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How ColourBolt are making their unbranded bikes stand out from the crowd

Ninety-nine per cent of ColourBolt's bikes might be all-black, but there's plenty unique about these handbuilt British frames

Jay Pond-Jones is no ordinary bespoke bike builder. Visit the ColourBolt website and you won’t find any photos of him standing moodily behind a dusty workbench, with Columbus tubing and industrial machining tools strewn all over the place. In fact, he splits most of his time between his two other jobs as a top advertising creative director and a TV comedy producer – escaping from them to indulge his long-held passion for bikes by way of ColourBolt.

The process of getting a ColourBolt built – and these bikes are available only as bespoke one-offs – is a collaborative effort, with handpicked experts each lending their skills at every stage of the development. As such, Jay is more design director than bike builder.

There’s another unusual thing about ColourBolt machines; something missing that you’ll find on virtually every other high-end bike in the market. There is no branding, anywhere. No elegantly crafted headtube badge, no bold logotype on the downtube, not even an artfully placed ‘signature’ somewhere on the rear triangle. These things are the stealth bombers of bikes.

The only way you’d know it was a ColourBolt is if you looked at the crankset. On each of their bikes, the brand replaces one of the chainring bolts with a coloured version – hence the name. A sign of provenance so subtle even a professor of semiotics could miss it.

ColourBolt is the brainchild in Jay Pond-Jones but building a bike is a collaborative effort

Night riders

Not being a welder himself, you might wonder how Pond-Jones got into making bikes for people. In truth it was a quite a pragmatic beginning.

“I was working in London on a TV project for a broadcaster that was based in LA so we were spending a lot of time working to West Coast US time,” he tells RoadCyclingUK. “That meant going home late at night and the easiest way to get in and out of town was by bike. There was something liberating about riding around the deserted streets – it was a London you don’t get to see very often.

“Having got really into riding bikes I decided to buy a bunch of vintage frames and do them up for mates. I stuck a mix of vintage and new parts on them, repainted the frames and gave them to friends.”

And nowadays, is he just splashing paint on old frames and selling them on to friends and family?

“It’s a little bit more than that now,” says Pond-Jones “We use some of the best builders in the country to produce fully custom frames, which are created with information from a bike fit with Roger Graver.”

Graver is a firm fixture on the British custom bike scene, having built up Mosquito Bikes, the famous London landmark, before selling that business to Velorution in 2016.

“You can’t underestimate how important getting a bike that fits you is to the overall enjoyment of cycling,” says Pond-Jones. “It’s one of the biggest benefits of going with a custom frame – the assurance that no matter how much you ride, you’re not going to develop injuries or little niggles because of your position. Saying that a custom bike ‘fits you like a glove’ is a bit of a cliche, but it really does apply in this case.”

So far the process is about the same as any other custom builder, but once the frame is ready to be made, things get more unusual. Pond-Jones says the range of frame builders used by ColourBolt ensures each bike gets the individual attention it deserves.

ColourBolt bikes carry no branding – just this single coloured chainring bolt

“We don’t actually specialise in one construction method over another,” he says. “Some guys are amazing at fillet brazing, while there are others who do incredibly beautiful lug work. We don’t want to limit ourselves to just one of these methods or risk being a jack-of-all-trades but master of none – so we work with builders who are the masters in each particular technique. That way each build is made using the best technique by the best craftsman or woman for that particular project.”

With a frame that’s ready to be ridden, the next part is the painting – and that’s an area where ColourBolt, with Pond-Jones at the helm, really does shine. Unless it’s a matte finish, of course.

Pond-Jones is proud of the array of different paint finishes you can select for a ColourBolt bike – perhaps this is to make up for the fact that all their bikes are monochromatic, 99 per cent of them all-black.

“Even with those early vintage frames I was repainting, the finishes were really important,” he says. “It was a great opportunity to put my stamp on the bikes I was making, even though they were really the work of other people in terms of the construction. I had a ‘dry black’, ‘sparkly black’ and one called ‘bling black’ which actually had little bits of gold laid into the powder coat.

“Now that we build our own frames as well, the paint finishes are what truly set ours apart from other bikes.”

ColourBolt’s disc-equipped road bike, the Maximum Black, has a super-tough industrial powder coat finish

Why bespoke?

Given ColourBolt’s origins, it won’t surprise you that the brand’s earlier bikes were focused on urban riding – but that focus has now shifted towards high-end road bikes.

“Road cycling has experienced such a boom in the last few years that we’ve been increasingly pulled towards this area of the market,” says Pond-Jones. “We were getting requests like, ‘Yeah, I love the look of this single speed, but can you do it for me with Campagnolo Super Record?’ It just made sense for us to start applying that beautiful design sensibility people loved so much to road bikes as well.”

But, with the handbuilt scene enjoying a renaissance in recent years, highlighted by the growth and popularity of the Bespoked show, which will take place for a seventh time this weekend, how does ColourBolt distinguish itself from other builders when the key benefits of their product, namely a made-to-measure frame and custom finish, are shared by many of their competitors?

Pond-Jones says ColourBolt creates ‘concepts’, almost like the different models in the ranges of major brands like Specialized or Trek. However, being bespoke means each individual bike remains completely unique. The key for ColoursBolt, is that much of the concept is defined by the paint finishes already mentioned and the intended use of the finished product, Pond-Jones says.

The Scarred Black is another of ColourBolt ‘concept’ paint finishes

The flagship in the ColourBolt range is the Maximum Black, a disc-equipped road bike built for speed and lightness. The paint finish is a super-tough industrial powder coat that gives the frame a pleasingly tactile quality.

“The discs, sadly, mean it’s not eligible to be raced (yet) – but if you’re looking for a Sunday best bike, something that purrs through the gears and delivers a pleasingly responsive kick when you push down on the pedals, this is the bike for you,” says Pond-Jones. “It will have you charging down descents with a confidence you don’t get with a rim-brake option.”

Other bikes in the ColourBolt stable include Drenched Black, a durable winter mile-muncher with mudguards, unchippable paint and stainless bottom bracket shell and chainstays. There’s also Scarred Black, which features gloss black paint over a mirrored stainless steel frame, the idea being that as your ride inevitably picks up the odd ding or scratch, you polish up the steel beneath the removed paint and it becomes a glittering attribute, rather than an unsightly blemish.

“People say the all-black bike is a bit played out,” says Pond-Jones, “What we try to do with ColourBolt is approach them from a fresh perspective every time. There might be a lot of black bikes out there, but every single ColourBolt is unique, be that the componentry choices, the geometry tuned to your physique or the way we’ve applied the paint or powder coat. We say they’re beautiful bikes that are meant to be ridden, not to languish on your wall or in your hallway.”

ColourBolt will be launching the Black Belter in collaboration with Velorution at the Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show in Bristol on April 7-9

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