removed chromed steel dinner plate protecting the spokes of the rear wheel from the chain should it go past its limit. It’s a part that just doesn’t exist on modern bikes and for good reason, so I enjoyed seeing one on a mostly all-original bike.

The Thrifted Cannondale F3000

This Cannondale F3000 came in mint, unrestored original condition from a used sporting goods store in Colorado. It’s incredibly unusual to see one in the UK and I’ve never seen one as clean and original as this. Fitted with a Shimano XTR drivetrain, a smattering of Cannondale’s own CODA parts, and avid arch rival v brakes, with their ingenious integrated articulating stiffening brace, in spite of the frame also having compatibility for disc brakes. I guess that dates the build pretty well, v brakes being lighter and probably more powerful than disks at the time. The non-drive side dropout is bonkers, it’s a massive aluminum casting that integrates an ISO disc tab and frames the rear hub like an artwork. It is an artwork, and must build an insanely strong,1 super stiff wheel with a 26” rim!

I’d never seen the original wheelset that came with these bikes before, but they’re pretty amazing. The front is built radial with super wide flanges on a hub that’s design is more like a miniature motocross hub than a modern bicycle hub, with straight pull spokes working in reverse, with the nipples at the center, all of which is a great idea. Wider flanges mean more triangulation and therefore a stronger stiffer wheel, straight pull spokes have no shoulder and are therefore stronger, and moving a wheel’s worth of brass nipples to the center effectively makes the rim significantly lighter. I’m not sure why more modern wheelsets don’t look like these guys. Also, they’re yellow! So that’s fun and matches the rubber gaiter (another bike part that more or less no longer exists, although they do actually serve a function unlike dinner plates) around the fatty Headshok fork. Although they are internally exactly the same as a lefty, a lot of the lefty’s critics love them. Its only advantage over Cannondale’s single-sided system which I’m a big fan of for all the wrong reasons, is there compatibility with V brakes.

There were great bikes, and fun camping setups everywhere, but most of all I enjoyed meeting a load of super rad people and riding bikes in the unexpected sunshine with my friends. Christina, who’d not really ridden a “gravel” event or off-road at all before, had a blast and returned exhausted but temporarily free of funk and back pain. During the drive back—with Bennet hitching a lift back to London—she told me the Krampus was probably the best bike she’d ever ridden and asked when the next In The Wild was, which was a win for me! I’m looking forward to dragging her along to the next one, which is in Lancashire at the end of July. Hopefully, I’ll be riding on my new Brother Mr. Wooden.