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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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…
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.
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.
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…