It’s not very often you see a frame with a woman’s name on it, but what really makes Caren Hartley stand out is the artfully crafted machines she makes under the name Hartley Cycles. Made with the highest quality components, these stunning steeds would look great with some accessories from Brooks. We caught up with her, to find out more about her passion for making and riding bikes…
You’re a rare breed – a female frame builder – what first got you inspired to start doing this?
Since moving to London 10yrs ago I had gradually got more and more into cycling, first as a commuter and then as a road cyclist. I was also a sculptor and jeweller in my previous career, so had been working with a love of metal for a long time. I suddenly realised I could combine my two passions and actually make the bikes I wanted to ride!
You build bikes by commission, but even I as a seasoned cyclist I’d find it hard to choose what I wanted. What process do you go through to help people make a decision that really suits their needs and their lifestyle?
Each commission starts with a conversation, so we sit down together, normally over a cup of tea, and talk about what the customer wants, what type of riding they want to do, if they have any cycling goals etc. and go from there. Some customers will have a really clear idea about want they want right from the start, and for some it is much more vague, and they want lots of advice about the frame options and the component choices etc. Either way, we chat through the options together and then I can decide how to make the best bike to meet their unique needs and wants.
The first thing that comes across when I see the bikes on your site is the attention to detail, the sense of style and the quality of the components – how do you find the right suppliers?
I have a large number of distributors, from which I can source practically any bike part available. When choosing them for me it is alway a combination of performance and aesthetics.
Tell us about your bike and what you love most about it…
My bike is a 650c Columbus Sprit and XCR (steel and stainless steel) road bike with a carbon fork. I’ve nick-named it The Pocket Rocket. My favourite thing about the bike is that it fits me really well and so handles really precisely and confidently. It’s built around a 650c wheelset which is slightly smaller than the standard 700c which suits my size (5’4″) and means that the frame and wheels are in proportion and so look and perform perfectly together.
Have you been on any road rides this summer? If so, where?
This summer I toured my Hartley road bike from London down to the south of France, we rode with minimum luggage and took a week to get there and enjoy the journey and then stayed in Bedion at the foot of Mt Ventoux for another week. During the second week we challenged ourselves to climb the Venoux’s 3 different ascents all in one day. This was probably the hardest day of cycling I’ve ever done, over 150km and 4500m of climbing, but as soon as you’re at the top you forget how hard it was getting up there and it feels amazing!!