Handsling VW Camper Bike
In the first of our new Custom Builds series, we pay homage to a cherished VW Camper
Here’s the story of how we went about creating the Handsling VW Camper Bike.
At Handsling we make state of the art carbon fibre bicycle frames, engineered to a high standard by one of the best in the business. Despite modern mould manufacturing dictating that each frame is pretty much structurally identical to the next, a skilled paintshop turns many of them into unique custom frames. These are then built up into bespoke bikes in our workshop. Each bike is very special to its owners for a variety of reasons, not least as it is the realisation of their creative idea.
In the Handsling workshop, we fall for each bike we build, and it can be hard to see a bike leave the workshop. We have to remind ourselves that each bike has very personal story and that story isn’t ours!
Some of these creative ideas are simple and require very little input from us, while others are simply a client’s initial thoughts and require a bit more effort to extract what they really want.
In this new series we will tell you about some of those ideas, document the most resulting builds, the process of how they came about, what went into them, and then show you the outcome.
So here’s the first in our ‘Custom Builds’ series. This particular client, David, came to us with an interesting brief: to create a Handsling VW Camper Bike.
A cycling fanatic who also loves cars, he wanted his new A1R0evo to be a homage to his classic 1966 split screen VW Camper, with its trademark blue coachwork and white roof.
This translated into, “Everything seen from the side has to be blue, but everything that points upwards has to be white.”
The process always starts with the client’s enthusiasm. Soon, as the main point of contact, I have bought into the idea and share their dream. I get all enthusiastic and will get off the phone, telling whoever else is around that day about this great ‘idea’ this client has had. This receives a muted reaction from the shop floor, as they are usually in the process of building some bike or other…
But within a few minutes, there’ll be a comment as to how to interpret the ‘idea’.
“Could do this…”
“What about that…”
Enthusiasm! Its infectious.
And David brings a lot of enthusiasm with him. You cannot help but buy into his enthusiasm for both his cycling and his classic VW, with the upgrades he has lavished on it. Everything has been updated and uprated to make this classic into a usable, modern vehicle.
Cycling wise, David has big plans involving a trip to Italy and the Dolomite mountains, and those plans are happening very soon, so all of a sudden we also have a deadline to hit.
First job is to check the frame size. We do not do full bike fits, but years of experience means that we can offer advice and make sure the frame fits. We do have some simple software we use that uses joint analysis to map a rider’s body and his current frame. It can work off a side on photo of the rider but requires a good knowledge of both anatomy and frame design. We then overlay a Handsling frame onto that and can show the difference it will make to a rider’s position.
Luckily David came complete with a Retul bike fit, making life easy for us. It either tells us or allows us work out the frame size, the handlebar height and how many spacers we will need, saddle height and lay-back, crank length, etc.
Once we know the sizing, we can bring the client’s idea to life with a design mock-up. I usually do a rough draft in-house with my limited design skills. Once the client is happy with the initial concept, we get a proper designer involved and this is the version the client will sign off before we send the fame to the paintshop.
The frame David wanted is the A1R0evo. It is the first frame I designed from scratch and is everything you want in a road racing bike. However, as only a small proportion of Handsling customers actually race, it also has some features that make it a great everyday road bike for any rider.
So while it is a super stiff frame, with quick, racy handling, designed to get you over the finish line first, it is also designed to be comfortable. A narrowing aero seattube to thin seatpost configuration and room for 32mm tyres helps there. We even offer a more comfy ‘Sportive’ bar with a bit of built in flex that we spec for many riders.
We use pantone references to try and match the paint on most of our frames. The blue was easy to locate. The white, however, was not so simple, as the required colour was an off-white, so it took a bit more research.
David decided that he didn’t want the HANDSLING logos on the frame to keep it clean just like his VW bus but did want a Handsling headtube badge. Later however, he came back to say that he wanted to have the model designation on the frame’s top tube as well.
Once happy and he had signed off the final design, we sent the naked frame over to our paintshop. This is often the most stressful time when clients will grow impatient, as they have seen the design and are chomping at the bit to see the resultant frame. Luckily about 4 weeks later we received the custom painted frame back and even better, it is stunning.
SRAM RED AXS
The full spec had already been agreed with David and quoted for. SRAM RED AXS with 170mm cranks, 46-33 chainrings and a 10-33, 12-speed cassette, is about as high end as it gets and would cope with just about anything the mountains throws at him. SRAM’s wireless shifting has some of the best design aesthetics in cycling at present, including the beautiful flat top SRAM RED chain.
Rest of the spec was similarly high, notably with Vittoria Corsa tyres adorning a set of 50mm Handsling tubeless ready wheels. Handsling wheels may not be the best known but, as with our frames, have won national and world titles. When I started the business, it was all about the frames and I did not want the wheels to detract from that, so they were very stealth. We only recently started to put logos on them when Ian Lynch, our wheelbuilder, joined us. Point is they are very good.
The above photos show Paul measuring up with some headset spacers. Our workshop manager, (the other) Simon, usually oversees the builds. He certainly likes fitting SRAM eTAP as there’s less fiddling to do. We sell a lot of SRAM AXS groupsets, mainly Force, probably on a par with Shimano now, whose Ultegra Di2 groupset used to dominate everything we did.
Other items in David’s spec included blips for varied gear changing positions. Placing them on the bar tops is a popular position for many, while some racers prefer to add them further down on the drops. David wanted his on the tops for when he was climbing in the saddle across those long mountain passes. We played around with a few positions until we found something that would work for him.
The finished Handsling VW Camper Bike build was certainly stunning. A lot of clients have a favoured saddle and some won’t spec a saddle as part of the build, as with David.
He had a particular Brooks saddle set aside for this bike.
We finished the build with a set of our Rib Cage carbon bottle cages, which are among the lightest cages we have come across to date, at just 16g each.
Some owners like David, will come to collect their bikes from us in our Hampshire workshop. The rest we ship all across the UK and some go overseas. Recently this has included to the USA, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Bermuda and Japan.
Clients who visit us usually have a quick test ride, either round our short test track or outside on the open road to check everything is OK and dial the position.
David was keen to get the bike and bus together.
Before getting the VW Camper bike really dirty, David wanted to get a ceramic protective coating applied to protect the paintwork.
He visited his local Ceramic Pro dealer, who are clearly used to dealing with top end machines like the A1R0evo.
Ceramic Pro is a nanoceramic surface treatment, very popular among prestige car owners.
Ceramic coatings are designed protect the paintwork and components, while making it easier to keep clean.
It’s a thorough process making sure they cover every single part of the bike. Even the wheels and cassette gets treated.
Big brother bus wasn’t left out and got the ceramic treatment at the same time.
All finished with the coating and reassembled, David and bike were all set for the Dolomites.
David and the Handsling VW Camper bike in the Dolomites, complete with another new Brooks saddle and different bottle cages…
VW Camper bike on the Passo San Boldo.
David reports that the VW Camper bike was a dream, handling the steep climbs and hair-raising descents with aplomb.
Many thanks to David Harvey for allowing us to share the Handsling VW Camper Bike with you.
If you have your own dream build you wish to share, then please send it in.
For more info on Handsling Bikes see https://handslingbikes.com/
More info on the A1R0evo frame specifically, including test reports (scroll to the end of the article), see https://handslingbikes.com/pages/why-buy-a-handsling-bike