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Shand Cycles in Unfiltered Magazine (SMWS)

Written by Richard Goslan

October 2014


Unfiltered Magazine (Scotch Malt Whisky Society)
Unfiltered Magazine (Scotch Malt Whisky Society)

Society members can be curious creatures. following their noses on a never-ending quest for the next great whisky experience. Their passion is based on an adventurous spirit. combined with a respect for quality and authenticity in the product.

If they rode a bike. then. It would likely be a Stoater. Or maybe a Skinnymalinky.

The curiously named creations come from the Scottish bike builder Shand Cycles, which crafts hand-built steel-framed bikes to order from their base around 20 miles west of Edinburgh.

The production line is small. But efficient. Founder Steven Shand had been crafting bikes by himself from his home workshop. but expanded operations after Russell Stout joined the business in 2011. The company now hire full-time staff and produces around 150 complete bikes a year.

Every part of the process is carried out in-house, from taking, the Reynolds and Columbus steel tubing to the filler brazing, filing, wheel building and even the customised painting for every bike.

For both Shand and Stout, the bikes were born out of a desire to be able to go wherever they wanted without needing a whole shed full of different Models to choose from.

“It’s hard to put any particular label on our bikes, l but more than anything they are inspired by. the Scottish landscape,” says Shand. “We sometimes take it for granted, but we’re fortunate here that we have free access to tracks and paths across the country, and I think that has influenced us, even subconsciously.

“We like the idea that you’re out for a ride on a Sunday morning and you see this track disappearing off across the hills, and you’re curious about where it goes. We wanted to build a good-quality bike which gives you the freedom to satisfy that curiosity.”

With that in mind, Shand bikes are built with the realities of the Scottish roads and paths, with clearance for fatter tyres, mudguards and a rack to carry your bits and pieces. To them, staying true to the landscape they know and the kind of cycling they do is at the heart of their creations.

“Some bike brochures show people riding their road bikes over super smooth tarmac and the gentle rolling hills of California, and that might be great to look at it, but it doesn’t make any sense and seems slightly dishonest,” says Shand.

“Truth here is: the weather’s terrible, the roads are rubbish, so why would you buy a bike you can’t put mudguards on or you can’t put fatter tyres on? I think people appreciate that and see through some of that marketing nonsense.”

Like in the whisky world. people are increasingly concerned with authenticity and provenance in everything they buy – a fact of which Shand is actutely aware.

“Provenance is important, and knowing who’s making it,” said Stout. “People are interested in buying a product from people, not just a company. For us that’s about remaining a small business, where customers can speak directly to the person who’s building their bike, or brazing the tubing, or who’s about to paint it. There’s a direct connection to the product they’re buying.”

And some customers end up with a very special paint job – recently, Shand produced a one-off track bike for Sir Chris Hoy, complete with six gold bands and one silver on the top tube to illustrate his standing as the UK’s most successful Olympic athlete.

“It’s pretty cool to see Sir Chris riding a bike we built,” says Shand. “He was very involved from the start, he came to see us and was detailed about what he wanted, right down to selecting the Columbus steel tubing that he likes from bikes he rode 10 years ago. It wasn’t just about having his name on the down tube.”

Despite their foray into a fixed-gear track bike, Shand and Stout say they are unlikely to add a similar model to their range.

“We are passionate about what we do, but it needs to be something that we understand and we believe in, and track cycling is not particularly our thing,” says Shand. “We like to do one thing and do it well, and not risk diluting our distinct flavour and character. So for the time being that means focusing on the Stoater and the Skinnymalinky.”

And it also means taking their time. The wait for a Shand bike is currently about 10 weeks, which means the typical customer -– like the Society drinker – is Someone who appreciates that good things in life require a little patience.

“You could walk into a high street bike shop and ride away with a bike straight away,” says Shand. “But I suppose like a master blender, we’re taking a less-hurried approach. If you don’t understand or appreciate the context then it’s hard to justify the expense.

“Our customers share our passion for how these constituent ingredients come together to become so much more than the sum of their parts.”

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