23 March 2015

Beauty of the Build: VCG meets Darron Coppin of Sven Cycles...

The beauty of frame building is something I have come to really respect and admire. Over my 5 years in the world of cycling, I've been lucky enough to become the proud owner of a British hand-built bicycle, and become friends with some of the incredibly talented UK artisans in this field.

One of these frame builders I recently had the pleasure of meeting was Darron Sven Coppin, of Sven Cycles. Hosted in the stunning B1866 Brooks England store, Darron & Keith Noronha of Reynolds Tubing gave a Q&A session on "The Custom Bicycle". Elements of a custom build from fit and geometry to tube selection was covered at the event, with everyone having the chance to have a feel of some raw tubing and check out some of the amazing bespoke builds Darron had made, including the 'El Loco' single speed...

The turn out for the talk was huge, and Darron was of course a man in demand that evening. I managed to grab a few moments with him for a quick chin-wag about the joy of riding a hand built bicycle. Pleasingly this lead to meeting up with Darron the following morning back at B1866 for a lengthier chat and spin through Covent Garden together...
Darron founded Sven Cycles 3 years ago, and is no stranger to the world of cycling and builds. He's been a keen mountain biker since the very early days of the sport and was taught by his father (a jeweller and vintage car enthusiast) how to braze when he was a teenager. Spending a good few years as a cycle mechanic, it seems to have always been in his blood. His talent, skill and hard work in frame building became even more evident when his Rohloff bike won 'Best Touring Bicycle' at Bespoked - just two years after launching his business. 

His Ladies Roadster which was on display at the talk had caught my attention, but with the crowds it was tough to get a proper look. I could now relish the chance to see it up close! It was indeed a splendid build, with subtle detailing providing a good few "oooh, just look at that!" moments when spotted...
The paintwork design on the Roadster was glossy and incredibly smooth: both to look at and to the touch. All of the paintwork for Sven Cycles is done locally and under their careful supervision. From what I'd seen and been told, care to detail is key and the painting / polishing is a meticulously well done job: each frame is initially polished, then powder coated for strength and then polished once again before the wet coat is applied. After that comes the graphics, lacquer and finally it's treated with an internal frame saver. Nothing is skimmed on at all.

Not only is it a visual treat, it's a sturdy steel build too: with Reynolds 631 tubing, the alloy used is a development on their 531 range (which I've previously tested out on the Pashley Clubman), with 10% higher strength. As Darron explained, this was great for the build as it provides a tough but comfortable frame - excellent for long distance rides, and durable enough to last.
Although a steel bicycle it felt incredibly light and fluid to ride, and sturdy at the same time. It wasn't a heavy feeling pedalling along on it, and the the ease of the Alfine electronic gearing system fitted on the Roadster was a new one for me! I'd never been on a bike with this on it before and its one-press smoothness was something I could quite get used to when cycling...

Touches like these give an insight into how Darron goes about his frame building and the design of Sven Cycles. It's a mix of the traditional with his classically styled bikes, but with a modern twist. I love the idea of designing my own custom build, but openly admit I also find the idea quite daunting: I'm not an expert by any stretch so would feel a bit out of my depth about what to ask for other than "it looking nice, please"- people like Darron and this ethos on frame building makes it that bit more approachable. 

It was an absolute pleasure meeting Darron and riding with him. Sven Cycles (along with this Roadster and those gorgeous Michaux Liberty print bags - more on those soon) will be at Bespoked Bristol this this year - if you can make it there, I strongly recommend you visit his stand.

Many thanks to Darron, B1866 for allowing us use of the store, and Ian James for all photography for this post. 

9 March 2015

The London Bike Show 2015 - VCG Highlights...

After being bedridden with my Asthma last month it feels good to be back in the land of the living and working on blog business again.

The first big event in my cycling calendar was the London Bike Show 2015. This year I was there as both a spectator and worker, as HOYVulpine launched at the show. It was pretty cool to see what we've all be working on for so long be revealed to the public and go live! The launch was one of my highlights of the show: We had an ace stand which included a beer pump (watch out Peggy Mitchell, I pull an 'alright' pint...) and of course Sir Chris Hoy joined us on Saturday to meet and talk to people about the design of the range with Vulpine.

Being there all weekend meant I could catch up with fellow cycling friends, and check out products and companies all with a shared love of bikes. I managed to have a walk around the huge venue to check out what else was going on, and these were some of VCG’s other highlights of LBS…

Drops x Rich Mitch Cycling Wallpaper: Surely one of the most interactive and addictive stands at the show… I could have spent a whole day surrounded by Sharpies working on this! Rich and Drops have partnered-up and created this special edition wallpaper, featuring cycling illustrations which you can colour in to your own specifications. By the end of the weekend it was a wall of colour and looked amazing... I already know I want a roll of this in my house! Pre-orders are being taken for the rolls which retail at £85 each... I say indulge yourself in a roll or 2 if you can.

Aprire Bicycles: Being the proud owner of a Celeste, I gravitated towards their stand to see the ace frames and builds they had on display. Having a natter with founder Phil Dempsey was great, especially as the main topic of discussion was the work being done on my road bike... more on that soon, but in the mean time, be sure to take a look at the new colour schemes Aprire have available for 2015.

An interview with Adele Mitchell: Having a Hot Chocolate break with one of my favourite female cycling bloggers isn't something that happens enough! I adore Adele, so when she and her husband popped over to our stand, we snuck off for a cheeky catch-up and to talk all things Women's Cycling and HOYVulpine. Roll on to our ride on Box Hill later this month too!

Bike Belle: It's all about beautiful baskets, big bold bells and snazzy jewellery for your bicycle here! Their selection of accessories was a cyclestyle explosion of colour and joy - a mix of the cute & kitsch through to classic designs, it was a treat looking at everything on their stand. I was even lucky enough to receive a sweet slice of cake from Gosia in the form of some valve caps...

Bike Biz Women Of The Year 2015:  At the end of 2014 and with the help of the public, Bike Biz put together a Women in Cycling List for 2015. This list recognises women from the sport itself to all areas of the industry. It came as an incredible surprise and honour to discover that I was on it. Bikes and blogging on VCG have formed a huge part of my life over the last 5 years, and to be on this list alongside such inspirational and strong women in the world of cycling really means a lot. There is certainly more to come in 2015, so thank you and please keep reading!

1 January 2015

VCG in 2014 - A year in review...

Well, it was an interesting one to say the least! A real mix of not so great stuff (#houseflood) to some rather ace stuff on two wheels went down in 2014. I didn't get to blog as much I wanted to, but I certainly didn't forget how to ride a bike in those 12 months... here's a quick look back at some VCG highlights...

TV and bikes played a big role this year - I was back with ITV for The Cycle Show, reporting on Eroica Britannia and chatting the very lovely Matt Barbet on the sofa. It was great to be back working with the team, and I look forward to a return in 2015. Flipping over to the BBC, I found myself recording live on Newsnight! I was invited on to discuss cycling culture in Britain and the various perceptions of cyclists across the country. Although I've been on Newsnight before, this was a very different experience doing it live... and truth be told, I almost said "no". I'm pleased that I did as I wanted to get a positive message across about cycling in Britain...

I got to play out properly on my Road Bike! My beloved Aprire (which I've had for a year now... omg) was screaming at me for a real ride. I finally got to down tools for a week, and took her with me to Portsmouth for planned rides with The Boy and our friend Jordan. Best ride on it that week was a round trip from Southsea to Bognor Regis. The weather was perfect, and at last it felt like I was getting to grips with road biking. I still have plenty to learn, but it was great to get out there.

Big bike rides featured heavily this year with the London Tweed Run and riding Eroica Britannia in Derbyshire... two very different styles of cycling indeed! As always, it was a blast being back on the Tweed Run, taking in the gorgeous sights of my city, seeing old and making new friends and of course drooling over all the bikes and outfits! Eroica saw me borrowing a vintage Italian road bike, and riding for 30 miles on terrain that was not my usual cycling route... and it was amazing! Thanks to Lush Cosmetics, I attended the inaugural British leg of the iconic event, which was transported from the rolling hills of Tuscany to the beautiful Peak District. I honestly can not wait for it to return next year and hope to be part of it again.

Photoshoots and magazines popped up in 2014: I was back in front of the lens of my dear friend Horst Friedrichs for a couple of photo shoots around East London. We got together for a feature in Stern Magazine which was a lot of fun to do, especially as one of the shoots became a Saturday Cycle through London... via some food stops. VCG also managed to pop-up in Momentum Magazine in Canada and America, Time Out talking about 'Secret London' , and Bicycle Navi magazine in Japan... Now I need to work on getting over to those places...

I hooked up with some great designers for rides and reviews this year. Friend of VCG and bloody cool bloke Mark Meadows loaned me his gorgeous Series One Milk Bike which I had the pleasure of riding for a few weeks... and then there was the recent Slowroll across London with Jason Hall and Shinola, on their Ladies Bixby Bike.

Work life was also rather busy while being lots of fun too... a trip to Malaga for a photoshoot saw me riding around and down (no climbs on a singlespeed) mountains on my Colourbolt. It was wonderful to visit Spain for the first time and to ride with colleagues/friends for almost a week. Oh, and then there was a rather special trip we took up to Manchester to ride with Sir Chris Hoy for a day... as you do!

Well, there you have it! It's been a mixed year, but it's not going out on a down note - it's been great to be back on the saddle again and pedalling life back into VCG. Here's to a cycling filled 2015 for everyone... Happy New Year and happy riding!

29 December 2014

Post Christmas Cycle...

We actually did it... me and The Boy broke our Christmas circle (basically staying indoors relaxing/eating/sleeping ad infinitum) and went out for a ride on Sunday. Although we left the house on Saturday for a very well planned visit to the sales, we didn't ride to the West End (it was a bit too mad for that) and we were itching for a chilled post Christmas day cycle. 

Somewhat inspired by the spirit of festive colours, my cyclestyle for the day featured an Ivy wreath, incredibly red tights Santa would have been proud of and very metallic shoes...
Jacket: Barbour
Ear Muffs: UGG
Scarf: Chloé
Jumper: COS
Necklace: Tatty Devine
Tights: M&S
Shoes: Dr Martens

Old Spitalfields was our destination - it'd been waaaay too long since we'd done one of our early Sunday rides, and the romance of a London market at Christmas time was calling me. Even though it was absolutely freezing, the market was in full festive swing with plenty of stalls to visit. 
The magpie in me was drawn to the shiny and sparkly items including some gorgeous statement rings and a sequintastic 80's cardigan which I now wish I'd cycled away with.

It's always a joy to discover new UK designers for items to add to my cyclestyle wardrobe, and Old Spitalfields gave me absolute gold with two stallholders I met on the day: one who makes these stunning mini leather Saddle Bags, and another who presented me with the tweed coat of my dreams...
I think I need this coat in my life. A return trip to the Market to see the amazing woman who makes these Harris Tweed coats is on the cards for 2015!

There will certainly be more visits to London Markets by bike - there were not enough of these this year, and finding beautiful handmade items like these reminds me of the fantastic talent we have in London and the rest of the UK. Hmmmm... perhaps cycles beyond the city to more markets is in order - if you have any suggestions of places I should be checking out, let me know!

Happy cycling x

14 December 2014

VCG's Christmas Cyclestyle Guide...

No shame in saying this: I get very excited about Christmas every year. I'm like a big kid when it comes to the festivities and try to be as well prepared as possible... yet there are times when in all the fuss, I get a bit last minute with present shopping. So, if you're a bit stumped on what to get for the cyclist in your life (or just for yourself - and why not?!) here's the VCG quick guide to some cycling related gifts...

Women's Button Down Oxford Shirt - £95 by Vulpine: Perhaps I'm a little biased, but this is my favourite garment from Vulpine's A/W range. With a classic cut, the Oxford features neatly hidden cycling features along with beautiful detailing. Designed for cycling and everyday wear, it's suitable for city life and riding all year round... most certainly a wardrobe staple piece. 

Bradley Pannier Bag - £190 by Hill and Ellis: If like me you've gotta have a pop of colour in your wardrobe, this bright yellow pannier can bring it to your bicycle too. This modern cycling twist on the satchel is a stunner. Crafted in leather, the Bradley features reflective details for night riding, a central locking system to secure it to your bike and universal pannier clips. With a shoulder strap too, it's great for popping off your steed to use as an everyday bag too.

Smart Umbrella - approx £36.99 by Senz: We've entered that cold & rainy season so brollies will be out in abundance... but now there is one you can actually cycle with! Senz have created these rather smart looking umbrellas which can be attached to your bicycle... something which may please fair-weather cyclists like myself. They range from this budget friendly 'Smart' model to the slightly more expensive XXL design. Also for use off the bike and compact enough to fit into you bag - nice.

Rainbowz Necklace - £60 by Katies Bike: Cycling related jewellery with a difference - it's actually upcycled from old bikes. Katie Wallace has been hand making and selling her couture jewellery since 2013. This statement necklace has electric bright tones of the acrylic paint on chain links, on a 16" gold plated chain. A celebration of cycling from the beginning to the end of a bike's life, these are gorgeous pieces with a green conscience.

Crochet and Leather Cycling Gloves - £14.99  from CycleChic: Looking for a retro style cycling glove, but don't want a full hand affair? Head over to Caz Nicklin's treasure trove of cycling joy on Cycle Chic where you'll find these beauties. Made from soft tan leather with crochet detail, these padded gloves (which come in sizes small to large) are both stylish and comfortable on your handlebars.

Gold Leather and Reflective Handlebar Tape - £50 by Michaux: A firm favourite brand of VCG, Michaux are bringing some bling to your bike with this tape. Liven up those grey winter rides with the glisten of gold, and safety conscious reflective details on the front of your machine. With sticky backing for easy application and a free set of cork plugs included, these are a sure-fire way to pimp your ride.

Perhaps this has given you a little inspiration of what to pop under the tree for the cyclist in your life... be that a loved one or yourself. Happy cycle shopping! 

10 December 2014

From Detroit to Shoreditch - Shinola and #SlowRoll Spin Into Town...

Mixing cycling with my favourite time of the year is guaranteed gold, so my Christmas radar was cranked up to 11 last weekend when Spin London rolled back into town for its second SpinXmas edition... something which I wasn't going to miss.

This year, the celebration of London’s urban cycling culture invited some like minded neighbours from across the Atlantic to join in the festivities. Detroit based Shinola and their bike designer Sky Yaeger, exhibited their city bikes and accessories at Spin for the first time, alongside Jason Hall, co-founder of Slow Roll Detroit. The two Motor City residents joined forces to host the very first #SlowRoll across London, with the route planned out by fellow cyclist and very good friend of VCG Jon Woodruff.

The pairing of the two was inspired: Shinola is reviving manufacturing in Detroit and aims to reinvigorate its history as an unshakable industrial leader. Their bicycle frames and flagship models the “Bixby” & “Runwell” are made in the US, and are all hand built and assembled in the city by local employees, giving back to both the people and Detroit itself. With rigorous attention to detail and using only the highest quality American components available, they are living up to their tag line “Where America is Made". 

The ethos of Slow Roll Detroit is in a similar vein: Jason Hall started the cycling movement to show Detroit in a positive light, and help repopulate the city. What started off as a small weekly bike ride in 2010, has now mushroomed into one of the worlds largest regular organised rides, averaging almost 2000 people last summer. Slow Roll is reconnecting residents of Detroit with one another. The rides allow residents and visitors to explore art projects both established and emerging,  take in the architecture of the city and its historic locations. The slow pace allows everyone to ride together safely, keeping the community spirit alive. Slow Roll’s showcasing of Detroit by bike + Shinola’s Detroit roots & bicycles = a perfect cycling union.

We were kindly loaned two Bixby bicycles by Shinola for the ride... I gravitated to the cream and pink women's model (I'd somehow managed to co-ordinate my outfit for the day with the rose gold accents and chrome mudguards without even knowing it) and The Boy was set to roll on the retro green and cream cruiser style model. In typical British fashion, the weather on Sunday unexpectedly started off as wet and soggy... but as soon as the rain finally sloped off, we were on our bikes and cycling out of Shoreditch!

London has plenty to offer for sightseeing and the #SlowRoll route certainly didn't disappoint. Taking us past well known landmarks and some a little off the beaten track (like the Cross Bones Graveyard in Southwark), it was a great ride. I never tire of seeing my city by bike, and the chance to take it slowly especially through car-free zones like The Mall on a Sunday is always something to relish!

Our leisurely paced ride from east to west came to an end at the Shinola store in Soho. Although a fun ride, it had gotten pretty cold in London so being greeted by the Shinola team with music, refreshments and hot food was perfect! It was great to have look around the store, chat with the team and check out the other goods they make and produce back in Detroit alongside their bicycles... including their stunning handmade watches which caught my eye!

My first impressions of the Bixby was other than it looking very stylish, it was a smooth and comfortable ride. I'm primarily a sit-up and beg kinda woman on a bike, and the positioning of this felt good. I'll be keeping an eye on Shinola and their bicycles and perhaps at some point ride one again soon. As for the #SlowRoll, it was fantastic to meet Jason - what he and his fellow founders are doing back in Detroit and the bike culture there has me wanting to go visit and ride with them one day!

(above image courtesy of Shinola)

VCG thanks...

  • Shinola, Slow Roll Detroit and Jon Woodruff for organising the day and hosting us
  • Ian James (a.k.a 'The Boy') for his photography for this post. 
Further instagram shots of the day can be viewed on my IG stream.