After three years at Earls Court, the event seems now a firmly established season’s end affair, a fixture in the calendar for all kinds of cyclists to come together check out the 2011 products, mingle, eat pizza, drink coffee and maybe spot the odd cycling celeb or two. The wares on show exemplified British cycling culture’s currently diverse gene pool, with an intoxicating array of shiny and new from manufacturers large and small, new and long established.
Although ‘bikes for sport’ were well represented, it was the ‘everyday cycling’ category which claimed the lion’s share of the floor-space; an encouraging sign (if the market is an accurate barometer) that cycling is once again heading into the mainstream. It would seem that the combined effects of infrastructural improvements such as Cycling Superhighways and London Bike Hire, combined with the inspirational effects of Team Sky and GB’s heroics, plus the have-a-go camaraderie of Sky Ride has once more positioned the bicycle on the national psyche’s cool wall. A decade ago cycling was largely divided into three camps; Lycra and Oakleys for the road, Baggies and Body Armour off-road, and Socks and Sandals for everyday riders. However, it would seem that from the explosion of ‘lifestyle’ bikes and accoutrements that dominated at Cycle 2010, riding a bike is now officially the dapper way to get around.
Few could have missed Cooper Bikes’ range of tasteful, nicely finished retro road bikes. Lending the name and 1960s kudos of motor racing’s guru John Cooper. The range included single speeds, fixed gear bikes and bikes featuring Sturmey Archer’s re-invigorated internal hub gears, controls and repro chainsets. Cool Brittania bikes for a great British renaissance in cycling?
The homegrown theme continued on Pashley Cycles stand. And rather than the brand engineered ‘heritage’ of Cooper’s undoubtedly nice offerings, Pashley’s ‘handmade in Stratford-upon- Avon since 1926′ range had the image and the DNA to go with it. Highlights on their stand were the Clubman models, fine everyday road bikes using lugged 531 and beautiful repro components. These machines were showed last year in prototype form – it’s gladdening that they’ve made it into full production. Also on show on the Pashley stand was a Guv’nor (Pashley’s faithful ‘path bike’ replica) sporting narrower semi drop bars and Sturmey Archer’s new bar end controls. But could anything sum up the great British cycling renaissance better than Pashley’s Brittania range of step through town bikes, available in any colour you like, as long as it’s Red, White or Blue.
It wasn’t just the smaller niche manufacturers who’ve tuned into this everyday biking revival. The big guns were at it too. Specialized’s Globe sub-brand, which has been around for a few years, has spawned a whole range of stylish but highly practical load hauling bikes, with either big front loading racks (like porteur bikes of old) or extended rear stays (in the modern cargo bike mode).
Akin to this revival in cool bikes for urbanites was a big emphasis on the bespoke. New to the UK, German manufacturer Patria’s range of town and touring bikes was infinitely customisable, featuring only the best components from the likes of Tubus, Rolhoff and Magura, all hung around high quality, durable lugged steel frames. Similarly Brompton are it seems a permanent fixture at the show and have long been wise to the allure of the ‘build your perfect bike’ concept. And to embellish your bespoke British folding bike, what better than one of Brompton’s new leather attaché cases?
Paligap (importer of Kona cycles) also showcased their BREV range of components for the still buoyant fixie market, which majored on powder-coated and anodised bars, hubs, chainrings and other trinkets. Again, manufacturers seem keen to fulfil a hungry market’s appetite to express themselves through their bikes.
Now, cynics might view the sudden emergence of this iPad generation of cyclists as a worrying trend; style over substance; a dearth of expensive designer bikes that don’t follow the race-replica sag-wagon. However, one might argue that the beautiful to use and own everyday bicycles on show at Cycle 2010 are a sign that the cycling landscape is changing, and mainstream buyers are placing real value on beautiful, practical, long lasting bikes that are a pleasure to own, covet and use.
Note: This feature first appeared on http://www.britishcycling.org.uk