Cycling is on the up - and rightly so. It’s environmentally friendly, massively cost-effective, and exceptionally good for you. It can also be a wonderfully-stylish way to travel (with the affectionate exception of the MAMIL perhaps) and those seeking out a particularly beautiful frame should look to the UK’s burgeoning community of independent bicycle makers. Whether you’re a lapsed cyclist looking to get back in the saddle or a devoted pedallar with a taste for a well-made object, these brands all put the ’spoke’ in bespoke.
Based in Bradford-upon-Avon in Wiltshire, the Moulton Bicycle Company has been selling handmade bicycles for over 50 years. The founder, aeronautical and automotive engineer Dr Alex Moulton set up the company in 1962 with the grand aim of completely reinventing the bicycle. The result was ‘the original small wheel bicycle’ - a groundbreaking unisex design, with full suspension and high pressure tyres. Known for its stiff, often seperable frame, Moultons are equally adaptable as high-end road bikes, commuter bikes or racing bikes. (The Cardiff-to-London record was broken on a Moulton ‘Speed’ just a month after the bike was launched, with rider John Woodburn covering the 162 miles at an average speed of 24 miles per hour.) Visitors to the factory (where some of the original Moulton employees still work) are welcome to a test ride, and even a factory tour. Once ordered, lead times are 8-10 weeks.
Based in South Shropshire, Beaumont Bicycles are created by Elizabeth Colebrook, who has over 30 years experience in the bike trade. Her designs are created following a personal consultation, after which point Colebrook oversees every aspect of the construction personally; she chooses the tubeset, builds the frame, braises it, files it by hand, and silver solders all the fittings for the luggage rack, body cages and lighting system. Colebrook is particularly known for her award-winning step-through design; a beautifully-elegant frame, created for those with lesser hip flexibility.
Based in South East London’s Woolwich (or ‘Coolwich’, as a well-meaning but slightly unconvincing local campaign is attempting to rebrand it), Saffron Frameworks operates from Thames Side Studios, home to an array of artists and craftspeople. Each Saffron order begins with a detailed discussion about your needs, followed by a fitting with a specialist bicycle fitter. From there, the lead time is a hefty seven months, but with good reason; every aspect of a Saffron bike can be adjusted according to your preference, from custom tube sets to hand-carved lugs. The end result - an utterly personal expression of your ideal bicycle, as aesthetically pleasing as it is beautifully functional.
The iconic British company is a success story that almost never was - the iconic folding design, created by Andrew Ritchie, was roundly rejected by existing bike manufacturers. Ritchie set up on his own in 1975, and so created a globally revered brand. Today, whilst the global appetite for Brompton is vast, each bike is still handmade in its London factory. Modern Brompton designs include the Superlight - constructed from titanium - and the Electric - which comes with a 250W motor and easily-chargable power pack. Though not as strictly ‘bespoke’ as other independent brands, it’s possible to customise your Brompton online with a total of 16.5 million potential combinations.
If it’s mountain bikes you’re after, Trillion have got you covered. Built-to-order in their facility in Livingston, Scotland, the company offers Frame Only and Build Kit options which can be ordered online and fully Custom Built frames, designed via in-depth phone consultation, with a lead time of 8-10 weeks. The two main frames on offer are the Prime - a robust, solid hardtail - and the Shug - its higher-end, more versatile sibling. Trillion bicycles can guarantee the quality of their steel, too as the company is a division of the mammoth Liberty House Group, metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta’s global steel conglomerate. (Plus, once you own one, you’re technically a Trillionaire. So that’s something.)
Main image credit: Leo Patrizi via Getty Images