It is not unusual that whilst cycling round Richmond Park, you can catch a glimpse of some serious #bikeporn, given the popularity of cycling these days. And it was on one saturday, not too long ago, that we were treated to the sight of our first Handsling Bike. Our immediate reaction being “look at that!”; the matt black combined with the bright blue and orange colour schemed, accompanied by the bold Handsling logo really make these bikes stand out. Since then we seen several more of these rides pop up and have even had a glimpse of the race team on a Cafe ride in Surrey one weekend.
We just had to get in touch with them and see what its all about!
So who is Handsling?
I set up a sales consultancy in about 2010 and needed a name for it. The name ‘Handsling’ appealed as it is a means of helping someone get up to speed, which could be applied to working with clients on various projects. So Handsling Media Ltd was created.
I then started a race team called Handsling Racing, to publicise the company.
Handsling Digital Publishing came along when we launch CycleTechReview.com. Finally, after looking around for new bikes for my team and deciding to build my own, I launched Handsling Bikes.
Handsling is a relatively young brand in a highly competitive market. What has been your biggest challenge in getting the brand off the ground?
Obviously you need the contacts in the industry to do anything but with modern technology, seeing people face to face now is less important. Most of the set-up was done online.
The biggest challenge is getting cyclists to believe in the product. Once word gets around that the frames are really good, it gets a lot easier, and we have that now; our bikes are as good as anything else out there, even frames that cost three times as much.
I always believed that but it was only once other riders start to say the same thing that I felt more confident and felt I could relax about the frames. When you start out there’s always a doubt in the back if your mind that everyone will hate what you’re doing.
There has been a recent increase bespoke bike manufacturers recently, what services do you offer?
All our frames are built to order, from scratch but are not truly custom as we only do set sizes in order to keep the costs down. The only bespoke bit is that we offer custom paintwork at source, and the paint quality is outstanding.
My aim was to give riders (my team riders initially, who are very fussy individuals) pro quality frames but for them to be more durable than the current crop of top of the range ‘porcelain’ offerings (carbon repair shops are full of them), and to be at reasonable prices. I think I have achieved that.
What inspired you to start your own bicycle company and are there any particular manufacturers you take inspiration from?
I used to run RoadCyclingUK.com about 10 years ago now and launched a WHITEN bike brand as a joke with four actual frames – two steel, one aluminium and one carbon. We were going to run a spoof story around it as an April Fools or something. That was the spark that made me think I could do it properly. With huge production changes in the bike industry and my new contacts in the Far East it became a no brainer once I started searching out new frames for the Handsling Racing team.
Interestingly two manufacturers that I used to deal with a lot in the old days were Ribble and Planet-X…
Your racing team’s testing, input and feedback on your frames is clearly important and shapes the end product – there’s no doubt that racing is extremely tough and requires decent equipment, so they must have some stories to tell! What’s your process to incorporate rider input into updated designs?
The team riders, of which there are 43 now, have access to the products discounted in return for promotion and event participation. I get great feedback from them as they complain about everything! If certain members of the team (which includes ex-national and regional champions) are happy, I know I am onto a winner. If a product is poor, I will never hear the end if it and so you will never see it in production. All the items we sell are used by the racing team.
And fortunately we’ve had few issues! A couple of crashes. In fact, I had by far the worst crash, cracking a frame in 3 places – I still raced it a week after the crash as I saw it as the ultimate test of the frame’s durability!
One team rider also slowly melted a carbon rim on his car exhaust pipe while on a boot mounted, bike rack over the course of a 4hr journey.
Aside from that there’s little to tell… We’ve had a couple of QC issues but the factory sort them immediately.
But yes team rider feedback is so important in developing the products and is acted upon, as the factory actually listen to their feedback. So far rider feedback gave the RR1 a stronger bottom bracket shell, the A1R0 a brand new front fork and has refined the A1R2 which is to be relaunched soon.
Sportives are extremely popular events in this vast market in the UK. What’s your recommended model for a competitive sportive rider?
We are still developing our A1R2 model towards that end. It is a perfect sportive frame. For a start it looks amazing. It is comfy and has a higher headtube than a pure race bike to put the rider in a more comfortable, yet still aero position. It is also stiff enough to race on and has the added benefit of being aero. How many other sportive bikes are truly aero?
The first sample was in T700 carbon and is still being raced successfully by one of our best team riders who loves it. The new production model will be in T800, have a stiffer BB86 bottom bracket shell and a few other refinements. I am very fortunate that the factory believe in Handsling enough to make such changes. (Just pinch myself!)
There are quite a few frames, wheelsets and components available on your website at the moment. What new products do you have planned?
I look at new products daily, get pitched weekly but unless something amazing comes along, I am quite happy with the current offering. The frames are excellent and our wheels are great. Rims behave very well in the mountains without excessive heat build up. The hubs are basic but are easily serviced which is important for us.
We are sourcing a new cross frame for next season but again I rely on the Handsling Racing team’s cross racers to advise me and so far we haven’t found anything better than the CXC and CXD.
You mention on your website that you own a number of bikes, do you have a particular favourite, and if so, which one?
The RR1 will always be my favourite. I’ve put a lot of effort into its development and it does everything so well. I can honestly say that, even though I tend to race the more focussed A1R0 now, I have never ridden a better bike. Everyone who buys the RR1 falls in love with it. That may change when the new A1R2 is here though…
Can you custom paint a handful of bikes for our thedomestiquecc?
Of course. Just let me know which frames, the design you want and associated pantone references, and we are good to go.
Big thanks to Simon Whiten of Handsling Bikes for taking the time to get back to us!