Words & Photos: Sim Mainey
January 04 2018
You may have noticed that we’re rather proud of where we’re from. Halifax in West Yorkshire is where we call home and its had a huge influence on the way we design our bikes.
This part of the world has always had a busy industrial background with a dense network of roads, tracks, trails, canals and railways all crammed into the valleys that lead into town. With industry of old now long gone mills stand empty and once major routes in and out of the valley have now been reclaimed by nature or repurposed for modern needs. If you know where to look you can still find these old ways hidden between the newly built industrial estates and through the woods that line the valley sides and along the edges of the moors. These paths less travelled are our chosen ways to get about town, these are the fun ways to work, these are what inspired the Orange Speedwork.
The idea behind the Speedwork was pretty straightforward - we wanted a bike for not-mountainbiking. Something that had the ground covering speed of an RX9 but with a familiar mountain bike riding position for exploring hidden and forgotten urban trails. We wanted a bike that let us ride the fun stuff on our way to work, when we’re ‘just going down the shops’, when we’re riding on the towpath with the family and when we’re going to the pub the long way. While there are plenty of bikes that sound like they might fit that bill the Speedwork is a little different to most.
Bikes like this get lumbered with some pretty dull and worthy titles - hybrid, commuter. These bikes sell themselves on being a practical and sensible way of getting from A-B. The thing is, round here ‘A’ starts with a really fun set of steps, wiggles through a bit of singletrack next to a disused factory, continues along a onced paved bridleway, passes through a snicket and down a ginnel to ‘B’. A practical bike (sensible or otherwise) for getting about Halifax isn’t the same as a bike for your typical suburban commute.
Rather than design a bike that was purely a beast of burden or a one trick pony that would have to stick to smooth cycle tracks and Tarmacked roads we designed a bike for the type of riding we do when we’re not on our mountain bikes, a bike that encourages you to go and explore the urban landscape and doesn’t stop you enjoying whatever you might find along the way. We decided to build a Super-Urban bike for Sub-Urban rides.
We wanted a frame that was light but plenty tough enough for urban misadventures with geometry that was keen on singletrack and cycle track. Room for big tyres was a must and being able to fit a mudguard would be useful. It made sense to use our well respected and much loved Clockwork frame. We fitted a bespoke carbon fork with a bolt-thru axle to give the front end precise purpose without adding heft while offering a ton of mud clearance.
There’s an important distinction between cobbles and setts. A sett is a stone that has been quarried or worked to a regular shape, whereas a cobble is a naturally-rounded rock. Mentioning cobbled roads round these parts will see you on the end of a stern gaze and possibly a lengthy lecture. We take our road surfaces seriously round these parts.
Setts were designed to give horses hooves grip on the steep climbs that wind their way out of the bottom of the valley and onto the top of the moors. While skinny tyres can ping and bounce you along the Yorkshire pavé the the Speedwork comes with 29” wheels and large volume tyres keeping things comfortable and providing monstrous amounts of grip while shrugging off street shrapnel and square edged kerbs.
The Speedwork is a real product of its environment. It’s also well up to surviving it.
When it comes to big rides in the mountains we’d always recommend packing a map (and sarnies), but the great thing about urban exploration is you’re free to follow your nose - you’re never going to get too lost and with pubs and cafés on every other corner you’re unlikely to starve. This is the beauty of this kind of riding, you can ride for hours without actually being very far from home at all. You’ll find a different kind of wilderness from that on a mountain bike, but one that has some oddly familiar features.
Some of the best singletrack in Halifax can be found in a thin slice of half-forgotten woodland between the canal and the river. With bombholes, rooty sections, off-cambre slopes and jumps it rivals anything that is found in more out-there locations. This kind of trail doesn’t appear on any map, it’s never going to feature in a magazine route guide and it’s unlikely to turn up on STRAVA, it’s the kind of secret trail that can only be found by keeping your eyes open and taking a slight diversion into the unknown.
We may have designed the Speedwork to be a mountain biker’s second bike but for us it’s become our first choice for many rides. It’s opened up a whole range of riding that had previously been hidden right under our noses as well as added some fun on the way to the nine while five.
Looking for your own super-urban explorer? Click here to find out more about the Speedwork.