Mrs Jersey Pocket and I both went to the SpinXmas event last Friday. She had enjoyed the show so much last year that she came with me again, even though this year’s event was not the Cycling & (more importantly for her) Coffee Love-in that had initially attracted her in 2013. This year Spin had teamed up with Craft Beer Rising instead to bring a purely cycle-focussed event and had also taken on a new, challenging location.
The Rochelle School in Shoreditch is a rambling collection of old buildings near London’s famous Brick Lane. We’d been to a wedding reception there a few years ago but only seen a small part of the site and I was intrigued to see how Spin would use the unusual space. On arrival we found that Spin’s organiser’s Alex Daw and Luke McLaughlin had split the show across different rooms, floors and buildings, and initially I was concerned that this might lead to some backwater areas and that the event might struggle to build the great atmosphere that we had so enjoyed in the single roomed space of 2013. But this was not the case. In fact the layout meant that the hospitality area – with the craft beer bar and street food cart – as at the centre of the event rather than off to one side. This provided a great “bumping-into” point as people trekked around the exhibits and, even in the cold weather of Friday night, worked really well.
The event was roughly split into two halves with the majority of the bikes and accessories in ‘The School’ half, with the Art in ‘The Halls’ half. Cycling fashion was evenly spread across both areas, giving a common thread (no pun intended) that helped to make the event maintain a single identity and ensure that each area didn’t become too samey.
I did my usual quick round of all the areas and then a slower re-tracking to meet some of the people on the stands that had caught my eye initially. It was also a good way of crossing the space (and passing the bar) a few times as well. After a couple of tasters of the beers on offer I found that the mulled wine was too good (and the night was too cold) for it to be ignored again..
So what stood out this year? Well, Shinola’s big display at the front of the Bike part of the show was definitely designed to impress. Loads of bikes on show, including some hung up on the high walls, and plenty of quality accessories from the Detroit based company. Shinola are dedicated to reviving the idea on American Manufacturing and their range extends across watches, leather goods and bikes. They are traditionally influenced in design and crafted with the industrial aesthetic that America excells at. They are, of course, expensive as American labour doesn’t come cheap. Shinola definitely embraced the Spin event though and had organised rides over the rest of the weekend between their new store off Carnaby Street and the Rochelle School. Nice touch.
Across from Shinola I bumped into Sam Pearce, the inventor of Loopwheels, who also had a stand at the event. He had gone AWOL from his exhibit for the moment though and was talking techie-stuff with the maker of the Blaze bike light that projects a laser image onto the ground in front of the rider. The Loopwheels stand – complete with its latest 26″ mountain bike wheel prototype – had been left in the safe hands of Sam’s wife, which might have been for the best as Sam was struggling with a nasty cold. Whilst he satisified his scientific hunger I got in a quick fashion-fix with Spoxe, who were showing their range of jerseys and bibs. The year-old Melbourne-based company have just started a UK sales arm and came to the show with their gorgeous “Fade to Black” jersey (£70) and “Go Speed Racer” shorts (£105). Both are graced by a sublime graphic pattern that makes you think of honeycombs, DNA strands and, of course, bicycle spokes. The pattern is limted to a few key areas of the otherwise black garments. The shoulders and pockets are picked out on on the jersey in a subtle red to yellow colour-shift whilst the side panels of the shorts deploy it in white. The jersey fabric is a single direction stretch material that I’m assured will kepp the pattern looking as great when fitted around a body shape as it does when flat.
The other clothing brand that I really wanted to see was Huez*. Having seen some their marketing material recently and a teaser gif on Kickstarter for a natty wind-jacket, this was start-up that I wanted to get my hands on. The wind jacket prototype, with an innovative ‘tear-open’ zip that means you don’t have to fumble with the zip-pull to get it off. Great for cold hands and quick stuff-aways. It took a few goes to get the technique down – it only works if the zip is fully done up for instance – but it’s a neat concept that could become really popular. As well as the concept stuff Huez* (apparently that’s a ‘star’ on the end of the logo and not, as I first thought and expressed concern over, an asterisk – not ideal next to a name in cycling..) also had their ‘Starman Storm’ jacket, seamless jerseys and shorts. The aesthetic is resolutely minimal. Black jacket and shorts are countered with a white jersey and there is a very strong brand idenity at work here. They also know their market and the shorts (£95) are not bibs to appeal to commuters and shorter distance riders. The Storm jacket (£235) carries Huez*’s signature zig-zag stitching details, which is the only concession to anything approaching fancifulness. Like the shorts they don’t seem to be aimed exclusively at the race crowd – they have adjustable cuffs, overlapping venting and a much fuller cut than we are used to seeing at this price range.
Towards the back of the School half of the show I found Alban Bike Bags. Longtime readers of the blog will know that I am generally drawn the less colourful things when considering cycling clothing and kit – though I am partial to a bit of orange now and again – so it will come as no surprise that Alban’s range of all black, waterproof canvas bags and panniers got mee interested. Another ‘newbie’, Alban have only been going for a few months but have already got their adaptable pannier/satchel onto The Guardian‘s cycling Christmas gift list.. It’s a neat solution to the need for something that can be used throughout the day in a number of different ways – as a pannier, shouldbag, rucksack and handheld. It carries a medium sized laptop and would look as at home in a serious business meeting as it at the pub after the ride home. At £79 it’s fairly priced too. Paul on the stand took the time to re-iterate that, though waterproof, these are not in the Ortlieb category of watertightness and certainy wouldn’t advise dropping them in the canal. That said, their rolltop backpack (also £79) looked very robust and it was that one which made it onto my Christmas list.. Are you listening Santa?
We wandered across the Halls next and lapped up a load of the beautiful prints there. Linocycles had a really lovely print of Eddy Merckx doing what he did best and the approachable artist – apologies, I forgot to ask his name – gave me a quick rundown on the art of lino-cutting. With no ‘erase’ feature it’s an all or nothing gig that can be more than frustrating at times by the sounds of it. Further down the line of stands it was good to be able to catch up with illustrator Beach and get a bit more background on the lovely 100 Tour de France jersey’s poster that I featured a version of in a recent post. The amount of research needed to get the ten decades of apparel right was a mammoth undertaking which, at times, threatened to derail the whole idea. Beach also had some nice artworks recounting the stories of the six individual stages that made up the inaugural Tour de France in 1903.
Other lovely stuff in the Art section were Eliza Southwood‘s stark print of a stylized team time trial and a clever image by Pol Sifter called ‘Ode to OTL’, inspired by Frei Otto’s 1972 Munich Olympic figures. We admired the former but brought home the latter as it was better sized for our little house. Elsewhere Katie’s Bike were showing some neat jewellery and accessories fashioned from bicycle chains that made for cool little stocking fillers. Upstairs in The Hall’s did feel a little bit quieter but a stationary cycle linked to video game footage soon sparked into (very noisy) life and was well used.
The three hour Friday night session flew by and we soon found ourselves desperately trying to speak with a couple more exhibitors and visitors as the security guards ramped up their attempts to usher us out. Unlike last year, when we had split up and gone our separate ways in the show, we had tried to see everything together and just ran out of time in the end. The longer opening hpurs of the weekend sessions might have been a better bet but I do like the feeling of opening night and the after-work crowd who always make the atmosphere great.
Luke McLaughlin, one of the directors at Spin, was pleased with the way things had gone. After taking a well-earned break on Monday morning I caught up with him to see how it went over the weekend. “It was really good,” he confirmed, “People aren’t used to seeing Cycling and Fashion and Art all mixed up; it’s unique in that sense, but we got a great response again. Saturday and Sunday afternoons were as busy as the Friday night. It’s hard to pick just one or two things out – there was lot’s of creativity on show. I thought that the Shinola space was very impactful but I also loved a lot of the art exhibits. Eliza Southwood was a favourite over there whilst James Dart‘s composite titanium and flax frame bike on the top floor was brilliant. For us it’s all about getting the right balance between what we see as the ‘bigger brands’ and also making sure we have the start-ups, small companies and graduates who are coming in with ground-breaking stuff. At the end of the day it’s all about design. Good design makes your cycling life either much easier or much more pleasurable. That’s what we are all about.”
I would agree with that. SpinXmas had much more of a Design Show feel this year and I think that, as a result, it was easier to appreciate all the lovely stuff . Last year it definitely felt more like a market or a fete. The spread-out nature of the stands definitely made it easier to talk with owners and, as I said before, the central food and drink area worked much better. Spin have big plans for their main event of the year in May but I’m hoping that a return to the Rochelle School will be on the cards for next years festive offering.
Show Exterior, Interior, Shinola and B&W photo credits: SpinLDN