Sunday, 20 April 2014

Lucy Meets Yossi (A Nisnas Partnership)

You may recall my last update on Lucy the Brompton ending with mention of "one further modification to be made -- a purely cosmetic one!

Well, now I can reveal what it is:  

wooden fenders with steel inlays, beautifully crafted by hand by the
lovely chaps at Nisnas Industries in Israel [click HERE for details!]

How this came about -- getting these mudguards in the first place and getting them finally fitted in the second -- is quite a story. And none of it went as planned!

First of all, I "met" Nisnas back in February 2013, when I decided to support their St John Street project on Kickstarter. I didn't have much money to give but I thought their project looked worthwhile and the products both functional and attractive -- unique in fact. I pledged enough to "buy" a "hand made, laser etched keychain with Nisnas design (the mongoose logo)".  (I was secretly lusting after the Kul Porter bag but it was way beyond my means!)

Some months later, I heard -- I forget where -- that Nisnas were expanding their mudguard range to Brompton-sized ones. Photos of these surfaced somewhere on the Internet and I thought they looked really beautiful. 

Even more months later, I realised I hadn't received the keychain. So I e-mailed the guys at Nisnas asking about it. It must have got lost in the post. I don't know, they don't know. They didn't have any more keychains. Anyway, after several exchanges of  "no, it's not your fault, don't worry about it" in the classic "after you / no, after you / no, after you, I insist / no, really, you go" style, one of the guys -- I think it was Max -- said:

We know from your posts on the London Brompton Club group of Facebook that you have an unusual Brompton -- would you like a set of our mudguards for it?"  

Would I? After picking my jaw up off the floor, I replied "Yes, please!"

So I got the mudguards without ever intending to. Nice people combined with serendipity? Maybe it's karma. 

But that's not all. 

A few weeks later, the mudguards arrived. They're the "steel toe" design and they're stunning. Yes, there are a few very minor flaws to them -- I only recently found out that these were the VERY FIRST ONES ever made! -- but I like their obvious handmade quality. The craftsmanship is exquisite but you'd never mistake them for production-line items. And that's the way I like it. 

My problem was, they just looked too beautiful to ever want to risk getting them dirty. And let's face it, bikes in England -- and everything fitted to them -- get filthy. (The other problem: I'd never fitted mudguards. Adam did the ones on my Cross Check and spent the whole afternoon swearing. I had no confidence about fitting these and I really did not want to ask Adam to do it, or even to help me do it. )

The guys at Nisnas -- it's hard sometimes to know whether it's Max or Yossi online, as they both use the Nisnas social media accounts -- anyway, one or the other -- or both -- started "nagging" me like a small excited child: "Have you fitted them yet? Have you fitted them yet?" And it got embarrassing that I kept saying "No, not yet". Finally, I said "they're just too pretty to get dirty". 

"That's CRAZY!" they responded. "They're meant to be USED!"

Then I found out that they'd be at the Bespoked Show. I wanted to meet them. I knew I'd be taking the Brompton but I was embarrassed that somehow the mudguards still hadn't been fitted. So I made them an offer:  

If you're coming from Israel and want to display your mudguards but are limited by how much stuff you can bring with you... then... would you like to borrow Lucy as a model for the duration of the show?"  

I promised to have the mudguards on by then. (I may have been holding crossed fingers behind my back.) A couple of days before the show, I still hadn't fitted them so I did a very cheeky thing:  I messaged the guys on Facebook again and said "Um, if you're going to have Lucy as a model, do you think you could fit the mudguards yourself before the show starts?"  I really thought they'd say "ah come on, now you're having a laugh". But they didn't; they said "Sure!"

And that's how I get into the Bespoked show early on the first day, during Press Time, and got an Exhibitors badge to wear (even though I had in fact paid for my ticket - but it was cool). 

Yossi was at the show but not Max. Yossi is a big ex-rower teddy-bear sort of guy who -- if you didn't know his background and didn't ask -- you'd assume was American. A totally all-American kind of guy, albeit an incredibly well-travelled and open-minded all-American guy. Friendly and so laid back he's nearly horizontal, as the saying goes. One of those gentle people who looks like he's moving slowly -- as if through water -- but who gets things done

And he fitted Lucy's mudguards while we chatted and got to know each other. 

For the show, Lucy got to wear two different mudguards that Yossi had brought. 

Here's Yossi preparing the front "show" mudguard --

In just a few minutes, the front mudguard was done. (It's a straightforward job, especially if you drop the wheel out.)

We attracted admirers passing outside!

Working on the rear mudguard --

With the show mudguards on, we gave some thought to how to display Lucy and all the other lovelies...

Then we set up a full Nisnas display in one corner of Brick Lane Bikes' exhibition space (read more here).

Tour d' France design on the bottom of a messenger bag

A range of current designs.
Nisnas can also do custom designs to order,
such as a Bumble Bee for a certain Legend!

For a little while on Friday afternoon, Lucy stood out in the corridor near the show entrance.

Then we moved the whole display to the front of Brick Lane Bikes' stand area. 

Yossi and I fielded lots of queries from interested people attending the show -- those about the mudguards and bags went to him, those about the unusual Brompton came to me. 

The Guy Fawkes design

On Sunday afternoon as the show wound down, Lucy's "own" Nisnas mudguards were fitted, with the kind assistance of the mechanic in the Cyclesurgery store in the Velopark. (I've unfortunately forgotten his name -- Sean??)

And there we have it -- Lucy with her stunning Nisnas mudguards. And another friendship forged over a bicycle.

NOTE: We had a problem with one of the screws that we re-used from amongst the original Brompton fittings. On my way to Stratford station, the screw worked its way loose and jumped overboard! I've since ordered new fittings and have just got the rearguard re-fitted. I'll post up some nice close-ups in a few days, especially since..... I am starting a new job in central London this week and so Lucy gets her new/old job back too, as my commuter steed! 


  1. The Nisnas fenders look lovely - have you had to treat the wood in any way to preserve it, or have you left them raw and untreated? If treated, what with?
    Toronto, Canada

    1. Hi Mark, I intended to treat them but never got around to it. Two years later, the wood is quite faded and scuffed and one of the metal bits of trim has come off. Some of the fitting hardware isn't very secure either and works its way loose just from road vibration. So regular checks needed. They still look pretty good. However, the flat profile means splash from wet roads is funnelled sideways instead of down, resulting in very wet legs! So I will be swapping back to normal mudguards before winter.


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