instagram icon
open nav

Bespoked 2024 Manchester: Our Four Favourite Finds

For our first international event coverage, Lew heads to Bespoked in Manchester. Dive into his journey as he discovers four standout innovations that rethink cycling experiences. From wooden bikes to 3D printed components, join us in celebrating the beauty and creativity behind Bespoked 2024.

Bespoked 2024 Manchester: Our Four Favourite Finds

Advancements in the cycling industry are seemingly never ending. Look back only thirty years and you'll find mountain bikers riding fully rigid bikes clad in skinsuits. Road bikes didn't have disc brakes until relatively recently, and most of us will remember a time without dropper seatposts. There's clearly a wealth of innovation happening and celebrating that is important.

But what about the little things that get lost in the announcements of new geometry and the coming of the universal derailleur hanger? What about the people who are behind the often overlooked beauty of smaller components, or even the people who are attempting just to do things a little differently? Well, Bespoked is one of cycling's premier events that caters to those people.

That's not to say innovation isn't showcased at Bespoked - quite the opposite in fact - but it's less a show of corporations and more a gathering of smaller, independent brands who can afford to dedicate time and energy into the finer things without having to answer to stakeholders and the inflation or decline in stock value.

So, when we heard that the UK leg of the bike show was happening in Manchester this year (in an old swimming baths, of all places), I managed to get in first and secure the tickets before the rest of the team had the chance to volunteer. The allure of meeting craftspeople who obsess over their art was more than enough to secure my attendance. And, as it turns out, I even got to hear about some of the cutting-edge technology behind some of the products.

Bespoked Background

For thirteen years, Bespoked Bike Show has been the place of pilgrimage for fans of the boutique, handcrafted, and—as the name suggests—bespoke. It's Europe's biggest and most well-attended celebration of frame builders. Over the two venues (Manchester and Dresden), Bespoked hosts ride-outs, premieres screenings of films, and hosts talks from interesting folks within the cycling industry. All this alongside giving the bike-building industry its own place to call home, of course. That's actually where it all started: ex-framebuilder Petor Georgallou (previously of Dear Susan Bicycles) and friend Josh Bullock (Petor's frame-building intern at one point) are the folks behind the show. Their promise is to place frame-builders centre stage and give a platform to independent makers.

In The Spirit Of Bespoked

We're channelling our inner Bespoked with this article. Just as they do things differently and aim for the artisan, we're looking at the beautiful, different, and creative. You'll find full, comprehensive coverage of the show on other sites but here we're looking at things a little differently.

I've picked out my favourite stories, the most unusual crafts, and the prettiest components. The people behind the creations have all given me plenty of time to ask questions and I'd encourage you to check out their businesses - each and every one of them was genuinely interesting and, perhaps more importantly, passionate about what it is that they do. So let's go...

Twmpa Cycles: Bikes Made Of Wood

Andrew Dix at Twmpa Cycles builds his bikes from wood. That's usually enough to make people stop and study the beautiful frames but there's much more to it than just being something a little more unusual.

I asked perhaps the most obvious question first. “What on Earth gave you the idea to build a bike from wood?” I thought it seemed sensible to start there. Andy chuckled and told me the whole story. He'd been a mechanical engineer and a furniture maker in a previous life but had always loved cycling. The story of Twmpa happened almost out of pure curiosity.

Rob Penn (a local author also from South Wales, where Twmpa is based) had been speaking to Andy about commissioning work. Rob was seemingly interested in taking a tree and using it to build different things for a book he was penning. Boldly, Andy offered up the idea of a bike or a writing desk before deciding that actually, the desk was probably the more sensible option. Still, the idea was planted in Andy's own mind and, much like the trees he uses to build his bikes, had plenty of time to grow into a full concept.

At first, Andy built one for himself, choosing Ashwood for its well-known vibration-damping qualities. Historically, ash has been used for tool handles for this very reason, as well as being known to resist shattering and being lightweight. The first bike was hand-made but held many of the properties which the current fleet of offerings is known for. Andy told me that it was noticeably different to his carbon bikes of the time and it led to several people he knew asking for their own.

With a customer base developing, Andy set about learning all the necessary skills to make the precision machines you see today. CAD work means that Twmpa can be accurate in measuring and building each bike so the changes to the natural material through heat and moisture aren't limiting factors. Speaking of weather, Andy explained that he takes great care to ensure that his epoxy and polyurethane finish, blind bottle cage mounts, sleeved internal housing for cables, and seatpost cap are all in place to ensure the Ash bikes are fully weather-proof. We also had quite a discussion about whether they should be finished 'nude' or with colour. I loved the blue option to fly under the radar as it could quite easily be mistaken for another metal bike (unless you were up close where you could still see the grain). He's on the fence as he loves the look of the plain wood.

With five sizes offered across three different geometries, as well as a totally custom option, Twmpa are certainly going against the grain (tree pun intended).

Check out more on their website and Instagram.

Hex Components: 3D Printed Bling

Small batch, intricate and a labour of love are probably the best three ways of explaining what Ben does at Hex Components. 3D printed titanium and stainless steel components are the offering and their beautiful details, along with Ben and Sarah's friendly energy, drew quite the crowd at the Hex stand. The process differs between titanium and stainless steel but the general premise is that small metal pieces, almost like dust, are bound together to create an object. With the Ti options, Ben explained that they were fused by laser which couldn't have sounded more space-age. The stainless steel option gets a glue and then bake at 1200 degrees celsius. For the real 3D printing fans, the processes are known as SLM and Binder Jet. Recall that fact at your next pub quiz. 3D printing comes with an array of benefits from being able to create incredibly detailed designs, to using less overall materials since the 'waste' metal dust can be used again and again.

The real beauty is not in the production, though it is interesting. For me, the products shine because of the design which Ben does entirely himself from his home in North Yorkshire. It's no surprise that Ben has a background in design and 3D engineering. When you see the top caps, headbadges, bar ends, and experimental brake levers, there's an instant appreciation of the aesthetic. There are a few small-batch designs to choose from at the minute but each is as pretty as the next, whether it's floral, maze, mountains, or one of the other patterns.

It all seemed to have happened quite naturally too. Ben has been riding mountain bikes since 1992 and, when in a previous job, decided to make a single top cap for his own bike. Put simply, his obsession for tiny details began there. Ben explained that he's wanted to customise his bikes since he can remember and Hex has been born out of that. Launching only last Thursday (20th June), Hex is still in the process of “figuring out what other riders want” but it's clear from the crowds that they seem to have already found it.

Hex is a brand that, in Ben's own words, doesn't want to be massive. They want to “make things that people covet” and they certainly seem to have managed that from the get-go. Currently, they offer top caps only on their web store but, if the offerings I saw today are anything to go by, expect a full array of beautiful components to be available soon.

Check out more on their site and Instagram.

Buxumbox: Travelling Without Stress

Hong Kong had been home for Ed for several years and, before starting Buxumbox, his frequent travel filled him with dread. The thought of a damaged bike is something anyone who has flown with one will have had. It's not uncommon to see boxes and bags being quite literally launched into the aircraft and, rather than travel with my bike, I've opted to rent when away. Buxumbox wants to put a stop to that.

Made in Devon, in the south of England, these beautiful boxes struck me first because of how good they looked. I know… it's a box. It doesn't need to look pretty. But why shouldn't it? With more than 160 colours and variations for different frame sizes and bike types, they certainly look the part.

It wasn't until I got talking to Ed that he pointed out the true innovation in the design though. Each box is made from recycled 6061 aluminium sheets which are 0.5mm thin. That's the same high-quality material that frames are made of, only thinner to save weight which brings the total box to around 15kg. With even stingy British Airways rules, that's still plenty of extra wiggle room to take the bike, bars and wheels. Each box also opens upwards which allows airlines to complete their bag checks, which are mandated in the US, without having to rummage and risk damaging anything. Everything has a place, is fastened in with thru-axel bolts, and the wheels are even protected to prevent them from being snagged and ripped off during handling.

There's no question in my mind that these are the most well-thought-out boxes there's ever been. Find out more at the Buxumbox website.

Frame Cycles: Cork But Better

I won't condone excessive consumption of wine. However, if there was ever a better use for corks, I don't know it. Frame Cycles take recycled wine corks, and cork from their partnered sustainable farm in Portugal, and turn them into a thing of beauty. Perched atop titanium rails, the cork saddle offers a natural and vegan solution to the never-ending quest for the perfect saddle.

Evan, the founder of the brand, told me that his saddles took two years of testing and 18 months of prototyping before being ready for retail. They're permanently looking for ways to further refine their offering and have recently changed the shape of the titanium structure under the saddle to allow for a narrower nose and prevent rubbing whilst on long rides.

Frame are also currently testing a softer cork construction and a saddle which combines both cork and recycled plastics. Both options, when ready, are expected to provide a less rigid option when compared to the current FR-1 saddle which can be likened to a Brooks saddle in hardness.

Find out more at framecycles.com and Instagram.

Other Things Of Note

Intra-drive were showcasing their integrated e-bike motor and gearbox combination. The sleekness caught my eye, alongside the obvious lack of cassette, and shows just how innovative the industry continues to be. Instagram.

Tri-Sept Cycles were showing a different wooden option from Twmpa. Mike spent the time explaining his journey from testing out designs in aluminium using two sheets and central ladder supports, all the way to his current model made from bamboo. What struck me most was the passion with which he explained the processes. He even took the time to sketch out a few things to help me better understand.

Invani, who make reversible cycling jerseys, had a range of samples to try on. Their mission to focus on durability and offer twice the options for the same space seemed to make a lot of sense. After all, we're all probably guilty of having slightly too much cycling kit. Instagram.

Atherton Bikes were showing their range of full-suspension mountain bikes (which use a similar technology to Hex Components for 3D printing their lugs) and their new S.170 range which uses CNC aluminium instead of the additive process we've come to expect.

Wrapping Up

Of course, there's much more to Bespoked than I've covered here; I've simply touched the surface of what was an excellent show. The framebuilding industry is clearly alive and well, as is the surrounding community who are making wonderful accessories. After a difficult few years in the bike industry, perhaps Bespoked is showing that the future trend is one of improvement, innovation and, as I've focused on, beauty.

Visit Tailfin
Visit Tailfin