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Me and my bike: Petor Georgallou and Dear Susan

Will Strickson
30 Dec 2021

As he embarks on a new adventure running Bespoked, Petor Georgallou shows off his swansong as Dear Susan

Bikes have always been a form of freedom for Petor Georgallou. From exploring the outdoors as a boy – when his parents would have preferred him to be inside playing video games – to building any bike he could dream up as Dear Susan. Now he’s setting himself free from the workshop to take on a new challenge: running the Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show.

‘I went to a weird all-boys boarding school in the woods. It was basically hell and incredibly dehumanising. I don’t think I was even a person until I left school,’ he says. ‘Then I had the freedom to do what I wanted and I was like, “What do people do?” So I just rode my bike a lot.’

That encompassed commuting on his fixie 20 miles each way across London to get to and from university as well as social rides and time-trials with his local club in Twickenham.

‘I’d go out for three rides a week with the club; they said I should do some racing but I just liked doing 10-mile time-trials. After I finished art school I did an MA in sculpture and that’s when I was at my fittest. I was cycling everywhere.’

He then suffered a series of illnesses including meningitis and septicaemia and has ‘never really been fit since’.

Georgallou finished his masters just as the financial crisis hit, which led to him doing some ‘lame’ jobs like being ‘the guy who held stuff up at the front of an auction house’, before finding work at the London Bike Kitchen for a few months. Then came framebuilding.

‘I thought it was a really good way of tricking people into buying sculptures,’ he says. ‘I could make a sculpture that looked like a bicycle and then people would want it because they wanted a bicycle but I would secretly know it’s a sculpture. In the end I actually got tricked into being a maker of bicycles.’

It doesn’t take much perusing of his Dear Susan builds to see how this might be the case. They’re certainly not conventional (Google ‘Pubesmobile’).

‘I did a course at the Bicycle Academy and was like, “Oh I can make frames – this is wild. Anything I want I can just make it.” It was so much freedom.’

How dear is your love?

As any framebuilder will attest, though, it’s not all plain sailing. ‘The reality of running a business making frames was that I made all my money on repairs. It probably took me 20 frames to realise how much money you have to charge.’

After around seven years – which Georgallou describes as rewarding and addictive – things came to a head. ‘I wasn’t making any money. I was scraping by and that was taxing. I also really wanted to go to the North American Handmade Bike Show. I couldn’t afford it but I just did it. I got a rental car and ended up crashing on people’s sofas. It was amazing. But I came back and got thrown out of my workshop with no notice, and with no money I couldn’t move any of my machines.

‘I started trying to build a workshop in my garden and took a loan out. Then Covid happened, I hadn’t finished the workshop and had a lot of debt because I didn’t get any support from the Government, wasn’t making money and had a mortgage to pay.’

Somehow, though, he found work through friends in the film industry and raised enough cash to pay off his debts. He also bought Bespoked.

‘I found out that Phil and Tess [Taylor, the show’s founders] didn’t want to carry on and I thought I could do a good job at it. The show is really culturally important and I really value the people who exhibit. I don’t want to think about it on a purely commercial basis – I want to make it really good for framebuilders because they are the show.’

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This bike, which he hasn’t named but says is his last build – although he’s keeping some tools – is the one he took to Bespoked this year.

‘It’s just a regular bike. There’s no romance in it – it’s the bike I want to ride at the moment. This show was a weird one for me because I was almost like, “Everyone, don’t look at my bike, it’s not important.” There were a lot of new builders there who would benefit from the attention far more than me.’

It doesn’t help his cause that it’s so eye-catching. A single-speed off-road steel number, it’s partly inspired by Squid Bikes’ tracklocross bike and the double top tube allows for both the practicality of the ‘absolute monster’ head tube (to create the upright position) and ‘boing’ of the long seatpost while also offering the aesthetics of a horizontal top tube.

It is built up with a who’s who of some of Georgallou’s favourites, with contributions from Hope, Paul and Chris King alongside an old Brooks saddle, a Lauf Grit fork, Paragon Machine Works adjustable Rocker dropouts, handmade handlebars from Back Sheep Bikes’ James Bleakley and custom anodised Velocity Blunt SS wheels. It was those wheels that led to the colour choices across the bike, although clearly the paint veered off course somewhat.

That this is a ‘normal’ bike to Georgallou says a lot about the man – he’s a creative fireball and bottomless source of stories and ideas. However with this being the last Dear Susan bike, it only sharpens the curiosity of what he will bring to Bespoked. All he will say for now is, ‘I want to make it as good as possible for framebuilders and I want it to be a place for everyone.’

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