Condor is one of the most prestigious and well-known cycling brands in the UK, having been building bespoke bikes for over 60 years. The London-based maker is returning to The Cycle Show for the tenth year running next month; ahead of the big show, Condor head of design Ben Spurrier was keen to relate the changes the brand has experienced over the years, its relationship with The Cycle Show and why it’s one of the most important dates on the calendar.
The event, which runs 25-28 September at Birmingham’s NEC, has provided Condor a valuable link to the cycling public, who turn out in their droves to see what the latest models and technology for the coming year.
Spurrier sais: “Condor was among the original few brands to get behind and exhibit at the inaugural show. We still look to the show every year as a launch pad for our new products as there are few opportunities like it for getting so many consumers from so many different areas of the market, to garner feedback and gauge interest in our bikes."
The Condor team have been long-time supporters of The Cycle Show – Condor founder Monty Young and his son Grant pose with their bikes, Jon Snow and Phil Liggett
“With the internet being as powerful a force as it is, it’s easy for consumers to look at bikes online – but it’s easy to forget that bicycles are complex and tactile machines, and people love to get up close and explore them.
“Being located in Birmingham, the show is a great opportunity for us to spread the word and engage with an audience who are a bit further afield. It never fails to surprise me how many people will travel to the show to come and see and touch a particular bike.”
“The show has grown and grown since the first days at the Business Design Centre in Islington and the Excel in Docklands. From filling a hall in Earls Court, the show now takes over two halls of Birmingham's NEC.
“Alongside a growth in the number of exhibitors, there has been a steady growth in the breadth of activities available to the visitors, like test tracks, displays and even sportives and races. It all helps to make the show more of an engaging experience for visitors, rather than them just coming along to see bikes. It’s a great opportunity for us to get as many people as possible actually test riding our bikes – which is where people can really see what sets Condor apart from other bikes.
“A decade ago, bike shows were really the realm of dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts, whereas today cycling as a whole welcomes a larger and far more diverse audience. You only have to look at the quantity and scale of mass-participation events taking place across the UK to get an idea of how things have changed in the industry for the consumer.”
Ten years is a long time in the ever-more tech-focused world of cycling and Condor has evolved into a global business while retaining its bespoke nature.
“The last decade has seen a huge increase in the popularity of cycling across the whole of the UK and in a tough economic climate, Condor has gone on to cement its unique position as both a retailer, serving the needs of all types of cyclists, as well as being a design focused, artisan manufacturer, with nearly 20 stockists worldwide.
“At the first ever Cycle Show, we exhibited singlespeed bikes in response to the local demand created by the messengers in London. No one else was doing this at the time and we were overwhelmed with interest from exhibitors and visitors alike, and that really kickstarted the trend for producing urban single speed bikes again.
“In 2011 we also exhibited the Super Acciaio: the first steel road race bike to utilise the modern technologies (such as a tapered head tube and press fit bottom bracket) from our carbon race bike. This had been in development for a few years alongside our pro team riders at Rapha Condor JLT and spawned a whole new genre of bikes, many of which you will see on display at the show this year.”
These changes in technology and consumer demand – not to mention increasing competition – have necessitated Condor staying up-to date with the latest advances in bike manufacturing.
Cyclo-cross bikes are becoming increasingly popular and Condor is meeting the demand with beautiful styling
“Condor manufactures every frame by hand in Italy and many of the traditional techniques and processes remain largely unchanged. But where we have seen big advances has been in materials. We’re always looking for ways to develop and integrate cutting edge materials and technologies into our bikes, to push forward and stay ahead of increasingly stiff competition.
“When the Cycle Show started in 2005, there were maybe a handful of UK-based bike brands, and frame building was a dying art. We are now in the midst of a truly exciting resurgence of UK manufacturing with a new, fresh and young generation of craftsmen who are right at the forefront of what is a burgeoning global scene.
“Across the board, the cycling industry has embraced the demand for a higher quality of design, bringing it onto the radar of an audience whose interests may previously have been directed at other, more 'trendy' sports or activities. Not only is there simply more competition now, but consumers are more design-savvy than they were a decade ago and expectations have lifted.
“It’s no longer enough to just put your name to a product and expect it to be successful. It means that as well as striving to develop better products, we have to be sure that the aesthetic is befitting of the brand, meets the expectations of the consumer and stands apart from everything else on the market.”
Standing apart from the rest of the crowd is something that Condor, a brand with a strong identity forged over 60 years ago, has excelled at.
“Condor’s flagship store has been on Gray's Inn Road, London for nearly 65 years, so I think the company carries a well-earned status as one of the longest running and most well-known brands in London, if not the UK. It’s a third generation family business, with a dynamic team at the helm who really connect with the company's colourful history, which is something we have been trying to preserve and share.
“Over the last decade we have got to know a new generation of customers who head to Condor as a well established source of advice and help as well as always having a vast array products to offer. Every Condor bike is built to the customer's specification and no two ever leave the same; we do custom colours, custom geometries and have built all manner of wonderful, unique machines for people with particular requests."
Condor is probably the only bike company in the world supplying steel-framed racers to pros such as Kristian House, Graham Briggs and Ed Clancy
“Not many brands can boast to have had their bikes ridden by Tour de France riders, multiple world champions and Olympians at the same time as being loaded up with panniers and equipment and ridden round the world on expeditions, or simply ridden to and from work on a daily basis.”
The Cycle Show this year will be bigger and better than ever – and Condor will be connecting with cyclists by taking along its complete 32-bike range, which includes the Bivio-X and Terra-X cyclocross bikes and some revamped models and colours for 2015, as well as a range of new clothing.
BikeRadar readers can save money on tickets when buying in advance – head to The Cycle Show website and enter the discount code ‘BRD’ to get an adult ticket for just £11.50.