Most people don’t know that South Africa used to have a burgeoning frame building movement. Nic Grobler and Stan Engelbrecht's exhibition "Hansom Diamant Alpina" showcases their years-long exploration of South Africa’s small-but-growing commuter culture.
You may not be familiar with these names, but they represent some of the finest steel racing bike frames built in South Africa in the 1980’s. Le Jeune, Alpina, Hansom, Du Toit, Cosmos, Le Turbo - to name a few - are commonly seen vintage brands on South Africa’s roads, and all share a proud locally-built heritage. There are even a few obscure and very collectable high-end frames out there, like Bill Lange’s beautifully crafted De l’Ange bikes, and Duncan McIntyre’s Gemini and Mcintosh frames. But the frame-building movement slowly dissolved in the 1980’s, and it’s only now, with the pervasive popularity of bicycling and the new enthusiasm for old steel frames, that these classics are being rediscovered.
"It was this movement, and our love of the bicycle, that led us to our years-long exploration of South Africa’s small-but-growing commuter culture, published in the 3-volume set of books, Bicycle Portraits - Everyday South Africans and their bicycles, an exhibition showcasing South Africa’s bicycle building heritage, and an all-gravel vintage steel bike race called Tour of Ara."
The Tour of Ara, named for the Southern Hemisphere constellation of Ara, is a prestige race that is ridden on vintage South African built steel bicycles in the proud tradition of the early Italian multi-day stage races. The first edition in 2014 saw 35 cyclists race against the clock over nearly 700km of gravel in six days. The stages were difficult and challenging, predominately over varying quality dirt roads, with the longest day being about 150km. Riders encountered soft sand, corrugated roads, loose stones and sharp tyre-shredding rocks, and even rain and snow, all on their skinny-tyred 30-year-old vintage road bikes.
Come to the official launch of the Bicycle Portraits books on Thursday 14th May and see a selection of images from our projects based around South Africa’s proud cycling heritage.
Thursday 14th May - 14th June
Thursday 14th May from 7.30pm
Freshly prepared food, craft beers and Squaremile coffee available.
Look mum no hands!
49 Old Street