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02

Dec
2012

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In Lovely Bikes

By Gavin Bannerman

The Bicycle Market

On 02, Dec 2012 | No Comments | In Lovely Bikes | By Gavin Bannerman

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Every weekend, people get up early, gather their granny trolleys and go to the markets. “Market people” go because they don’t want to be forced into shopping at Coles/Woolworths, they want good produce and they want to do it in a social atmosphere. South Melbourne is home to a very good food market, but this weekend it’s also hosting a very good bicycle one too.

The Australian Custom Bicycle Show (a Fyxo Production) is really a farmer’s market for bikes. If you don’t want to support homogenous products (tomatoes that all look the same, frames that all ride the same) and you want to talk to the producer, this is a good place to do it.

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I went along on Saturday and I have to say it was a real buzz for me personally. I’ve individually interviewed Joe Cosgrove, Ewen Gellie, Darrell McCulloch and Darren Baum – all exhibitors. And I’ve also had the pleasure of getting Keith Marshall and Mick Peel in on the Pushies Galore act. So to see all of these fantastic, often solitary people in the one spot, having their products appreciated, that just gives me a special warm feeling.

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Locally grown fruit and vegetables might cost you a bit more than imported produce – but it tastes better. Buying a frame from your local framebuilder used to be the normal thing to do. If you lived in Brisbane and you were really keen, you went to Hoffy or Tom Wallace. In Melbourne, you had a range of options, from Ken Evans to Kypo. Then imports became easier to get and globalised distribution had its effect. I see this show as an attempt to re-establish that broken link. Bravo to Andy White for putting it on.

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Many of these framebuilders, when I’ve spoken to them, have said how they want their customers to keep and cherish their bikes for 20 years or more. They want them to last and develop over time. In some ways, this is contrary to how many businesses operate. The basic idea is that you want to maximise how many of your products people have to buy. Hence you get the dreaded “planned obsolescence” and the push to get the 2013 model with slight cosmetic differences to the previous year’s effort. I like this approach – it shows a respect for the customers and displays how much these people care about what they make. I don’t think they’re doing themselves out of business, they’re doing themselves into it.

Outside the show, I ran into a guy (I am so sorry I’ve forgotten your name) with his father’s Hoffy track frame. One custom frame passed down through the family. Maybe a couple of the bikes featured in this show will be parked outside ACBS 2032. Let’s hope so.

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Later in the afternoon, I stopped by another celebration of bicycles. The FOA Show ‘n’ Shine had quite a few bikes made by ACBS exhibitors. As somebody mentioned at the show, “how many Giants are in the Show ‘n’ Shine?” Custom bikes are made to last and be appreciated. This event was testament to that.

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See a whole stack more photos of the weekend’s events here and here.

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06

Nov
2012

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In Musings

By Gavin Bannerman

Handmade

On 06, Nov 2012 | No Comments | In Musings | By Gavin Bannerman

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Everything is handmade these days – jam, stationery, anything on Etsy – or at least that’s what they say. But how much of what is labelled “handmade” is actually the result of a human being’s own metacarpals? There is a general assumption that handmade is better, that it has more integrity and, through the nature of its imprecise, non-mechanised production, is more unique.

I think for some products, having a handmade product is far more desirable. I would love all of my shoes to be lovingly made by hand and individualised for my two slightly different length feet. But do I need handmade nails for my roof? Do I really care? Not so much.

The upcoming Australian Custom Bicycle Show has really got me thinking about handmade products in the bicycle industry. In relation to bikes, I like a good smattering of handmade products. I don’t mind if my rear derailleur was punched out in a factory in Vicenza or somewhere in South-East Asia. But I enjoy the thought of lovingly crafted bar tape and saddles like those made by Mick Peel. I think Joe Cosgrove’s paint is exceptionally beautiful. Some parts of a bike, you just want them to work, but others you want them to work and look amazing and have “soul”.

Two people that I’ve met in my life whose work most definitely comes under the handmade category are Darrell McCulloch and Stephen Hart.

I’ve interviewed Darrell about his work constructing steel bicycle frames and visited his workshop several times. Through these experiences, I’ve gained an appreciation of how much time it takes to make a Llewellyn frame. Darrell will often point out, amid the current fashionability of framebuilding, that his gig is all about time and hard work. We lust over the end results, but making frames is full of long, tedious toil, mostly done by hand. Filing, then filing some more.

Darrell McCulloch – Framebuilder from Gavin Bannerman on Vimeo.

After visiting Darrell’s workshop for the first time, I was struck with how similar it was to my father-in-law’s studio. Stephen Hart is a sculptor who often creates figures out of wood – hard and soft alike. Stephen actually made a work called “Spent Time” as a reflection of the work that went into it.

SPENT TIME from Alex Chomicz on Vimeo.

I’ve appreciated the lengthy production process first-hand. Stephen is currently working on a series of figures, including one of me holding my son Vincent. Scraping, chipping away timber to make a figure, it’s not so different to Darrell’s filing and polishing. They produce very different outcomes, but certainly, I would call Darrell’s frames and Stephen’s sculptures “handmade.”

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Darrell with frame under construction, BB1521

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Andy and Darrell

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