If you’ve been following our social media you may have seen some posts with the #hackbikederby hashtag and wondered what it’s all about. Well wonder no more as all was revealed at the Bespoked handbuilt bike show in Bristol and is probably best explained by watching the short film by Alex Rankin above.
Our very own Matt Stitt was representing with his own klunker creation built to Hack Bike Derby rules. The crazy idea for the project came from Andrew Denholm of the Bicycle Academy and 17 UK frame builders took part over the very cold and wet weekend in February. It was also sponsored by Bell Helmets, Bontrager and Break Fluid Coffee.
Once again we headed south to Bristol for the 6th incarnation of Bespoked, the UK’s hand-built bike show. We love the show as it’s more than just bikes, but more a get-together of like-minded people with little distinction between visitors and exhibitors – just people into bikes in all their different guises.
The show this year was as excellent as ever with a different mix of exhibitors and we were delighted to pick up awards for Best Gravel Bike (supported by Grix CX) and Best Touring Bike (supported by the CTC). We were also awarded at the end of the show (jointly with Sven and Dear Susan), the Public Vote (supported by Columbus) that was particularly special as all the bikes on show were basically what we make each and every day here in Livingston.
A big thanks to everyone who voted for us and if you haven’t been before, do make a note in the diary for April 2017 as it’s great weekend for any lover of two wheels.
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The feeling of dejection was total as we sat on the platform waiting for the 09:50 train to Milan. We’d been on the road for a week, but any thought of reaching Istanbul was over as I texted race director Mike Hall to say we’d scratched. We’d actually made the decision 12 hours earlier, but after giving it one last go we knew our hearts just weren’t in it.
As we sat in the sunshine we reflected on the enormity of the previous days. It was difficult to comprehend how far we’d come, having embarked on the mad dash from the flatlands of Belgium to the very western edge of Asia. However, for us this year’s Transcontinental Race was not to be.
The race started at midnight on the legendary Muur van Geraardsbergen with cowbells, flaming torches and rowdy towns folk, as Fraser, myself and 173 other riders headed into the night, unsure of what exactly lay ahead. Our heads full of apprehension in our ability to reach the ‘Bull before the official finishing party in 14 days time.
The first nights’ riding was relatively uneventful and after an hour’s snooze in a churchyard around 5am, we were woken by rain and in no time it was bucketing down. Back on the road, we were nearing the French border when I managed to slip, crashing to the ground closely followed by Fraser riding over the top of me. As it was wet, we had on all our gear that saved the worst of injury, but I was pretty beat up with deep gravel rash to my knee and backside, a grizzly puncture wound to my forearm and a badly staved thumb. Fraser was not fairing too well either with a pulled achilles, aggravating an old injury. We patched ourselves up and continued sore but in one piece and were relieved to reach our target for the day with the first 300km and 20 hours of riding in the bag.
A few more long days brought us towards the first checkpoint on the summit of Mont Ventoux. Our planned schedule had us climbing early morning, but as we were now a half-day behind schedule we expected an uncomfortable ascent in afternoon heat compounded by 150km in the legs. Slowly we ground our way up the notoriously climb and enjoyed the sense of relief in reaching the summit, rewarded by spectacular views and kind words of support from the checkpoint team. Inevitably, what goes up must come down and we had further rewards careering through pinewood forests in the early evening sun to Sault, Frasers superior descending skills leaving me for dead on the corners.
By now the cracks were starting to show with hands and backside raw from 14-hour days on the bike, further compounded by injuries from the crash. All the time the race clock was ticking and we knew we were falling behind schedule and it would be difficult if not impossible to make up time.
We reached checkpoint 2 the next night after riding through spectacular landscapes with mountains growing more and more impressive as we pushed further into the Alps. The climbing was hard but it was good to be away from the dull monotony of rolling farmland and to have the scenery and change of pace take the mind off physical discomfort. Arriving at Sestriere around 10pm another TCR checkpoint team were in the hotel lobby to greet us and stamp our carnets. Mike Hall happened to be there too and I had a quick chat about how things were going and he cautioned about the Strada dell-Assieta that lay ahead the next day, telling tales of punctures and general carnage. I thought too I could detect concern he might have made this year’s race just a little too hard… The hotel had kindly put on rooms at discounted rates, so after scoffing some pizza nearby, we made use of the luxury to get clean, replace dressings and get a good sleep for the day ahead. A pleasant change from roughing it in a bivi bag.
We were up early and after stuffing faces (and pockets) from the breakfast buffet, we wheeled our bikes into the cool mountain air and towards the Strada. In no time we were off paved road and onto gravel winding through sweet scented pine trees onto the old military road than runs along the high alpine ridge from Sestriere to Susa. The views were spectacular and we took delight in skipping along unpaved roads similar to our favourites in Scotland. However, the fun was short lived and as we descended the 2,000m towards the valley below, our spirits sank as the heat became oppressive and we knew we were in for a long and tedious slog across northern Italy. The headwind had picked up too and as the adrenalin of the morning faded, we returned to flat monotony and aches and pains as we rolled through agricultural flatlands and industrial towns and cities.
By now we knew there was no chance of reaching the finishing party in time and we’d also be cutting it fine to catch our flight home. It called for drastic action so decided we’d miss the Vokovar checkpoint 3 in Croatia and take a ferry to Montenegro. Two ferry crossings across the Adriatic were allowed in the race rulebook and although there’d be penalty for missing a checkpoint, we knew we’d effectively have abandoned the race. Out hearts were heavy as we deviated from our route, headed for Ancona and battling into wind and the dull monotony that comes from 15km stretches of flat, straight roads through fields of maize and mosquito infested drainage ditches. Monotony was compounded further after running out of GPS maps (I’d only installed enough map tiles to cover our planned route) so now there was no virtual targets on the GPS screen to play mind games with – which is about all you can do when focusing on pedal stroke for hours on end, and regularly changing hand and seat position to ease discomfort.
And so came the night of our decision to quit, sitting on the terrace of a gelateria café, drenched from another of the thunderstorms that had followed the continental heat wave. We had covered just under 1,800kms, but there didn’t feel much point in carrying on if we couldn’t technically finish the race. Fraser had family he was missing deeply and I had commitments to think about too, so it was rather emotional to make the final decision – especially after months of training and the patience of loved ones, colleagues and supporters who neither of us wanted to let down. In the end, however, it came down to just the two of us as we shook hands and finished the box of jellybeans we’d been munching.
Josh Ibbett eventually won the 3rd Transcontinental race after riding 4,239km in an astonishing 10 days (9 days, 23 hours, 54 minutes to be exact). 175 Racers departed from the Muur van Geraardsbergen and with only half the field finishing, it proved to be a much tougher race than anyone expected.
It took a while to get over the disappointment in scratching, but as I’m writing this I received an email yesterday to say my application for 2016 has been accepted. The route for 2016 looks totally fantastic and with more mountains will take a very different race strategy with just as much commitment as before. An exciting prospect for sure.
We’d like to start the new year with a healthy order book, so if you place an order by 20 December 2015, you will be entered into a prize draw with the chance to win accessories and/or upgrades up to a value of £350 RRP.
This could be a combination of components, lighting, racks, dropper post – anything really that we have access to from our current suppliers.
Two prizes are being offered to two lucky customers, so if you’ve been thinking about placing an order, pick up the phone or send us a message!
The small print . . . The two winners will be announced on 21 December and names will be drawn from a list of customer orders placed between 23 November 2015 and midnight of 20 December 2015.