The purpose of this research is to better understand the impact of technology and social media on the custom bicycle industry. We are interested in how the market is responding to a greater use of social media for sharing bespoke crafted products: how creators and craftspeople share their work and are inspired by others on social media; how consumer consumption of such media drives trends and demand; how newcomers are inspired to become crafters and how established crafters are adapting to the changes; and, any tensions that have arisen because of these changes.
The bicycle craft and frame building industry, in the UK in particular, has grown rapidly over the past decade, particularly with a much greater general awareness through the advent of the annual Bespoked bicycle show (cancelled for 2020), frame building courses and the increased use of social media by craftspeople. In some cases these crafted products may be technically inferior to mass-manufactured items (in terms of weight, stiffness, R&D, etc.), and are generally associated with a higher cost, but despite this have captured the hearts and minds of many consumers.
We are undertaking this research to understand how the industry has changed as a result of use of social medial platforms such as Instagram, and with a view to creating guidelines for craftspeople in similar fields to make the best use of social media. We are interested in speaking those working in all areas of the custom bicycle industry, from frame builders and designers, to paint shops, and those who craft custom bicycle parts and accessories (such as racks or frame bags).
My interest in this research topic comes from my long-standing love of the bicycle, years of looking at bikes displayed at Bespoked and NAHBS, my desire to build my own frame (I’ve been saving since 2015, but never seem to get any closer), and an interest in how the industry has changed in the last 10 years.
For now, I am building up an understanding of the industry by looking at and reviewing social media content through an Instagram account associated with the project. In the near future I will be looking to chat to: amateur and professional frame builders and other crafters; customers of frame builders and other crafters; and, anyone who has undertaken, or is planning to undertake, a frame building course, all around the world. If you fall into one of these groups (or into another group that I have not yet considered) and you would be interested in having a chat, then I would love to hear from you!
This study has been approved by the Northumbria University ethics committee.