Bespoked Bristol cycles to London

Bespoke1Bespoked Bristol established itself as the greatest handmade bicycle show in Europe. It became the place to drool over beautiful steel creations and wallow in what it took to design the perfect bike. Personally, I loved the event and what it stood for. And all the bike brands who exhibited there who I know seemed to rate it highly.

But Bespoked is now on the move. Its hand forced by Bristol council selling off part of Brunel’s iconic train shed at Temple Meads station, where the event was held for years, Bespoked will surface in 2014 at the new venue of the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London. Exhibitors will set up stands in the velodrome itself, on the flat area inside the track or on the banked seating.

This week I was with a Signal client who wasn’t delighted that the event was moving to London. Nor were they particularly happy with the layout of the event within the velodrome. Others have expressed their sadness that a key trade show has ended up in London. Taking to social media, show exhibitors’ comments included: “That’s a terrible shame”; “The provinces need more active cycling culture”; “I probably will be exhibiting, but I’m not that keen on it being in London to be honest”; and “I just always thought it was great it being in Bristol.”

Organiser Phil Taylor has defended the decision against accusations of Londoncentricism. “We looked all over the country and the velodrome is such an amazing space and it just happens to be London”, he said on Twitter. And, separately, “It has moved once before and coped, so I see no reason why that won’t be the same again.”

Phil has pointed out that the velodrome is “one of the greatest cycling buildings in the world”. It’s the centrepiece of the Lee Valley Velo Park which finally opens to the public on March 4th 2014 – just five weeks before Bespoked arrives on April 11 to April 13. It will certainly be a great chance to visit the new UK cycling facilities to see if that Olympic sparkle remains embedded in the boards and banking. And to once again drool over beautiful steel.

Cycling is the new golf

It’s already a cliche. The New York Times was first to hail cycling as the new golf back in 2005. In the UK, the Guardian newspaper agreed in 2011. Now the authority that is The Economist has started pedalling the same story: “Traditionally, business associates would get to know each other over a round of golf. But road cycling is fast catching up as the preferred way of networking for the modern professional.” So far, not much insight. But the Economist’s article concludes: “Perhaps the most compelling reason why cycling is a good way to network is because, for many professionals, it’s a passion and a way of life.”

Ah – there’s that passion word again. It’s what Signalyard was founded on – passion-centric marketing. And it’s on passion that I do agree wholeheartedly with the Economist. Personally, I don’t buy cycling being the new golf any more than I bought golf being the old golf. Golf remains a sport that some people (myself not amongst them) are passionately engaged by. And engaging people through their passions, whether on the golf course, the cycle track or out on a ride, usually proves highly effective.

“Google, Yahoo, all the tech companies, they’ve now got executives who are mad keen cyclists. They love cycling’s metrics, all the measurements that are available, from heart rate to power; they love the ‘toys’, carbon road bikes are beautiful pieces of technical equipment; and they love the community angle, cyclists sticking together. They also love the fact cycling is so conducive to travel and exploration. The top tech guys in America love travelling to Europe and often take their bikes.” So says exercise physiologist and former pro triathlete Matt Dixon, who now coaches athletes and serious amateurs, including a number of Silicon Valley’s top executives.

LSE_Cycling_Economy1One of the great pleasures of using cycling, running and skiing as a way to engage broader audiences is that I get to talk to people who are passionate about those sports. At Signalyard, I can turn up to meetings in lycra without raising an eyebrow. Whether the meeting is with an insurance company or a car manufacturer, because we’re talking about engaging people through the universal language of cycling we find it easy to engage clients in the same way.

Of course cycling is itself a major business sector (with over 3.7 million bikes sold each year in the UK) delivering wider socio-economic benefits to the UK (worth £2.9 billion a year to the UK economy according to the LSE’s Gross Cycling Product report). But using cycling as a way to engage people has the potential to grow each of those figures faster still. It’s a way in which we can make cycling even more an everyday part of how people connect, making the simple, universal pleasure of riding a bike in the open air be even more a normal part of life. It’s a way we can get more people onto more bikes. And it’s a way in which we can boost the effectiveness of marketing. Cycling may well be the new golf. But that’s only the beginning.

Cycling innovation

Kickstarter was the original crowd-funding platform. It brought consumers, funding and publicity to thousands of tech projects in its early days. So it’s hardly surprising that some brilliant (and some pretty left-field) cycling innovations are now finding their way onto the market thanks to the spotlight and funding Kickstarter has brought to creative new ideas.

Top of my list of Kickstarter cycling favourites is a London start-up, Full Windsor, and the beautifully-named The Nutter. Like all good innovation, they’ve taken something complex (the toolset you need with you on the bike) and made it simple, awesomely simple. With over three weeks still to go on their fund-raising, they’ve already raised more than £23,000 on Kickstarter (against a target of £8,000).

The Nutter manages to squeeze a multi-tool, spanner, and tyre lever (and even found room for a bottle opener) into a small pouch, made partly of recycled inner tube, which will fit under the saddle. Beautifully designed, well thought through.

Another favourite of mine is the Blaze bike light. Blaze closed their Kickstarter call for funding at Christmas, having raised £55,000 – more than double their target.

Their innovation was to build in to a powerful front light a projector that casts a bright green neon image of a cyclist about 5 metres ahead of the bike. Lorries, cars and buses turning out of a side street or failing to see a cyclist in the blind spot of their mirror, each now see the green neon image. Blaze is also from London (I’m not trying to favour the British here, I just think both of these are great).

Next up is the ONDA cycle . Is it a stunt tricycle? Is it a recumbent? They argue it’s “Not a bike or board. Redefining the way you move. 3 Wheels, 2 Pedals, and YOU. The most daring machine you’ll ever ride. Guaranteed.”

I am not going to argue it’s not innovative, but I won’t be trading in my road bike any day soon. Some clearly love it – ONDA has already raised half of its target of $30,000, with 17 days still to go to get to the minimum funding figure. And nearly 50 people have pledged the $350 or so for one of the first models produced.


Not all the ideas on Kickstarter are so successful. The Road Bug Bicycle Engine Kit – a motor to attach to the luggage grid to get you up hills, gained less than 25% of the $20,000 funding it needed to go into production.

Other ideas range from the functional – the Badger 360 degree LED jacket does what you’d expect from the title by embedding hi-vis LEDs into a hi-vis jacket – to the fun – Pushing Pedal Pops is a “gourmet popsicle bike cart” designed to bring healthy treats to the citizens of Richmond, Virginia. And there are dozens more ideas looking for cycling fans’ support.

Kickstarter is enjoying huge growth at the moment. After funding projects to the tune of $80 million on 2011, that figure rose to $274 million in 2012. Whilst not every project seeking funding could be classed as genuine innovation, it’s great to see good ideas being brought to market in this way.