Ordering a bespoke bicycle
You might not think that a bespoke bicycle and painting have much to do with each other, but this bike changes everything. I have been painting ‘en plein air‘ for a few years with an idea in the back of my mind. Often painting in the mountains I would would arrive at the top, tired and wishing I could stay and start another canvas without having to walk back down, then up again. I really wanted to design a bike to make this possible. A few years later this project has finally been realised with the help of Chris Yeomans at Smithy Frameworks, who has designed and built me a bike from scratch. It does everything I need, wanted and more.
Deciding what you need:
Having the bike fitted is the first stage. You measure up to see what size you need and then decide on a riding style? All options are possible so it was just a case of deciding exactly what I wanted/needed. Not as easy as you might think when options are somewhat endless.
I want to ride up the Alps, paint a landscape in oils (maybe 2) and ride back down. Carry a canvas up to 850mm x 500mm with wet oil paint on it, along with easel, brushes, painting box, jars of oil, warm clothing, sun hat, and of course a hearty lunch. Oh and when I’m not doing that I’d like to go for a spin on the local single track.
After a bike fit, the ‘stable load carrying’ geometry was dialled in to give a ride feeling that was still fun when not hauling my life up a hillside. We chose a Pilgrim based geometry, with a slightly longer rear end. Fittings for mudguards, big load carrying racks and some mother load bespoke panniers. Oh and a little bit of electric assistance, to get all the gear to the best possible painting spots, high up in the mountains.
Once you have finalised a bike design, building the frame itself is usually a week-long process. All the extra design features we chose did add a lot of time to the overall process but its rather exciting seeing it all come together. Here are some pictures from the build process starting from the plain tubing right through to the finished frame.
Bespoke bicycle Specifications:
- A Rohloff boost spacing hub sorted out the gearing. A low maintenance solution, with a long life span and a clean look.
- Shimano hydraulic 180mm discs for stopping all that kit safely.
- An SQ Lab handle bar with 16 degree back sweep to get his hands in a relaxed position, without loosing any control.
- Electrical assistance is provided by a Cytonex front wheel. Three customisable power levels via an online app. A simple solution to getting all the kit up the steepest alpine tracks. It can also quickly be switched for a standard Hope front wheel when you want to get back to basics.
- The wheels were all hand built by Strada wheels and come with great after care service.
- Fillet brazed tubing is a mixture of Reynolds 853 and Columbus Zona. Head tube courtesy of Bear frame supplies and rear dropouts by Paragon Machine Works
- The extremely tough ceramic coating will keep the frame looking great for years to come.
Using the bike:
This bike brings new possibilities and has already proven as useful as my easel and my brushes!
- I can now carry 3 canvasses, an easel and backpack with painting materials
- I can remain there for most of the day without having to walk back and forth for hours on end.
- Being able to carry all these wet paintings at the same time will make my painting routine far more efficient.
- Where I would usually drive, then walk I can now do the whole route on my electric bike = Happier Planet!
Having originally been a project for Summertime painting, ironically it’s first usage has been in the wintery Swiss Alps. I am currently staying in a small mountain village called ‘La Sage’. Situated at 1700m Altitude on a sunny face of the Val d’Hérens. It’s a magical place, full of old wooden huts and untouched mountainside. There is no ski lift here. In the summer the steep road winds upward to various Alp farms and huts.
The original plan was to ski tour up the hillside, but the snow cover this winter is quite thin so the snowy road remains usable on bike. In the photo below you can see where the road ends. I leave my bike here and walk the rest through the snow. The second photo shows the easel and painting in progress (which all goes in my backpack) so I can take what I need and remain all day on the mountainside. I like to work on various paintings throughout the day as the light changes so after each session the canvas is packed back in it’s box keeping it safe from snowfall, dust and any passing dogs that might be feeling territorial! At the end of the day it all gets packed back on the bike and then I just have to survive the snowy ride back to the chalet.
To see the latest paintings from this trip in La Sage please click here. Please note, it may be a few days after writing this blog that they are all uploaded in to the gallery.
A huge thanks to Chris (my very talented Dad) for this amazing bicycle. If you also want to get inspired, or order your own bespoke bicycle please email firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also browse his work by clicking the following link –