Bespoked UK: It’s not (all) about the bikes

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It wasn’t just bikes and frames at Bespoked this year.

While Barney was drooling over luscious paint jobs and precision welds, Tom made the walk to The Arnolfini and a hall dedicated to handmade cycling goods and design… after an important caffeine injection.

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Bike Show prerequisite: browse the guide, drink the coffee.

Compared to the vast open space of the Old Station, the Arnolfini is more compact. There was a great range of exhibitors though, with everything from posh merino to backpacking luggage.

Which way?
Which way? Oh, that way…

Wildcat Gear

Wildcat Gear is an experienced master of carrying stuff on your mountain bike, manufacturing its products in Wales for four years now. Beth Barrington (Mrs Wildcat) hasn’t been content churning out the same old frame bags and bar-rolls however. As the products have become more and more popular, Beth no longer makes all the products herself, but they remain manufactured in the UK. That means she has had more time to develop and improve their range, listening to feedback from customers, and the other half of the Wildcat marriage, Ian.

Beth, with bag. Welsh Cakes just out of shot.
Beth, with double-ended dry bag. Welsh Cakes just out of shot.

They were keen to show us a few exclusive prototypes, including a double-ended, split compartment dry bag, for carrying a wet tent and dry sleeping bag for example. We were also treated to a sneak peak of a still-to-be-named carrot-shaped tapered dry bag, for better integration with the Tiger saddle bag holster (soon to be available in small, medium and large).

The redesigned mountain lion has a longer “tongue” to better support the dry bag roll
The redesigned Mountain Lion has a longer ‘tongue’ to better support the dry bag roll
Eat your carrots.
Eat your carrots.
Mmmm, Welsh Cakes.
Mmmm, Welsh Cakes.
Lots available for sale from the stand
Lots available for sale from the stand

Wildcat Gear

Restrap

Sticking with the bikepacking theme, Restrap is a Leeds-based company which has grown from humble origins in owner/maker Nathan’s bedroom, to a warehouse turning out innovative products. Starting off making foot-retention straps for trendy fixie riders, Nathan has branched out into bags and now bikepacking/touring luggage.

Restrap’s kit might look like your run-of-the-mill cycle luggage, but Nathan has put in the hours designing and testing, and has developed an interesting modular approach using locking magnets. We got an early play with some of the prototypes a few weeks ago, and findings were promising; the Unite backpack was on show in Bristol.

The modular Unite backpack
The modular Unite backpack
Each external pocket is removable/swappable, using magnetic locks
Each external pocket is removable/swappable, using magnetic locks
All the fixings
All the fixings
Framebags available with good old fashioned Velcro fastenings
Framebags available with good old fashioned Velcro fastenings
Who’s this chump?
Who’s this chump?
Nathan (right) gives Tim (left) some advice in advance of the latter's Trans Contintental adventure later this year: "Caffeine is the answer."
Nathan (right) gives Tim (left) some advice in advance of the latter’s Trans-Contintental adventure later this year: “Caffeine is the answer.”
Not sure where Restrap manufacture?
Not sure where Restrap manufacture? It should be pretty obvious by now.

Back in the main hall, Woodrup cycles was exhibiting a co-lab project with Restrap, which used the same magnetic catches to secure prototype frame bags. This bike has been produced especially for Restrap sponsored rider, Tim Pulleyn, to ride the Trans-Continental Race this summer, but the design looks like it could easily be transferred to mountain bikepacking.

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A neat alternative to Velcro.
woodrup2
Chin rests – going to come in useful on those long alpine drags.
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Hi-vis rules for road touring.

RESTRAP & Woodrup

Mack Workshop

The last of the ‘carrying stuff’ companies was a one-man band. Jon ‘Mack’ of Mack Workshop makes bags in his garage to order. He’s not been going long, but had some tidy saddle rolls and the like on display. What caught our eye though was a simple zip up phone wallet – big enough to hold the stoopid-big iPhone 6 Plus. Simple, but surprisingly hard to find, so Tom bought one. Thanks Jon!

Being small means being flexible. Make stuff quickly and respond to what your customers ask you for.
Being small means being flexible. Make stuff quickly and respond to what your customers ask you for.
Proud owner of the world's most impractical phone? You'll be needing one of these...
Proud owner of the world’s most impractical phone? You’ll be needing one of these…

Mack Workshop

Middle of Nowhere

For us, a big part of riding bikes is getting to the middle of nowhere. This is obviously the case for Rebecca Kaye, who named her company, er, Middle of Nowhere. It started out as a way of collating (and curating) photographs that Rebecca found via Instagram that encapsulated the spirit of adventure by bike. Being a rather nifty designer, Rebecca has grown this into the opportunity to create some nattily branded products – jerseys, t-shirts, caps and bike bottles.

Photographic inspiration from around the world
Photographic inspiration from around the world
Not everything at the show had a remortgage-your-kidneys price tag. Plenty of nice take-home goodies too.
Not everything at the show had a remortgage-your-kidneys price tag. Plenty of nice take-home goodies too.

Middle of Nowhere

Findra

Findra makes beautiful wool clothing, as testified by the experiences of Singletrack’s testers – Jenn and Jac have been inseparable from their jerseys since Issue 96’s jersey test. Based in the Tweed Valley, Alex of Findra is a mountain biker at heart, with a background in clothing design. This shines through in her designs, which look as fit for the catwalk as they are the North Shore. With summer on its way, the Trail T is a ‘Coolwool’ merino/Coolmax blend, which should keep riders comfortable in the famous tropical heat found in Scotland…

The Trail T is available in two colours. “Purple” (*Findra might have a proper name for it. It was a purply plum to our eyes though)…
The Trail T is available in two colours. “Purple” (*Findra might have a proper name for it. It was a purply plum to our eyes though)…
...and green, as modelled by Alex the designer.
…and green, as modelled by Alex the designer.
Made. In. Scotland. Neck warmers.
Made. In. Scotland. Neck warmers.
Proper colours. We want boys’ cut please!
Proper colours. We want boys’ cut please!

Findra

Chris King/Cielo

Over in the main hall, Chris King/Cielo had a huge stand. Mr King himself was spotted mulling around, but we were so entranced by the rainbow of shiny things, we might have missed him…

Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue. I can sing a... [Please don't.]
Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue. I can sing a… [Please don’t.]

chrisking.com

Vulpine

Back in the early 90, when purple anodising and fluorescent paint jobs were cool (hang on…), Dave Hemming was one of those riders seemingly forever doing cool stuff in the magazines. He now works behind the scenes at Vulpine, encouraging bike shops to peddle its fine wares.

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Vulpine had a few bits of clothing on display. This highly vented waterproof looks just the thing for spring and autumn rides.

Dave brought a special bike along to the Vulpine stand, and told us the story behind it. It was restored and built by the late, great (and Bristol local) Steve Worland, Singletrack contributor and bike industry legend. Dave planned to buy it from Steve before he died suddenly last year. They never got to complete the sale, but Steve’s partner Jo found the email trail between them, and encouraged Dave to take the bike and ride it. A nice story that encapsulates how wonderful the simple act of riding can be, and the friendships it can forge.

Man and bike, Dave and Steve’s Viking Ian Steel
Man and bike, Dave and Steve’s Viking Ian Steel
The story.
The story.

For the full story behind the bike, visit the Vulpine blog.

And on that note, we think it’s time for a ride. Or at the very least another contemplative coffee…


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