This weekend saw SPIN London take over a chunk of the Truman Brewery to bring us their Urban cycling and cycle-tech innovation event. We hadn’t previously been to one of these events, but the idea of attending appealed a lot more than forking out hard-earned cash to go to one of the huge bike exhibitions that take place elsewhere.
We also hadn’t been to the Truman Brewery before, and that’s a shame because it’s quite an inspiring place. There’s plenty of secure (and sort of guarded) cycle parking and plenty of places to pick up interesting food. The atmosphere is cheery and the greeting friendly. Apart from one fellow with few teeth who seemed offended that we weren’t interested in his lunch.
The actual space that the SPIN exhibition occupied was spacious and well lit, which in our experience is unusual for an exhibition; organisers tend to have a horrible habit of cramming in as many exhibitors as they can in a smaller space as possible. Here the organisers appeared to be going for a sort of vendors’ village feel. SPIN was cheerfully free of any snobbery, elitism or bullshit. In summary, we really enjoyed the whole event, but that wouldn’t amount to much of a review so let’s get into some of our favourite bits.
Singular CycloCross bike
One of the very first bikes that caught our eye at SPIN London is a bike that sadly isn’t for sale yet. We’ve been commuting on a SingleSpeed for some time now, but have always had half an eye on developments in the CycloCross market.
CycloCross is a sort of cross between mountain biking and competitive street racing. We’re starting to see CycloCross bikes with hub gears and disk brakes, which could well give competitive cyclists the advantage during a race, but would also give commuters incredible sharp brakes and gears that are never going to get crudded up by months of winter commuting. I dare say the wider tyres would also save a bit of buttock-ache on longer commutes.
The issue some folk have with these hub-geared disc-braked CycloCross bikes is the price tag. There are some beautiful bikes out there (like the Genesis Day One) but the price tag can perhaps feel a little high for those of us who want a bike on which to do battle on the daily commute. There’s also the issue of the Cycle To Work bike purchase scheme, whereby employees have a £1000 limit to get themselves kitted out. If you’re going to buy a bike that costs over £1000 then you’re left with no money for gloves, a hat, clothing etc. So the £650 price tag for the Singular CycloCross frame and forks could well make it a very interesting contender in this emerging market.
Great balls of fire bros
This is a bit of an aside from all the bike chatter, but we wanted to give special mention to one of the caterers at SPIN London – The astonishing ‘Great Balls of Fire Brothers’. We arrived at SPIN having cycled across the city on a Boris bike, which was much more punishing that we expected it to be, so we arrived with a helluva appetite.
The meatball sarnie we each bought from the genial folk on this stand is the best we’ve ever had, and we’ve a LOT of food like this. The sauce was peppy and not too rich, the meatballs tasted great and it was all presented in a wrap of paper so you didn’t have to worry much about smearing your lunch down your tee-shirt. If you see these guys at an event make a steady line between your location and theirs, and follow it post-haste.
Possibly a winner for the title of ‘most gorgeous bikes out of our price range’ at SPIN London was Velorution from just down the road at Great Portland Street.
Velorution were one of several exhibitors showing off a decent range of bicycles with drivebelts instead of chains. Chainless bikes fascinate us here – in other aspects of our world we work with industrial companies who use drivebelts to power huge bits of industrial machinery, so why hasn’t the cycling world been lit up by the revelation that you don’t need to slather your drivechain in mucky lube in order to get where you’re going?
On this stand we saw the belt principle applied to some truly beautiful bikes, including a very sexy Titanium Van Nicolas frame.
Special mention also goes to Velorution for stocking the ‘so hard to get hold of their practically an urban myth’ Levis commuter jeans.
The beauty of Velorution’s stand speaks for itself, so here’s a few crappy photos we took (we only wish we had taken a lot more!):
Colourbolt Drenched Black bike
Just a quick photo of a lovely looking matte black road bike we spotted, fondled and ooed and ahhed over at SPIN London. The finished looked a little like hammered steel, a finish shared with several of the Colourbolt bikes that were on display.
I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more as each time we passed the Colourbolt stand it was unmanned, but hey, it’s nice to let the bikes speak for themselves I guess!
Kennedy City Bicycles, the two-speed SingleSpeed!
Kennedy City Bicycles win our ‘coolest product at SPIN London’ award. All their bikes were very nice looking classic bikes with a strong fixie / SingleSpeed flavour so we were already standing admiring the stand for that very reason when something caught our eye, a bike a tag that declared ‘I am not a fixie’.
We got chatting to a fella on the stand called James who explained what was going on. These bikes weren’t all SingleSpeed, in fact some of them are two-speed, but you’ll not spot a gear cable or derailleur anywhere on the frame. No. These bikes have AUTOMATIC gears!
We cried WITCHRAFT and set about making enquiries to the location of the nearest public ducking stool. Actually, we didn’t, because that would be silly. But we did feel a prickle as our interest was piqued. Before we explain how this all works we’ll take a moment to set up the reasoning behind our amazement:
In London a lot of folk on single cog bikes set their gearing fairly low because there’s a lot of stop-start in traffic and unless you have thighs like a power-lifter then getting a quick start on a high geared bike just isn’t going to happen. The problem with low-geared bikes is that you ‘spin out’ quite soon after setting off. Spinning out happens when you spin your legs but don’t stand any chance of actually getting up to a decent speed without looking like you’re a background extra in a Benny Hill sketch.
Transversely we’re based in a town a lot less crowded than Central London so we go the other way – we DO have high geared bikes because we don’t have to stop very often, therefore travelling at traffic speed is preferable to the ability to get quick starts. I personally have my SingleSpeed set to 52t on the front and 17t on the back, if I have to stop more than a few times on a journey through town my hips start feeling like someone is trying to remove them using a rusty spoon.
The two-speed SingleSpeed bike!
So here’s what we thought was the biggest and most exciting innovation of SPIN London, Kennedy City Bicycles have put together a bicycle that uses some clever hub mechanics to give you a bike that’s both low-geared and high-geared. When travelling below about 9mph the gearing is easy peasy; great for fast starts or bimbling through traffic, but as you breach the 9mph threshold the bike smoothly changes up to a higher gear.
We had to give this impossible-sounding system a whirl, and James was more than happy for me to hop on one of his bikes and take it for a rag around the exhibition hall. There wasn’t a ton of space so I started my journey of cog exploration at the top of a steep ramp that led into the second section of the exhibition hall. After waiting a moment for a path to clear I stepped on the pedals and gave the bike the kind of beans I usually have to use to get my high-geared SingleSpeed off the mark at traffic lights. Whoosh went I, and then just before I hit the point at which I was starting to spin out something magical happened, the bike changed into a high gear. It wasn’t a jolt like I was expecting, nor was it the sort of change one makes on a geared bike (where you have to relax your legs to make the change smooth). The change just happened, no clunks, no jolts, there was I was comfortably gaining speed at a remarkable rate. Unfortunately, I was also heading with some velocity towards the far wall of the hall, so am happy to report that the brakes were also pretty effective. Although I did leave a bit of skid mark. Sorry SPIN London.
I’m not keen on the fixie style cut off bars on the bike I trialled, but if there had of been a bike with this system and drop bars I would have had to ask a friend to remove my credit card from my reach. I was that impressed. There were many pretty bikes at SPIN, but the Kennedy two-speed was the bike that I felt sad about going home without.
I do have one question though; what happens when you go up hills? Even with high gearing I can nip along at a decent enough lick, so what would happen if the gearing changed up on a climb? With any luck I’ll buy one of these bikes one day and let you know…
Update – since this post was originally written many years ago, we now can’t find the Kennedy City Bicyles website!
Sticker haul – SPIN London
It was great to see so many stickers being handed out at SPIN London, our favourite of the show was the most excellent ‘My legs are my gears’ being dished out on the 8bar stand.
The most startling frame designs spotted at SPIN London were those on the Vanhulsteijn stand. They really stood out among all the traditional double-triangle design bikes at the event. A friend we were with asked the vendor how strong the frames were, and was as surprised as the rest of us when it was proven (by leaning on the saddle and trying to ‘bounce’ it) that the frames are very strong indeed.
This is another one of those ‘pictures louder than words’ posts, so here come the photos:
Tannus solid bike tyres
Solid bike tyres is something that developers have been trying to get right for as long as bicycles have existed, but it’s just never really happened. In recent years development of industrial polymers has leapt forward and we might now finally be at the point where solid tyres might finally be a valid option.
The validity of solid tyres was backed up somewhat by the Tannus stand at SPIN London. I had a ride around the hall on their test bike and the tyres felt just fine. It’s hard to give a full review without having lived with these tyres for at least a few months, but I can report that there was none of the slippery side-rolling that I feared these tyres would impose on the bike.
I’d like to believe in solid tyres, especially when it comes to my commuter bike, but at this stage choosing these tyres or not would likely come down to cost. If they cost about the same as Marathon Plus tyres I’d probably give them a go, if they cost much less than fitting other puncture-proof then Tannus tyres would be a bit of a no-brainer. If these tyres were cost-effective and fitted to the Kennedy City Bicycles two-speed then you might just find yourself with the best commuter bike ever to grace your buttocks.
UPDATE – shortly after this post was written we contacted Tannus directly and ended up writing one of the first in-depth reviews of Tannus Tires.
Spin London Gallery
There was so much to see at this year’s SPIN London show that we just don’t have time to write about it all, so here’s a gallery showing the bikes and bits that caught our attention. If any of these photos show your stand then get in touch and I’ll give you a link.