The Woods Cyclery Shop Visit, Coffee Ride, and Campout
How do you wrap up a great summer in the UK? Well, you could go camping with newfound friends, ride into darkness, awaken at sunrise, make coffee outside, hang out in a bike shop, join the Sunday ride, drink more coffee, and then pedal home. Cass swings by the UK’s New Forest for the full experience of The Woods Cyclery. Read on for our shop visit, a route, and a dissection of shop owner Tom Farrel’s gorgeous Rivendell Appaloosa…
Even a casual peek into The Woods Cyclery is enough for most cyclists to know they’ve arrived somewhere special. Look up, and the rafters are choc-a-bloc with frames that I certainly hanker to ride: a Stooge Rambler, a Crust Bambora, a Ritchey Outback, a Surly Karate Monkey, a Brother Cycles Mr Wooden. There’s a titanium Singular by the workstand awaiting air in its tyres, and leant up against the wall is a Rivendell Joe Appaloosa in Lime Olive, bedecked with handmade bags that are still packed from a campout.
Stroll further around the store, and admire walls jam-packed with the goodies you’ve seen online but always wanted to hold in your hands, to touch and to feel, and see what the fuss is about. Wizards Works Shazam? Lift up the lid and check it out for size. Ron’s Fab’s chest? Just look at all those colours. Crust Towel Rack? Wrap your fingers around one. Quoc shoes? See how they fit.
Much of the gear feels timeless and tactile, an aesthetic synonymous with builds that emerge from The Woods Cyclery and harks back the Rough-Stuff riders of the ’70s. Yes, a bikepacking Aladdin’s cave, and one with a strong aroma of coffee, because adjoined to the shop, cups of delectable coffee are being prepared.
I take a seat and a laboratory carafe of fresh coffee, carefully weighed and wafting steam like a science experiment, is placed on the table before me. “Pour some into your cup, sip, wait a little, then pour some more, so you can notice how the taste changes,” suggests barista Mikey Webber. Talking of taste, I should mention the shop sandwiches too, each stuffed with wholesome, locally-sourced goodness. My eyes are drawn immediately to the ciabatta bread overflowing with goat’s cheese, hot honey, walnuts and balsamic vinegar. But then they flit over to the blackcurrant crumble baked that morning too. Maybe later, after the ride…
I look around, and there are further nods to the Rough-Stuff pioneers from both sides of the pond – I spot a copy of the beautiful tome on Jobst Brandt, sent to the shop and signed by Tom Ritchey, no less – as well as other cycling compendiums that might compliment a coffee.
Just the day before, I’d joined Tom Farrel, the shop’s co-founder, for an impromptu post-work campout. The Rivendell Appaloosa I mentioned? It’s the bike Tom chose to ride and one of several fine builds in his collection. Perhaps you remember the equally beguiling Stooge Dinglespeed from The Woods Rat Run that we rode earlier in the summer? You can reacquaint yourselves with that beauty here, on the route that we recently posted, connecting the New Forest with the Isle of Purbeck and Cranbourne Chase. It has all the hallmarks of a UK classic – soaring bridelways, woodland singletrack, and spectacular coastal view – and has had great feedback since it was published, reaffirming the New Forest’s credentials as a bikepacking destination.
In fact, making the most of this Saturday night campout and Sunday shop ride, I’ve even cycled over from the Isle of Purbeck, where my parents live, following the Woods Rat Run most of the way. Purbeck is just a few hours ride away from the New Forest, yet somehow I’d never connected the two, at least until I’d ridden the route and visited the Woods Cyclery. We’d settled on the “Coin Tree” as a good place to converge, an old stump lodged with coins that date it as much as its rings do. Joined by shop friends Vish and Scott, along with Robbie the Woods Cyclery manager, dynamos and headlights had guided us to a favourite spot of Tom’s on the shores of the Solent, after a quick pub stop for ale and crisps. There, after scrunching across a pebble beach, we pitched our tents and tarps, chatting late into the night, jumping from bike talk to politics to travel.
Come sunrise, Robbie rides back to open up the shop for the day, while the rest of us enjoy the early light and distance views of the Isle of Wight. Tom even takes a morning dip. Coffee one of the day is prepared with the same thought and appreciation that I imagine goes into the bike builds for which the shop is known. “We are lucky to have literally the coolest coffee roaster nearby, called Bad Hand. They are a group of likeminded folk who love sea swimming, saunas, and all the good things. I have serious premises envy – they’re are based in an old fire station, where each section was an old stable for the fire horses! There’s a wood fired sauna, a cold plunge, a yoga studio, a tattoo artist, a vegan chef, and office space for lots of other local creative people, including our mate Aron of Fried Cactus Sesign, who designs most of our logos.”
Tom gets to work, loading up his Hario grinder with prize beans and preparing Helix dripper, both stowed within cavernous Fab’s Chest on his Appaloosa. It’s a bike setup that makes these quick, overnight trips easy to do. In the meantime, Vish is flying the Aeropress flag, and his little drone too. “I’m a big coffee fan. I love brewing outside on rides, and when I head off for a winter campout, the morning coffee is the main motivating factor, to be honest!” says Tom. I ask if he has pro coffeeoutside tips. “An insulated mug. A pour-over outside cools the coffee pretty quickly… especially in winter!” Happily satiated and definitely caffeinated, we pack up our gear, jump on our bikes, and race like kids the dozen miles back towards Lyndhurst, home of The Woods Cyclery, to make it in time for the weekly ride.
Sure enough, a band of Sunday cyclists are already gathering outside the shop in anticipation, be they in full lycra or cut-off shorts and open shirts, aboard gravel bikes, mountain bikes, and even a couple of fat bikes too. There’s just time for me to poke around the shop and take a few photos. In a glass cabinet, I see an Opinel knife by a square taper bottom bracket, that’s next to a Campagnolo headset, a display that would seem to sum up the shop well. Elsewhere, there are alcohol burners, water filters, and of course, bikepacking-sized coffee grinders and filters. There’s a wall of Ultradynamico tyres, Brooks saddles of every model and finish, and Newbaum’s cloth bar tape of every colour. More recently, the Woods Cyclery has taken on a range of Rab outdoor clothing, and there are plans to stock more camping gear when they can make room… In short, plans are afoot to thoughtfully curate everything the discerning bikepacker might require.
Aside from a row of pre-built Surlys, there are more conventional bikes too, including entry-level Marins and Cubes that may not draw my camera like the other bikes here, but help keep things affordable and inclusive. In fact, there’s also an adjoining hire shop complete with adult bikes of all forms – acoustic and electric – as well as children’s bikes and trailers, for those who want try cycling in the New Forest. The shop even hosts special days for families on bikes.
So where does all the inspiration to build a ‘destination bike shop’ come from? “On and off, I’ve always worked in bike shops; they allowed me to work the summers in the UK and travel during the winters. One winter, while I was in Morocco running a surf hostel (my first business venture, if you can call it that), I found out my old boss Mark had decided to retire, which meant that my now business partner Jon and I were able to take over a little bike hire shop in the New Forest. At the same time, premises became available in nearby Lyndhurst, which we all thought would be the perfect spot for our dream bike shop and somewhere we could explore our love of adventure bikes. This all happened at the perfect time, seven years ago, just when gravel and bikepacking were starting to take off. We called the shop The Woods Cyclery. We now employ 15 people and offer a range of frames from small companies like Brother, Singular, Stooge, Rivendell, and Surly, and we specialise in custom building them into people’s dream bikes. People travel from all over the country and even Europe to buy custom bikes from us, and I’m eternally grateful and surprised by that! Seeing the scene that bike shops like Golden Saddle Cyclery built around them was something I dreamed of creating here in the New Forest.”
Mikey presses coffee number three of the day into my hands, which I’ve just time to drink before the Sunday riders can resist no longer, the balloon bursts and and everyone starts to pedal off. This week, it’s a 25-mile loop, and it’s almost all off-road. Most Sundays draw 30 riders, though 70 is the record. Today, we’re more than 20 strong, including two cyclists from Romania. Apparently the pace is a little faster than usual, though thankfully it’s not so fast that we don’t have time to bike swap as we go. After all, it’s always fun to try different handlebars and geometries, and I test Oscar’s Sven while he tries my Jones. Nor is it so speedy that we forgo stopping for coffee number… four. Halfway round, we pull over amongst apple trees and complex apparatus appears again. It’s another chance to sit and chat, or just sip brews and compliment each other on our bikes. After all, each has a personality of its own, none more so than Ben’s Crust Alumalith, fresh off the workstand, that he’s wheelying around.
Tom says: “Our Sunday rides really put us on the map. It started with a handful of local regulars. Now, we often see faces from all over the country and even abroad. People make a weekend out of riding in the forest, visiting the coffee shop, and joining our Sunday ride. The advantage of being in a destination for good riding is that people are happy to buy bikes from us from miles away and use coming to collect them as an excuse for a weekend of riding. There’s nothing I love more than seeing a bike we’ve specced and built come back and join a ride.” An example on this outing may well be the brand new Singular Gryphon Ti that the shop recently built, whose owner is both clearly thrilled with the bike and to be out riding it today.
I can see how it would feel good to spend your money here, perhaps because The Woods Cyclery has found a way of connecting the more commercial act of selling a bike with the boundless joy that this product enables. To the outsider, at least, it transcends the purchase as an end goal, infusing it instead with a real sense of experience – even if it clearly has to work as a business too, which doubtlessly takes hard work from everyone involved.
Another example is this. The Woods Cyclery post all their custom builds to their site, and a glance through their extensive catalogue reveals a mood board of classic steel frames and small-brand loyalties. Each build is photographed in detail, and key parts listed, making it a great place to trawl for inspiration. But whilst these shop builds doubtlessly whet the appetite for future sales, Tom’s just as likely to share a more personal trip report from a campout, or images from a Sunday ride on the site. He’s rarely without his camera, shooting from the saddle as we ride, sometimes in digital colour, sometimes Ilford black and white, satisfying his own creative drive as much as promoting the shop. Balancing the two in work and play.
Being Rivendell-curious, I’m interested in that Appaloosa of his too, especially as Tom grew up as a BMXer, which seems a world away from its gargantuan wheelbase geometry. “I’ve been an avid reader of Grant Peterson’s Blahg for some time. If you read it and don’t desire a Riv afterwards, you’re either doing something right, or wrong… depending on how you look at it. I’ve always wanted an Atlantis. I thought of it as the quintessential Rivendell, although now I think every Riv is the quintessential Riv! After speaking to Will Keating there about The Wood’s Cyclery becoming a stockist and planning our first order, it timed in well with the production run of Appaloosas, which are essentially very similar to the Atlantis. So, it was meant to be! I have owned many mountain bikes, and many drop-bar off-road bikes, but until now, I haven’t ever owned the sort of bike that I just want to hop on and cruise around. The Appaloosa fits that niche for me.”
- Frame Rivendell Appaloosa (57cm)
- Fork Riv Appaloosa
- Headset FSA
- Stem Nitto Dynamic
- Handlebar SimWorks Getaround
- Grips Relic
- Brakes Paul Comp Motolite
- Shifter Ene Diacompe
- Rear derailleur Shimano XT 9-speed
- Cranks and chainring Sugino VP
- Cassette 10-42 Deore 10 speed
- Chain 2 x SRAM 10-speed (you need two due to the length of chainstays!)
- Front hub SON 28
- Rear hub Hope RS 4
- Spokes Sapim Race
- Rims Velocity Cliffhnager 29er
- Tires Teravail Ehline 29×2.3
- Seatpost Rivendell (included)
- Saddle Old Brooks B17
- Pedals Crank Bros Stamp Large
- Other notes Son Edelux dynamo lights, BLB rack, Velo Orange Mojave Cage
- BagsRon’s Large Fabs Chest x50, Wizard works frame bag, Wizard Works Shazam mini rear bag
“The frames aren’t cheap, although when you see them in the flesh, the details justify the price completely. For me, this did mean initially throwing some parts bin components on the frame to get it rolling before I swapped them out for what it’s running now. It all worked out nicely, and the bike has become my most used steed. It’s supremely comfortable and has further expanded my mind into the realm of long-wheelbase bikes! I try and explain this daily, but it’s not easy, so bare with me.
The long chainstays don’t just flex a bit more; they make the bike behave differently, too. Because your weight is significantly further away from the rear axle, the amount that an object forces your rear wheel to elevate to roll over it reduces for the rider. Picture your friend standing on a length of 4×2. If they are at one end and you lift the length of wood three inches, the person on the other end only lifts a fraction of that three inches. But if you lift the 4×2 three inches right next to where they are standing, they will lift almost three inches!
However convoluted that explanation may be, I can tell you it translates into ride quality that is unlike anything else I’ve ridden! The fork is perfectly flexible, too, and absorbs a lot of chatter and bumps without being vague. The Riv could well be my only bike (as if that would ever happen), as it’s the perfect off-road touring bike, dad bike, and gravel bike. But what has surprised me the most is how fun it is on singletrack when completely unloaded!”
The ride comes to an end and we all converge at the Woods Cyclery, like a blob of mercury reconnecting. Delicately, we stack our pride and joys against each other, creating an eye-popping display for any passing cyclist, each bike a reflection of their owners in some way. The mood is upbeat, and appreciative of the ride, the food, and the space we have to socialize. “The Woods Bikes and Brews was always the long term plan, it meant that we had a place for riders to meet and hangout, plan rides and drink coffee,” says Tom. I look around me at this scene. As hard as it must have been to pull off, the rewards would appear far richer than selling bikes alone. Then I tuck into the promised goats cheese ciabatta and energy flows back into my veins in a way that a gel could never match. Others are having one last espresso but I’m done for the day, even if I still have a few more miles of pedalling ahead of me.
When it’s time for me to head home, I feel a certain of wistfulness on my ride through the Purbeck Hills. This Woods campout and Sunday ride mark the end of my time in the UK. I reflect on the shop that Tom Farrel and his team have created, and how fortunate I am to now count him as a friend – along with those I’ve met on these rides. The Woods Cyclery is bound by a love of bikes and an appreciation of the good things in life, and I’m glad I’ve been able to experience it. I know that when I return to again England next summer to see my family, I’ll head out with the Woods crew once more. I’m already sure it will be something special, just as it has been here.
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