Bespoked - a celebration of handmade bicycles & those who make them
FRAMEBUILDER OF THE WEEK
Getting to know the people that make the bikes
This week we meet NIck Coates of Beamz, possibly the only framebuilder making bikes from coppiced woodland poles. A truly sustainable material, these poles are made into high performance bicycles with a unique natural beauty and feel.
How long have you been framebuilding and how did you get into it?
BEAMZ is a Community Interest Company which began in 2014 with a grant from the New Forest Sustainable Communities fund. The objective was to demonstrate how natural hardwood poles had the potential to be excellent structural material, as good in fact as the materials used by the best frame-builders. Since then I have become fascinated by this material. The stripped poles have a structure and beauty quite distinct from sawn and polished timber. It feels lovely too.
How would you define your style of building?
Unique! As far as I know my use of the poles is unique. The joints are reinforces with hemp fibre and resin composite, then finished by lashing with hemp twine. I love the way it looks, particularly in juxtaposition to the high-tech appearance of the cycle parts and brakes.
Who or what has inspired you?
Trees. The more you know about them the more amazing they are. Look up at a big tree. The wood which supports it is effectively dead, but it will withstand the considerable stresses of wind loading sometimes for centuries. All that structural material was made from matter within the grasp of the tree. Earth, wind, fire in the sun and rain. When wood is dried it halves its weight and doubles its strength, no advantage to the tree but great for us.
How many frames have you built and which has been your favourite?
I’m just building my fifth. I’m sure that is few but the build process begins in the woods with a bow-saw. Developing methods for the de-barking and hollowing process has also took time but was very interesting. As to favourite I am torn between the bug bike which is stiff and has demon acceleration, and the brown bike which is comfortable and owner, Wilf, first to join the BEAMZ family has put some serious mileage on his bike.
If someone wants a custom bike from you, what’s the ordering process and how long is your waiting list?
Early adopters will get an entirely unique bike, we simple can’t make two the same, with a lifetime warranty on the frame, forks, seat post and handlebars which we make. The bike will be tailored to their exact requirements. These lucky few will have to ‘get’ the project and fully buy into its objectives. Oh, and you have to enjoy talking about your bike to people. Delivery will be in the order of 6-months and might vary according to the time of year as gathering wood is seasonal.
Where is your favourite place to ride and why?
I love the Hampshire Downs to the North of Southampton where we are based. On one occasion during a fast decent through a tunnel of trees, a Kestrel took off from the road side. For the next few seconds I was in close formation with this beautiful creature.
What can we expect to see from you at Bespoked 2019?
We will be featuring three bikes, one of which will be the Brown Bike to demonstrate the wear and weather resistance of the wood. I have another bike in construction featuring some gorgeous willow which depending on time will be shown as a frame only or complete bike. We will also have samples to demonstrate the material and construction techniques.
And finally, if you weren’t a framebuilder, what would you be?
I do in fact have a day job. I am technical support for a range of 400 educational rigs used in Universities throughout the world. And in case you are wondering, yes I am very busy!
BEAMZ bikes makes wooden bikes from coppiced woodland poles. The young tree stems are harvested every eight years, after which, the stump sprouts another batch of stems, which makes our material supply truly sustainable. Once hollowed, these poles have structural properties comparable with materials of a far higher embodied energy such as metals and composites. These poles are made into high performance bicycles with a unique natural beauty and feel.
Come meet, and perhaps join our BEAMZ Community!
Maker - Nick Coates
Designer - Nick Coates
Where - Southampton, Hampshire