Toad Custom Cycles

Toby Gallagher





Toad Custom Cycles

Maker - Toby Gallagher

Where - Cambridgeshire

Designer - Toby Gallagher






Toad Custom Cycles design and hand build bespoke steel framed bicycles, using traditional methods. After a few years of building up the business out of a converted old stable yard, Toad has now moved to a dedicated workshop in Great Abington, Cambridgeshire. Each bicycle is uniquely designed and crafted for the individual, to their specific requirements, using the finest materials and components. Since 2012, Toad has created a diverse range of bicycles, from tough Fillet Brazed mountain bikes, sleek and fast Road bikes, through to a very unique 1960’s inspired Light Tourer..






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Firstly, tell us how the name Toad came about.

Toad is my nickname. When I was really small I would write my name everywhere, but occasionally I would get the ‘b’ mixed up with a ‘d’, so Toby became Toady, and soon Toad. I wanted to put my name on my bikes but Gallagher was going to cost too much in the paint shop, so I went with Toad.


How long have you been building and what got you into it?

I’ve been frame building since 2012. I was looking for a way to get out of the ‘9 to 9’ desk job I had as an architect, I love physically making things and architecture was going more and more digital. I had always been tinkering with bikes and I felt frame building would be a good progression from that.


What defines your style as a framebuilder?

I think I am still looking for my style; I didn’t want to pigeonhole my self too early. I approach each project rather like I would when I worked as an architect, starting with the concept design and then putting it together stage by stage. I suppose, in a way, I am an Architect of Bicycles now.


Who or what has inspired you?

I really love how the digital age has allowed people to be more open about what they do. The framebuilding community is pretty close and so we are all inspired by what others are doing, and that pushes us all to do better and bolder stuff. It is incredibly generous that so many framebuilders share what they do and how they do it, so many questions are answered, many queries resolved. There is a rich pool of talent in the UK at the moment doing some incredible work, it drives me to be better.


You work only in steel - what is your tubeset of choice?

Difficult question as each tubeset has its merits, but I think my absolute favourite would have to be Columbus Zona. It is a very versatile tubeset with which you could make any bike, from a 29er MTB to a sleek roadie. Yes, it isn’t going to be as light as some of the more slender tubes or as stiff as some of the stainless offerings, but it is very easy to work with, brazes beautifully, and doesn't break the bank - great for making test or prototype bikes.


How many frames have you built and which has been your favourite?

I have lost count of all the frames, but of the ones that have gone out the door I am up to number 24. I think the Eroica Build I exhibited at last years’ Bespoked has to be my favourite, just because of how unusual it was (by todays standards). I spent a lot of time looking at old pictures from the 1960’s just to make sure I was getting the details all right. I think the plan changed direction six or seven times during the build: which brakes am I going to use? Where will the pump go? Do I route the brake cable through the stem? It isn’t often you can just make changes as you go along.


Have you had any outlandish requests?

A bicycle to cycle to the park with the dog in a basket on the front - 20” front wheel, 26” rear... that was a fun one and did actually get built. I also did a small town runaround using the Loopwheels that were exhibited at Bespoked in 2014. There is a cool quadricycle on the drawing board at the moment that I hope will go ahead as there is a lot of engineering I need to get my head around to make it work, and I love that sort of challenge.


What machinery and tooling do you have in your workshop?

As far as tools go, I am in a bit of a transition. Up until now I have essentially only used a hacksaw, a drill and some files, but I have recently moved into my new workshop in Cambridge and have been tooling up a bit more to help the business grow. I have had the Anvil jig since 2012, but have recently added a few more of their tools, including their mitering fixtures.


What is your favourite tool or piece of machinery and why?

It has to be the Anvil jig, it is very easy to set up and use, a real time saver.


If someone wants a Toad custom bicycle, what's the ordering process and how long is your waiting list?

An order will always start with a conversation. I will need to understand what you desire in as much detail as possible so I can quote accurately. Once the quote is in place a deposit can be made and then we can really get down to business. I can build from existing dimensions, but I prefer to see the rider on their bike so I can make sure they are riding the best possible position. From then it’s pretty straightforward: design the frame, order the tubes, cut and braze the tubes, send to paint, collect remainder of the quote, send to the customer. The waiting list is a few months at the moment as I am a bit behind thanks to the workshop relocation.


Where is your favourite place to ride and why?

My favourite place to ride is on the hills out the back of Kintbury, West Berkshire, where I first started Toad. The land crumples up into this little networks of hills and valleys, and there is some amazing riding with little or no traffic. There is also the infamous Coombe Gibbet climb, a nasty 16% climb up to the hangman’s gibbet on Walbury Hill - a good test to see if you are in good shape for the summers riding. The move to Cambridge has changed the landscape a bit. Flatter is the adjective of choice. I am still looking for the best places around here, there are some hidden gems.


If you weren't a framebuilder, what would you be?

I hope I would still be making things. I have made a few bits of bespoke furniture for family and friends, like coffee tables and floor lamps, so I would probably focus on that a bit more. I would definitely try to avoid going back to the commute-desk-commute life that I had before frame building though.


How did it feel to win the public vote at Bespoked 2015?

It was amazing. It was a long weekend and on Sunday afternoon I was pretty tired and was in the middle of stuffing my face with a chocolate croissant when I heard my name on the speaker. It took me a while to understand what was going on, and I had to rush over to accept the award, making sure I didn’t have any crumbs in my beard. I was a bit nervous about showing a 1960’s inspired bike, with all the super contemporary stainless/electronic/disc bikes around, but the public really engaged in the vintage bike. It was great to see the smiles grow on people’s faces when they saw it. It made the weekend very special indeed.


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