News

Quella rides Critical Mass

Critical mass is often described as an ‘unorganised coincidence’. It happens when cyclists congregate in the same place at the same time and decide to cycle the same way together for a while. A social gathering to meet people and share stories from everyday life.  On occasions, it offers individuals the platform to demonstrate more concerning issues in society, albeit of an unorganised nature. Onlookers can do nothing but wait patiently until the procession of riders has meandered leisurely on through, and for a brief moment in time cyclists claim ownership of the streets beneath their wheels.  

On the last Friday of every month riders from all walks of life converge under Waterloo Bridge in Central London.  

Critical Mass has a global presence.  It is said to have officially gained recognition back in in San Francisco in 1992 and has since gained momentum to an ‘unorganised’ event panning over 300 countries worldwide. The UK summer of 2018 has been hot.  The blistering heat at times has been intense and prolonged, however in true English fashion when the day of the Critical Mass came in July the heavens truly opened. On our way to the gathering, we met up with Matt Derrick friend of Quella Bicycle and owner of clothing brand in the making Paloma Fixie.  Matt joined us from Farringdon Tube station as we headed over to Waterloo Bridge. The weather was changeable, and without notice we faced a downpour supported by huge lightning bolts that proceeded to lighten up the dark skies as we flew fixie style weaving in and out of the traffic in true alleycat fashion. Still pouring with rain we were drenched to the bone upon arrival at the arches, yet the community vibe that we approached could be seen humming with warmth in the distance.  It was an exciting feeling to see so many congregating under the shadows of Waterloo Bridge; the place was a buzz to the eclectic mixture of folk meeting and greeting one another. People from all walks of life talked in conversation whilst perched proudly next to their carrying modes of cycling transport whether Fixie, MTB, Road ….. All styles were present even the odd ‘Boris’ thrown into the mix. Right on cue, the rain eased off, the sun poked its face through the parting clouds and the uplift in vibe changed as hundreds of bell’s rang out an unorchestrated high-pitch melody.  It was time to head-off as we happily bumped shoulders with others eager to grasp our space and join the moving procession seeking to commence. Our mass exodus flowed through London, a wave of cyclists that stopped all in their tracks passing landmark after landmark.  For a brief moment traffic came to a standstill as without authority parts of the mass broke off and became stewards, planting their roots at junctions preventing the automobile industry from taking ownership of the tarmac that lay before them. A sense of camaraderie filled the group, the feeling of power to take over and ride the streets of London with no worries about oncoming traffic, a feeling of real exhilaration flowed within. Everyday, all over the world, people are resisting the problem culture of the car by getting on their bikes and riding, instead of driving. Critical Mass is a celebration of the alternatives to cars, pollution, accidents and the loss of public spaces and freedoms. Not an organisation or group, but an idea or tactic, Critical Mass allows people to reclaim cities with their bikes, just by getting together and outnumbering the cars on the road. Every Critical Mass ride is different.  With no set route, the direction is chosen spontaneously as people freely cycle along. Everyone is welcome and free to join or leave the ride as it pedals along. The ride lasts no more than a couple of hours (depending on the weather!) and usually ends in a conveniently placed watering hole, where refreshments are best served by the pint. Whether in London, San Francisco or Tokyo take part.  Most of all, they are peaceful, safe and fun! [gallery size="full" ids="5291,5292,5294,5295,5297,5298,5288,5289,5290"]

Elliot Jones | A Photographer on a fixie

'This is my bicycle, there are many like it, but this one is MINE' is a sentiment most cyclists are familiar with; your bike is precious and personal, a friend as much as a possession.  Like a lover, it might have 'issues'; a cranky personality, the occasional breakdown, and the ability to puncture your emotions from time to time.  However, together you make a beautiful partnership without the complications of bad sex and arguments about whose turn it is to take the bins out.

Anyone who has owned a bike will know the pain felt when some undeserving, low-life swipes it whilst resting and vulnerable.  It is inconvenient, expensive and annoying - really, really annoying.  

Elliot Jones, a 22-year-old photographer and content manager at website basementapproved.com, had owned his Quella Nero fixie for precisely 489 days.  It had whizzed him across London from Tufnell Park to Shoreditch hundreds of times, always beating the traffic and the tube.  Sure, it had thrown him a couple of punctures, one of them in the pouring rain, and it lost its chain bouncing out of one of London's 'infinite' potholes, but it was a good'un - extremely good looking, low maintenance, reliable and steady.  So, when he emerged from the pub after a quick post-work sharpener to find what little remained of his lock lying on the floor, he was very, very hacked off.  He had lost his loved one to a thief.

Luckily, Elliot is a resourceful fellow and a talented photographer, so when he was told a couple of days later that his insurance company wouldn't pay out – because the bike hadn't been locked in his garage – he came up with a plan.  THE PHONE RANG AT QUELLA and Elliot pitched his intent “What if I provide some great photos of your new Varsity range and we work together on some Fixie art prints for the website, could we have a deal on a bike?'. A new partnership was born.

A brand-new chrome finished Varsity Imperial was dispatched and it was time to 'move on'.  The old Nero had been great, but the Varsity was a step up. In Elliot’s words;  'This bike really is the business, I love riding it and the chrome frame gets comments every day.  I am chuffed to be working with a brand like Quella on an on-going basis, and, as well as the general photography, we are going to partner on some limited edition, 'fixie themed', urban art prints, which is a really exciting project.  Getting my bike nicked was a massive pain but every cloud...'   

It all sounds like a happy ending, but if you are the grubby 'tea-leaf' that nicked a Quella Nero from outside The Prince Arthur, be very careful you don't get spotted riding it around anywhere near Elliot Jones.  We have met him, he is a big lad who's definitely been around the block, I wouldn't fancy your chances.

 Elliot's work can be seen at www.quellabicycle.com and on his own website www.photojones.co.uk.

[gallery link="file" size="full" ids="4908,4906,4911,4912,4907,4909,4910,4913,4914"]    

2 Wheel Gear | The brand that bikes to work

2 Wheel Gear was founded in Calgary, Canada with product manufactured using a borrowed sewing machine.  18 years later the brand is selling successfully throughout North America and has just landed in the UK for the first time as part of a partnership with Quella.  The Fix finds out more:

Reid, thanks for talking to us, firstly tell us how a bike luggage brand from British Columbia ended up working with a UK fixie brand? ‘A good buddy of mine, Chris Ford, who is heavily involved in the Whistler mountain bike scene introduced me to Mike from Quella, having met him on a recent cat-skiing trip in Canada.  We hit it off straight away and it was clear we had much in common, with a very similar ethos and a shared passion for cycling.  Quella will make a perfect partner to support our entry into the UK and European market.

Tell us a bit about 2 Wheel Gear’s background?

The founder, Craig Coulombe worked in downtown Calgary as a geophysicist. His daily attire would typically include a starched white dress shirt and smart pants to the office but got fed up of pulling out a wrinkled set in the locker room following his morning trip to work. Ahead of the trend, Craig would regularly cycle to work, however, there were very few options to transport clothes. Backpacks made his back sweat and were uncomfortable. Panniers at that time were nothing more than open sacks for dumping everything in one place. He decided to make his own way. The first step was asking his mother-in-law if he could borrow her sewing machine!

What was the first product?

In 1999, a very rough looking Classic Bike Suit Bag was born, and It was the first garment bag that kept clothes pressed on their hangers and strapped to the bike rack. Craig knew he had created a new way to bike commute and teamed up with longtime University pal, Ken MacLean to start selling the bags. For years, the Classic was sewn one by one in Calgary and assembled with hand rivets to order.

 When did you join the party?

I was brought in by the guys to manage the business in 2010 as a fresh-faced business graduate. I strongly believed in the movement that Ken and Craig had started and felt both the product and brand had a much greater market appeal than its current audience. It was quite low-key to start with, working mainly from my basement on the side of a full-time career.  In the early days, a local delivery normally involved me taking an extra suit bag on my commute for delivery on my lunch-break.

When did things start to get serious?

We all agreed the business had great potential from day 1 but required a full-time commitment to be successful. In 2012, using my life savings, I purchased the company outright from Ken and Craig. It was tough to start with but in 2014 we had really broken into the North American market which is when I moved up to Vancouver.

 In 2015, Two Wheel Gear started working with MEC, Canada’s largest and most trusted retailer of outdoor and cycling products. The focus is to create the very best bags in the world for professional business commuters and to keep pushing boundaries with bike commuting gear. Our focus is straightforward and simple. We want to make it extremely easy to bike to work.

We love some of the imagery and video you guys have done, how did that come about?

“What do you have there?” Was a common question at 7:30 am while changing in the men’s locker room in my corporate days.

Half or fully naked 40 somethings would always be asking me about my bike bag while towelling off in the men’s change room.  I would be pulling my suit out of my Classic Garment Pannier and the bike commuters at the company had never seen anything like it before.  I would often go into a full product demo while keeping my eyes up at shoulder height. These moments were the inspiration for our ‘locker room’ comedy footage that everyone loves.

We wanted a strong brand and knew that we wouldn’t create an impact unless the imagery was unique, and our videos generated attention. Our vision was to mix both style and humour across our social media platforms. We have created some great practical photography and video to help explain the product. They both work in different ways.

 

 

Finally, how do you see things developing in the UK?

I know that Quella work with some great distributors and they will use those contacts to give the product exposure through retail channels, as well as marketing the range on their website.  A Quella bike with a 2 Wheel Gear garment pannier must be the perfect commuter combo!  We aren’t expecting miracles, but we truly believe that the product is well-suited to the UK, particularly in the larger cities.  If people are worried about the weather, you need to remember that we launched this product on the North-Pacific Coast of Western Canada, no one gets more rain than us!

Thanks Reid – we look forward to seeing you for a few beers in the UK soon.

[gallery size="full" link="file" ids="4919,4918,4920"]    

The Eroica Festival

L’Eroica is held on the Strade Bianche (white roads) of Tuscany. The term meaning heroism dates back to a bygone era when competitive riders would battle the elements on brutal cobbled surfaces compelling them to an iconic ‘god-like’ status. We talk to Gian Bohan, the founder of the Eroica festival in the UK, about this growing movement and his inspiration for creating an annual celebration of its existence within the heart of the Derbyshire countryside.

How long have you been involved in Eroica Britannia? 

We are now in our 5th year of EB and I have been involved from the beginning. It was just an idea over a beer after having completed the Eroica event in Italy back in 2012. How was it and what made it so memorable? The Eroica event was totally different from anything else we had experienced in cycling. It was tough 220 km route which takes over 12 hours, on pre-1987 bicycles taking in the Strade Bianchi of Tuscany. There were food stops along the way, laden with local procure; cheeses, salamis, local soups and even the odd drop of wine. Not a gel in sight. Everyone had gone to such effort in their attire, not to mention the artistry in their facial grooming and of course there were some amazing bikes. The stars aligned and after a few years of doing the Italian event, we thought how incredible it would be if we could replicate such in the UK. How did you decide on a location? Our cycling backyard is the Peak District with our own version of the Strade Bianci, the old Monsal trail, High peak trails and amazing quaint villages. So the idea was born of Eroica Britannia. The villages and community welcomed the event as it was so different from the normal sportive of everyone racing through incredible scenery but not taking the time to enjoy and appreciate it. Were you always interested in cycling heritage?  Or, simply attracted by the opportunity to wear woollen shorts and grow a stylish moustache? I was always attracted to having an adventure and an endeavour on a bike. When you add in being able to don a great outfit and drink Chianti and Beer, the battle of cycling on uneven, cobbled surfaces with unpadded attire becomes less daunting and frankly more enjoyable. My road into the cycling bug came from doing the Dallioglio Cycle slam for a few years riding around Europe for a few weeks. The odd drop of beer also passed our lips as you can imagine. Tell us about your bike?   My collection continues to grow however my heart sways to an old rare Red Bianchi from Italy. I have to admit I’m not a tech geek, I just love my aesthetics and getting out where ever I lay my hat. We noticed a number of Italian 'Eroicans' took part in the Paris-Roubaix when our Quella ambassador, the parathlete Garrett Turbett completed the sportive recently. They were riding old, heavy single speed bikes from the 20's and 30's which was impressive.  Is this common?   You will see Eroican’s popping up to events all over the world. They’re an enthusiastic bunch of Italians and are unmissable due to their great retro kit, accessories and classic bikes. What is a typical Eroica bike? It has to be pre-1987, with gear levels on the down tube, no toe clips and brake cables arching gracefully over the handlebars. Riding an old bike is a whole new experience, add the gravel roads with a few lumps and bumps and it can get exhilarating.  What can visitors to Eroica Britannia expect? When we were in concept stage we visited the Goodwood Revival and quickly thought let’s make EB the Goodwood of the biking world and created a 3-day festival. We’ve included Family rides, The Twilight ride – where there is a ride to the pub – and a plethora of music, entertainers, merchandise, food stalls, bike brands and we have even created our own Pub on site, The Britannia Arms! Is it just for serious cyclists? The great thing about EB is that it appeals to all generations. From cycling fanatics who want a real test and to experience the beauty of fatigue with the 100-mile route, to those who have only recently sat on a bike. Those wishing to have a more relaxed and indulgent affair can simply kick back and enjoy the vintage atmosphere.  

A Single-Speed discussion with Tim Wiggins

Since a young age, Tim has always been interested in exploring the great outdoors. While doing so, he developed a real passion for cycling which led to the creation of his blog, ‘Life In The Saddle’. Following several years at Wiggle, Tim now showcases his challenges and adventures offering clear-cut, no-nonsense reviews. We speak to Tim about his love of single-speed bikes.

When was your passion for single-speeds born? My love for riding a single speed bike stems back to my very first road bike. It was a 1992 Peugeot, and cost me £5 from a family friend; the brakes barely worked, the frame had rust damage, and the down-tube shifters were so worn-out that it constantly slipped back into the 42-10 gear, making it in effect a tough going single-speed bike. I still loved every minute of riding it. It was simplistic freedom, providing the ability to explore new roads and even new countries. Do you still have the old Peugeot? The Peugeot still sits in my garden shed; I am too sentimental to get rid of it. I have mostly been astride geared bikes for the last 10 years though; racing and riding endurance events and challenges all over Europe. Tell us a bit more about some of these adventures? 3000 kilometres from Copenhagen to Andorra via the Alps was my most recent 'Big Ride'; the #7Countries7Passes was an unsupported epic exploration of the Continent. The thing is, riding bikes shouldn't be complicated. It is one of the nicest things about endurance bicycle touring; there is little to do except get up, ride your bike, eat, camp, sleep, and then repeat; you become a nomad disconnected from the busy junctions of everyday life. These tours sound immense, but where do single-speeds fit in? Single speed riding is equally simplistic in nature. It is bike riding as an art form, without the mathematic considerations of power output, timed efforts, aerodynamics or suspension pressure. That is not to say that single speed riding can't be hard work. Living on the Isle of Wight it is quite easy to rack up 2,000+ metres of elevation on a 4-5 hour weekend ride. Try doing that solely in the 42-16 gear, and your legs will be looking straight at the sofa when you return home. Single speed riding in this sense is an escape from the complicated: to the simple realm of one gear, one idea, and no choice but to grunt your way up the steepest of hills. It sounds like your single-speed is the n+1 cycle in your collection? There are still times when gears are essential. Riding for 28 hours, 400 miles across Europe: non-stop through Flanders, the Ardennes, and the Black Forest, on the #BlackForest400, would not have been sensible on a single speed bike. Returning home though, with battered legs and a tired mind; wanting to do nothing more than spin down to the harbour for an ice cream; then, the Quella Varsity was an easy choice. Spin the legs; feel the Zen. A single-speed should be a part of everyone’s collection. Can you sum up a single-speed? So for me, single speed is about a contrast. A connection with cycling's roots, and a chance to just spin without the considerations and calculations of endurance races and challenges. You can ride short or long; fast or slow, but you can only ride in one gear, and that is all you have to do. I love my Quella Varsity Cambridge.  Her baby blue frame and classic chestnut tyres has continued my fondness of the single gear. The working brakes, real flip-flop hub, and the shiny chrome finishing kit only add to the romance…  

MASTER WHEEL BUILDER | PETE MATTHEWS

In the good old days, wheels were as personal as a tailored suit. You bought them made on site at the shop you purchased your bike from and, if you raced, you had a pair of race wheels made by the local expert.  When Quella Ambassador Garrett Turbett took on the Paris-Roubaix challenge he had one request, “Can I use custom wheels built by Pete Matthews to manage the 56km of cobbles?”

Pete Matthews is based in North Liverpool and is well-known as a master wheel builder. A racing legend in the North West, Pete has won more than 300 races in a 52-year amateur career and 20 national titles – including Amateur National Road Race Champion in 1968. Through our friends at Spin Cycling Magazine we share their intimate conversation with Pete at his workshop in his hometown of Liverpool. Why did you start wheel building? It was a necessity. I’ve always done my own repairs. I started building my own bikes at the age of 14. Almost as soon as I started racing in 1960, I had to start building my own wheels as I was having problems with local shop bought wheels. What was available in the early 1960s wheel-wise? It was always pretty restricted in terms of hubs and rims. The serious racing bike shops did Campagnolo hubs with Fiamme rims and 99% of people used those. They were 36 spoke pairs or 32/40 pairs. Wheels did go as low as 28 spoke wheels – but they were seen as time trial wheels. They wouldn’t stay true for jumping about in races. I was only a junior and eight-stone soaking wet. I thought ‘I can get away with a pair of 28’s’, so I ordered them. I remember riding a junior race on Holcombe and was in the break, came around a corner, kicked, and the back wheel disintegrated. One of the guys in the break, Dave Rostrum, who I’m still good mates with now after 50 years, said someone in the break shouted ‘Matthew’s got trouble’ and the whole break put the hammer down and left me. Out on the moors in the rain. That was the end of my 28’s. So that’s when you taught yourself? Well, I couldn’t get wheels fixed on a Saturday night down a shop, so I learnt to do it myself for Sunday morning racing. I made a few mistakes, but there you go. You learned. You were away racing all the time – down south, in Ireland and such like – so it gave you confidence if you could repair your own wheels and true them up. I became sort of a team mechanic, which set me in good stead when I set up the shop. Then you went to work at Harry Quinn’s shop in Everton Valley? That was in 1966. I learnt a lot from Harry. He taught me about fork and frame building and I started experimenting with 28 spoke wheels. People would say ‘You can’t use those for racing’ but the ones that I made were turning out fine even for big guys – racing and everything. But as I couldn’t convince everyone, I went further and started making 24 spokes wheels as well. 24 spoke wheels were the lowest spoke count production wheels in those days – only be used for time trial and the track. I wanted to explore the myth that you couldn’t use 24 spoke wheels and below for racing. The only way to do that was to build a pair. It was trial-and-error in one respect, as everyone wanted light alloy spoke nipples. These would sometimes break after three or four years, but people would bring the wheels back to be rebuilt and say they had still run true with a spoke gone, so I knew that I was on the right track. I rebuilt using brass nipples and off they went. Who's been your most memorable client? There have been many however one that stands out for me is Robert Millar. We were racing in the Isle of Man in our respective races and he asked me to build some especially light wheels for climbing in the Tour. He used my wheels in the late 1980s until he retired. It led to commissions from other riders like Sean Yates, Sid Barras and, more recently, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Hutchinson and Wendy Houvenaghel. I’m still in touch now and again with Robert. He rides motorbikes these days. What’s changed in wheel building since you started? Lots, but the main principles and benefits of bespoke wheels remain. I make strong, light and easily repairable wheels. In the old days, any steel frame would take any weight. These days, with tighter tolerances, lighter metals and lug-less welds, more breaks are happening. Wheels are the same. Some of those carbon-spoked, carbon-rimmed wheels are a small fortune to repair – if you can repair them at all. There always been a fixation with equipment weight, but it’s become silly in recent years. I have guys coming to me for wheels saying ‘can you knock 50gms off them to match these production wheels that are £300 dearer’. These are sportive guys who could do with losing a stone or two, so it doesn’t make sense to me. I have a pair of carbon rims with razor spokes and I’ve snapped a couple of spokes myself – and I weigh nine stone. It’s to do with both the spokes and rims being very rigid, so something has to give. It’s all about compliance. How does your wheel building service work. Is there a set range to choose from? It’s totally bespoke. I take height and weight into consideration and also what tyres are to be used and we then have a chat about what the wheels are going to be used for: touring; TT; road racing; general training; hill climb; track; whatever. Age is a factor as well. I advise from there. Lee and I do bladed spokes, 16-32 spoke wheels, different colours. We still use Royce hubs and, with the fashion for black hubs these days, plenty of people seem to like the shiny Royce hubs better. We also have some carbon frames coming out of Italy now under my Pianni label, which can be built up with wheels to match. We are looking at making titanium frames in the future as well. So can we have a pair of those nice blue rims with Royce hubs 18/24 for free? No. But you can have a free cup of tea.

Pete and Lee Matthews can be reached at 0151 924 9311. Prices and wheels can be found at www.petematthews.com