With Bespoked, the UK's premier hand-built bike show, coming up this weekend, Ross Grimmett looks ahead to Chris King's return and reflect on last year's event.
Time certainly flies in the world of bikes. It seems as if preparation for Bespoked 2017 was just a couple of months ago – but already the 2018 show is looming.
Last time out we were very lucky to have Chris King and product manager Jay Sycip over from King HQ in Portland, Oregon. They manned the booth with us, and it was impressive to witness them sharing their knowledge and passion with all who stopped by. Watching people walk past, look at our backdrop images, then realise the man in the photos was the same one behind the work bench was brilliant. The whispers and nudges between mates of, “That’s actually Chris King, isn’t it?” was fun to see and hear.
Three excellent days were had by all in 2017, with us getting to talk first-hand with the hundreds of people who came by our booth to check out our displays and to chat to Chris himself. Being able to spend some quality time with the builders and exhibitors at the show, with whom we had worked with to supply products for their show bikes, was also great.
On the Saturday evening we have traditionally hosted a big sit-down meal, somewhere hidden away in Bristol. Us Saddleback guys sit down with our guests from the USA and, along with UK press representatives and builders, we get chance to mull over what we have seen across the show so far, and discuss the standouts for each of us.
We also got chance, pre-show on the Sunday morning last year, to take Chris and Jay to a classic car rally that was happening in Bristol. The guys pored over the older VW models and other such rarities, things that they don’t often get to see over in North America. Turns out Chris has a massive soft spot for the timber-framed 1953 Morris Traveller – one of which he has owned since his college days. For Jay, meanwhile, it was all about the 80s Porsches.
After the show, chatting with Chris, his love of the Bespoked show that Tessa and Phil and their team put together was obvious and sincere. Echoing the closing words of his talk at the 2017 event, he spoke of being won over by the quality and passion of the UK builders, and with the public’s enthusiasm and understanding of the handmade bicycle scene.
He is not wrong. We have watched keenly as the UK’s public’s love, for bikes and components made by people who care as much about them as the prospective new owner is going to, has matured.
The clamour each year for booth space at the show is a tribute to the importance that Bespoked has taken on over the last seven years. It’s a fixture in the UK cycling calendar we all look forward to and, from the accents heard at the show, Bespoked’s reach is as close to global as you can get now. Its location within Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Grade 1 listed Old Station building, adjacent to the modern-day Temple Meads station, is ideal for visitors, while the architecture and feel of the old engine shed fit hand in glove with the craft ethos exhibited within.
This year we have Chris visiting us and the show again. He’s tending the stand, and has also been invited to take part in our ‘Talk Series’ once again. No doubt Mr King will repeat his hold of the room, relaying his wealth of knowledge on the design and construction of bicycle components to the assembled audience. Saturday evening’s table is also already booked, and we are looking forward to putting the cycling world to rights with him, while comparing notes on the details we spot at the show.
This time around we will also be turning half of our booth into a functioning workshop, complete with truing jigs and the full King service tools. The latest colours and models in the King family will be out on the counter for people to handle. With Chris on hand, there will be no questions we can’t collectively answer – and people do love to try to test him.
We will also be running several promotions on the booth this year that, taking advantage of the workshop we will be building, the owners of King products will hopefully be eager to take part in.
First, we’ll be inviting show attendees to look at the King products they may have at home, and try to rustle up the oldest examples in the UK. The most aged (verified by serial number) brought to the booth over the show, will win the modern equivalent of their original treasured King item.
Second, the first five people per day to bring in any King component to us, will have it serviced at the show and reassembled and set up by Mr King. Surely that’s a photo opportunity that people who love King components won’t want to miss out on.
While on the photo theme, the third thing happening each day on the booth will be the chance to come take a selfie with Chris and post it online with the hashtag #ChrisKingBuzz. The best picture and caption combo posted over the duration of the show will be picked by Chris, and the lucky winner will bag themselves a headset and BB of their choice, to revive their bike after the long British winter.
After the show is packed down, Chris will stay on with us for a week and hit the road visiting dealers across the country. There’ll be opportunities to catch us as we work up the country into Scotland, on the scheduled weeklong tour. Either way, we hope to see as many of you as possible at Bespoked 2018.
For more information on the show or to get your tickets, head to the Bespoked website.
Photos: Nick Cox