The Sunday Telegraph
Wilfred set for a Boris bike... just like Dad’s
Gift from US president proves such a hit with PM that maker has been asked to provide a junior version
LIKE father, like son: blond locks bobbing in the wind together, Boris Johnson and his toddler Wilfred could soon be trundling along side-by-side on matching bikes and tricycles.
The Prime Minister was so impressed by a handmade custom bicycle gifted to him by US President Joe Biden that a replica for his one-year-old could now be in the works.
Mr Johnson received a red white and blue ‘US-UK Friendship Bike’ at the G7 summit in Cornwall and The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that within hours, a request was passed on to the US state department for a smaller version.
The lightweight tourer, fitted with a leather seat and electric gear mechanism was built in just eight days by the team at Bilenky Cycle Works in Philadelphia, who downed tools on other projects because “when your country calls, you answer”.
The state department paid $1,500 (£1,086) for the bike and flag-adorned helmet, though the man-hours and cost of the parts were estimated to be worth around $10,000.
“It was an honour to work on the project,” said Stephen Bilenky, the bearded psychedelic rock musician turned bikemaker, who learnt his craft in Birmingham 35 years ago, before moving back
to America. The request from the state department’s gift office was shrouded in mystery when it arrived at the end of May.
A custom US-made bicycle was needed for an unnamed foreign dignitary, to be delivered by June 5.
“Only later in the conversation did they tell me that it needed to be red, white and blue and for a male who is 5’8’,” said Mr Bilenky.
“We knew the president was going to the G7 summit, so it could have been Britain or France, but he was also meeting Putin, so my mother was convinced it was for him.
“It was only when they sent colour swatches and a mock-up design with a UK flag and a copy of his signature that I knew it was for Boris Johnson.”
The bike was packed up, sent to Washington and flown on Air Force One over to the UK.
“There didn’t seem to be a formal handing over ceremony, but I got a phone call from the state department saying it had been really well received.
Then they asked if I could make a matching bike, but this time for a child,” explained Mr Bilenky.
“She said that it would be for Boris’s son, who is currently only one, but it would be for him to grow into.”
While the details haven’t been finalised, and a price not agreed, Mr Bilenky says he would be happy to work on the build and facilitate some father-son bonding time for the Prime Minister.
“This would be an even more special
‘She said it would be for Boris’s son. It would be for him to grow into’
ist project, definitely a one-off, but she said we would have more time, so I think we’ll probably wind up doing it.”
The plans have support from Wilfred’s grandfather, Stanley Johnson, who said: “I think it’s brilliant. I love the idea behind the bike he (Boris) was given and I love the idea of a tricycle.”
Other people appear to love the design too, and Mr Bilenky has received more than a dozen “serious enquiries” from prospective buyers who “want a bike like Boris”.
The company is planning on building a limited run of 50 replicas, based on their classic ‘80s “Clubsman” sport/ touring model, priced from $5,500.
Given that the PM’s bike was a gift, it will have to be declared as such, but the ministerial code of conduct means that he will have to fork out to keep hold of his new wheels.
It says: “Gifts of small value, currently this is set at £140, may be retained by the recipient. Gifts of a higher value should be handed over to the department for disposal unless the recipient wishes to purchase the gift.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Government will publish details of ministerial gifts in its quarterly transparency returns in the usual way.”
Mr Bilenky has an affinity for the UK. He launched his bicycle company with the British-inspired Metro 5 – a re-imagining of the historic English 3 speed.
Mr Bilenky was mentored by Birmingham builder Jim Gittins and says the “Boris Bike” circles back to his roots.