Ask the Trade, Bespoked special: How healthy is the handmade market and what opportunities exist?

The UK’s leading handmade bicycle show Bespoked has now wrapped having once again laid on a plethora of highly lusted after builds for the artisan bicycle aficionados among us. CyclingIndustry.News took the opportunity to quiz those building in the handmade arena on the overall health of the market and they had this to say:

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Caren Hartley showing new label Isen for the first time

Caren Hartley, Hartley Cycles and Isen

“The order books are full, but of course I’m still taking orders! I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a generous stream of good press over the years.

“My builds start at £3,500, but have run to £12,000 for a full build before now. As an average, sales tend to work out between £5,000 to £6,000 and take a month to complete, though again that depends heavily on the level of detail. The launch of our production brand, Isen, may alter these figures as we’ll be selling framesets from £1,750. We expect to produce about  50 in year one.”

Rob English, English Cycles

“There seems to be a resurgence and I have as much work as I can handle at present. I don’t know if that’ll be the case for everyone, as some of us are hobbyists and others in it for the commercial side. I’m not sure there’s enough work to support everyone as it stands, but it’s certainly nice to be increasingly able to turn to a neighbour to build your bike.”

Paul MacDonald, Rideworks

Paul MacDonald, Rideworks 

“There’s quite a few bikes here at Bespoked using my bottom brackets as I’ve come to market with an option that allows cabling to pass through. It’s more the OE side driving Rideworks at present and Bespoked is a crucial meet for us to build our presence in the market. We’re shipping bits and pieces into Europe with increasing regularity.

“Having said that, the aftermarket product side is a focus going forwards and I would love to hear from more retailers interested in carrying unique UK made components.”

Steve McGuire, Iowa University framebuilding

“The handbuilt market in the States gets better and better. I’d attribute this to the kind of cycling people are doing is diversifying and the number of events to drive this are also increasing, so increasingly customers are understanding the worth of design and innovation trends. If you’re in a location that needs a certain kind of bike to effectively get you around I think customers are increasingly looking further and considering carefully their purchases.

“A number of builders from the U.S. are looking at the UK Bespoked show now as a must visit. England is obviously perfect cyclocross country, so the show has a certain draw for the framebuilder exploring new ground.”

Robert Wade, Bicycles by Design

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Andrew Denham, The Bicycle Academy

“I’ve been in the business producing for a long while now and from what I can see there’s a core of around 25 to 30 frame builders producing around 450 frames a year fully bespoke start to finish.”

Andrew Denham, The Bicycle Academy

“What state is the handbuilt market in? It is what you make of it!

“There are people working hard and being industrious and many starting purely to run their workshop as a commercial pursuit. For this reason the market is really changing and truly it’s no longer enough to simply say ‘I’ve been doing this for 25 years’, some of the new talent coming through is incredible and tops many experienced builder’s work. It’s exciting, we’re certainly seeing more bike shops enrolling on courses too to give their business an extra dimension.”