We all seem to have built new bikes recently, so we thought it’d be nice to show you the sort of thing we’ve been choosing for ourselves.
First up is Alex’s Sabbath AR-1 Disc. Sabbath are a small titanium bicycle company, based up in Macclesfield. We started stocking their frames last year, so it made sense for one of us to start riding one. Alex wanted a bike that was both fast and practical for wet weather riding, so full length guards were a must; SKS’s matt black bluemels are a super subtle choice. Ultegra 11 speed components along with Hope to Ryde Pulse rims make up the majority of the group. Brakes are TRP’s HY-RD, which are perfect for when you’re using regular cables, but need that bit of extra stopping power. Panaracer’s 28c Gravel King tyres keep the bike comfy and fast.
Next is Tom’s ultimate dad bike, built around Brother Cycles’ new Kepler Galactic frameset. Tom needed something to carry his 1 year old around on, so needed this bike to be super practical, but also comfy. He went for a 1×10 setup on it, with an XT rear mech, wide ratio cassette, and a Wolf Tooth wide narrow chainring, fitted to some rather tasty Middleburn cranks, to keep the chain from dropping at the front. TRP short arm V-brakes and NOS Tektro brake levers take care of the stopping power, while some nice swept back Fairdale bars keep things comfy. Hope hubs laced to H+ Archetype rims keep it rolling smoothly, and Panaracer’s Pasela tyres are the perfect partner.
Lastly is Will’s Kinesis Aitheir. He needed something to do his mammoth daily commute on, but didn’t want to ruin his posh bike, but still wanted to maintain a certain standard he’d gotten used to with his posh one! Step up Kinesis’s brand new Aitheir frameset, which is the lightest aluminium frameset they’ve made to date. The new 105 11 speed groupset, which we’re all in agreement is so much better than the 10 speed stuff, is a perfectly affordable option for this sort of bike. Fulcrum wheels and some choice carbon finishing bits keep it nice and light. And it is LIGHT!
Last night was the UK launch of South African produced book trilogy; Bicycle Portraits, which takes a beautifully shot and up-close look at everyday South African people and their trusty steeds. Authors and photographers, Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler, travelled the length and breadth of the country, searching out people who choose to ride a bicycle in the face of cultural and social stigma, crime and dangerous roads. The journey became a three year project, spanning 10,000 km.
The launch was a way to showcase these amazing books to the UK, exhibit some lovely photographs, and show off some South African bicycle craftsmanship.
The books look awesome, and the printing is second to none.
The lads, Stan Engelbrecht (left) and Nic Grobler (right)
The books have actually been on my radar for a while, after seeing them on a trip to Cape Town to take part in the annual Cape Argus Cycle Tour. Coincidently, my brother got to know Stan and Nic while working in Woodstock Cycleworks in Cape Town, which lead Stan getting in touch with me to get involved with the launch, or more specifically, to involve my South African built Hansom track bike!
My lovely Hansom, which I brought back with me from Cape Town, in all it’s glory.
As with the UK, South Africa has had a boom in appreciation for old steel bicycle frames, and few people are aware that South Africa once rejoiced in its own industry of hand-made bicycle frames. It was a trade that was once rich in South Africa, and has now all but disappeared: the age of the master frame builder. In that era, a group of highly skilled, specialised South African artisans practised the art of bike-making. Builders like Gotty Hansen, Francois Du Toit and Bill de Lange, to name a few, were part of this group, and their beautifully handmade frames are now well sought after. As the UK has seen an encouraging growth in young frame builders, South Africa is also seeing the emergence of builders like Mercer. Stan brought his custom built Mercer with him, and I was blown away by how awesome it was, take a look for yourself…
Note the S&S couplings, amazingly awesome custom paint job, and a handmade front rack that attaches via the bolts on the Thomson stem.
The launch and exhibition also served as a means to promote Stan and Nic’s other baby, The Tour Of Ara; A L’Eroica-type event which is held in Cape Town over six days… “The Tour of Ara, named for the Southern Hemisphere constellation of Ara, is a prestige race that is ridden on vintage South African built steel bicycles in the proud tradition of the early Italian multi-day stage races.”
As with L’Eroica, there are rules. As mentioned, the bikes have to be South African, and all parts (bar saddle and pedals) have to be pre-1999. Having heard stories from last years event, the first one, and how the unusually extreme cold had sent some of the riders into a state worse than delirious, I know this is an event not for the faint of heart. As the boys say themselves, “The Tour of Ara is ridden entirely at your own risk. Know your abilities and limitations.” That’s you told then.
A shot of Stan’s Alpina, mid-race somewhere.
They had some woollen jerseys made, for that authentic touch. Nic’s Le Jeune sits below.
Beautiful landscape pictures taken en route.
Thursday 14th May – 14th June