Sadly we said goodbye to Steve Worland last year. Gifted racer and two wheeled design guru, Steve left behind a unique restoration project – an iconic piece of Black Country steel. In this blog our Head of Sales, Dave Hemming, writes about his great friend and how his spirit lives on through this bike and the people whose lives he touched.
In life you meet people. Occasionally you meet amazing people. Steve Worland wasn’t just into cycling. He was also a pioneer and helped shape what many of us take for granted.
He was a forward thinker and ahead his time. From his ideas like short stems and long top tubes, through to being one of the first to race cross-country MTB on full suspension. When mountain biking came along, Steve was not just at the forefront of the bike explosion, he had already been racing for decades since the age of 13 in track, road, cross and time trials. Had he been ten years younger, in my opinion, he would have been one of the best MTB racers to come out of the UK.
He raced for Team GB at three-mountain bike World Championships. Steve was an all-round cyclist.
Sadly on the 29th March 2014 Steve’s life was cut short. He was out running in one of his much-loved spots in Ashton Court, Bristol when he had a heart attack and died.
I got the phone call from an another friend, it was a real blow, still is. The effect it has had on all of us has been profound. Steve really did things his way and I am reminded everyday. His generous, modest and his self-effacing gentlemenly manner created the huge reputation he had, as a man who was always happy to share what he knew.
My career in cycling is all down to him and the opportunity he gave me to race a bike. As a twig-thin 17 year old in 1989, when I met him for my interview to join the Gary Fisher team.
To this day I can remember it – no boardroom or resume of results, just a simple ride. Easy, right? Not so simple. Back then Steve was at the top of his game as a mountain bike racer and that day my interview in Richmond Park was straightforward. Keep up and you can race on the team!
Needless to say I rode my heart out. What a way to earn a spot on a team! I thank him for what he saw and believed in that day.
Over the past 25 years I had the pleasure of working and travelling with Steve. I got to learn a whole lot about two wheels from him. From his days at Muddy Fox and Pace cycles, he really had a hand in many of the game changing brands and technologies. Deep down though his passion for the bike and the journey it creates is really what inspired me the most.
You could blindfold him, stick him on a bike, make him ride around and he could tell you the exact geometry, just like that! He could tell you what brakes and shifters he had in his hands by their simple shape and feel.
He rode a lot of bikes and never forgot the feeling that a bike had. For him it was like an extension of your very being. It was clear, some of those bikes never left him.
He recounted his first love (a bike) at a young and impressionable age – A Viking Severn Valley. He spent all his free time looking after it. His pocket money was now the conduit for pots of Duraglit with handle bar tape and trinket upgrade parts. The beauty of that is that he never ever stopped. Always building, tweaking and riding. It really is no surprise to me that Steve became a test editor for MBUK and What Mountain Bike and one of the most respected cycling journalists around.
The passion, harboured from an early age, for his Viking never left him. Particularly the merits of the Viking “Ian Steel” model, which a school friend had beaten him on in their first time trial. Over half a century later Steve started a quest. To put together something from an ancient beast with a modern twist.
His broad knowledge and passion did not tie him to just one style of bike. But it’s fair to say he did always have a certain love for lugged steel, simple colours and Campagnolo.
There comes a point (I think I’m there now) when you look back a little more than you do forward. You fantasise about the bikes you once had and even more so about the ones you didn’t have. That point in life is normally when you have two key elements – time and resource. Steve he had started to search for those bikes.
When Steve first told me about the Viking Ian Steel his excitement for this important connection with his early teens was infectious. “It didn’t take long and I found one on retrobike.co.uk”
Just to build a bike of the age is a challenge but to Steve there was a further goal to this project. Build a childhood dream bike and then take it to L’Eroica in Italy to ride the vintage classic ride.
The bike you are looking at now is an original 1954 Viking Ian Steel. Named after Ian Steel’s win of the 1951 Tour of Britain. Having been made into a three-speed town bike it was scruffy and was clearly going to need many hours of work. Steve paid £40 for the complete bike and got to work.
The issue that can unfold quickly with old frames is that they don’t fit so well with modern components without modification. This is where you can lose yourself, Steve told me, looking on eBay for the right old parts. “You find yourself hunting for Campagnolo old style rear gear mechanism to fit an old style gear hanger, or a narrow rear hub that’ll take a five speed screw-on freewheel”
For frame restoration you have to use Argos Cycles. They’ve been repairing and restoring frames for 30 years. Today they’re busier than ever. The popularity of cycling in many ways is a catalyst for many cyclists childhood dreams.
The issue with old frames (and the Ian Steel frame is included) is they were built to be all-rounders. The race frames of this time would often have mudguard eyes and a lamp bracket on the fork. It was only the professionals that got the stripped down version.
Once you hand the frame over to Argos you really don’t know what state the frame is in until they shot blast the paint off. The beauty of Argos is they can repair anything-even replace tubes. Thankfully after the shot blast the frame revealed it was structurally sound with just some minor pitting that needed smoothing over and filling.
Steve decided not to be a full on purist here with the frame and move away from the track style dropouts and frame clips to mount the cables and opting for drop outs with the gear hanger built in, braze on cable guides and bosses on the down tube to give him the option to have down tube or bar end mounted shifters.
I really like his touch to have the dropouts finished in stainless. “This is where you get the first paint damage” he pointed out and so right he was. The paint colour he ended up going with is a coffee and magnolia cream. He laughed with me about this as he thinks it is more of a baby-poo colour!
The ride itself is divine. It takes me back to my childhood in the 1970’s. I rode bikes like this all day long with no real purpose other than to just ride. The modern era has made me somewhat lazy. Everything I use now works with such precision. The 1960’s Campagnolo on this bike has to be ridden with respect because it is old and that it is somewhat clunky in its functions.
I found this out when I slipped a gear and flew over the bars. In the split moment of crashing every thought went through my head “I am crashing. I can’t crash this bike. Not this bike. I have to save the bike at all costs, even to the cost of myself”.
Was it Steve’s way of reminding me to pay attention? I like to think so.
We decided to shoot the bike with no helmet and wearing Summer Shorts and the Merino Henley to create a 1950’s look. I think the outfit we created is cool and would work at L’Eroica even down to the Velorution vintage shoes.
I love the colour and the time spent on building this bike, 50 hours is worth a working week of anyone’s time.
Steve really did leave behind a great impression of himself in this Viking – Ian Steel. His subtle application to make something amazing, the detail in the build and the overall finish of this bike reminds me of his passion for cycling. I will always miss my friend and I will be forever thankful for what he saw in me that day in Richmond Park.
Here’s to being – Rugged and Windswept
THE SPECIFICATION LIST
Including approximate costs
FRAME/FORK: Viking Ian Steel Reynolds 531. £40 from retrobike.co.uk
REFURB: £537 from argoscycles.com
RIMS: Velo Orange Raid. £58 each from cadencebikeshop.com
HUBS: 1960s Campagnolo Record. £50 from eBay
SPOKES: DT Stainless Plain Gauge. £24 from madison.co.uk
TYRES: Challenge Eroica 700 x 30mm. £48 each from paligap.cc
TUBES, CABLES ETC: £25
CRANKSET: 1960s Campagnolo Record 52/42. £55 from eBay
FRONT GEAR MECH: 1960s Campagnolo. £10 from a bike jumble
REAR GEAR MECH: 1960s Campagnolo Record. £15 from a bike jumble
SHIFTERS: Campagnolo bar end. £20 from eBay
PEDALS: Anonymous, Christophe clips. £5 from a bike jumble
CHAIN: Wipperman. £12 from extra.co.uk
FREEWHEEL: IRD 5 Speed 13-28. £40 from fine-adc.com
HANDLEBAR: M Kint/S Maes. Gifted.
STEM: Titan Steel. Gifted
BRAKES: 1960s Bianchi. £8 from eBay
SADDLE: Brooks B17 Honey. £70 from extra.co.uk
SEAT POST: Anonymous 26.8mm. Gifted
MUDGUARDS: Portland Design Works £60 from paligap.cc
EXTRAS: Brooks leather toe straps + bar tape. £45 + £25 from extra.co.uk
WEIGHT COMPLETE: 24.7lb
COST COMPLETE: £1253
APPROXIMATE TIME FOR SOURCING, REFURBISHING AND ASSEMBLY: 50 hours
If you’d like to see Steve’s magnificant Viking for real come and visit us at Bespoked, the UK’s Handmade Bicycle Show in Bristol on April 17th – 19th. We’ll be in the Arnolfini Building all weekend with free entry to the public, hopefully see you there.
Photo credits: Steve Behr & Jonathan Gawler