Travel the world and you’ll struggle to find a location as captivating as Tasmania, Australia’s southernmost state. Affectionately referred to as ‘The Apple Isle’, it is home to singular species of flora and fauna, and some of the most dramatic riding in Australia.
Michael Stedman is a Taswegian who recently brought a new Speedvagen Road back to his island home, where it promises to carry him for many years and miles over the ancient and awe-inspiring landscape.
Since Sacha White’s successful FitTour Down Under in August this year, I’ve been interested in learning more about what draws a new customer to the brand. Michael generously took the time to describe the experience:
“My wife and I spent six weeks in the U.S. for our honeymoon, including a week and a half in Portland. It was too good an opportunity not to get fitted for a Unicorn.
“A couple of months before we left I reached out to Jeff Curtes, who I discovered through Instagram as the pseudo Australian rep for all things Speedvagen. In turn he put me in touch with the wonderful Jenn Levo at Vanilla who was a dream to deal with.
“At the time I was unaware that Sacha was planning an Australian FitTour and we came dangerously close to missing each other (we flew out to the US the week Sacha flew to Australia). We ended up having a two day overlap in Portland and I thankfully managed to slot in a visit to the workshop.
“The fit was such a great experience. Sacha is really passionate about riding and making sure people get the most out of their bike. I think I spent about three hours riding, getting measured up, bantering about bikes etc.
“It was extremely thorough and very informative. What really struck me is what a great team Sacha has put together — everyone is just so enthusiastic about what they do and I believe that is the primary reason why they are so revered as a brand.
“The real surprise came at the end of the fit when Sacha flagged the possibility of pushing me to the front of the queue and having the frame finished in time for me to take home on the return flight four weeks later.
“Basically they were prepared to pull out all the stops so that I could save a bunch on international shipping (incidentally, those savings allowed me to splurge on the Busyman leatherwork). It is pretty phenomenal to think they can turn around a full custom geometry frame within four weeks.
“I came across Zak at Skunkworks Bikes again through Instagram. First of all I just dropped him a line about building me some wheels because I was having trouble sourcing the mango King hubs locally. But he was so enthusiastic about the whole project that I ended up entrusting him with the full build.
“Again, talk about customer service. We probably spent a few hours on the phone and countless emails working through the details. To top it all off, Zak was good enough to come out to Sydney airport in morning traffic to pick up the frame between my connecting flight back to Tassie.
“The brief for the build kit was pretty simple. I wanted something classic, reliable and sturdy. This is not a gravel grinder but the roads in Tassie are pretty varied. I wanted a bike that I could point in 100km in any direction and not have to worry that anything I am likely to come across is going to hurt my gear.
“Campy Chorus is about as beautiful a workhorse as you can get. I swapped out the Campy cranks for Praxxis partly for aesthetic reasons, but again because they are pretty well bomb-proof.
“The King hubs and headset were always a no brainer — particularly with the colour scheme. The Ligero rims were (and still are) a bit of a leap of faith.
“I was originally looking at a set of HED Belgiums but Zak swore by the build quality and weight of the Ligeros. They certainly tick the weight and width boxes. I am looking forward to seeing how they perform.
“Vanilla has produced some amazing paint schemes so I felt a lot of pressure to come up with a set of colours that would do the frame justice. I ended up taking the inspiration for the colour scheme from molten metal — those shades of orangey yellow-to-red that you see in a smelter or a piece of metal in a blacksmith shop. I like the link back to the origins of the steel tubes coming out in the final product.
“To make everything pop I ended up splurging on Busyman Bicycles bar tape and saddle in the same fade pattern to match the frame. The saddle is a Selle Italia Carbonio Flow.
“I touched on this before, but Tasmania is an incredibly varied place to ride. My primary discipline is mountain biking and I am so lucky in Hobart to have world class trails of almost every type within 10 minutes of my front door.
“Tasmania also has some of the best roads in the country for cycling. Many of the roads around the highlands were built during hydro industrialisation. There are plenty of hills, lots of switch backs and the reward of long, flowing descents. It is impossible to get bored of the terrain.
The island state of Tasmania is a mystical location, covered with vast tracts of wilderness untouched, and even unseen, by humans. Sounds like a good home for a unicorn. Special thanks to Michael Stedman for the words and Jeff Curtes for the photography.