back to news and reviews

Posted by

The name Shand has become synonymous with high quality, handbuilt steel frames. The introduction of the Stoater FT (fat tyre) frame seems to have sparked a massive interest amongst the bikepacking community … so I thought I’d see if Steven Shand would put his welding torch down for half an hour and answer some questions for us. I’m glad to say he did!

1/ Do you remember the first frame you built?

Sort of. I’m a pretty impatient person and I once did a personality test that described me as ‘not a good finisher’. When I was building my first ever frame I was probably only 30% done and already thinking about how it could be better and how I could be better at building it. As a result my focus dropped and if I’m honest, I’m not sure the first frame I started ever got finished. This was a pattern to be repeated for a good couple of years and I suspect in the early days, only about half the frames I started were ever finished. I do remember the first bike I built that was entirely my own design and was a result of my own experience in riding and was designed from the ground up to meet my own personal needs. In fact that frame is hanging up in the corner of our workshop right now. I can trace our most popular bike, the Stoater, right back to that frame.       

2/ Certain sectors of the bike industry seem to have a compulsion to continually change standards, bottom brackets, head tubes, etc. Do you believe any of them are actually beneficial to the bike buying public?

It’s easy to be an old crusty curmudgeon and moan about all these new ‘advances’ so I need to be careful here. There are certain things that are clearly driven by the need to streamline manufacturing processes and as a manufacturer myself, I can understand the desire for that. If it helps to bring down costs and doesn’t negatively impact on a bicycle design then I can sort of live with it. If you’re asking me if oversized BB shells make a bike better then no, I don’t believe they do. I would go as far as to say that particular ‘advancement’ has meant less choice for the public as the big brands battle it out over the ‘best’ standard. 

There’s certain things I don’t really understand and have given up trying to. Take tapered fork steerers for example. You have a fork that could be 500mm+ long, on the end is a wheel held together by a bunch of spokes and on the end of that you have a rubber tyre full of air at 50psi. Now someone’s decided that the fork isn’t stiff enough and that the best candidate for improvement is the 150mm long steerer that’s supported by bearings at both ends? Really?? And it just so happens that in order to take advantage of this you need either a new frame, a new fork or probably both.     
My final point on this is that while the engineering principals governing some of the latest changes are perfectly sound, the implementation is often poor. External bearing bottom brackets are a prime example here. If you move the bearings further apart and make them bigger, It doesn’t take a genius to work out that that is ‘a good thing’. But why don’t bottom brackets last as long as they used to? Because they’re mostly put together with shitty parts to hit a price point. The consumer thinks they’re getting a better product because of the advances in technology but they’re not reaping the benefits they should be. Up until about 2 years ago I was running a square taper WTB GreaseGuard bottom bracket in one of my bikes. It was running as smoothly when I removed it as it was when I first installed it in a bike 20 years ago. Why did I remove it? Because I needed a new crank and couldn’t get what I needed in square taper anymore 🙂   

3/ Have you ever had any really strange requests … for a frame, not personally?

Yes. Not so much anymore, but when I was working on my own in my dark little workshop a few years before we moved to where we are now, I’d get odd requests fairly often. I think it’s that ‘man in a shed’ syndrome that a lot of fabricators in the UK get labelled with that encourages these things. In the past I’ve built dog racing sleds, unicycles and a turning point in my career was building a tandem, folding, recumbent trike! That was the last odd request I agreed to.
4/ Did you design the Stoater FT because it’s a bike you’d want to ride yourself?

Kind of. Our standard Stoater is designed round a max of about 45mm tyres and we were told often that it would be ideal if it could take proper mountain bike tyres, so we designed something with that brief and I think it worked out pretty well. It was certainly driven by the type of riding I’m into. But one of the key principals at Shand is that we only build bikes that we’d ride and can understand. We need to feel comfortable with what we’re doing and we need to relate to the customer. We’ve been asked for track bikes in the past for example but none of us have experience in that field and I think we’d be lacking in credibility to just build one and say it’s great without any real personal experience. However, if we can partner with someone who can bring that experience to the process, then we will. And in fact we have a track bike project on the go at the moment but it’s a joint venture with someone else (who really does know what he’s doing!) and won’t be sold as a Shand. 
Stoater FT … maybe the ideal UK distance bike.

5/ Reynolds 853 has been the standard for steel frames for a long time, do you see anything on the horizon to better it?

Not really. I love steel and I love 853. Some of the stainless options from Reynolds and Columbus are really interesting. But really I think (for the sort of bikes we build) we’re pretty close too the pinnacle of material choice. When you consider that the wall thickness of some of the 953 stainless tubes can be down to 0.3mm you’ve got to ask yourself at what point have we gone too far. I think the heat-treated steel alloys like 853 can cover almost every base for what manufacturers like us need. 

6/ Do you subscribe to the idea that if something looks right it usually is?

Absolutely. Or perhaps the flip-side. If it looks wrong, it probably is. It’s a key point when I’m designing a frame. There’s an extension to that that follows right through our design process. Even when we get to paint we want to make sure it looks right and also that it looks like a Shand. 

7/ What’s the most time consuming part of building a frame?

In the whole process of of producing a bike for a customer, the customer communication is the most time consuming. From an initial consultation in person or on the phone, through to many, many conversations on email or telephone followed up by a few design revisions to get signed off, this part can take twice as long as actually building the bike. 

When it comes to the actual fabrication process, for us, it has to be finish filing our fillet brazed joints. There’s no shortcut and there’s not much in the way of tools that can speed up the process. It’s abrasive cloth, files and sore thumbs. Paint can be pretty time consuming too. 
Hard graft pays off … no short cuts here.

8/ Would you ever consider having your production frames made abroad?

Potentially. It’s a difficult area for us. We sell ourselves on the fact that our customers are very close to the processes that create the final bike for them. They know they can call us and whoever answers the phone will be playing a part in producing their bike for them. There’s only 4 of us in the company and we’re all committed to each customer’s build. I think our customers appreciate that and they tell us it’s a big part of why they chose us. We need to respect that. However, not everyone who wants a bike, like the Stoater FT for example, cares that we hand braze each one, one at a time. They may be happy with a bike of similar design, tig-welded, powdercoated and cheaper. Would be be straying from our principles too much if we started bringing in cheaper frames from Asia to reach a market we’re not really currently in? I’m not sure. That didn’t really answer your question did it?   

9/ Are red bikes really faster?

Yes, but only in the Southern Hemisphere and only during a full moon. Otherwise a bike with flames painted on will ALWAYS be faster. Fact. 

10/ You can only take one last ride – where would you go and who with?

We’ll I’m pretty unsociable so I’m afraid it’ll be just me. I rode in the Picos in Northern Spain about 20 years ago and I’ve been thinking a lot about that trip recently for some reason so perhaps I’ll go back there. Actually, my oldest kid who’s now 7 is getting into his bike a bit more so I’ll take him with me.   


You may also be interested in

Trans Cambrian Way improvements due soon.

A few months ago, I was invited to a meeting of the Cambrian Routes and Paths Society. If you’ve not heard of them before, their aim to to increase awareness and therefor use of the often underused tracks and paths that exist within the Cambrian mountains. Anyway, the reason I’d been invited to this particular […]

Read Full Article

Book Club … Bikepacking Scotland by Markus Stitz.

Despite generally returning home with a debilitating injury, I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Scotland. It’s a vast place with many ‘honey pots’ but even more little known and largely hidden corners. Once you add the very sensible approach to access and wild-camping, plus the large number of bothies scattered across the land, then it’s […]

Read Full Article

Book Club … Bikepacking Wales by Emma Kingston.

Someone suggested that I was the wrong person to review this book. At first, I was a little unsure as to the reasons behind that statement, after all, I’ve been riding the hills and valleys of Wales for twenty years. I’ve mapped out numerous routes across the largely green and pleasant land and have gained […]

Read Full Article

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping