Built in Scotland and still small-scale, Shand switched to building production bikes in 2011 after eight years building one-off custom frames. The Columbus steel-boned Bahookie is its do-it-all trail bike.
This gearbox-toting version is one of three - it's also available as a carbon-forked singlespeed or conventionally-geared hardtail - but with interchangeable dropouts, an eccentric bottom bracket and even a split rear triangle, the scope for drivetrain and fork customisation is unlimited. The 44mm headtube means it takes any fork steerer you care to poke at it, and it even has internal routing for Stealth-style dropper posts.
The last point is good news, because despite its utilitarian aspects the Bahookie is a fun bike with a playful feel. Ours had a 27.2mm post shimmed to fit the 31.6mm seat tube, and its inherent extra flex -combined with chunky 2.25in back tyre, a pliant rear triangle and Shand's own Charge Spoon-like saddle - made the Bahookie a surprisingly comfy place to be. That shim and bolted seat collar made dropping and raising the saddle awkward, however. It's a misfit with this spec, whose well-damped 100mm RockShox Reba fork and aggressively treaded Schwalbe tyres encourage descending silliness.
The 2.25in rear Nobby Nic is a bit toothier than necessary, though it's Schwalbe's harder Pacestar rubber so rolling speed and wear rates are at least maximised. You'd struggle to get anything bigger than this in anyway, as clearance is already noticeably tight at the back.
Note that since this review was written, the stays on the Bahookie have been tweaked to provide greater clearance and will now accept a 2.35 tyre comfortably.
The Hans Dampf on the front is specced in the softer Trailstar compound for great all-round grip, and to be fair it's not just this and suspension egging you on, the frame does too. And that's despite the Rohloff Speedhub giving the bike a very rearwards weight balance that detracts from techy-trail popping and hopping.
Despite a steep 70-degree head angle the Bahookie is pretty stable even at speed, while the longish front (624mm toptube) and fairly tight 442mm chainstays put you in a good place when the tyres start to slide. It drifts through corners predictably, showing little desire to tuck that big 29in front wheel under itself.
At the other end of the scale, rear rack mounts and three sets of bottle mounts make it long-trip friendly, and the Rohloff hub gearing keeps all those delicate moving parts beyond the reach of mud, water or collisions. The twin-cabled gripshift takes more effort and movement than triggers, but the 14 ratios offer a good range and shifts are mostly silent and very rapid.
The spec, as you might hope given the price, is lovely. Shimano XT brakes, Chris King headset, Middleburn cranks, Thomson bars... It's high-quality componentry that will last, and its high-end Niobium steel chassis will make you smile. Until, perhaps, you look at that £980 frame-only price. The Bahookie has the style, character and ability to make you smile whenever you get on it - if you can afford it.
So it turns out that even choosing a simple bike isn't really simple. And if you equate 'simple' with 'usable,' there's such a thing as too simple. Cannondale's Trail singlespeed is the exact point where low weight and minimal clutter cease to pay off, at least in terms of performance. Like going to the moon, you should choose to do it not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
At the other end of the scale, we really struggled to choose between the Genesis and the Shand for the win. The Genesis is fun, useful, surprisingly modern, rugged and cheap. You really can't go wrong with it, and it's unlikely to go wrong on you. Eventually though the Shand just pipped it thanks to its huge versatility with drivetrains and forks, its abundant and highly customisable style and the fact it's a fun thing to ride almost anywhere.
If you want to know more than we can tell you here about the ethos of Shand Cycles, take a look at the ‘Chasing the Hare‘ video on its website. The bike we have is a new version of its most popular bike, the Stoater, which can he built in various versions, each expressing a different bias in the road and trail sentiment that drives most of Shands creations. Frame builder Steven Shand tells us that the idea of the Stoater is to create “something that’s versatile and that you can ride all year round on loads of different terrain”. With its Bushnell eccentric bottom bracket and unique split rear dropout set- up, you can opt for a belt drive, Rohloff hub gear, single gear, standard drivetrain or through axle.
The mainframe tubing is fillet-brazed Reynolds 853, beautifully smooth at the joins and finished in a tough deep glossy overcoat that sits over two primers and under two coats of lacquer. The graphics are part of the paint finish rather than separate decals and every frame comes with a cast pewter head badge that simply states ‘Shand Scotland’. The seat and chainstays use Columbus tubes and the replaceable modular aluminium dropouts and disc brake mount are clamped to the stainless steel links between the seatstays and the chainstays using five hex bolts. The seat clamp slot faces forward, out of the spray.
Cable routing for full outer cables all the way uses aluminium cradles hex-key bolted under the down tube, and there are bolted eyelets for two bottle cages, mudguards and a rack. Also, because the frame is designed with lots of mud drop-through room behind the bottom bracket, there’s a threaded eyelet for a mudguard on the rear of the seat tube. The Wound Up carbon fork has 'guard eyelets too, although ‘standard’ frameset builds come with Shand’s own steel fork. There’s a choice of build kits with complete bikes, or you could opt for a frame alone in a standard or custom form and with a choice of colours. Prices obviously vary depending on what you choose but expect to pay just over the £1,200 mark for a frame alone.
If you’re unsure about the cyclocross bias of this particular Stoater, there’s an FT (Fat Tyre) version available with room for medium-sized 29in mountain bike treads. You could fit bigger tyres on this one too, although fatter than 38mm may be a little too close for comfort between the chainstays.
Our test had 35mm Continental Cyclocross Speed tyres fitted to its Stan‘s ZTR lron Cross rimmed wheels. The drivetrain was Shimano 105 plus an XT rear mech, brakes were TRP twin piston cable pull Spyres, stem, seatpost and saddle from Ritchey and the wide, flared, ‘love or hate’ drop bar was from Salsa.
With a 71.5° head angle and 72° at the seat, both the Stoater and the Stoater FT are slightly more relaxed than Shand’s Skinnymalinky road bike. Compared to typical off-the-peg carbon or aluminium framed ’cross bikes, the quality steel tubes ensure that it’s also surprisingly comfy on all but the most demanding trails. The precise, no-flutter performance of the Wound Up fork nicely complements the smooth, tight and lively ride of the frame, but we were slightly perturbed by the small amount of toe overlap onto the front tyre in tight turns.
In theory that can be sorted by swinging the bottom bracket further back in its eccentric shell but with the Shimano 105 cranks and chainstay set up, the clearances were not enough to do this on our pre-production sample. Shand says this will be sorted on the next bikes . . . good to hear, as curved-in chainstays will help with heel clearance too.
Comfort on a cyclocross bike will obviously always be more limited than on a fatter-tyred mountain bike, but you can ride a bike like the Stoater surprisingly fast over rough ground with 35mm tyres run at around 4opsi: running them tubeless is a big help in terms of avoiding pinch flats. Some riders find the big fare of the Salsa Cowbell handlebar a help with control, others find additional cross-top brake levers on the flat tops of the bar more useful for braking on tricky terrain. Either way, curvy bars on an off-road bike are a love/hate thing at best, with a strong emphasis on making the most of the hand positions and easily-won speed of the bike on the mild terrain in between tougher trail sections. The Stoater is a great bike for mixed terrain, is very capable of hauling luggage on long tours and is the perfect other bike for mountain bikers who don't necessarily feel the need to hurl themselves down rocky drops at every opportunity.
If the British Cycling scene has changed a huge amount in the elite sphere, there has been almost as much of a revolution at grassrootes level. 'I do still pinch myself when I see so many riders everywhere,' admits Hoy. As if to prove the point, a gardener had earlier spotted Hoy and began discussing his love of bikes, in between trimming a hedge. This wasn’t always the case, even for the sport’s big stars. ‘Twenty years ago people might know Chris Boardman, that’s it. Now most people could easily name six cyclists.’
Today Hoy has also brought along a bespoke steel keirin bike built for him by Scottish bike-maker Shand. Hoy developed the geometry, Shand worked its magic, and the bike was completed with a Dura-Ace chainset, a Thompson stem and Nitto bars and post. Hoy’s name is printed in Japanese on the top tube – or so he thinks. ‘It might just say “Gullible Scotsman”,’ he laughs. As we chat, Hoy makes regular admiring glances at the bike propped up in the pub, alongside his impressive pimped up Sa Calobra. ‘Seeing that bike was genuinely my first “wow” for a long while,’ he says, clearly besotted. ‘I loved the design process because it got me back in love with bikes again. For a while, a bike became a tool to do my job on the track. It wasn’t a bike, it was just a series of components that were constantly replaced. Now I have that bond again. I remember as a kid stripping down a bike, leaving it spotless and then sitting on my bed looking at it. I have the same feeling now with my own bikes’. Hoy takes another proud peek at his bike. ‘It’s funny, isn’t it? That you become so attached to a lump of metal. But I love it.’
Shand refer to their Stoater as a go-anywhere adventure road bike. The low-maintenance Rohloff/Gates drivetrain is a great choice for that role. The Rohloff is a self-contained l4-speed hub with a legendary reputation for withstanding mileages into the tens of thousands between servicing. The downside is extra weight over a derailleur set-up, and with most of it around the rear axle it does have an effect on the ride dynamics.
Even so, the Stoater’s ride is simply superb. The Reynolds 853 steel tubeset feels alive springy, in a good way. That the Stoater brings out this character so clearly is testament to the very high standard of Shand’s frame building. This bike revels in technical trails and especially on rough, gravel surfaces. Once we adjusted to the rear bias we had loads of fun on it.
The handling perfectly balances responsive steering with floating over the worst surfaces. On tarmac it’s well mannered and direct, on dirt it’s smooth yet controlled.
The latest Gates belt drive is an ideal partner to the Rohloff hub to make a very clean and ultra-low maintenance drivetrain. Unlike earlier systems this latest Gates uses a Centre-Track belt with a solid ridge through the centre of both the chainring and the sprocket. It means it's impossible for the belt to slide off and initial set-up is easier.
The 14 gears offer a spread of 526 per cent or a top gear that's 5.26 times bigger than the lowest. Each gear is equally spaced, so it feels very smooth. It’s similar to a compact drivetrain and we never found ourselves wanting for an extra gear, even on the toughest of climbs. Rohloff’s standard shifter only fits flat bars so Shand have used an aftermarket Co-Motion grip shifter mounted next to the stem. It has a large CNC-machined knurled grip that works brilliantly with the hub. It’s easy to shift, though it is a little rough without gloves. It also means you can’t shift from the hoods or drops so it isn’t the best option for fast riders.
TRP’s dual-action cable disc brakes continue to impress us and suit this bike: powerful, quiet and with plenty of feel at the lever, too.
We can’t finish without mentioning just how well finished the frame is; the welds are silky smooth throughout and the deep richness of the paint left us staring in wonder at its incredible quality. Shand should take serious pride in just how good this bike looks. It’s as impressive as any artisan builder’s work that we’ve seen anywhere in the world.
Verdict: 9/10 Go-anywhere bike with great style, character and ride fee.
Scottish bike manufacturer Shand Cycles creates built-to-order flagship bikes, as well as providing bespoke frames. Then there's that collaboration with Sir Chris Hoy….
Customers don’t come much more high profile than the UK's greatest Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy - even more so for a Scottish bicycle manufacturer. This summer Shand Cycles collaborated with Hoy on a new hand-built keirin track bike with a prototype frame that was designed to the Olympian’s exact specifications.
Based in Livingston, just outside Edinburgh, Shand Cycles has been making bikes for 11 years. Around 18 months ago, Steven Shand and his business partner Russell Stout were approached by James Olsen, a designer for Evans Cycles who works with Hoy Bikes, with the idea for them to launch a hand-built track model into their range.
Initially, Shand was sceptical as to how much the former rider would be involved, yet he found Hoy had a very hands-on approach. “He was very enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable,” said Shand. “He came to the workshop and knew to the nearest half a millimetre where his handlebars were in relation to his saddle, as well as some technical aspects.”
The fact that the duo is Scottish made the project all the more fitting. “Chris used to race BMX half a mile from where our workshop is in Livingston," Shand added. A start date for the production of the Hoy- Shand project is yet to be confirmed, but Shand isn't just about making bikes for Olympians. The company began in 2003, building bikes part-time. “I was working out of a workshop that was joined onto the outside of my house, only building 20 bikes a year,” he explained. “We were making all kinds of bikes. Every bike was a complete project, different, made to measure.
Shand and Stout formed a partnership, moved to bigger premises and relaunched the brand in 2011. Today, the business is split in two; a "production" range of two flagship bikes all built to order, and a totally bespoke frame-building service. The Stoater is its bestselling production model, which also comes in a Rohloff hub-compatible version, combining off-road and cyclo-cross DNA with a road bike. It's described as “a fun, fast bike that’s also versatile with 35mm tyres, mudguards and disc brakes The Skinnymalinky is a performance bike with quick geometry to which you can fit mudguards and 28mm tyres and ride all year long.
“In Scotland if you have a good bike and a winter bike, you're riding your winter bike 10 months of the year,” said Shand. “Why can’t you have a nice bike that’s practical?" The company now employs six fulltime staff and is planning to launch a clothing range with a soon-to-be-unveiled Scottish designer.
“The main thing that we focus on is simplicity. Shand explained. “We'll step back and look at a bike and say, ‘Does it really need that detail?’ Less is undeniably more. It’s about not putting things on bikes that really don’t need to be there."
Japanese keirin racing played a big part in Sir Chris Hoy's career [his wins include two Olympic keirin golds and three Worlds golds], and the Shand/Hoy bike is a tribute to his love of it. For the prototype, Hoy had his name written in Japanese on the top tube, next to six gold rings, and one silver, to celebrate his Olympic medals. Hoy chose Reynolds and Columbus tubing, a Dura-Ace chainset, Nitto bars, Thomson stem, and it's finished with hand-built wheels, Dura Ace hubs and Mavic Reflex rims.
Society members can be curious creatures. following their noses on a never-ending quest for the next great whisky experience. Their passion is based on an adventurous spirit. combined with a respect for quality and authenticity in the product.
If they rode a bike. then. It would likely be a Stoater. Or maybe a Skinnymalinky.
The curiously named creations come from the Scottish bike builder Shand Cycles, which crafts hand-built steel-framed bikes to order from their base around 20 miles west of Edinburgh.
The production line is small. But efficient. Founder Steven Shand had been crafting bikes by himself from his home workshop. but expanded operations after Russell Stout joined the business in 2011. The company now hire full-time staff and produces around 150 complete bikes a year.
Every part of the process is carried out in-house, from taking, the Reynolds and Columbus steel tubing to the filler brazing, filing, wheel building and even the customised painting for every bike.
For both Shand and Stout, the bikes were born out of a desire to be able to go wherever they wanted without needing a whole shed full of different Models to choose from.
“It’s hard to put any particular label on our bikes, l but more than anything they are inspired by. the Scottish landscape,” says Shand. “We sometimes take it for granted, but we’re fortunate here that we have free access to tracks and paths across the country, and I think that has influenced us, even subconsciously.
“We like the idea that you’re out for a ride on a Sunday morning and you see this track disappearing off across the hills, and you’re curious about where it goes. We wanted to build a good-quality bike which gives you the freedom to satisfy that curiosity.”
With that in mind, Shand bikes are built with the realities of the Scottish roads and paths, with clearance for fatter tyres, mudguards and a rack to carry your bits and pieces. To them, staying true to the landscape they know and the kind of cycling they do is at the heart of their creations.
“Some bike brochures show people riding their road bikes over super smooth tarmac and the gentle rolling hills of California, and that might be great to look at it, but it doesn’t make any sense and seems slightly dishonest,” says Shand.
“Truth here is: the weather’s terrible, the roads are rubbish, so why would you buy a bike you can’t put mudguards on or you can’t put fatter tyres on? I think people appreciate that and see through some of that marketing nonsense.”
Like in the whisky world. people are increasingly concerned with authenticity and provenance in everything they buy - a fact of which Shand is actutely aware.
“Provenance is important, and knowing who’s making it,” said Stout. “People are interested in buying a product from people, not just a company. For us that’s about remaining a small business, where customers can speak directly to the person who’s building their bike, or brazing the tubing, or who’s about to paint it. There’s a direct connection to the product they’re buying.”
And some customers end up with a very special paint job – recently, Shand produced a one-off track bike for Sir Chris Hoy, complete with six gold bands and one silver on the top tube to illustrate his standing as the UK’s most successful Olympic athlete.
“It’s pretty cool to see Sir Chris riding a bike we built,” says Shand. “He was very involved from the start, he came to see us and was detailed about what he wanted, right down to selecting the Columbus steel tubing that he likes from bikes he rode 10 years ago. It wasn’t just about having his name on the down tube.”
Despite their foray into a fixed-gear track bike, Shand and Stout say they are unlikely to add a similar model to their range.
“We are passionate about what we do, but it needs to be something that we understand and we believe in, and track cycling is not particularly our thing,” says Shand. “We like to do one thing and do it well, and not risk diluting our distinct flavour and character. So for the time being that means focusing on the Stoater and the Skinnymalinky.”
And it also means taking their time. The wait for a Shand bike is currently about 10 weeks, which means the typical customer -– like the Society drinker – is Someone who appreciates that good things in life require a little patience.
“You could walk into a high street bike shop and ride away with a bike straight away,” says Shand. “But I suppose like a master blender, we’re taking a less-hurried approach. If you don’t understand or appreciate the context then it’s hard to justify the expense.
“Our customers share our passion for how these constituent ingredients come together to become so much more than the sum of their parts.”