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W/C 12.04.21 August Bicycles Workshop Update: Stems, serial shitheads and sustainability

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

We decided to take the old adage that if you have nothing nice or interesting to say, stay quiet, to heart last week, so apologies for only giving you a peek inside the brain of Mrs A with her 'Scotchbrite for the soul' post. Back to the workshop stuff today.

We built a custom Bullitt stem for Martin a while back, but have been at the mercy of the powdercoater for the finished product. Well, we got it back and it looks lovely. Finished in a protective clear coat, you can see the fillets and hopefully, it will have a few corrosion-free years. We always advise that clear anything will normally let some patina creep in eventually, so take that into consideration before asking guys.

Martin also ordered a couple of our light bracket barrel nuts too, so there is a brilliant package of handcrafted goodness heading out to Germany as we speak. Thanks Martin!

We have been under the cosh with wheels of late too. that's not a complaint, just a fact. We've said before that wheels, though really interesting to us and many of you as well, don't always make for a super sexy post, which is why we tend to not bang on about them too much. That being said, we almost had a fun super-lightweight set to build, but after plenty of messing around, we decided not to keep the enquiry open. This brings us to yet another chat about ghosting!

We honestly don't have the inclination, let alone the time, to work out what it costs a self-employed person when you ghost, but let's talk a little more about it, just in case you have no idea of the on-cost. We are always happy to begin a chat about a set of wheels or a custom project, but let's be totally honest and say that you know, right from the start, whether or not you're in a position to progress things. You've most likely done a little preliminary research, found out some rough cost estimates etc, so you know if you can afford the product you're asking about. Recently, we have had an influx of people messing us about and we've decided to take a different tack now in that we are deciding when to close the chat.

Of course, running a business means that there will be plenty of enquiries that go nowhere. We know that and are happy to help people get an idea moving or to just have a bit of a conversation about something for the future. There are a few projects that we look forward to starting, but now is not the right time (hey Chris, we are talking about your lovely birthday present bicycle here!). We have never been afraid to say when we think a project is badly timed either. We might be doing ourselves out of some business by being honest like this, but we don't want to just take your money and not care about the consequences. If you're having a bad time at work, are about to have a bubba or seem to be struggling with your own mental health, we will ask if you're really sure that you're in a place to go ahead, because we can always pause. There are also people who want to bend our ear, get the benefit of all our experience, set us a near-impossible task, that we then meet and then go quiet. AFTER REQUESTING AN INVOICE. So now, we have an email flag in mind. If after a few emails, we are no closer to making a firm decision, either way, we are going to cull the conversation, because we simply don't have the time to hand-hold through a purchase. We are a busy workshop, a busy household and full-time parents. We have no childcare or nursery to rely on here, so answering pointless emails at 9 pm is something that, frankly, isn't doing it for us anymore! Also, you have to think about the delay these emails cause for other people. If you DID decide to go ahead with a purchase and we were constantly pushing your delivery date because we were too busy answering emails to get to you, you'd get pretty snarky.

We would like to add here a HUGE thank you to people that take the time to say that they won't be progressing a potential order. You guys are the real heroes here, as you give us the courtesy of a firm answer and the ability to stop hanging in there, just in case. It costs nothing to be a polite person and this is so appreciated. Honestly, we'd rather get a firm no than a quiet slink off into the email sunset, because that earns you a place in Mrs A's Shitlist Rolodex. And yes, this is a real thing and she checks it whenever a new email enquiry comes in.

Right. Onto something we are SUPER interested and invested in: sustainability. It's a great buzzword right now isn't it? Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and we are SO here for it. The more people that subscribe, the better our chances of having a planet to pass onto our children, but performative subscription is undermining those of us that have always been trying to do more.

When we built our business and the workshop, we designed both with sustainability in mind. Yes, the workshop is built from concrete blocks and cement, but the extra touches are where we could make a difference, back in 2014. So, here are a few of the ways in which we are committed to sustainable practices, just in case we haven't bragged about them before!

  1. The tiles on our workshop roof are Eco-Tiles. These are made from recycled plastic and shaped to look just like slate. They help to insulate the shop more, have a lower carbon footprint and are self-cleaning. They are a German product and delivery is offset by tree-planting. Mrs A managed to get us a good deal on them because she was writing for Grand Designs at the time, but no joke, these were an eye-watering expense. We could have used regular tiles for 1/10th of the cost, but they wouldn't have been as green.

  2. We are planning to install solar panels, to run all of our machines naturally, but until that can happen we are supplied by a green electricity company that offsets 100% of our use through carbon reduction schemes. It's not the cheapest supplier on the market, but again, this was an important decision for us. We also have an Aga in our home, so we felt as though we have an even bigger responsibility to offset, regardless of the extra monthly cost.

  3. All of the water used in the workshop is collected rainfall. We have a double water butt system connected to the workshop guttering and thanks to the shitty UK weather, we have a glut of soak tank fodder!

  4. Inside the workshop, we used only FSC Certified OSB to line the walls and contain our insulation. There seemed little point in committing on the outside and then just slapping up any old wood inside.

  5. All of our big machines have been locally sourced. We have two large milling machines (yes, we have a Bridgeport for scene points) and we are happy to say that both were found locally and transported just a few miles to us. No hundred-mile journeys here, just beautiful old machines with a lifetime of use left in them, brought to our door. In fact, we normally collect ourselves and then have 'fun' trying to manhandle the bastards into the workshop. Lots of amusement usually ensues, at least for Mrs A, who captures the best moments on camera.

  6. We dug our building footings all by hand. It sounds insane, but we didn't want to use diesel-heavy machinery. Out in all weathers, digging those footings was a slog, but at least Mrs A got something out of it. As we came in, soaked through one afternoon, I decided to pop the question to my free labourer. Awwwwww.

  7. Local deliveries are a pleasure for us. Where possible, we will always offer to deliver finished projects, on our cargo bikes and if a courier is absolutely needed, we often ride packages down to the depot.

  8. We keep all of the packaging that we get from suppliers, to ship our products in. You all know how insane the industry is for over-the-top packing materials and we try to do our bit to level the playing field by reusing everything. We even make our own envelopes from technical papers that we are sent, with a fancy folding thingy Mrs A bought in a stationary blitz once.

  9. We are part of the Vegan Traders Union. Yes, we are a vegan framebuilding company, but what does that mean? Aren't all bikes vegan? Well, no. We don't use, supply or fit any animal products, You are welcome to do so after you take delivery of your item, but we don't have anything leather, suede or animal-glue based in our workshop. Has this lost us potential work before? Yes. Do we care? No. Ours is an ethical vegan household, meaning we don't buy or use anything that has an on-cost to animals in any way, shape or form. We are not interested in profiting from those elements in the name of business. You don't need to be vegan to work with us, but we ask for mutual respect for each other's beliefs, though you will have to put up with oat milk in your coffee if you visit. Sorry guys (not sorry, it's delicious!). We also don't use insurers for our business that support unethical interests. That's why AXA will never get our money, as they insure hunting 'enthusiasts'. Yes, the illegal pursuit of bloodsports is covered by our former insurer. Fuck you AXA.

It makes us a bit sad that we've taken such a sustainable method of transport and made it so environmentally questionable. From plastic bikes to expensive components that have to be flown halfway around the world, what was a simple steel item is getting further away from itself every year. Maybe that's why our designs have always been as simple and unfussy as possible, or maybe we are just a bit more old school. who knows. Either way, sustainability has been a core part of our business model from day one and we hope to keep improving in this area.

Well, this was a big old post! We won't keep you any longer, so it's onto the nice people thank-fest.

Rad Peeps of the Week:

  • Tom, serial LFGSS commenter and all-around excellent chap, for making us some hand-carved wooden spoons for our seriously food blogger-style porridge.

  • Scott over at Black Rainbow Project, AGAIN. Seriously, it's the friends you make when you're all a bit down that really are the ones to keep.

  • Chris C's warrior woman, Karen for bringing another bub into the world. Congrats guys!

  • Everyone that bought us a coffee this week. Mrs A was trying to cut back but gave herself a migraine so bad that she is almost hooked up to an IV now, so your generosity has really helped offset her habit.

  • All the brosephs and Chads on bikes that are giving Mrs A some Scotchbrite fodder!

  • Pierce Brosnan for making the epic film, Taffin. And Adam and Joe for talking about how absolutely shit it is. Cool story bro: there was a rumour at my former workplace that Adam Buxton is my cousin. He isn't, but he does live one village over from us and we regularly see him out and about.

See you next time!


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