From prototypes and one-offs to custom built bikes and limited-edition models – all quirky, unusual and beautiful.
Ard Rock is one of the world’s biggest enduro events which takes place every year in Yorkshire Dales, UK. Combining an incredible race with a festival-like atmosphere and an expo area huge enough to rival any UK bike show, and with most of the UK’s brands in attendance and plenty racers bringing one-off or custom rigs with them, there’s plenty of unique, unusual and downright stunning bikes to spot.
Most of these beautiful bikes aren’t available in these exact set ups to the general public, but several can be bought exactly as shown, including the Dawley, Ra Bike and YT. Get ready to drool…
Ra Bikes .12
North Yorkshire-based Ra Bike is the brainchild of Rafi Richardson, who also happens to be one of the key course builders and event organisers for the Ard Rock enduro itself.
This .12 model is his latest handmade creation and with a stunning finish shows how far this small brand has come in the last few years. Entirely built in Rafi’s workshop from machined alloy hardware to manipulated butted steel tubes through to all welding, few steel frame builders tackle such complex link-driven designs.
The brand’s latest model is the RA .12, which is an enduro machine with a wraparound suspension design driving a coil shock through 165mm of travel and designed around a 170mm RockShox Zeb fork.
Ra Bike .12 headline statistics are a 64° head angle 78.5° seat angle, 30mm BB drop and 435mm chainstays.
The latest model has a capped headtube gusset and uses a mixture or Reynolds butted steel tubing.
Progressivity is tuneable via a tidy flip chip at the foot of the 205x65mm RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate damper.
New integrated fender keeps grit out of main pivot bearings.
Tidy chainstay and dropouts use SRAM Universal Mech Hanger for maximum compatibility
Machined in house, Ra Bikes’ complicated wraparound linkage is designed to work with both coil or air shocks. The design has a very progressive 3.1:1.9 leverage ratio in the stock configuration.
Hope HB916 (show edition)
This stunning Hope HB-916 was built up as a special show bike by the Lancashire brand. All the custom paintwork and specially etched parts were done in-house at Hope with the bike built around Öhlins suspension.
The most obvious visual difference with the new HB-916 is a high pivot and associated chain idler mounted into the seat tube, but a multitude of harder-to-spot changes lurk all over. Longer reach numbers are paired with a 64-degree head angle that’s pretty slack to begin with and can also flip via an adjustable custom headset for a one-degree slacker set up.
The Öhlins shock is mounted horizontally in front of a refined and much steeper seat tower, suspended between the downtube and a freshly machined rocker link. The 916 is designed to work with either a coil or air shock as it has a ‘fairly linear progression’, and there’s also a neat flip chip at the lower shock mount to run a 27.5in rear wheel mullet set up without affecting the geometry.
The 916 suspension design has switched from the Horst Link chainstay pivot on all Hope full suspension bikes to date to a Split Pivot-style concentric rear axle set up. And, in case you haven’t been paying attention, Hope has also reluctantly ditched its unique/narrower 130mm rear axle set up for a more common ‘industry standard’ Boost 148 after issues with acceptance and marketing.
The latest enduro bike from Hope is this semi high-pivot HB-916
Custom Hope EVO cranks feature specially machined/anodised finish.
Öhlins RXF 38 M2 fork with custom graphics to match.
The black and white etched colour scheme continues on Hope’s latest Tech 4 brakes.
Check out the detailing on Hope’s handmade carbon bar.
Concentric chainstay pivot on full carbon rear stays is similar to Dave Weagle’s proven Split Pivot design.
Even the floating rotors get the zebra effect.
Hope bonds the carbon stays into the machined stay tips at the top of the seatstays with a two-part epoxy-style agent.
It wouldn’t be a top tier 2022 enduro rig if you couldn’t stash your tools, jacket or lunch inside – thankfully, the HB-916 satisfies the frame cupboard requirement.
Kingdom The Void prototype
The truly unique machine belongs to Paul from suspension specialists TF Tuned and was successfully raced over the Ard Rock weekend. It’s based around a prototype Void frame from Kingdom Bikes that offers 160mm of travel in a single pivot layout with the frame made from a mixture of certified aerospace grade Ti3AL-2.5V tubing and 3D printed parts of Grade 6/4 titanium.
Seeing as it belongs to a suspension specialist, the rear damper is an Öhlins coil shock and a very special Intend Ebonite fork made in Germany that’s the less common right-way-up version of the Edge Enduro inverted fork.
Paul explained the Void concept is all about simplifying the suspension from the last VPP design and prioritising the geometry and ability to have a steeper seat angle than previously. Previously distributed by TF Tuned, Kingdom is based in Denmark and actually uses some of the excess titanium from production into the additive process to minimise waste.
Kingdom The Void in raw titanium and Yorkshire grit.
Now that’s what I call a seat tower bridge…
Titanium welding is notoriously tricky, but Kingdom appears to have nailed it.
3D-printed additive titanium parts get welded into the main chassis in the form of links.
Intend’s Ebonite fork is the brainchild of German suspension scientist with the Bond villain-sounding name of Cornelius Capfinger.
Cane Creek E-wings for when you can’t get enough titanium
Brand new Galfer rotors spotted on Paul’s Kingdom bike.
Spot the unicorn.
Dawley Bikes Rallye
Dawley Bikes is a handmade British steel frame building brand based out of Nottingham. Founder Tom Dawley had his two bikes showing on the Bespoked stand at Ard Rock, with this model the 27.5in wheeled Rallye.
The frames are unusual in being fillet brazed by self-taught Tom who decided to really step it up in lockdown and get serious with the brand. This bike has several unique details including a special chainstay notch to clear the chainring and shaped seat stays that have been beefed up over previous generations.
27.5in wheels, 42mm BB drop, 65-degree head angle and 75-degree seat angle are some of the Rallye’s vital statistics.
I like it raw…
Seat stays are ovalized in the opposite direction to plenty handmade steel frames and joined to a butted tubing front triangle.
Fillet brazing in is natural state on this show bike.
Unique chainstay notch.
Chainstay brace on non-drive side to handle braking forces.
YT Capra Riot Edition
Yes, you can buy this bike direct from YT, but I’ll admit I love how this looks more like a custom racer’s bike or special one-off than a limited edition available to the public. Parts like Cane Creek’s titanium cranks and Kitsuma shock aren’t exactly the standard issue kit you’d expect either for a bike that looks good value for €7,500.
YT Capra launch edition is an MX (mullet) enduro bike that’s very pretty in pink.
This is the kind of detailed colour scheme usually reserved for a World Champs bike for a sponsored athlete or something.
Cool retro stickers as standard.
£1000 titanium cranks as standard, yes please!
Loving the worn-out faded ‘old car’ paint effect on this Riot edition.
Kona Hei Hei CR DL Custom
This Kona Hei Hei is a true one-off machine. The personal bike of UK Kona main man Scott Belshaw, it’s a down-country styled custom rig exactly built up to the Lancashire rider’s specification. The whole bike weighs a ridiculously light sub 9KG.
120mm travel front and rear, Scott’s carbon Hei Hei uses a custom-coloured alloy link added from another frame and a RockShock Pike fork instead of the standard SID for extra capability and stiffness. Drivetrain is top-tier Shimano XTR and a wireless RockShox AXS post takes care of dropper post duties.
Scott Belshaw’s custom Kona Hei Hei with 120mm travel
When you work for Kona you can have whatever colour rocker link you fancy.
Old-school riders still know Chris King makes some of the best headsets around and it doesn’t hurt that the colour match is on point.
Scott explained that he’s more in the middle of the tuning range with Push’s plug in damper upgrade.
Proper downcountry spec of Maxx Speed Maxxis tyres mounted to ultralight DT Swiss 1200 wheels with XC CushCore inside to protect the investment.
Forbidden Druid (custom wrapped)
The final bike to catch our eye was this incredible custom-wrapped Forbidden Druid that took pride of place on the Canadian brand’s Ard Rock stand.
It’s the personal rig of Sam Armitage from Biketrek’s Grizedale store who did all the work himself blinging it out from a standard size Large Druid build.
Details include the custom two-tone purple wrap that catches the light in a multitude of shades dependent on angle, and custom stencilled and stickered paint you can see in detail below. Sam applied the paint to the logo portions by stencilling it out and then flicking paint globs onto the surface by hand with a toothbrush – talk about dedication.
The artist formerly known as Prince would have loved this Druid.
Forbidden bikes are all about the high pivot and its bump-eating properties.
Look at those colours around the shock tunnel.
Sam has ‘Shigura’ brakes on here – mixing the ergonomics and early bite of a Shimano lever with a powerful 4-piston Magura caliper – it’s a popular set-up for German and Swiss riders in big mountain and reportedly works great.
The hand-flicked paint in all it’s glory.