From Treviso to London, via Amsterdam: Vulpine’s designer Eloise heads to one of Europe’s cycling capitals for her new bike day.
After a wonderful 3 years with my 80’s Raleigh Equipe, it had become clear that it was time for a new bike. Loyal though I am to my white & turquoise steel machine, those old gears were just killing me on steeper gradients (I regularly go back home to ride around the Peak District), and having ridden a carbon Liv for a few days during Vulpine’s Budapest shoot, I was hankering after something a little lighter too. (Plus, my boyfriend’s bike count was now up to 4, and I’ll admit I was getting a little jealous!).
The question was though, what to get? I had loved riding that Liv, but wasn’t sure about the style – as a designer I’m pretty picky, and wanted something with a less sporty look. Plus, I just wasn’t convinced by carbon: I like materials with history, built with care and attention. I don’t race, I ride for the love of being outside exploring beautiful places, so I didn’t need the lightest bike in the world, but one that would be fun and comfortable on long distance rides. This bike was going to be an investment, and I wanted something that was going to give me a superb ride for years to come.
“I ride for the love of being outside exploring beautiful places, so needed a bike that would be fun and comfortable on long distance rides.”
In the end, after weighing up just about every possible option in my budget (and out of it too!), the choice was easy. You might have noticed the bright pink and blue bike that Jon was riding in our shoot in Budapest: a beautiful steel ride from Amsterdam start-up My Wild Love. The concept of their creations was exactly what I was looking for. New old stock, Columbus SLX steel frames, built for a pro team in the 80s by Italian frame builder, San Marco, realigned, respaced and reconditioned, and given modern components and an incredible new look.
I enquired about the frames shortly after our trip, and Paul, one half of the My Wild Love team, sent over their full catalogue of designs to choose from. Tough choice – they all looked fantastic. I was pretty intrigued by a Chromovelato design, which almost had me sold – but in the end plumped for a black-green fade style, with neon yellow accents. Not quite as in your face as the other designs, but with the same impeccable style and design.
Decision made, we then got into the nitty gritty of getting the right size and choosing parts: over 50 emails back-and-forth, as I sent Paul measurements of both my current bike and body, to make sure we got the perfect set up. I also got the option to choose the design of the neon yellow accents on the frame. Paul suggested 10 stripes on the seat tube, hand applied with a brush and masks, so that they sit a little chunky on the frame. I decided to go for this, and also add a dot-dot-dash on the top tube: my initials in morse code. A small personalisation, but still in keeping with the style of the rest of the design. From there, the wait began. I’m impatient at the best of times, and could barely contain my excitement for the arrival of my new bike! Paul built the anticipation, sending through snaps as it was painted and built.
“Paul suggested 10 stripes on the seat tube, hand applied with a brush and masks, so that they sit a little chunky on the frame.”
Finally, after the longest 5 weeks ever, the wait was over and it was time to fly to Amsterdam for my new bike day! Of course, I could have had it shipped over, but with flights to Amsterdam so affordable, it seemed like an great opportunity to meet the creators of My Wild Love, and take my new ride for a test spin, before bringing it back home with me.
I took an early morning departure to Amsterdam, arriving late morning into the city, and headed straight to the Meesterknecht bike shop, workshop & cafe, where my bike had been built. There I met Paul, plus the team of Meesterknecht – and my bike, proudly on display in the centre of the shop. My heart skipped a beat as soon as I entered the shop and saw it – I could hardly believe that the amazing bike before me was mine. Considering my Raleigh was a £70 eBay find, this was going to be a whole new experience.
The shop itself is a fantastic place, full of bikes, books, magazines, parts and kit. On the walls are beautiful vintage racing bikes, all with a connection to the Netherlands, an image of the builder and an info paragraph displayed next to each one. Plus, the coffee is really, really good; I could happily spend a lot of time in this place!
I changed into my Senko bib shorts while Matt set my bike up on a turbo, and we got started with a quick bike fit. I’d arrived in Amsterdam on the hottest day of the year, and as soon as I started pedalling I began to melt! Matt helped me to adjust my riding position and get the seat height right, helping to stop my hips from rocking as I ride. I’d not had any kind of bike fit before, and had never really thought much about exactly what my body was doing while riding – for example, I hadn’t realised that I jut my heel downwards at the bottom of each pedal stroke – which is apparently not normal! Matt recommended that I have a more extensive bike fit once home – especially as I was going to dismantle the bike to take it back home in a couple of hours, putting all of his good work to waste!
“I’d arrived in Amsterdam on the hottest day of the year, and as soon as I started pedalling I began to melt!”
All set up, we headed out on our ride. Paul led Brad & I through the busy streets of Amsterdam, navigating the bike lanes, tourists & canal network with ease. We arrive at the My Wild Love office to pick up Dario, the other half of the team, and responsible for the incredible designs. From there, we headed to meet Lester, frame builder for RIH, and have a look around his new workshop. I’m always fascinated by places like this – filled with huge, old machines, walls of tools, and other evidence of immensely skilled labour. Jon arrived, somehow riding both his city bike and his My Wild Love simultaneously. Team assembled, we rode out of the city, along the bike lane network and into the country.
Luckily for us, the wind had picked up, which meant that the heat was not quite as brutal as we’d all expected – however thanks to the pancake flat landscape it was pretty intense riding directly into it! I was amazed at how far the cycle ways extend out of the city, and Paul tells me that the network is an incredible infrastructure that spans the entire country. We rode past waterways, windmills & WW11 bunkers before stopping for apple pie and coffee, which went down very nicely: I’d been on the go since 4:45am! My new bike was feeling amazing though, and it’s always great to meet and ride with a whole bunch of new people.
We arrived back to Meesterknecht in the early evening, and headed round the corner for a Mexican supper (and birthday dinner for Brad!) at the restaurant owned by one of Meesterknecht’s customers. Paul & Dario arrived to pack down my bike, and Matt ‘doubled’ me back to the shop to meet them (I sat on the pannier of his city bike and clung on for my life as he rode) – completing my experience of cycling in Amsterdam! After some jiggery-pokery, my bike had been disassembled, and safely packed away into boxes ready for the flight.
“Matt ‘doubled’ me back – completing my experience of cycling in Amsterdam!”
It was amazing to collect & ride my new bike in one of the best cities for cycling in the world, as well as meet Dario and Paul and find out more about how My Wild Love came about: from Dario getting into cycling while living in Treviso, where he discovered the old San Marco frames, lying unused, dusty and unloved; to purchasing the frames with Paul, and giving them the care and attention needed to become beautiful bikes. It’s a great story, and I’m so happy to own a frame with this story and history behind it.