Interview: Medusa Cycles – Made In Manchester for Northern Grit

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Two beautiful gravel bikes caught my eye – or were they looking at me? – at Bespoked, Manchester. Their builder, Pete, talked me through them – and his many talents that lead them to be as they are. His bikes took both the Best Gravel Bike and People’s Choice Awards at the show.

Okay, I am here at the Medusa bike stand with Pete. And Pete, I think I’m going to call these gravel bikes, yes?

Yeah, more or less. They’re sort of based around the type of riding that I like to do, so as much off-road as I can do, but then if I find myself on a bit of a lane, then they’ll happily sort of be comfortable enough to ride, you know? Ride to the trail a little bit and head up the bridleway, ride along the lanes, you know? So yeah, gravel-ish.

Photo by Adam Gasson / Bespoked

Yeah, they’ve definitely got borderline mountain bike tyres going on in there. What’s the difference between the two bikes that’s on the show here?

There’s not so much difference. They are essentially the same design, just the sizing’s a little bit different. This one [grey] was made for a friend of mine who did my website, and this one [green/cream] is for me.

I’m a little bit shorter, so it’s a little bit of a shorter frame. The main difference really is that this one’s got a slightly longer back end, only by 5mm. The routing is a little bit different, just to sort of refine things a bit.

You could load them up in both the same way, so the grey one would take mudguards in the same way that this does. This one would take all the same bags, you know? There’s more similarities than differences, I would say.

Photo by Adam Gasson / Bespoked

And do they have a name, this model?

Yeah, I call it the Deca, which is 10 in Greek. It was the 10th design that I sort of was happy with. I have made changes since that 10th design, but I just sort of thought I need to stick to a name here, and that kind of worked.

Now, you don’t sound very Greek [Pete sounds very Northern!]. What’s with the Greek theme?

I just like Medusa. I like the sort of, if you could call her a goddess, the deity, or however you want to put it. I kind of like to make things that look a bit weird and a bit different, and she was a bit weird and different, so I kind of think it sort of goes together. So yeah, more or less that.

And where are you based?

I’m based in North Manchester, so pretty local to the show. When I saw that it was happening in Manchester, I thought that was sort of a good excuse just to sort of pull my finger out a bit and just, you know, get working hard.

Photo by Adam Gasson / Bespoked

What else do you make?

At the moment, just this. I’ve not been going very long. My brand is only a year old, and I’ve just been sort of trying to dial in a design that I’m happy with and I know that works.

But I’ve made touring bikes in the past, road bikes. I used to work as an apprentice, but I ended up wanting to do my own thing, you know? Like, there was never a bike out there that I thought suited my needs, and yes, I just wanted to sort of, yeah, do my own thing.

So you were an apprentice bike builder?

Yeah, I was for a little bit, yeah. I was working at another shop in Manchester. It’s still there. It’s called Butterfield Bicycles. He sort of specialises mostly in touring frames. When he was younger, he used to do a lot of touring, and he rode through Africa and all kinds of cool places.

So yeah, that was his passion, and to be honest, I love touring as well, so it kind of worked well for a while. But I wanted a little bit more freedom, and built my own workshop.

And this is what we get. So given freedom, you’ve gone for a really interesting elevated chainstay design. How come you went with that?

Well, I wanted to shorten the back end. We don’t really have these nice switchback climbs here, intead it really steep and slippery, or loose and wet, you know? And I found that riding bikes with longer chainstays, I’d be there riding along, feeling like I’ve got the strength to get up these hills, but then my back wheel would be slipping out. So I wanted to keep things short, but still have all the tyre clearance that I needed. Without having to use a yoke, this seemed like a good option to keep the back end short and as stiff as possible, especially with all the extra bits that I’ve added to keep stiffness up.

I have to say, I do like it. And I like the little eyes on the joins too. Is that another Greek reference?

The coin thing is sort of, but that was mainly because I had an open tube, and I didn’t really want to just have a hole there, so I was like, how can I cover that up in an interesting way? So I had some coins made, which I brazed on, just to sort of block that tube and have something else just to seal it. I’d seen Italian builders using a little medal kind of coin design on some of their fork crowns, so I kind of nicked that idea, but made my own.

It’s basically, you’ll see the beer mats here, it’s that same design, if you look closely you’ll see it’s the same thing. And then again here, where the chainstay attaches, I didn’t just want a flat bit of empty space. I’ve done a lot of painting by trade in various forms, and I thought that was an excuse just to put a little painting on there.

Oh, so those are hand-painted on by you?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Oh, very nice. Okay, I hadn’t realised that. Lovely. Even better. And then it’s got dynamo routing in there as well, is that right?

Yeah, yeah. So it all runs through the top tube from the fork. I’ve raised in a little guide tube which runs up the seatstay there and into the top tube, just to sort of make life a bit easier with routing.

I’m a mechanic as well, I don’t just do this – yet. I’m not making any money yet, as pretty much with everyone else here, I would have thought. I’m also a full-time mechanic, and the bain of my life is bikes that aren’t routed, or got good enough routing solutions, so I’ve spent a bit of time getting the stainless tube in there just to make things easier. I chose the same sort of thing with the brake line routing and the shift outer there.

Okay, and so if you’re a mechanic and you know the things that are annoying, presumably these mudguards somehow fit more easily than others, do they?

Yeah, I’d say they do. They’ve got quite a lot of adjustment. To be honest, I will tolerate a difficult to mount of mudguards because of the benefits you get from them! These aren’t coming off. They did take a bit of putting on there, so once they’re on, they’re on. I live in Manchester as well, so you’re going to need them all year round, really! I was happy to spend a little bit of time chopping down the stays and getting them to fit right. I’ve not really got any intention of taking them off.

Okay, and is there anything else about the bike that’s come from your experience as a mechanic that you’re trying to improve life for people?

Let me think now. Well, I’ve got my little rubbing strips on the head tube.

I just noticed that. Yeah, I was like, hang on a minute, what’s that?!

I’ve taken inspiration from other frame builders who do that, but it always seemed like a nice option. My prototype didn’t have that, and it rubbed a lot of the paint off where the cables sit, so I thought it would be nice to preserve that paint job a bit, so I brazed those rubbing strips on. It’s not such a mechanical thing, but I think it helps with the look of the bike after a long bit of usage.

Yeah, I’ve not seen that before, actually, and it’s absolute genius. And is there anything else about the bike that you think I should know?

Well, the one on the back is brush painted. So I don’t have a spray booth. I did an apprenticeship years ago. I’ve done a lot of random little trades here and there trying to figure out what I’m going to do…

You’re a man of many talents, I have to say!

So years ago, I was an apprentice traditional coach painter, so I learned to use a brush with all the enamel, brushing enamel, that kind of thing. When I built the frame, I thought, well, how am I going to paint this now? Because I’m a bit anal with the paint anyway, I didn’t really trust just sending it off to a painter. So I thought, I’ll keep the cost down and I’ve got a bit more freedom. I know that it kind of works, so I painted that with a brush. It takes a long time.

It took me about a month to get that just painted – there’s so many stages and you have to do every bit right. So it’s something that I would maybe offer customers, but they have to be sort of expecting to wait somewhat longer.

Patient customers!

Yeah.

And then the other one, how’s that been painted?

This one was sprayed by a friend of mine. I used to work at Ribble in the paint shop and my friend, Rob Baker, he still works there. So I knew he was a good painter and I knew he can churn them out.

He does a good job quickly. He must have done a good job because I came runner up in best paint job the other night with the awards ceremony, so I told him that. He was pretty pleased with that! But yeah, so he sprayed that for me. I was running out of time basically, so I turned to him and I was like, please help me out. I’ve got less than a month for the show and I’ve still not painted it yet.

So this one’s got a bit of a different down tube design. This is the same as what I’ve got on my sign there. This is so that it can be masked out and sprayed quite easily.

The one on the other bike is brush painted, so I did that in a sign writing sort of way with the grey one. So this one’s a bit of a, it depends what sort of aesthetic you’re looking for. If you want the traditional look, then that’s the grey one. If you want a bit more of a conventional kind of looking thing, then I’d say that maybe that’s the one [the green one].

It’s still not that conventional though! They’re both beautiful. So how much would somebody expect to pay if they wanted the more conventional one, let’s say then?

About £3,500. There’s a lot of extra bits that take a lot of time as opposed to sort of your standard normal double diamond kind of frame. You know, the raised chainstay takes a lot of messing around. You get custom geometry with that. You get quite high quality material. I’m using Reynolds 853 tubing with it, which is quite nice stuff. There’s a lot of, you know, intricate routing going on there, so that takes time. You know, you get a custom paint job as well. Whatever colour you can think of, I can match that. I’ve got access to a lot of paint, so yeah, you’re getting something pretty bespoke.

Well, you sound like you’re trying to justify it! That price sounds fair to me! It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s also a practical thing. And yeah, designed in North Manchester is going to work around here. So yeah, it’s beautiful.

Thank you very much. Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot.

Bespoked 2024 – Victoria Baths, Manchester Medusa Photo by Adam Gasson / Bespoked
https://singletrackworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/07/bespoked-best-mtb-award-interview-craft-bikes

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Viewing 2 posts - 1 through 2 (of 2 total)
  • Interview: Medusa Cycles – Made In Manchester for Northern Grit
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    stingmered
    Full Member

    I don’t usually go in for the whole custom bike thing, and though I appreciate a ‘pretty’ bike (in the eye of the beholder) I more I see bikes as a utilitarian, get the job done type of thing. This however has really caught my eye. The whole aesthetic, the details, the story behind it, the fact they’re made a few miles down the road from me…. hmmmmm, big birthday coming up in a couple of years… hmmmmm… Anyway, well done Pete, this thing is a beaut. I really hope this is a success and you make (just) enough to keep you happy and sane!

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    Indeed they’re a lovely mix of form and function. ?

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