12 Stunning Bicycles from Bespoked 2023
The Bespoked 2023 handmade bike show was held for the first time on the European mainland in Dresden, Germany, and nobody knew quite what to expect. Over the packed weekend, writer Josh Meissner and photographer Stefan Haehnel weaved through the crowds to scope out their favorite bikes of the bunch. Read on for the backstories and superb photos of a dozen stunning rigs for bikepacking and beyond here…
Photos by Stefan Haehnel
Earlier this year, the German frame building community was sent into a buzz at the news that the Bespoked 2023 handmade bike show, previously hosted in the UK, would be happening in Dresden. The change of venue is quite a departure, but it’s fitting because Dresden and its surrounding area are a surging hub of bicycle and bike component manufacturing. Nearly the entire German bicycle building and component maker scenes—and many big names from all over Europe—converged on the venue in the sleepy Dresden International Airport.
Still, given the relatively short list of exhibitors compared to much larger trade shows, we went in wondering how much interesting stuff we’d find. But once we checked in to the passenger terminal, we found ourselves completely overwhelmed. The quality and diversity on display from the incredibly talented builders and makers were sky-high, and we got roped into fascinating chats at every step in the packed venue. Kudos to the Bespoked crew for curating a top-tier event, and we hope this won’t be the last time we come together on the mainland! After much deliberation, find 12 of our favorite bikes below.
Tim Tas + Rek Scotland ATBlink
Den Bosch, Netherlands
Undoubtedly, one of the most eye-catching bicycles of the show came from bag and rack maker Jean Michel of Tim Tas + Tek in The Netherlands. He’s built a number of bicycles for himself to ride challenging events such as Paris-Brest-Paris and thereby put his handmade gear through the wringer.
This rigid ATB is designed around 29 x 3” plus-sized tires and swept-back handlebars, and it’s equipped with a dropper post for tackling the highlands of Scotland. The minimal front and rear racks emerge straight from the frame and support a set of colorful bags of his own make. The bags are covered with MOLLE webbing for adding on accessory bags.
What I love about this bike is the multi-modal practicality of it. Because Jean Michel wanted to easily get to Scotland by way of ferry and train and without flying, he built the bicycle with a bolt-on, double-chainstay rear triangle so that it can be disassembled into a compact package for travel, Rinko-style.
Drust Cycles Pinion Dogpackerlink
Konstantin Drust knocked it out of the park in quintessential Drust Cycles fashion with his truss-fork Pinion doggo hauler. The unique cargo bike was such an attention magnet to the point that it was hard to sneak it away for photos. Konstantin told me he didn’t model the design beyond the key dimensions and endpoints. The main top tube he made straight, and the two parallel headtubes made mitering easy. The rest of the construction he expertly improvised.
The Pinion gearbox drivetrain provides low gearing, and it wouldn’t be a Drust without the flawless raw lugs and extra bottle bosses peppered across the frame tubes. With the precious passengers riding low and centered, the bike is exceedingly stable. Two passing Dachshunds gave their seal of approval. The Pinion Dogpacker deservedly took Best in Show. Congratulations, Konstantin!
Meerglas Modern Randonneurlink
Bad Wilsnack, Germany
After a framebuilding hiatus, Thomas Becker of Meerglas was back in the mix at Bespoked with two randonneuring steeds and a cyclocross bike. “The people want more modern bikes from me,” says Tom—modern being a relative term here, referring to the 1 ⅛ threadless headset on what otherwise amounts to a platonic ideal of a classic randonneuse. Just going by the style of these stunning creations, in my mind, the builder behind them had to be a pipe-smoking old timer, an expectation Tom completely subverted.
Following the holistic approach of the French constructeurs, metal fenders, dynamo lighting, and polished racks were designed and fabricated as integral parts of the bicycle. The flawless lug work and monochrome paint set off by polished highlights are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Completing the package is a special edition of ultralight rando bags and panniers by Gilles Berthoud.
Sour PB&J Full-Suspension MTBlink
Two years deep into its development, Dresden-based Sour Bicycles showed off a prototype of their first full-suspension mountain bike, the PB&J. The new model started off as an extra-squishy version of their popular Pasta Party XC frame and gradually morphed into a distinct model that they say performs in everything from XC sprints to ultras. Thanks to the fairly large main triangle and extra mounting points, it also looks like it could be a great pick for technical bikepacking routes, too.
To get started, Sour is working with a German-made subframe, which they’re gradually re-engineering to fully meet their own requirements. The SRD (Sour Racing Development) logo on the top tube marks the PB&J as a high-performing model with strong tubes that are as light as the Sour crew felt comfortable riding, a new headtube and bottom bracket shell, and other premium features. Comfort and speed are provided by 120mm of suspension up front and 115mm or 120mm in the rear.
Stoked but patient to get it right, they’ll be collecting data through the 2024 ultra-racing season before the new model goes into series production.
Kocmo Tiger Gravel Bikelink
Not quite custom but still interesting, Kocmo Titan Bikes has been manufacturing customized titanium bicycles just outside of Berlin since 1994. At Bespoked, they showed off a highly capable, MTB-inspired gravel bike they’ve dubbed the Tiger. It’s a drop-bar bicycle designed around a 100mm suspension fork and up to 29 x 2.4” tires for going fast and far at events such as the Atlas Mountain Race.
It’s equipped with SRAM Rival AXS electronic shifting and a comfy-looking Red Shift cockpit. The frame has all the mounting points for extended journeys that require extra gear. Kocmo wasn’t on my radar until seeing them at Bespoked, and it’s cool to see small German manufacturers picking up on niche bikepacking trends.
Hulsroy Cycles 26” BMX-Style ATBlink
I’ve been a fan of Mads Hulsroy’s work since seeing his custom-built cargo bike featured as a Reader’s Rig here on the site. He came from Denmark and was showing two rigid ATBs and a cute child-size one. For this 26” blue beauty, Mads got a simple brief from customer Hayley: “A bike you want to ride to coffee outside, work, the pub or a week round the coast, not really caring when you’ll get there but how you enjoyed getting there.” Only Hayley can know for sure, but it looks like he executed the request brilliantly.
Color coordination is on point thanks to a bespoke Wit Slingers bag setup sewn by Mads’ partner in craft, Tijmen Kervers, who’s based in nearby Leipzig, Germany. The generously sized triangle coupled with new Hulsroy side-loading stainless steel cages allow for a half-frame bag and two larger 750ml bottles despite Hayley’s shorter height.
A higher-than-usual spacer stack was important to Hayley so she can move the bars up and down depending on how she feels. The rest of the build is kept pleasingly simple with a tasteful mix of black and silver components. Get in close, and you’ll catch some cheeky details like the smiley etched into the BMX-style dropouts.
Allygn Beast from the Eastlink
Allygn Components from Berlin showed their latest ultra-fat-tire, off-road, drop-bar prototype. Strong cues from founder Florian Häussler’s Fern rando bikes are evident throughout, but this one is TIG welded, just as the future batch-produced frame will be. The entire frame, right down to the seatstay and chainstay bridge, is built from lightweight Columbus Life tubing. Chunky 27.5 x 2.4” tires fit with room to spare, and Flo says the next prototype will fit even wider. If I could have only one bike for life, this would be very high on the list.
German traffic-safe lights are great, but they reach their limits off-road. So, Flo hooked up a Lupine SL Nano e-bike headlight to the output of a Forumslader dynamo charger, permitting riding safely in traffic with a switchable high-beam, all under dynamo power. After seeing this, I’m inspired to implement something similar on my all-terrain rando bike. At the last minute, Flo decided the frame deserved a custom stem and brazed one with a GPS holder. Also notice the one-off raw Cyber Cycles square-taper crank—more on that made-in-Germany crank in my next post from Bespoked.
The Allygn is decked out in bags from our friends Gramm Tourpacking, and I’m excited to see that they’re getting into mini-panniers. The Gramm fork bags magnetically snap to a minimal rack that attaches to the fork’s triple cargo bosses, forgoing the need to mess with straps. Stay tuned for more on this shortly.
Rossman 2023 CDM Randonneurlink
Hahn Rossman’s black randonneur represents a snapshot of his multi-decade journey of riding brevets and fabricating bikes and components tailored to the dignified discipline. This iteration was specifically built to answer the 10 challenging requirements outlined by the 2023 Concours de Machines, which was held in conjunction with this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris super brevet.
The main priority for this frame was comfort while retaining stability and steering precision, keeping rider Olivier safe while fatigued. Hahn constructed several test frames with different selective ovalizing of the tubes to dial in the handling. Speaking to Hahn’s execution, Olivier went on to ride PBP in a speedy 65 hours aboard the bike.
One nearly invisible yet substantial innovation is the custom conducting headset that allows for Rinko-ing the bicycle without having to unplug wires running to the rear light. Hahn is partnering with Schmidt Maschinenbau to bring the ingenious system into production.
Starfish Bicycles Stumpjumperlink
Vester Skerninge, Denmark
Possibly the most refreshingly grounded bike of the show was Tore’s 27.5” upcycled Stumpjumper. Building under the name Søstjerne Cykler, or Starfish Cycles, with the delightful motto “Soft bicycles for soft people,” they’ve brazed the front of a 1994 full-suspension Specialized Stumpjumper to a new rear end to get increased tire clearance—because more rubber equals more fun!
Trained as a welder, Tore used stainless steel plate and an angle grinder to make new dropouts—they look like a starfish to me. The bike is set up with dinglespeed with 18 and 20-tooth cogs in the back, perfect for transitioning into the hills just 100 meters from their house in Denmark.
Auguste Cycles Vintage Tandemlink
Victor of Auguste Cycles in France specializes in bicycle restorations and building frames inspired by classic designs. To cycle to the chapel with his future wife, he updated a vintage French tandem from the 1940s to modern standards while conserving as much of the original construction and patina as possible. The old frame had many quirks he had to work around, but he got it done just in time for the big day (congratulations!).
Victor involved his friend Clément of Tangente Atelier to produce a set of gorgeous color-matched bags that blend modern technical fabric with leather details. The pop of gridstop fabric on the stem bags is reminiscent of plaid, and you can just imagine a well-dressed couple pedaling through the French countryside.
Highlights on the diamond/step-through two-seater include the added truss that braces the bi-plane fork to deal with disc brake forces, adapting the old French threading on the BB shell for modern cranks, new seat collars for modern seat posts, and a hybrid drop/swept-back bar configuration that best suits each rider.
Dlouhy Cycles 29+ Enduro Hardtaillink
Some of the most unabashedly maximalist bikes of the show were those commissioned by bike company product managers, and this burly hardtail by Leipzig-based Dlouhy Cycles was one of them. Inspired by the customer’s other longer-travel enduro bikes, the Dloughy makes up for its mere 140mm of front suspension with plus-sized rubber.
The frame centers around an impressive integrated dropper seat post by Eightpins from Austria that uses the seat tube itself as the immersion tube and has a long and adjustable maximum extension. Shifting is achieved with one of just five anodized SRAM Eagle AXS derailleurs in the world.
Cycles Manivelle Basket Cruiserlink
Finally, my favorite bike of the show. Thomas and Silvin, the duo behind Cycles Manivelle in France, presented Silvin’s brand-new basket cruiser, which he conceived as a big BMX to have fun with in the city. He finished it just days before the show and was quick to point out that he’d forgotten the fender mounts on the fork, to which he found an elegant fix. The build is a tour de force of Manivelle bags, their perfectly sized basket, and unique angular bottle cages. The two are proud that all Manivelle products are made either in-house or by trusted manufacturing partners in France.
A look underneath the Manivelle basket reveals a seamless fork with an integrated rack. The slender yet rigid half-truss construction keeps the weight impressively low at just under a kilogram or about two pounds. Classic low-trail geometry means the steering is light to the touch, even with a full load on top.
Chubby 26” tires, full fenders, and SON dynamo lighting make for a supercommuter that surely performs admirably when pedaling far into the countryside. Alongside the fancy Hope bits, we were pleased to see humble parts like the well-used Shimano LX 7-speed derailleur actuated by a thumbie modified to friction shifting. Amazing work!
Stay tuned for part two of our 2023 Bespoked Handmade Bike Show coverage! In the meantime, dig in to some related coverage from Germany and some of the small brands featured in this post below, and to find past coverage of the Bespoked bike show, check out the #bespoked tag.
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