Back in 2014, Robin Mather designed and built Nick Hand of the Letterpress Collective a cargo-style bike that could carry an Adana printing press. Together, they rode with it from Bristol to Mainz in Germany, where Johannes Gutenberg invented printing with moveable type in the 15th century.
While the project was more of a learning process, the bike was a complete success, and proved Robin’s propensity for making beautiful, functional bikes. His Adventure Tourer is more proof — inspired by Robin’s own travels on his first ‘proper’ bike, an early 90s Kona Fire Mountain.
Back in the ‘good old days’, before things got too specialized, mountain bikes came ready for racks and panniers, whether you wanted them or not. The Fire Mountain was Robin’s only bike, and he rode it “without questioning whether it was the best bike for the job — the local woods, daily commutes and my first tours around France”.
Robin made himself a more conventional tourer at the beginning of his frame building career — drop bars, skinny tubes, 700×32 tyres etc — but he didn’t like it as much. “The Kona, with its larger volume tyres and relatively stiff frame and fork, was more comfortable and handled more precisely with a full set of panniers on”.
Since then, he’s toured extensively around France, Italy and Spain, and further afield to Ethiopia and Iceland, all aboard bikes that were inspired by the Fire Mountain. While mountain biking has evolved since 1992, Robin still reckons that the rigid frame, with long wheelbase and smaller-diameter wheels, is the perfect format for both long distances and blasting his local single track.
“This particular bike,” Robin tells us, “was built last summer for a trip to Mainz in Germany. I was involved in a plan with a friend of mine, Nick Hand, to build a bike capable of carrying a small printing press and then ride it to the birthplace of letterpress printing. We documented the journey in a series of postcards, printed on the bike and sent back to people who had supported the project on Kickstarter.”
“Shortly before setting off I realised that as Nick was carrying the printing press on his bike I would end up being a bit of a mule for everything else and that none of my current bikes were quite up to the job.”
“I don’t like to miss an opportunity to build myself a new bike and was keen to try out one or two details like the crush bend on the chainstays. The H-bars had been hanging on the wall of my workshop for a while waiting for a home.”
You could be forgiven for experiencing pangs of nostalgia while admiring the Mather Cycles Adventure Tourer, but perhaps it’s reassurance that even today, it’s possible to own a bike that’s capable of a long tour and once the panniers are off, you can shred trails on it too. Like the fox on the head badge, it’s a cunning bike, in the traditional sense of the word.