Culturally, toads get a pretty bad rap compared to their often prettier cousins: frogs. Their dry, leathery skin and short legs lend them a bristly personality, but be assured there’s nothing ugly about this light tourer from England’s Toad Custom Cycles.
Toby Gallagher is a frame builder from Kintbury, West Berkshire, who got lumped with ‘Toad’ as family nickname due to the innocent mistake of spelling his name, when he was very young, with a ‘d’ instead of a ‘b’. Hence, Toby became Tody and eventually, Toad.
Unattractive nicknames aside, a Toad Custom Cycle is a thing of beauty: with only several frames in his portfolio, his light tourer won the Public Vote award at the 2015 Bespoked Bristol show. Recently, I had the great pleasure of meeting Toby and his bike at this year’s Eroica Britannia in Bakewell.
The inception of the winning bike came about when Toby was considering doing a bike specifically for Bespoked, but he was also aware that he was travelling to Bakewell for the Eroica event, which has distinct rules concerning the bikes that could be employed:
“2. Steel frame new construction with vintage look and characteristics may be used if they are assembled using vintage components or replicated parts similar to the original.” The die was cast: Toby would build a bike for Bespoked that would adhere to the Eroica guidelines.
“My first task,” Toby tells us, “was to decide which style/era to replicate. As you saw there were many styles of bike at Eroica, ranging from the single speed beasts of the early 20th century right up to late 1980s Peugeots. I wanted to build a light tourer, those typically used for Paris-Brest-Paris.
“I found a beautiful example built by Rene Herse in the mid 60s; It was built for Maurice Macaudiere for his record breaking attempt at the 1966 PBP. As well as the usual setup of 1960s bicycles of this type, the bike had a small front rack with F&R torches for night riding (there was a dynamo, but the added drag meant it was only used in emergencies), centre-pull brakes and frame mounted pump. A seriously beautiful bike, and something well worth emulating.”
“I knew getting an original 1960s groupset to match this type of bike was going to be hard and I changed my mind many times about which route to go, but a chance find of a very good condition complete Shimano 600 Arabesque groupset made my mind up for me. It was being sold by a gentleman in Escondido, California. With shipping it was probably a little more expensive than others might have been, but with a long cage derailleur, it was perfect for a light touring setup.
“With the groupset chosen, I now needed some wheels. Gavin at August Wheelworks put some beautiful wheels together for me: HPlusSon TB14 rims laced to Paul Component Hubs (the Jono rear allowing the use of the original threaded 6-speed Freehub), with Sapim Race spokes.
“The lugged frame was build with Columbus Spirit for Lugs tubing, with a fork to match. The lugs are partially fillet brazed, to soften the acuteness of the angle between the tubes, and carved with a small fang detail as a tip of the cap to the style of lug used by Rene Herse. Other small details include hand carved spare spoke holders, gently curved canti brake hanger, and matching pump pegs.”
Toby continues, “For Bespoked I had it setup in Light Touring mode, with custom front rack, front and rear light and full mudguards. The quill stem was also hand crafted. For Eroica it was stripped down to day-ride mode, with all the touring accessories removed.
“On the day the bike was beautiful to ride, albeit a bit sketchy on the first few wet downhills! Though by the afternoon the sun was out, and the brake pads properly bedded in, and I was having a lot of fun. I was concerned about the gear ratio getting up some of the bigger climbs (like Mam Tor), but I managed to ascend all on the bike, with no walking all day; even that cheeky little brute just after Chatsworth, when my legs were screaming.”
Toby’s bike looks even more graceful in real life, not at all like its namesake, and it looked perfectly at home riding along the gravel trails of the Peak District.