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Centuries of Saddle-Making in Birmingham: A Factory Visit with Brooks England

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Centuries of Saddle-Making in Birmingham: A Factory Visit with Brooks England

Although I’ve struggled with a lifelong tendency to overcommit, I’m not a total megalomaniac. A few months ahead of this year’s Bespoked, I asked Josh to make the trip over from Arizona to London to cover the event while I (along with my business partner, another Josh, and an amazing team of volunteers) administered it. Running the show was already a massive feat, and I’d have done a disservice to both the show and the builders by trying to document it at the same time. Josh flew over and covered a huge number of bikes and builders with the diligence and dedication that they deserve (for a refresher, you can view those pieces here and here). It was cool to finally meet the guy on the other side of the emails, as we’d been working together for the better part of a year. During the show we were both focused on very separate tasks, but we made some time for a little road trip to visit the factory where Brooks England manufactures leather saddles, which is just outside of Birmingham in the little industrial town of Smethwick.

Cute, Durable, and Ethical Cycling Bags: A Workshop Visit with Wizard Works

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Cute, Durable, and Ethical Cycling Bags: A Workshop Visit with Wizard Works

London-based Wizard Works makes decidedly cute, sturdy, and durable bags for cyclo-touring and bikepacking. Founders and owners, Harry and Veronica, are committed to producing everything in-house, sourcing materials from within the UK and Europe, and supporting their small staff with livable wages and a positive work environment. They’ve turned what was once a hobby into a robust brand, now with stockists around the globe. Following this year’s Bespoked, Josh got to play tourist and eat biscuits while getting treated to some behind-the-scenes time at Wizard Works’ new workshop in Greenwich. With their cheerful space, happy colors, and employee-first practices, this is some wizardry where you very much want to look behind the curtain. Read on for more from Josh’s shop visit!

Quirk Cycles and the Kintsugi-Inspired Mamtor All-Road

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Quirk Cycles and the Kintsugi-Inspired Mamtor All-Road

The Mamtor from Quirk Cycles is UK-based framebuilder Rob Quirk’s all-road model, designed for mixed paved and gravel riding with clearance for up to 700 x 38c tires. The Kintsugi-inspired Mamtor was one of our favorite bikes from this year’s Bespoked where it won “Best Finish,” and today, along with a brief glimpse inside Quirk’s workshop, Rob gives us a full rundown of this ornately-finished machine by Velofique Designs, accompanied by a gorgeous photoset from Nikoo Hamzavi. Enjoy!

The Shed of Shred: A Workshop Visit with Starling Cycles

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The Shed of Shred: A Workshop Visit with Starling Cycles

Midlife crises come in all shapes and sizes. For some, a bright red Mustang relieves the itch. For others, some Eat Pray Lovin’ on a beach in Bali is just the ticket. But for Joe McEwan, Founder of Starling Cycles, chucking in his job as a successful aerospace engineer to build steel mountain bikes in a garden shed was just what the doctor ordered.

In this shop visit, we dig into the brand’s origin story, go behind the scenes at their Bristol workshop and learn why their signature single-pivots and retro rear shocks prove that simplicity never goes out of fashion.

2022 Bespoked Mega Gallery, Part 02: Prova Cycles, Clandestine, Black Sheep Bikes, Etoile Cycles, Dawley Bikes, Avalanche Cycles, Coal Bikes, Black Cat Custom Paint, Fahrradbau Stolz, and Sour Bicycles

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2022 Bespoked Mega Gallery, Part 02: Prova Cycles, Clandestine, Black Sheep Bikes, Etoile Cycles, Dawley Bikes, Avalanche Cycles, Coal Bikes, Black Cat Custom Paint, Fahrradbau Stolz, and Sour Bicycles

We’re back today with Josh’s second installment of coverage from the Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show! Let’s jump right in below with more recapping and a gallery of beautiful builds from Prova Cycles, Clandestine, Black Sheep Bikes, Etoile Cycles, Dawley Bikes, Avalanche Cycles, Coal Bikes with Black Cat Custom Paint, Fahrradbau Stolz, and Sour Bicycles

2022 Bespoked Mega Gallery, Part 01: Sturdy Cycles, Quirk Cycles, Donhou Bicycles, Sideways, Lord Cycles, Stayer Cycles, Ted James Designs, and Auckland Cycle Works

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2022 Bespoked Mega Gallery, Part 01: Sturdy Cycles, Quirk Cycles, Donhou Bicycles, Sideways, Lord Cycles, Stayer Cycles, Ted James Designs, and Auckland Cycle Works

Just over one week ago Josh was in London for the 2022 edition of Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show. Under new ownership and management, the show moved from its former location in Bristol, England to the Lee Valley Velo Park in Stratford of East London. With three days of track racing, talks, food, hangs, coffee, enviable new products, and—of course—hundreds of eclectic and beautiful bicycles on display, the show was a major success for the new organizers, exhibitors, and attendees.

Let’s dive straight into Part One of our recap below with a look at bikes from a bevy of builders: Sturdy Cycles, Quirk Cycles, Donhou Bicycles, Sideways, Lord Cycles, Stayer Cycles, Ted James Designs, and Auckland Cycle Works

It’s a Rally, Not a Race: The People Who (Pennine) Rally

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It’s a Rally, Not a Race: The People Who (Pennine) Rally

Already in its second year of glory, Rapha’s Pennine Rally has easily made its name as a worthy must-experience off-road event here in the UK. Respectfully inspired by the Second City Divide route, the Pennine Rally covers 500 kms of the best unboring, mixed and testing terrain that this (middle-ish) part of the UK has to offer. This special event runs over five days winding, climbing and descending its beauteous way from Edinburgh to Manchester.

Thanks in no small part to the magnificent Louis, the rally’s beating heart, and his socially conscious approach to its organisation, the 2022 Pennine Rally attracted a whole host of keen shredders, many of whom are doing rad things in their communities, and it shows. The Pennine Rally embodies its tag line of ‘its a rally not a race’ and the event as a result is a magnet for many of the change-makers who are working to create a UK cycling scene that is more inclusive, wholesome, and socially active.

I haven’t been hanging around in the UK for very long, but it’s clear that there is a unique scene here and it only feels right to shout about it, so I decided, as part of my own participation in the event, to photograph some of these folks, describe their endeavours and in doing so to some way capture a feel for what is going on here. Please behold and be inspired by this selection of the following incredible humans who make this magic happen.

Nature is Luxury at Wales’ Fforest Gran Ffondo

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Nature is Luxury at Wales’ Fforest Gran Ffondo

Oversized white t-shirts flapping listlessly between a great white softbox Welsh sky and endless hordes of casual, sunbathing daisies. Jersey pockets bulging with hard boiled eggs and gummy bears. Hushed whispers of chain ring print, oil tattooed cyclists entering a bird hide and unzipping Leica binocular cases. Nature’s comfortable chatter pauses incrementally to listen to the doppler shifting cacophony of a freewheeling Hope RS4 flying down a caution signed gradient. The Fforest Gran Ffondo must be, objectively, the finest road cycling event around right now.

Radavist x Komoot: Silver Linings on the East Devon Trail

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Radavist x Komoot: Silver Linings on the East Devon Trail

Katherine Moore, a zoologist by training and a cycling writer by trade, has just launched a new bikepacking route through her home turf in East Devon. Besides the gorgeous coastal tracks and sleepy wooded trails further inland, quaint thatched villages, and colorful seaside towns, the East Devon Trail features a twist: linking up nature reserves and bird hides along its 115-mile length. While the release of this accessible weekender trail has been the cause of much excitement, its development sprung out of a much darker and unexpected place.

Note: This article is part of a sponsored partnership with Komoot. We’ll always disclose when content is sponsored to ensure our journalistic integrity.

The Misplaced Optimism of Summer: Riding Scotland’s Deeside Trail in October

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The Misplaced Optimism of Summer: Riding Scotland’s Deeside Trail in October

For the young men of post-war Britain, the train from London King’s Cross to Aberdeen was not unfamiliar. Hundreds of conscripts were required to board the carriages as part of their National Service. The train would pull away from the platform on a Friday night and arrive at the Scottish coastal city by Saturday mid-morning. Iconic red Routemaster buses exchanged for grey-stone buildings and seagulls. There was the novelty of a Highlands map, marked with unknown Gaelic quantities: Glens, Munros, and Gorms, and excitement for rural air, combined with blissful ignorance of the military enforced misery that lay ahead. Or so the old man told us.