I guess like most of us my first bicycle was when I was around three, mine was metallic blue with white tyres, my substantial possession ! As a kid I was fascinated by motorbikes and cars, bicycles where a kind of poor distant cousin to motorbikes, every car journey I would sit in the back, leaning and imagining riding perfect racing lines on a motorbike, driving my family crazy.
My first hallelujah moment with a bicycle came when I was 9. Raleigh Chippers, Choppers and Grifters were all the rage in the UK, I had a cheap orange folding bike with 20 inch wheels, totally uncool, and only rode it when my self made scrambler with cow horns was broken, which was always. A good friend lived on a farm two villages away , about a fifteen mile round trip, over steep Pennine hills ! One day I strapped my wellies on the built in luggage rack and set off on my stripped down orange folding shopper. It turned out to be an enlightening adventure, and I will never forget the incredible sense of empowerment and freedom that ride unleashed. A seed was planted, I nagged and nagged until I got my first drop bar race bike. My dad had a college who rode in a local club. One sunny September morning I did my first club run aged 10, 70 miles with no spares, nothing to drink and no money, however a cycling clubs a warm and caring place to cut your teeth, by the second tea stop, I was being treated to a mug of hot tea and a pudding with custard, more importantly my range had almost quadrupled and I had a new gang. I soaked up the culture the club environment nurtures. By 13 I started racing crit’s, and grass track. As a junior moving onto road, cross, time trials, hillclimbs and the real tracks in Leicester and Nottingham, I raced 4 or 5 times a week from March till October, and cyclo cross through winter.
While studying for my design degree in Newcastle, mountain bikes started to appear in progressive bike shops. I blew a terms grant and bought a Marin pine mountain, suddenly my child hood scrambling became a focussed reality, on sturdy and reliable machinery. My first MTB race was the downhill at Catterich military base, I came 4th and had a new addiction !
Since then I have raced cars and motorbikes on and off road at various phases, but bicycles have always been a constant. I have ridden bicycles on five continents and raced them on four. As I matured I learned to appreciate the spiritual side of cycling, a deeper understanding of its stabilisig impact on my physical and mental wellbeing, and its rich social and cultural benefits. Mobility, Freedom and Community.
I have been lucky enough to own and ride many iconic bicycles over many disciplines. I have experienced most frame building materials and equipment developments first hand, analysing what works, and often what not. This combined with my designers curiosity, and a love of renovating, making or adapting just about anything drew me more and more to the idea of building my own bicycle frames.
I decided on steel for simple reasons, its easily accessible to custom builders with many options and possibilities. Intuitively I love the lively ride quality of the material, its culture, and the innovation in the last years which have brought it right up to date. I guess its no coincidence ! But the most enjoyable motorbikes and cars I have raced also had steel tubular frames. So steal it is !
I researched for a suitable course in the Uk, and decided to learn with Rob and Peter from Bicycle by design. As a non engineer their simple pragmatic approach offered a great NO tech, truly hand made foundation to start my learning curve. A jig, torch, work bench, files and a hacksaw, not even a alignment table, everything worked from a faced bottom bracket and a home made tool. The only luxury a sand blasting cabinet. I loved it !
I returned home and gathered my own simple tool park and started building frames feverishly for myself, friends, family and anyone that showed the slightest interest. Building, testing, gathering feedback. Refreshing new skills and techniques with Rob and Peter and other master builders from time to time. Absorbing knowledge from the generous community of frame builders on line, and within an ever expanding network of makers, shakers and doers in the scene. Learning by doing and endless practice, expanding my skill sets and workshop constantly over the following years.
I took a sabbatical from the fashion industry to study sustainable leadership at the CISL institute in 2019, which buffered with Covid like the perfect storm. Creating a unique opportunity to turbocharge my frame building development curve. Also stimulating a clear decision to split my time between my mission, helping companies repurpose to more sustainable business models and circular design process’s and solutions. With my passion, building totally bespoke hand made steel bicycles for likeminded bicycle fanatics, individualists, design lovers, and those in search of self powered freedom and adventure on a bike of their dreams !
I am often asked where the name Finnbar trout comes from, this picture explains all:
Finnbar or finn was the first dog that was truly mine. A hunting terrier rescued from Battersee dogs home. Wild, energetic, robust, and more than a little cheeky, I loved him to bits !
Trout was my nickname as a kid. I wasn’t convinced that being likened to a slippery fish was great at the time. But trout are agile travellers permanently in motion, with, against or across the flow. These gathered attributes are what I would like my frames and bicycles to embody !
“ Never in doubt, when you ride a Trout “