Words from the Man with the Marker Pen
That's what he looks like - the man who does our colouring in. Well, that's not quite true. Sometimes he gets a pencil and rubber and sketches out ideas. Would you believe it? Once we've all had our two cents and subjected him to information overload, our head of design, Benedict, proceeds to create our bicycle range. But it's not an overnight process.
Little Benji, 31, joined us last October after the 2010 range had been finalised and produced, so he had twelve months to work with our team here; listen, design, put down, re-think, come up with concepts, and then show us. We sell bikes, speak to people about bikes, service all sorts of brands in our workshop. We're around bikes all the time and the staff at Condor love our little British brand, thus we're the biggest critics of all.
Condor Cycles: What does it feel like when the samples are due to arrive in the London office from the factory in Italy?
Ben Spurrier: Utterly nerve-racking, but equally as exhilarating, although that could just be all the espresso I drink...
Condor Cycles: What do you think about the overall outcome of the 2011 collection?
Ben Spurrier: I love all of them, though some get more design time that others. Steel frames, like the Fratello road bike and the Pista single speed, are classics so they get a fresh colour way but don't need to be played about with. They are popular for a reason, so why mess with it? We've chosen to introduce a few new bikes to the range this year. It was Monty's [Young] birthday this year and myself and the Brand Manager decided Condor should produce something to honour his dedication to cycle sport. In the end we settled on producing a frameset with a few little matching extras.
CC: Was it an enjoyable task?
BS: Absolutely. We sat for hours reading about Monty and Condor, and looking at pictures of the various teams he's sponsored and riders he supported. The frame design had to be based on something he's achieved, have relevance, and really mean something. How do you cram eighty years of a man's life into a couple of steel tubes? When we presented it to him at his birthday party, it was a heart stopping moment. In a room packed with his closest friends from years in the cycling industry, how would they take to the frame design, the use of lugs, the saddle choice, the colours and concept?
CC: How was it going into the London show with a new range?
BS: Again, gut wrenching. We liked it, but what would 15,000 members of the general public think? Each one is a free thinking human, so will they like what I've worked on (for more hours than I care remember)? What if they don't, what if they do, surely they will? Won't they? I had a few random dreams in the build up where I'd think I'd forgotten something vital.
CC: The new yellow Squadra stands out quite a bit amongst the subtle black and white frames. What was the inspiration behind this?
BS: Well, back in March 2010, we chatted with Mavic about creating a Tour de France display window to celebrate one of the best races of the season. The outcome was that we should join forces to produce a frame, and they would dress it with some amazing wheels that Condor would be the first to have (other than the pros racing on them). The yellow frame was well received and we had so many people asking to buy it that we decided to take a chance on producing such a loud bike.
CC: Have you compromised anything this year?
BS: A large part of my job is finding a compromise between my creative ideal and what is possible from both financial and practical viewpoints. All of our frames are built by hand in our factory in Italy, and the costs of labour and good materials is steadily rising. Although we've held our prices for a number of years, these costs have had to be added to some of our models. We've chosen to take away the carbon rear end from our entry level road bike, the Italia, instead adding a lightweight aluminium rear end. The direction of the bike is now more of commuter and winter trainer.
CC: Where do you get your inspiration from?
BS: Everything around me, our heritage, what our staff are doing with their bikes, lego, chocolate covered bacon. The worst days are when you spend the whole day moving colours and lines about, looking at something you know is not quite right. A couple of days later I'll be riding (or asleep) and suddenly think of something and almost want to punch the air with excitement. That happened with new Potenza track bike.
CC: How was the task of remodelling the PARIS range?
BS: Tough. That is a bike with a long story behind it. In the 30s and 40s it was known for its exquisite design. I needed to highlight the bilaminations ('lugs' on front of the bike) because in the past that has been the design element that we've not been able to produce without a year's waiting list. Now, with a new laser cutting technique we can achieve it to a higher standard of manufacturing and within a better timescale. Who says that just because the PARIS name is retro, the designs and colours need to be? The vibrant lime green sits alongside the modern techniques we are now using to create the frame.
CC: Anything else? More to come?
BS: Well the feedback from the show was very positive. Last year there were questions hanging over some of the colour choices and designs. This year we had what I can only describe as a dream response. I've moved onto working on three special carbon road bikes for Sharp Electronics for a fantastic ride they are doing to raise money for Prostate Cancer Charity next year. Check out Gran Corsa d'Italia.
The new 2011 range is online and can be built on our bike builder.