The day began much like any other. That is to say early. My body clock has come to this position over the years of being a dad, and of course a cyclist – who doesn’t love an early morning ride on roads free of much of the traffic that later swell to fill almost every square inch of asphalt. This time however was not for a ride through the lanes around Burton, Ripe, Midhurst, etc, nor was it to watch (another) episode of “Blaze and the Monster Machines” at an ungodly hour. This time I was off to that there London to visit the country’s biggest bike show, the rather perfectly titled London Bike Show.
The show is based in ExCel in the east of the capital, near the Millennium Dome or whatever it’s called these days. It’s a huge complex that on entering feels like you’re in an airport as the noodle bars and burrito shops border tables and chairs in a space that’s ceiling is so high you could probably park a 747 in it quite comfortably.
As the venue is the other side of the city to where my train terminated – a rather excellent piece of fortune on my behalf – I decided I would ride my singlespeed from Victoria to ExCel, it’d be interesting and novel to jaunt across London. I consulted Strava and planned a route that would see me enjoying the purpose-built cycle lanes pretty much from starting point to destination, and back. And enjoy it I did. It was great to feel included, that my (and all the other cyclists that use it) safety had been considered important enough to build this infrastructure, and not, as displayed like so many other councils (specifically West Sussex’s) an after-thought, a cursory offering of some “magic” paint, installing a shared usage sign on a pavement or (more often the case) just doing nothing.
I arrived at the venue and locked my bike up in the free bike parking by the main entrance – thankfully it was a dry day as it was open to the elements – and wandered in. I got myself a coffee , because you do, don’t you, and entered the hall. This place was vast. Not only was this room hosting the London Bike Show (LBS) but there was also the Triathlon Show and the Travel Show, from whom I got some pretty nice goodies including, rather weirdly, some dried spaghetti and a box of chocolates. As I was only really interested in the LBS though I quickly made my way to the far side of the hall and planned my attack.
There was so much to look at, get involved in and learn about that it was a bit daunting at first. I decided to walk down the aisle nearest me and was immediately captured by what I think was probably the most beautiful bike on display there, the Granule crit inspired steel race bike. This beauty required 60 hours to make the frame and then some amount of time (probably less) to ask Land Rover to let Granule use their special navy blue paint, complete with sparkle to adorn said frame. The fork paint job is a work of art; the outside of which has a blue, black and white camo print, and the inside features a fade of pink through orange as it goes further up towards the head tube; the orange tying up wonderfully with the orange Chris King headset and stem cap. Great detailing and a clear love for the craft of making stunning bikes on display that you’d be hard pressed to see bettered.
After some aimless strolling around I came across the new Factor One. First impressions were impressive, complete with it’s holed out, or rather “twin “ downtube. It looked very fast and was definitely getting a lot of attention. Aero, it seems, is still high up on people’s “desire list” and manufacturers are looking at more and more ways of delivering that. Another example of this creative way of delivering aero is the Simplon Pride, with it’s stem that looks like it’s had a scoop taken clean out of it. This plus the fully-internal cabling from shifters to mechs and disc brakes made this bike look incredibly clean.
A few things really caught my eye, such as the North Road gravel bike that fixed a Wolf Tooth 40T chainring to a Shimano 105 crankset, and had an attachment on the mech hanger that meant you could run a 40T cassette on a 105 rear mech. There was also Tailfin, a company that offer a really quick-to-install pannier rack that simply clips to your saddle post and into your QR skewer, they reckon you can do it in just 16 seconds! It looks pretty cool too.
Other things that caught my, and in some cases my heart, were the pair of Festkas – who doesn’t go weak at the knees for a Festka? The 1x road bike displayed by Field, which looked great and had some much more traditional, and might I say, appealing lines that the 3T frame used by the Aqua Blue team, and some really beautifully crafted titanium bikes from Guillem. Not to mention the rarity of an independent bike manufacturer who also make their own carbon wheels – Mach 7, based in Oxfordshire.
Gawping at bikes is always a great way to spend a few hours, and this was no exception. I really enjoyed seeing the bikes, chatting to the makers and independent brands, seeing what was out there and what might be coming along. I was struck by a few things – at £6 for a cheese and tomato sandwich the food on offer was way too pricey, so if you plan on going next year take your own grub; the area in which guests presented wasn’t away from the main hall, rather it was located right in the middle of it so hearing things clearly could be an issue if you’re stuck at the back; some of the aisles are pretty narrow, so be ready to apologise a lot if you’re wearing a backpack.
Bikes of the show: