I often feel like I’m drowning a little bit, or being buried or something, by the orders in my queue. It’s easy for me to feel a little overwhelmed by a long list. I’m very fortunate to have people putting their faith in me, spending their hard earned money on a bike that doesn’t exist yet. It’s a privilege to be able to beaver away in my little workshop every day, making freedom/joy machines for folk. I love it. There’s a real rhythm to making bikes, from one to the next, building momentum to push through each build.

Sometimes, it feels important to breathe a little between builds too, experiment with new things, make something different, make something for myself.

That’s what this little stem is.

I’ve been hankering after a road bike for a while now, and in between builds for the next few months I’m going to take some time to make it happen. I’ve got things that I want to try out, techniques, designs, fabrication approaches. It’s important to me that I test these on myself, not my customers. The thing about custom bikes is that quite often things are “one of one”, each build a prototype. But in reality, key fabrication techniques aren’t experimental, they must be tried and tested.

This stem uses a brass wedge to clamp the steerer. I’ve never made this before. It’s a design I saw first on one of Robin Mather’s bikes at Bespoked 2012, the year I moved to Bristol. His bike, with that stem, won best in show that year. It still strikes me as incredible (in the truest sense of the word) that I now build bicycles myself, using his old jig, right here in Bristol. So, in many ways this stem is a little nod to that bike that nudged me towards this life I now live. A breadcrumb on the trail or something maybe.

So the bike will edge it’s way forward, techniques will be explored, experiments made. We’ll see how it goes. I imagine it’ll be a bike I show at Bespoked next year, a decade after first visiting. There’s a good feeling to that.