CUNNING PLAN OR MID-LIFE CRISIS?
MARK DALLY'S SHAND STOATER
Steve Dyster has been chatting to Mark Dally about his brand new sparkly Shand Stoater
“Exceptional; well-put together; a wee smasher.”
That is a Shand Stoater. A thing of beauty; built for Mark Dally. A neat, lean-lined, minimalist machine in black and white livery - the bike, that is - to match the ceramic art he creates to pay for bicycles.
Steve Shand had impressed Mark, as one craftsman - artist - impresses another; by dedication, knowledge and the ability to think beyond the ordinary. The result a nice new Stoater, an all-purpose go-pretty much anywhere bike, but with a road, rather than trail, bias.
Built specifically with a transatlantic trip in mind, I put it to him, as one middle-aged man to another, that a bespoke bike is really just a response to the kind of late-mid-life crisis that leads some men to spend thousands on carbon-framed flying machines. This is a bit unfair as the purchase of the Stoater is the result of ten years thinking, planning, researching and saving-up.
“My oldest bike is a Swinnerton, a steel-framed, double-butted, hand-made machine that is now thirty-four years old,” says Mark, immediately scuppering the accusation of crisis-driven lurch to acquire a new symbol of everlasting youth, “I thought it would be nice to treat myself to a new bike before the age of sixty.”
In much earlier life Mark owned a bike with a three-speed Sturmey Archer hub gear. This set him on a course of fascination, almost inevitably leading to the desire to own a bike with a Rohloff 14 speed hub.
He travelled via Alfine and Nexus, but the Rohloff won out by a good distance. “I started by looking at Thorn bikes, but the more I looked the more convinced I became that a belt drive would suit the Rohloff better and have other advantages.” It seems that, apart from the light-weight of the Gates Carbon CDX Belt Drive and its fundamental simplicity and longevity, he was looking forward to doing little more than give to a gentle once over with a damp cloth.
I put it to him that one of the pleasures of cycling was giving a chain a bit of oily rag treatment, but his response indicated scepticism and a preference for sitting with a beer whilst others enjoyed the heady scent of chain lube.
Actually, there is impeccable logic flowing from the Rohloff hub; single ring on the front, perfect alignment, no dishing to the rear wheel, belt drive for a coherent whole. “Almost maintenance free, comfortable and reliable; it ticks all my boxes,” says Mark.
Disc brakes are increasingly default, even among elite road racers, so an obvious choice for all-purpose/gravel bikes. The lightweight steel frame compensates easily for the additional burden of the hub and the braking system, so this is a set-up for the future - the last bike to be purchased.
Not really, Mark has just purchased a recumbent - second-hand. For a fifty-eight year-old with no intention of racing, it is a perfect set-up. Such is the unerring logic of a bespoke bike and its creation. Who is to gainsay it?
The ride is, as one would expect, smooth and responsive and the gearing admirable in range and intervals; no trouble twiddling up the banks of the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Currently sans mudguards, Mark plans to pop on some race-blades when necessary. There’s clearance for more permanent protection, as well as full braze-ons for hefty touring trips.
“I considered having a hub dynamo on the front, to power lights and charge GPS or phone, but decided against it, partly because of the added weight but more because small battery packs are now easily available.”
One feature Mark became set on was a set of S&S couplings. “I intend to do a good deal of international touring, probably with some deistic flights, too. Splitting the bike makes it pretty small and will save paying excess baggage fees. At first I was concerned that the couplings would spoil the look of the frame, but I think it has turned out sleek enough.” In fact, the frame is beautifully designed and built, clean modern in, currently pristine white.
So much research brought Mark to Steve Shand. “He really designed the bike around his own riding style and needs. He rides everyday, in all weathers and he rides a Shand he built himself.” Mark points out the vagaries of the weather in Scotland; Steve Shand seemed to have solved many of the problems.
Will the Stoater be on Mark’s funeral pyre? “I’ll keep on riding as long as I can, but I could pass it on to my son or daughter - they’ll have to fight for it. Actually, there is the option of an electric power-assist, which I have been looking at, but that is a long way off.” We agreed that in order to prevent familial strife, Mark should persuade them that he should buy a second bespoke bike.
And there we have Mark Dally’s Shand Stoater - by name and nature; The result of years of thought, planning, craftsmanship and solid rapport between customer and creator.