Fearless Bikes have been on the UKgravelCO radar since we saw our first gravel bike, The lure of a steel, British designed bike that wasn’t just stuck in a genre but very adaptable was strong. For one reason or another I didn’t buy one but they have always been on my top 5 bikes to own one day. So it was cool to contact Tim from fearless to get a bit more insight into his ideas for his designs and the future…
What’s your background, how did you get into riding?
I’ve been mucking about with bikes since the late 80s. As a teenager without the dosh for a proper mountain bike I took old ‘racer’ style frames and fitted them with flat bars, also attempted to fit bigger tyres with mixed results, obviously. I bought a friend’s Falcon Sierra (a cheapo Halfords MTB copy) for twenty-five quid which I then stripped, painted with Hammerite then fitted with Suntour parts. The tinkering hasn’t stopped since then. I saved up some money and finally got a proper mountain bike in 1990; a Deore DX equipped Mongoose Iboc Pro which I put thousands of miles on. I think this was the last complete, off-the-shelf bike I bought; it’s been frames and a roster of parts since then. I got into road touring 13 years ago; did a trip across the US followed by Japan in 2008, I’ve done a few trips through Europe also. Dabbled in XC racing, the usual stuff.
Why, given the amount of gravel bikes out there did you design and have your own manufactured?
The process actually started before gravel became a buzzword and I’d been riding drop bar bikes off-road for a few years by that point. Gravel racing was happening in the US but certainly wasn’t mainstream yet and not many big brands had much in the way of off-the-shelf gravel bikes. Gravel wasn’t all-encompassing term it is now and it seemed to be about racing on tyres that wouldn’t get you very far on UK trails. The Vulture was designed as a big tyre all-rounder, an alternative to the CDF and Surly Cross-Check so not really related to the US gravel scene at the time. I wanted an affordable bike that had that proper steel feel but the rear triangle didn’t sway under heavy pedalling or cargo loads. I usually only have a couple of bikes on the go and they tend to be multi-purpose as cycling is my primary means of getting about; the bike I ride into town is usually the bike I take across country and thought other riders might want a similar frame. So the Vulture falling into gravel bike category was coincidental- it just so happened to take big tyres, handles nice off-road, the frame is light with a tapered headtube and comes equipped with a capable steel fork so good for events and touring, also general riding.
What’s the Fearless brand all about?
It’s still early days for Fearless so trying put it in a box at this stage is likely counter-productive. There’s two new bikes in the pipeline that’ll hopefully be ready this year so any perceptions of what Fearless is about may change and I’ve kept the whole thing fairly low key for this reason. I’m painfully aware that some brands and shops local to me went in too hard too early, also gave Brighton start-ups a sketchy rep which had a slight knock-on effect for Fearless. I generally think keeping expectations low and people being pleasantly surprised is a better way to do things. The right customers make the effort to find you which keeps it special. That said I do occasionally spam the Instagram hashtags if things are going slow.
What makes the first model and the new model stand out from the rest?
It’s difficult to make a bike ‘stand out’ without lapsing into novelty and I think it’s fair to say the details that make a real difference get ignored. Customers that were already heavily invested in Sram post mount disc brake setups took to the Vulture pretty quickly as did those with much loved QR wheels. Parts bin extremists like myself took a mixture of road and MTB parts and got themselves something that ran double duty; most of their existing kit fitted so the barrier to entry was lower. With the Vulture you get nice UK tubing with the Reynolds 725 but the bike’s execution is more akin to a small US frame shop.
Can’t say too much about the next bike as I’m still waiting on the prototypes so I’ll play it safe if you don’t mind. The reason it’s so late in arriving is that I designed a bike a year ago which actually got as far as the full production drawing stage but something wasn’t right, I wasn’t happy so I killed it. All I can say is the final design is a little more focused than the Vulture. It’s still multi-use but excels in a couple of key areas.
Who is the ideal buyer of your frame?
There’s no ideal buyer and the reach has been fairly broad; every Vulture build I’ve seen has been different, also covering most use cases with some riders doing things I didn’t know were things. For some it’s their go-to gravel machine in the stable and they’ve fitted the best parts they can afford, for others it’s the daily driver; the bike they ride to work, fill the panniers and run errands, take the kids out biking or maybe do a short tour somewhere. These bikes are usually the bikes accumulate the most miles and people keep the longest; something that’s often overlooked. One owner uses his Vulture as a skate spot recce vehicle and for the occasional bivvy weekend, another built the most cost effective 9.5 kg steel gravel bike I’m aware of and has put over 10k miles on it. I was extremely careful not prescribe how people should use their bike.
Where is the most far flung place that your frame has ended up?
Indonesia though most customers are based in the UK & EU. I sent a frameset out to North Carolina last week. A lot of customers stay off social media and keep themselves to themselves which is commendable and I only know the riders I follow on Instagram plus those that keep in touch. As far as I’m aware no one’s ridden across Tibet on a Vulture yet.
What’s the most crazy build of a Vulture that you’ve seen?
If crazy equals cost then it’s probably Jamie’s Force 1/Enve/Chris King/Paul Klamper build. At the other end of the use case spectrum there’s Clay’s riser bar hack complete with child trailer, Pizza Rack and D-lock bracket. Both are great bikes in their own way.
Can you tell us where you see Fearless bikes in the next 5 years?
I tinker in CAD a lot so was considering getting some components made but staying purely bike & frameset focused is more likely. Build kits are hopefully going to be an option later this year then onwards to complete bikes at some point. In five years time I’d like a small range of bikes spanning 4-5 different genres… plus a multi-million dollar R&D budget and a big sponsor race team with elite signings. You know, aim low.
You can find more information on Fearless or contact Tim via their website Fearlessbikes.com