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Collecting dreams with NFU Mutual

29 Mar 2018

This feature was produced in association with NFU Mutual

‘I do have mad months where I spend more than I should,’ says Mark Allen. ‘It’s all for my little boy really, my collection is an investment for him.

‘But I love it too, I love tracking the bikes down, restoring them and polishing them up. Beats putting money in the bank.’

Allen is one of those people who ‘has always been into bikes’. He raced mountain and road bikes to a high national level in his youth, which goes some way to explaining his vast collection of both classic mountain bikes and road bikes, with a particular emphasis on time-trial, his preferred road discipline.

‘I reckon I’ve got 85, 86 bikes at the moment. When I used to race we were given bikes by the teams. There were all these cool bikes I really wanted to ride but at the time I could only really ride the sponsors’ bikes.

‘My collection reflects that, although I’m getting into more of the elusive, rare stuff now.’

One of a kind

Indeed, within Allen’s collection are several one-of-a-kind bikes and frames, which he says are hard to put a price on because ‘these bikes are the only ones… nobody has bought one any time recently so I can’t say what the market value is’.

Insuring such an extensive and rare collection is far from straightforward, but NFU Mutual is happy to oblige, and will insure new, modern and vintage bikes, as well as components and memorabilia on a case-by-case basis.

Crucially, NFU Mutual will cover your possessions wherever they’re stored, even if it’s in a packed out garage.

‘This is probably one of the most special,’ says Allen, disappearing into the depths of his garage and re-emerging with a battleship-grey mountain bike.

‘As far as anyone can tell me this is the only one of these in the world: a Hotta M.A.X, the exact same one as in the Hotta catalogue.

‘You see – there’s the same serial number on the frame,’ he continues, pointing to a picture in a vintage catalogue he’s just extracted from its protective sleeve.

‘I sourced the extra parts to restore it to the catalogue condition: the Tioga Psycho tyres, Selle Italia saddle, Mavic wheels, everything is exact. It’s a Holy Grail bike for me… priceless.’ 

If you have similarly unique bikes, other sporting memorabilia or fine art that is special to you, NFU Mutual has the expertise to insure such collections as part of its home insurance policies. Contact NFU Mutual on 020 3283 8611, whose personable staff will be only too happy to help.


The bikes

Hotta TT700 Fixed c.1993

‘There were only three of these fixed wheel bikes ever made,’ says Allen. ‘Chris Boardman used to ride Hotta time-trial bikes on the Gan team, though they were branded as Eddy Merckx.

‘There is a story that Hotta was going to supply all the bikes for Boardman’s Hour record ride but then the lorry carrying them crashed and all the bikes were destroyed.

‘Hotta couldn’t get them remade in time so that’s when Lotus stepped in to make Boardman’s Hour bike [for his 1996 Hour record], a Merckx-badged Lotus 110.

‘When Hotta went out of business in 1995 they paid the staff off in bikes, which is how the guy I bought this off got hold of it.’


Hotta Perimeter, c.1994

‘Hottas were made down in Devon, near Taunton. English carbon technology – there’s a phrase you don’t hear too often these days!

‘I bought this one from Joanna Rowsell Shand’s coach at British Cycling; it was his bike but he lent it to her for her first competitive win and Junior National Champion title.

‘At some point it has had a custom seatpost made, so this bike has a mega drop. I’ve got another Perimeter frame too, a prototype similar to this one but without a seat tube.

‘I’m probably not going to build it up. As far as I know it’s the only one that exists, and you never know if it’s a working prototype or just for show. Dunlop sponsored the Linda McCartney team, which rode on Hottas, hence the logos.

Orbit Softride, c.1992

‘I’ve not chanced riding this yet, as there aren’t many parts between you and catastrophic failure,’ says Allen, referring to the flexible carbon ‘beam’ bolted to the bike’s steel main frame.

‘The beam is made by Softride, an American company, while the frame is from British builder Orbit. The beam flexes to help prevent fatigue in long distance events, but it’s not UCI-legal.

‘It’s quite stiff sideways actually, but I wonder what it would be like if you were sprinting.

‘I’m pretty sure you’d hit your legs on it. It’s more for events where you’re mainly in the saddle, such as triathlons.

‘I bought it from a guy who used to run a bike shop which sold them. The Campagnolo Chorus aero brakes are beautiful, I love them.’

Look KG251 Rockshox, c.1997

‘I bought this from a guy who had picked it up in as-new condition in order to ride the Paris-Roubaix sportive a few years ago. That’s the only action this bike has ever seen,’ says Allen.

‘It has carbon tubes bonded to aluminium lugs. It has the Rockshox Ruby Roubaix forks that LeMond raced on and Gilbert Duclosse-Lassalle won Paris-Roubaix on in the early 1990s.

‘They never stayed in fashion though, which is a shame as these forks are superb, so plush and really quite light too.

‘It’s funny that manufacturers are all coming back round to putting suspension systems in road bikes again. It’s just taken them 20-odd years!’