with no disrespect to those who plied their trade over the wooden boards at the ignominiously named emirates stadium at glasgow's commonwealth games, there's still a single aspect of the 2012 london olympics that outdoes pretty much everything we've seen over the past weekend. that aspect concerns a medal winning keirin ride concerns the man whose name really ought to be front and foremost above the commonwealth games velodrome's front door (according to prince bradley). having doggedly hogged the inside line even when challenged by german, maximilian levy, on the outside through the last corner, as a cheering scotsperson on the edge of my armchair, i always knew chris hoy would collect gold at the end.
sadly, not only can i not emulate sir chris's speed (though i did once hold his bike at a braveheart ride to let him pump up his tyres), i doubt i'll ever get the hang of riding one of those fixed wheel thingies in the first place. unless there's a wall to hang onto at the beginning and another at journey's end to allow me to stop safely, i'm completely stuffed.
freewheeling is good.
you'd figure that hoy's days of travelling fast on a bicycle might well be behind him, given that he seems now slightly besotted with fast cars. however, all is not lost. there now comes news of a singular addition to the range of hoy bikes distributed by evans cycles. and the forthcoming range of clothing next year via his latest partnership with nick hussey's vulpine clothing is one more thing to keep his cleats firmly entrenched in the world of two wheels. the range of hoy bicycles on offer from evans however, if they don't mind me saying so, bear little resemblance to the sort of velocipede that accounted for many of those olympic golds. of course, that's part of the point of the exercise.
in something of a surprise yet eccentric move, an amalgam of sir chris, evans cycles and edinburgh's shand cycles has produced a one-off handbuilt steel keirin bike to celebrate those olympic golds. the surprise is possibly not that this unique bicycle celebrates hoy's main claim to fame, but that of its provenance. i asked the frame's builder, steven shand, how, apart from the glaringly obvious scottish connection, where did this hoy/shand collaboration come from?
"James Olsen, designer for Evans own brand and previously Genesis bikes, and I have know each other for many years. When the idea for a flagship Keirin bike for the HOY brand first came up, it seemed like there was a need to do something a little different and I'm guessing a wee lightbulb came on in James' head. He made contact to see if we'd be interested in talking. We were and we did. The fact that we're but a stone's throw from the Livingston BMX track where Sir Chris started his racing career is a nice little sidestory.
having ridden several of steven's handmade bicycles, and enjoyed a day's visit to the workshop, i cannot recall having seen even one single-speed bicycle hanging on any of the completed or 'to-do' racks, let alone one that might stand a fair chance of winning an olympic medal. the bikes employed in japanese keirin are all built from steel tubing, a style that this shand-built hoy admirably emulates. modern day olympic and world cup competition has long-since eschewed metal construction in favour of the ubiquitous carbon fibre, but there's little doubt that steven's latest creation owns a great deal more panache than burnt plastic. in the light of such a fabulous looking machine, might i surmise that he's built at least one of these before?
No. We get asked quite a lot for track bikes but we don't have much experience with track cycling in the company. It's always been pretty important to us that we're 'honest' about what we do and that when you're buying a bike from us, you're buying experience and the result of many, many long miles of cycling on the type of bikes we're producing. I just didn't feel we could offer a track bike and still hold true to those values.
"Interestingly, about three months before we were approached about the HOY bike, I'd had a conversation with another well respected Scottish Commonwealth track cyclist about getting his help in maybe working together on a track bike design. I'm slightly embarrassed to say we sort of dropped that project when Sir Chris came to see us!"
currently, shand cycles offer three off-the-shelf bicycles: the stoater, skinnymalinky and stooshie, all of which contain a few unique elements, but as a group, are designed to satisfy the more adventurous amongst us in our favoured genre of riding. as steven mentioned above, these are the result of many hours of both trial and error framebuilding and bike riding. however, as atated above, the workshop wasn't filled with track bikes on my visit, so did the keirin frame involve any factors that would not normally be a part of the shand cycles's day?
"No, not really. The design process was a little different, as you'd expect from a more collaborative project, but the way we built the bike was very much the same way we build all our bikes."
the bike, beautifully painted in-house by russell stout, was not a solo venture; sir chris is unlikely and unwilling to have his name painted on any downtube without personal input. add to the equation james olsen, the designer overseeing the entire hoy range for evans cycles and i wondered how much input steven had to the design?
"The design was pretty much done, in so far as Chris's position on the bike was a given. That was non-negotiable. The other factors, BB drop, trail and chainstay length were also pretty much decided before we got to it. Our job was to take those parameters and make sure the tubing we wanted to use would work for the intended use.
"There's actually another HOY track bike hanging up here unfinished. This was my first attempt at building a bike that I felt reflected the HOY brand, but to be honest I didn't like how it ended up. The current range of HOY bikes have some design elements that I'd tried to bring into play, but ultimately it felt a little compromised in my eyes. The final bike we built was much more a Shand than that first bike and James Olsen was happy that I built a bike that was clearly a Shand."
as can be seen from the accompanying photographs, the frame is, if anything, understated, beautifully sleek and undoubtedly steel. the chris king headset is a nice touch too. to reflect the bike's inspiration, sir chris's name is detailed in japanese towards the rear of the top tube. its existence is something of a step outside the style already set by the current evans hoy range, but as designer james olsen said, "Sometimes costs and timelines have to take a step aside to allow for new methods to shape the brand's product development. It's a process that is different to our usual production bike design and realisation methods, and one that we're excited to see the end results of."
so of what tubing has steven crafted this iconic frame? "The tubing is a mix. It's mostly Columbus MAX with a single Reynolds tube in there too. I have some ideas on tubing that I'd like to pursue if we build more of these, but it wasn't practical on this one-off.
which beggars the question, is this a style of 'fixie' that shand will now be able to offer to his customers without a knighthood? "No. We have no plans to offer a Shand track bike or fixie. If we do more in this vein, it'll be alongside Chris and the HOY brand." in a similar vein, i asked evans cycles' marketing manager, gareth evans if this was the first of many.
he didn't say no.
tuesday 29 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................