We've been looking forward to sharing this article with you ever since we initially approached Andy of Spoon Customs to do a piece. Ever since I first clocked my eyes on the bikes, Spoon Customs was outputting at the Bespoked show I just wanted to know more about the process and how the brand came about.
Andy was kind enough to lend us some of his vital time to answer some questions not only about the brand but about the process and thinking behind their frames.
Give us a brief introduction to Andy Carr and Spoon Customs.
I ran away to the mountains, stayed and started a bike company. It's been a few more years in the making I guess, but it was mostly about riding the wheels off development frames in the Alps. Despite all that prep and testing, it didn't really start till the first bike landed, and we got our first reviews.
It's always been about marrying the riders requirements and physiology, with the perfect fit, flawless fabrication and perfect finishing, so we're able to design and build you a bike that gives you a sense of speed, freedom and independence just like your first one did. And that's what's exciting for me, regardless of if you ride it in the Alps, or smash it around your favourite Sunday loop. We make relevant performance bikes - built to perform with progressive geometry - like modern hot rods, that are just as relevant, light and fast as anything peeled out of a mould in the Far East.
Could you delve a little deeper into how your team works together? How did you meet? What brought you together?
The move to France was when it really started. I was living at 1860m at the top of a Cat 2 climb in a sleepy French border town called Montgenevre.
Sestriere and Col D'Izoard is just down the hill depending on whether you go left or right, but the main road down the mountain to Turin crosses Northern Italy, via Milan, Veneto and Vincenza to Venice in an almost horizontal line. Everyone who's anyone in Italian bike building is accessible via that road.
I spent the best part of three years driving up and down those toll roads finding people, meeting and sharing my ideas until I found the team I now work with. I filled every spare day riding the local roads testing or just riding for the hell of the bikes, road or downhill at the bike park on my doorstep. It gave me a perspective on what we needed to produce that I couldn't have had battling through traffic in London.
Whether it's Tony Corke, who I work with on fitting and geo or Gianluca who runs our Italian workshop, or Sam and Luke who painstakingly execute our flawless paint, we all share an obsession with nailing each bit of the process. The net result is a customer's bike that exceeds every expectation.
You have received several awards for your work, which felt the most special?
Without a doubt winning the Public Vote at Europe's biggest handmade bike show. My heroes, friends, mentors and teachers exhibit there. Bespoked sets the standard. Robot Bikes launched there, and they later teamed up with the Atherton's to create Atherton Bikes. It's just a great place to check out where bikes are heading. For me and my bikes and everyone in the team to be recognised in that way, in that setting, amongst my heroes, was like a dream come true.
Your bikes are designed here in the UK, but made by craftsmen in Italy, could you elaborate on how that partnership came about?
When production moved to the far east, lots of the Italian bike builders went to the wall. Lots of the big names just off-shored work too so there aren't that many left who do it properly. Like the people who stuck with it and persevered, I'm obsessed with keeping the real skills alive, by working in Italy and producing relevant performance machines - beautifully made in the best materials - that can win races. The team we now have is arguably one of the best in the world when it comes to handling steel, and the bikes just can't be fabricated to the standard we make them anywhere else.
What excites you in the frame building process?
The way people respond to a well-made frame made just for them. There's so many parts of the design and build process I love, but the raddest moment is when I get a reaction from a customer telling me how stoked they are. That sounds like marketing bollocks for an article, but they say it, it's awesome to hear it, and it's what it's all about.
Paintwork seems a big part of what you do at Spoon Customs? Is this something by choice or just where your bikes have naturally lead?
Look around and see how many cars on the road are red, black, or white. Easy choices. They look great but not exciting. Rad bikes make you want to ride them, and that means we need to bring just as much imagination to the paint process as we do to fit and geo. The techniques and products we use for paint are the same products that go on to million-dollar hotrods in the US car shows. Finishing bikes to this standard is not easy or cheap, but neither is anything else we do. If 100% of people think it's nice, we've failed. I want people to either love or hate what we do - I want a response.
What are your plans for Spoon Customs moving forward? Do you ever see yourself having a range in stores?
The future of the business is in working direct with my customers, in the Alps on one of our rider camps, in the fitting studio, in the paint workshop, or working through the final build with me so they can better understand their bike and what's gone into it. Big news about the paint coming in house soon and shortly after I'll be opening up that space to customers.
Name a brand that you admire in cycling and why?
So many: Independent Fabrications. Eric Winter at Winter Bicycles. Adam at Stanridge; he's been a rock at times. He also doesn't give a fuck, and I admire how he just finds ways to do what he wants and makes it work. He's a grafter, problem solver and graphic artist and the combination is what finally got me into this stuff. All those guys all have their own little hot rod vibes too, and I just love their aesthetic.
In big brand terms, I admire what Cervelo have done, and I love the 3T Exploro that Gerrard and Reiner are now producing together at 3T. I rode one for the first time at 3T. Cervelo went from nowhere to the pro-peloton in 6 years, so that's inspiring too.
Do you have anything in the works that you are excited about and can share with us?
I've got some big news soon on a mega collaboration, but I can't share much yet.
One last question, a bit of a curveball. If you were a cheese, what kind of cheese would you be?
I ran an Alps camp once for some great lads from Sky Velo. They all turned up on ex-team Sky Dogma's with DA Di2 though, and they had the legs for it too. Back then, I used to do it all on my own. Trying to keep the early bikes in parts and paint I felt like it was important to put the same effort into the trips, and on this occasion, I'd ridden to some of the local farms and bought cheeses from farmers who graze the climbs we were riding that weekend. When we got to eat it, most of the guys couldn't give a toss about where the cheese came from and just wanted feeding, but one or two guys were into it. I guess like my bikes, I want to know who made it, and where it's from and what's gone into it, and that's what my customers seem to like too.
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