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Imitation is the best form of theft.

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Despite an absence from the bicycle industry of almost 3 years, the one constant seems to be what can only be described as very lax standards when it comes to intellectual property and the rights of creatives not to have their work plagiarised.

Case in point. This week being NAHBS week, there’s no shortage of fantastic photo galleries where pros and budding amateurs alike can get a taste of what constitutes the state of the trade in the hand built bicycle industry. One such website is The Radavist, which recently showcased a bicycle by new company, Machine Cycles.

To my trained eyes, there’s nothing particularly standout or praiseworthy of this bicycle short of praising the owner for realising that red-brown and blue are complimentary. He certainly can’t be praised for being left handed, but somehow John Watson manages to paint a picture of Kyle Ward as being unique and bringing ‘something different if not beautiful’ to the table-

“The bike is just a vessel in a sea of play” [Or perhaps more appropriately, a vessel in a sea of ideas to steal] is Machine Cycles’ mantra. Builder Kyle Ward is left-handed, an architect and an artist who happens to enjoy building bicycle frame. From the few moments we spent discussing design and custom bicycles, I could tell Kyle has that special spark that motivates people to do great things. Or at least really beautiful things…

This bike wowed me at first and continued to with each new detail that I discovered. That paint? Inspired by a pair of socks Kyle was wearing the day he painted the bike. The navy blue fork and saddle are beautiful touches and the turquoise notes accent the matte brown. For tubing, there’s a lot going on: True Temper OX Platinum with stainless stays and a custom titanium stem.

Days get long photographing bikes at NAHBS, but this one was a pleasure. That bike has a mean stance, yet a soft and playful demeanor. Machine Cycles has a really great website, so head on over and check it out.

Now normally I would just chalk this up to yet another one of John Watson’s penchant for over-dramatisation and shameless sycophant-ism and move on, but then I noticed the bike featured not only 1″ chain stays but also these dropouts-


Contrast and and compare to these dropouts-


Now anyone with even a vague knowledge of custom bicycles knows that these completely unique items are the dropouts from a Pegoretti Marcelo, and a little digging would tell you that this particular Marcello was exhibited at NAHBS only last year. So what would happen if you were to bring up this glaringly obvious point on said website?

Warwick Gresswell – “I especially like how he ripped off the Pegoretti dropout design. Seriously?”

John Watson – “Uh… No he didn’t.”

Eli – “Bicycle design has been essentially unchanged for about 120 years. If you look far enough back, almost all “new” ideas have been done before. I would say the dropouts are inspired by the Pegoretti design, rather than ripping it off.”

Wittyja – “…..Not going to personally flame “your” bikes, but before you rag on someone else’s design you should focus on your own work or lack there of and applaud your peers for coming up with what they have done.”

[I’ll just ignore the couple of hundred bikes I’ve created over the past 14 years and all the applause I’ve given my peers who can actually create something uniquely their own.]

I’d hazard to suggest that if you’re quoting the dictionary to justify plagiarism and your own lack of creativity, then you’ve hit intellectual rock bottom –

Kyle Ward – “I’ve pulled two definitions from a reputable source (called the dictionary) one of which my dropouts can be categorized. The other which it cannot. I’m just saying I’m the only one that has put them both to the test. Identical
[ahy-den-ti-kuh l, ih-den-] adjective similar or alike in every way. Improvement [im-proov-muh nt] a change or addition by which a thing is improved.

Unfortunately I’ve been locked out of The Radavist so as is always the case of John Watson not wanting to geoparise his chance of getting a good deal on his next custom bike I have no right of reply, so I’ll just put it here instead.

Firstly, I would argue that taking someone else’s design, and making it with a CNC rather than a laser cutter or anything else to that effect is not only semantically still a plagiarism, but it’s also arguable from a materials and processing efficiency standpoint as to whether its ‘better’. It’s like taking someone’s handwritten book and typing it all out in Word and then arguing that you have improved it and putting your name on it.

Secondly, Ward even used Pegorettis very unique 1″ chain stays and painted the whole bike rust red and blue, just like the Pegoretti from NAHBS 2014. Is this also improved somehow as well? Better brand of paint, perhaps?

The custom bike industry is rife with this sort of attitude and behaviour, and I think it’s the responsibility of anyone who makes a living creating anything to protect the IP of others and stand up to blatant theft such as this. I’m all for being inspired by others and collaborating on ideas and giving credit where it’s due, but this is outright plagiarism, right down to the colour of the paint. There’s no other way of looking at it.


John Watson is atypical of the modern breed of self subscribed experts in any given field whose only qualifications appear to be a massive ego and a good amount of disposable income. When I brought this IP issue to light, he attempted to highlight what he felt was my own plagiarism by posting this image from my website-

John Watson – ” I’ve seen “your work” which is just filled with knock-offs of other builders. Like those Speedvagen drop out rip-offs you “made” overseas.”


The laser cut stainless steel cut dropouts with the Thylacine logo cut in the middle left of the photo are the ones he claims are a knock-off of the Speedvagen ones. Actually, what he really means is ‘Vanilla’, like the ones below –


From an ethics point of view, the key difference of the dropouts featured on my website is that whilst ironically for John have never been turned into a bike, were made in collaboration with Dave Bohm who first did this type of thing way back in 1994, and done with his complete cooperation. How do I know this? Because I’m sitting here in his workshop staring at them right this minute.

It just astonishes me that the custom bike industry is beholden to a select group of promoters who are not only unethical but also bigotted and can’t even tell a Speedvagen dropout from a Vanilla, let alone make meaningful commentary on the history of bicycle design elements. This really needs to change.

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