First and most importantly how are you and your loved ones doing?
All fine, no complaints, so far, touch wood, thanks.
Do you see what is going on in other countries, a good or bad thing compared to what is happening in the UK?
It’s pretty clear by now that a more-or-less-shite job has been done by most of the people who make the decisions. There’s sloganeering in the absence of policy or planning. There’s mock sincerity that comes across like charity am-dram. And there’s the amphibian spectre that is Gove, lurking up in everyone’s business and occasionally opening his vapid hole to saturate everyone in his lies and his charmlessness and whatever is the absolute opposite of character, integrity, and decency.
There are better jobs being done in other places, that’s for sure.
When you look at the photos from the Rough Stuff Archive and the bikes they use do you think the commercialisation of gravel and bike-packing has taken anything away for simple exploration?
The experience of being on a bike exploring a new landscape feels broadly the same now as it did when I was 27, or 17, and presumably the same as it will when I’m 47 and 57. The basic emotions associated with exploring are not going to change because there’s a commercially available kit well suited to the job, or because the idea of exploration is now more marketed than ever. It’s like asking whether Instagram swimwear influencers have ruined going to the beach. They might spoil your afternoon if they happen to set up next to you, but the beach is still the beach. That said, undoubtedly the idea of ‘exploration’ means something different today than it did 50 years ago, and looks very different in the photos. But the effect of the commercialisation of gravel and bike-packing in bringing about that change is very limited. There are much bigger forces at play.
You moved out of London in the past couple of years, do you feel that the internet means that brands no-longer need a base in a major city?
For us, the city wasn’t where we wanted to be any more, so we remodelled our business to suit the lifestyle and location we wanted. Of course the internet makes that sort of choice a possibility now, whereas it never previously would have been. For brands who want to expand and increase turnover year on year, presumably being based in a city is still advantageous – certainly if they depend on a large and growing workforce – but more than that – I’m not sure really. Neither of us have experience working in that sort of company, and there are people much better placed than us to understand what would and wouldn’t work for them.
Have you been able to get out and ride much?
Not as much as I’d like – I’m getting out for a ride every week or two. Our house is a live-in restoration project, so that’s taking most of our time outside the business – jobs are staring at you everywhere you look. The last six weeks or so we’ve been mostly in the garden, which we’ve been reclaiming from the jungle since we moved in, and will be for another couple of growing seasons yet. But there’s such a terrific variety of riding all around us though – both in terms of landscape and terrain – so I try to get out on something most weeks. In between times we take our dog, Goose, to the forest for an hour or two a couple of times a week. We got him a mushing harness, so he can pull us up the hills. It’s a great family activity.
Tell us a little about your bike and current setup?
Tim: This bike is a Rene Andre randonneuse from the 1970s. Really well balanced, and very elegantly made. We’re doing lots of old 650 stuff at the moment, some of it converted from 700s or 27s, in the French cycle-touring style. Low trail front ends, weight biased towards the front. This build was designed to be a bit more sporty than any of my other bikes, and to get the best out of these tyres, which are just perfect for mixed terrain riding in this neck of the woods.
Sarah: My go to bike, especially now we’ve moved to Wales, is my 80s Bob Jackson MTB. He’s the one who sparked my interest in the versatility of older mountain bikes, and has certainly played a role in steering our business in the direction it has gone over the last couple of years. He’s got lovely chilled-out 80s MTB manners – and is supremely comfortable, rolling on big, lightweight and supple tyres. Tim built him with a mix of functional 80s and 90s kit – the original box-lining gives him his sparkle!
What are you currently working on and what do you have lined up for the future?
We’ve got a couple more drop-bar MTBs for customers coming together, a beautiful full chrome Holdsworth, a Jack Taylor mixte and an Ephgrave build in the pipeline. Most of the bikes we’re building these days are in the ‘adventure’ / ‘gravel’ mould, although we do a fair amount of period-correct restoration work as well.
Do you think with the amount of events being cancelled the gravel/bike-packing scene is going to change?
The ‘scene’ is growing so fast it’s changing all the time. I should think cancellations are just going to make people more excited for when they are able to happen. There’s no way people are going to go away – there’ll be more enthusiasm than ever I’d have thought, and more people buying into it. Especially with how many more people seem to be on their bikes at the moment than this time last year. That’s the impression I get, anyway – I wouldn’t say we’re really a part of that, although I suppose we’re suppliers to it in an incidental way.
What is the one positive thing you have been able to take from the current lock down?
Our day-to-day life hasn’t changed much to be honest, but it seems a lot of people are enjoying the slowing down, the limiting of their horizons, the opportunity to afford things close at hand a little more of their attention. That can only be a good thing. And more people are riding bikes. Ditto, obviously.
What are you looking forward to doing first when life returns to normal after lock down?
Reminiscing about the lockdown / medicating the post-lockdown blues. We were supposed to be in Scotland for a bit in April, so that, there. Also friends and family coming to visit. We don’t like to leave much if we can help it, but we have people visiting all the time. We miss that.
Have you learnt any new skills or started any new hobbies/activities?
Pond-dredging, Poly-tunnel erecting, Ferments, Kombucha, Amateurish van conversion and experimental cocktail bar-tending. The results, I think it’s fair to say, are mixed.