The 2016 The Spoken Custom Bicycle Calendar became available for sale yesterday. The cover is adorned with a photo of an inside fork leg, painted with squares of colour, and it was built by Matthew Sowter of London’s Saffron Frameworks.
The photograph was taken by one Matthew Townsend, who has shot most of Sowter’s bikes, and it’s both a revealing and seductive composition. The XV Vulcan featured today is Matthew Townsend’s own Saffron, and it has naturally been captured with the same high standard.
The two Matthews first crossed paths when Townsend visited the Saffron workshop, back when it was still located in Camberwell, London. He was fascinated by the handbuilt bicycle and, although new to the culture and craft, offered to help out in exchange for learning a few skills along the way.
Eventually, they became good mates and Townsend now helps out with frame finishing and polishing, as well as documenting each build photographically. The Saffron Frameworks gallery is, as a result, a visually superb and consistent catalog of Sowter’s work.
Matt Townsend works in Brixton at a film and animation studio called Factory Fifteen, and the staff are serious bike nuts. Serious enough to enter Challenge Adventure Charities‘ Alpe d’ Huez Challenge, a 450-mile French trek to raise funds for Cancer Research UK and The British Heart Foundation.
Previously Matt had only ridden single speed and track bikes, so riding up Alpe d’ Huez was certainly going to be a challenge. Matthew Sowter heard about the event and offered to help Townsend his first road bike.
“Having seen many of Matthew’s custom Saffron bicycles in the flesh I knew of the precision, craftsmanship and passion he puts into each and every build,” says Townsend. “I obviously couldn’t turn down the opportunity to own and be part of the Saffron club.”
He continues: “We sat down and discussed the key features that I wanted to incorporate. I wanted to keep it light and minimal. I really liked the classical cutout dropouts that give a delicate look. We used Columbus Spirit tubing with integrated rear brake cabling, to keep the tubes looking clean and tidy.”
“One key feature which I really wanted to incorporate was an integrated seat post and mast topper. We looked at toppers on the market but all looked fairly bulky and wouldn’t work in terms of the aesthetics we were trying to achieve.
“We hunted down for an ENVE seat post accessory kit and Matthew designed a beautifully sleek topper which complemented the frame design perfectly. It really was the icing on the cake.” The topper looks great, but it also makes for a thoroughly modern steel road bike.
The inspiration for the paint came from Aston Martin’s Vulcan race car: an astoundingly muscular — yet streamlined – naturally aspirated, track-only V12 supercar that debuted at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
“The final design incorporated bands of color on the seat stays, stripes on the inside of the forks, detail in the dropouts and a solid stripe going from the stem, down the top tube and up the ISP to the topper, to emphasise the solid, all-in-one frame design,” Townsend relays.
The XV detail on the back of the seat post is the Factory Fifteen cycling team logo.
A modern and weight-sensitive selection of parts were chosen, ranging from the ENVE 2.0 fork and their SES 3.4 wheelset, 3T carbon Ergonova LTD handlebars, Chris King bearings and a Fizik braided Antares R1 carbon saddle. Looks like the perfect vehicle for an ascent of Alpe d’ Huez.
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Big thanks to Matthew Townsend for the photos and Digory Macfarlane for the Tower Bridge photo.