While I ride along the serpentine in Hyde Park, the mood is mellowed to the sound of 70’s disco. ‘Ring my bell’ by Anita Ward, plays from a makeshift stereo; crudely strapped to the back of a bicycle in front of me. I glance back, and I’m confronted by a sea of tweed; with faces beaming in the glorious spring sunshine. My stead for the tweed run this year was equally mellow; it was the latest offering from Pashley Cycles in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The dust is now slowly starting to settle on Bespoked 2015 and it was great to see the event return to it’s spiritual home of Bristol and the show spread out into two venues, Brunel’s Old Station and Contemporary Art centre Arnolfini. Brunel’s was devoted to bikes and Arnolfini to extra-curricular items like Clothing, Bike Luggage, Art Prints and Publications.
With Bespoked returning to its spiritual home in Bristol this weekend, we took the opportunity to ask founder Phil a few questions about what inspired the event, and the changes he has seen in handmade bicycles over the last few years.
When you’re a responsible (or at least not criminally negligent) adult it can be tough to make time to ride. That’s why the secret to maintaining a healthy cycling life is sneaking in those rides when you can–which in turn means knowing when to dispense with the formalities.
Sure, it’s nice to wear the special clothes and brew the special coffee and apply the special unguents to your crotch and limbs in preparation for your time in the saddle, but sometimes doing so can be the difference between taking advantage of an open riding window and having the sash come crashing down on your head while you’re still applying your chamois cream.
On a recent afternoon I had just such a window. Birds were singing, the sun was shining, and a pie was cooling on the windowsill. I knew I had to get out there while I had the chance. So I skipped the riding attire, hastily stuffed a vegan man-purse from Rivendell with some essentials, and decided to take a spin out to City Island, which bills itself as the “Seaport of the Bronx.”
I first met photographer Camille McMillan at Eroica Britannia last year, where he cut a dashing figure swaggering around in a silk scarf shooting images and taking rides on a motorbike under the Brooks England banner. I was immediately curious about him; he appeared to play by his own set of rules with no pussy-footing about. Certainly as a man, he’s intriguing and enigmatic but believe it or not, I was unaware of his serious pedigree as a photographer and cyclist.
The Cambium-clad bikes of Red Hook Crit contenders Team Desgenà
The world is constantly changing, everything is evolving, new technology is created, old trends fade and new emerge. Track bicycles have been around for years and whilst the materials, construction processes and designs have evolved the essence has remained the same. The track bike has a humble and firm place in the bicycle hall of fame and as cyclists it is our duty to keep some of this heritage alive.
“Photography as a fad is well-nigh on its last legs, thanks principally to the bicycle craze.”
So wrote the great Alfred Stieglitz, one of the pioneers of photography, back in 1893. He was wrong of course. Both these novel technologies of the late nineteenth century are still very much with us. And more than that, they seem to go hand in hand.
Throughout that decade cyclists were earlier adopters of Kodak’s new ‘hand camera’. Kodak boss George Eastman himself rode a bike to work and made long sight-seeing cycle tours of Europe. He knew that the last thing cyclists wanted to carry was a hefty tripod and a saddle bag full of heavy glass plates. His company sponsored round-the-world cyclists Thomas Allen and William Sachtleben, who sent back more than 1,200 circular images on 3.5-inch nitrate negatives, a selection of which are currently on display at an exhibition in the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles.
Photographs by Thomas Allen and William Sachtleben