Cycling / Interviews

Wheels of passion

By bristol247, Friday Apr 10, 2015

Phil Taylor is founder and organiser of Bespoked, the UK Handmade Bicycle Show which comes to Bristol from April 17-19, and a bicycle frame builder at Libertine Bicycles in Stroud.

Having cycled all my life, I was working as a special needs teacher in Brighton and commuting 30 miles a day. I wanted a bike that didn’t really exist at the time. Having always been interested in handmade bicycles, I decided to learn how to make bikes and make one for myself to ride. In researching online about other frame builders and what’s involved in making a bike.

My wife Tess and I had set up Brighton Art Fair with some friends, so knew how to organise a show and decided to start Bespoked in 2011. This coincided with a move back to Stroud Gloucestershire and closer to Bristol, where we had both lived also previously. The first Bespoked started small in the Paintworks and grew the next couple of years to move into the Passenger Shed at Brunel’s Old Station. We’ve had three shows in Bristol and one in London, but are delighted to be back in Bristol for 2015.

Riding a bicycle that didn’t exist before you had the idea to make one, or have one made, is an amazing experience. To have considered every aspect of the bicycle and really thought about how you will be using it, means you get what you really want. UK bicycle tubing manufacturer Reynolds makes over 500 different tubes. On a conventional bicycle, nine of these are selected depending on the rider’s shape, size and what style of bicycle is being made. To sit on a bicycle that’s made just for you (or by you) and feel the wind in your hair is one of the greatest feelings there is. 

There has never been a better time to make or commission your own bicycle. By far the easiest and probably cheapest way of making your own bicycle is to go on a course. Typically a week long course will cost in the region of £1,000 plus material, and at the end of that you will have a bicycle frame made for you by you. There are three exhibitors at Bespoked offering courses: The Bicycle Academy, Downland Cycles and Swallow Bespoke.

Under expert guidance it’s possible to make a bicycle frame in a week. If you decide to go it alone, it can be a costly and time consuming process, depending upon previous experience. It’s also important to consider the safely implications as you don’t want anything going wrong defending a hill at 50mph. 

Bespoked is what it is because of the people exhibiting and attending. The exhibitors are the makers, they have spent weeks creating beautiful bicycles. They are not sales people having to give up a weekend to be there to work. For many exhibitors, Bespoked is the once a year that they gather together bicycle they have made throughout the year to meet others that appreciate the skills on display and receive feedback. The visitors to Bespoked are an equal part of what makes the show special, they have a knowledge and passion for what they are looking at. It’s not just for bicycle enthusiasts either, the level of passion and craftsmanship on sideway is transparent for those without explicit knowledge. I spoke with someone last year who attended with a friend with no real interest beforehand and described the atmosphere as ‘intoxicating’ and ’the passion and level of quality, mind-blowing’.

Bespoked takes place from April 17-19 at Brunel’s Old Station and the Arnolfini. For more information, visit


Bristol24/7 has three pairs of tickets (3 x 2 people) to the Bespoked launch day on April 17, and two pairs (2 x 2 people) of free tickets to visit Bespoked on either the Saturday or the Sunday. To enter, make sure you are signed up to the Bristol24/7 newsletter online and email with the subject line ‘Bespoked’.

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