“And you know what’s so amazing? There’s no Lycra anywhere!”
Indeed there wasn’t. If cycling is to be – to quote Boris – ‘de-Lycrafied’ – then the Spin London show was a big step in the right direction.
This three-day show, held over the bank holiday weekend, was billed as the world’s first urban focused bicycle show. Combining bikes, fashion, art, music, film and more bikes, it was about cycling as means of getting around the city – and looking good while doing so.
Even the location of the event spoke volumes: no soulless corporate exhibition halls here. Instead it was held in the Truman Brewery, in the heart of east London’s Brick Lane. Amid hipster crowds out enjoying the area’s buzzing mix of markets stalls, vintage shops, cafes, bars and curry houses, the show blended right into its surroundings (literally – I walked past the entrance twice before I finally spotted it).
So was it all about fixies and skinny men with beards? Well, I’m not going to lie – there was an element of that. But there was more to it than that. A lot more.
For starters, there were the bikes. There were unique, one-off bikes, beautiful wooden bicycles, bikes with bling, bikes with retro cool, mola Spanish bikes, bikes in every colour of the rainbow, bikes for zipping nimbly through traffic, and bikes for leisurely pootling – in fact, just about every kind of bike you could imagine.
Creativity and originality were at the heart of the show. At one end of the price scale, there were the bespoke bikes – one-off works of two-wheeled art, designed and built with dedication, skill and (in some cases) a big dollop of ingenuity. That individuality wasn’t just limited to the more expensive bikes: many of the cheaper bikes on display could also be customised. I was particularly smitten by Mango bikes – not only by the range of colours (how could you not love a bright green and orange bike? Or a purple one?) but also by the fact you can get a unique, fully customised bike for less than £300. That’s an absolute bargain.
This being a show as much about style as it was about cycling, there was a whole room dedicated to fashion. The emphasis here was on clothes and accessories that work both on and off the bicycle. As well as there afore-mentioned Lycra, hi-viz was also conspicuous by its absence. Why wear a fluorescent bib when you can wear a reflective scarf from Lflect, or a reflective belt from Retro Reflectives? Why wear a garish yellow jacket when you can wear one of these stylish numbers from Water off a duck’s back or Georgia in Dublin? Why lug about a bulky, awkward pannier bag when you could carry one of these deeply stylish Ally Capellino bags – or one of these kitsch floral bags from Fused?
There was a lot to fall in love with, and I could easily have left the show having spent a small fortune. But it wasn’t just the stuff on sale that caught my interest. It was the ethos behind it. I liked the craft element – of having something that not only looks a bit different, but also supports a local bike seller, or maker. Most of the bikes on display were made by small manufacturers (many of them British) and sold through independent bike shops. There were few established names there, and a number that were just starting up – more than once I was told, ‘we’re just getting the shop up and running in a few weeks, but take a look at our website’.
Given today’s economic climate, it’s reassuring to see that this is one area of the economy that seems – at least on the evidence of this weekend’s show – to be growing. May this be the first show of many.
[Sadly, I didn’t take many photos at the show. If you want to see more (and better) photos, Cycle Love have a great photostream on their website]