Huge Interest in the Stratospheric Top End of Handmade Market

Williamstown, Victoria

If you added up the production of every hand maker of bicycles in Australia it would probably still only amount to a fraction of 1% of the total Australian bicycle market, by volume.

But that doesn’t stop people coming in their thousands to see the annual Handmade Bicycle Show Australia (HBSA).

They come to see innovation, sublime craftmanship and in some cases, eye watering prices. A reasonable number of bike industry members also attend. Although most of the hand makers can’t manage either the volume or the price margins for serious wholesaling, some of the largest parts suppliers are also allowed to exhibit at the HBSA and they provide a more mainstream drawcard.

Here is a small selection of items on exhibit and some of their makers and importers.

In a hall full of very expensive bicycles, this one topped the tree at a mere $47,000 + GST.

Only 88 examples of the Bastion Arc Angel will be made. About a third have been pre-sold and 80% of Bastions are exported after being made in Melbourne. One couple has ordered a ‘his and hers’ pair of these bikes.

The Bastion Arc Angel’s lugs are made from titanium, complete with angel’s wings, joining frame tubes of carbon fibre.

Pat Howard of Lead Out Sports focused his entire display on just one of the dozen or so lines he distributes in Australia, Abbey Bike Tools. He said the market is still steady for high-end workshop tools, which he mainly sells to dealers rather than direct to consumers.

Campagnolo’s new Super Record wireless groupset was on display at the Bikesportz stand. At a mere $9,100, it certainly won’t have Shimano and SRAM worried about market share, but multiple exhibitors commented that demand was still strong for their very highest priced products.

Here is an 87-year-old brand you might not have heard of previously. Carradice bags are all still handmade in Lancashire, UK, as they have been since 1936. Importer Martin Tse is focused upon selling Carradice via dealers.

Industry veteran and Cuore Australia founder Drew Johnson (right) recently recruited retired AFL star Ryan O’Keefe to join him at Cuore. Ryan played 286 games for the Sydney Swans and, among other accolades, won two premierships and one Norm Smith Medal, which is awarded to the best player from either side in the grand final. He’s been a cycling enthusiast for many years.

The Dawson Sports Group (DSG) booth had a familiar visitor to its stand during the HBSA.
From left to right: Dave Mohr, Casey Frawley and Brent Dawson from DSG (Dawson Sports Group) with Brent’s brother Tim Dawson, who has worked at Shimano Australia for many years.

Tia Evans has a background in sewing and studied textile design at university. Before she and her partner went on a cycling tour of Japan, Tina made their own bicycle bags for the trip.

After requests from friends and others who saw the bags, Tina started making more and selling them. Now over four years later, Tina is making her Framework Designs bags full-time, assisted by a part-time staff member and looking to expand with a full-time hire soon. So far, most of her sales are direct, with only one dealer, but she’s hoping with expanded production capacity, she’ll be able to sell through more bike shops.

In keeping with the exotic theme of the HBSA, Bikesportz displayed a Hope mountain bike fitted with the full range of Hope components – all made in the small town of Barnoldswick, England.

The bike retails for $16,899, plus $1,200 extra for the chameleon paint scheme which changes colour depending upon the angle you view it, but is still translucent enough to see the carbon fibre frame beneath. Bikesportz’s Kahill Teirney said all the customers they’d sold this bike to so far had opted for the dearer paint option. Customers can also choose from six anodised colour options for the aluminium components and a choice of Fox or Ohlins suspension.

It was a pretty cold and wet winter’s weekend for this year’s HBSA, which is held at the historic port of Williamstown, not far across the bay from the Melbourne CBD. This was the view just outside the exhibit hall, which is an old wharf industrial building.

Officine Mattio is a relatively new handmade Italian brand being imported into Australia. The stainless-steel frame has tubing as thin as about 0.5mm, as you can see from the seat tube. At about $8,000 for the frame alone, by the time you add an extremely high-end component spec, you’re looking at about $25,000 for the complete bike.

Mark Hester and one work partner are fully employed making only about 50 Prova bicycles per year at their workshop in Melbourne. They mainly work with titanium, starting with plain tubing which they cut, butt and shape in-house.

The single-speed bike features a unique 3D printed crankset that includes production elements from NZ, UK and Italy and costs about $2,000, as part of the total bike which costs $22,000.

The kids’ bike was made by Mark (pictured right) for his six-year-old niece Charlie, who is the daughter of his sister Kelly (left).

It’s the only kids bike they’ve ever made. Charlie even got to create the splatter pattern for the anodised frame finish. The pink cranks are from Appleman in the US. This would be the perfect present for the kid with everything, and at $15,000 retail, they’d be pretty safe that the kid next door won’t be getting one soon.

Industry veterans Rob Eva and Jarrod Runciman were displaying the latest components from the SRAM stable of brands.

Jarrod said demand for Zipp wheels was strongest for the most expensive Zipp NSW and Firecrest ranges, for which they’re still struggling to secure sufficient supply to meet demand.

Mic Williams, founder of Trinity MTB, is an engineer by profession and a passionate downhill MTB racer. He’s been developing this WRP (Williams Racing Products) mid-mount gearbox, which he raced at last month’s Crankworx in Cairns and brought back to the HBSA complete with race number and mud still in place.

The WRP gearbox is currently a six speed, but Mic says a 12-speed version is in development.

He also handmakes the entire frame, which retails for $9,000. His Trinity bikes are available with a range of gearing options.

Ning Ding is a master wheel builder who has worked in various Melbourne bike shops over the past 13 years and, more recently, headed out on his own with Wheel Society. As well as handmaking a range of high-end wheels, using Chris King hubs and a range of rim and spoke options, Ming believes wheels should be dynamically balanced, just like automotive wheels.

Even though the valve is light, Ning says it still causes noticeable imbalance, which is not ideal at high speeds on a lightweight road bike. He has developed this sensor machine to work out where the weights, such as the one he is holding, need to be positioned. The weight is actually a ribbon that can be uncoiled and placed under the rim tape.

The balancing weights required are typically in the range of two to seven grams.

Ning also specialises in lightweight wheels for heavier riders. These have a higher spoke count. He says he’s seen too many wheels fail and his philosophy is ‘rider safety first’.

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