DESIGN MUSEUM FEATURE – HOW DONHOU BICYCLES CAME TO BE

We were honoured to have our speed bike on display at the Design Museum in London as part of their Cycle Revolution exhibition earlier this year. As part of the show the Design Museum commissioned a short film, explaining a little bit about how Donhou Bicycles came to be – as well as what possessed us to try and make a bike that could go 100 miles per hour on the flat. If you missed the exhibit itself, be sure to give the video a watch.

Feb. 27.17 – Donhou x Kibosh

We’ve been working on something pretty exciting with our friends at Kibosh racing over the past few weeks, all gearing up to some seriously fast times in 2017. Things are still under wraps for now, but it doesn’t take the keenest detective mind to figure out we’ve made the lads some seriously quick steel-framed custom road bikes.

Launched in 2016, Kibosh are a small race team, all about riding for the joy, as well as for the podium. We really love that ethos, so were excited to get involved. It helps that one of their riders, Neil Phillips, is a long-time friend of Donhou – you might remember he is currently testing our next instalment in the Signature Steel series for us right now, but come road race season he’ll be on an entirely different piece of Donhou steel.

Photographer, racer and another Donhou collaborator, George Marshall, has snapped a few gorgeous preview shots of what we’ve been working on.

You can also check out our Instagram feed for a teaser video. Or visit the Kibosh site.

 

 

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Feb. 22.17 – Riding around America

Chris and Ties set off on their touring adventure around America last year, striking out from Toronto towards the western edge of Canada, before heading down the Pacific Coast into the USA. We caught up with Chris as he and Ties were resting up in San Diego, bracing themselves before setting off to cross the continent once again – this time through the Deep South.

Chris, I guess you’d better begin by telling us how you got started on this adventure of yours?

Well it all started with this idea I had to do a big trip riding along the Pacific coast, from Vancouver in Canada to San Diego. I’ll admit initially I’d had it in my head to do it in a car! However, eventually the cycling aspect started to appeal more.

I started looking at maps of the coast as a starting point to planning the trip and then eventually my imagination ran away with me.

It went from doing the coast, to trying to connect up the south of California across to Florida, and then it became ‘just do a loop’. Only, around an entire continent.

Do a lot of people just “do a loop” of North America?

Some parts of our route are more established than others – the Pacific coast is pretty well-trodden by cyclists as well as car drivers. That’s the bit we’ve just completed.

Then the cross-country leg to Florida from the west coast and the leg up to New York are less common, but they are still things that people do.

The Trans-Canada bit though, is very rare. It’s especially unusual to do it the way we did it because of the strong prevailing winds. You would find way more cycle tourers inclined to do it coming back from the West towards Toronto, rather than starting there as we did.

In the time we spent crossing Canada we only met about ten tourers – and they were all going eastwards rather than west.

And you’re doing this trip on a custom-made Donhou bike. How is she treating you?

Honestly, the bike is absolutely fantastic. I’ve always had knee and shoulder pains when I’ve ridden – nothing major, jut niggly discomfort – this is the first bike that doesn’t give me that.

It’s a robust and stiff build and it’s set up with a big dynamo inside the front hub, which has been a real boon for charging things and keeping lights powered.

Thanks Chris, happy riding!

You’ll be able to read a full version of the interview, including Chris and Ties’ encounters with raccoons, bears and thunderstorms over at Pannier.cc very soon.

 
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Jan 23.17 – Andrea and Andrew’s custom-built tandem 

This bike was, as you might have deduced, built for a couple. The customer wanted a clean modern build, but with some noticeable nods to the vintage tandems of days gone by. All the inspiration was around seafront rides and picnics, with lots of images conjured up of sun-bleached cornfields and checkered blankets.

The other big requirement was that it could be packed down into the car and for storage, and if you look carefully you’ll notice that the frame actually features a silver S&S coupler on both the top tube (behind the first seat) and on the tube connecting both sets of cranks. These couplers allow you to ‘break’ the bike so it can be folded up and put in the boot (or indeed, so that it can be stored at home without taking up too much space).

The elegant, cast crown on the custom fork and the side-mounted stays give the bike the retro appeal that they were after, while the serene blue paint for the frame perfectly evokes all things seaside and sunshine.

We built the bike with 26″ wheels and drum brakes for low maintenance, dependable braking. The rear hub is a Sturmey Archer three-speed, which again should give fantastic long-term reliability.

We finished this build just in time for it to be placed under the tree by Andrew as an extra big surprise for Andrea on Christmas morning. Hopefully with loads of riding ahead in 2017 it should be the gift that keeps on giving.   

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Jan. 13.17 – Marin Museum of Bicycling visit

We were lucky enough to visit the Marin Museum of Bicycling recently and even luckier still to get a tour from Tommy, who took us through the museum’s exhibits. With everything from the earliest velocipedes through to modern racing machines, the museum tells the story of cycling in a real and relatable way.

Where this place really shines is the MTB frames it has on show. Marin is the new home of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, with a carefully curated selection of machines that tell the story of the evolution of the modern mountain bike.

The museum is located in Fairfax, California, the heartland of mountain biking, with the legendary Repack just a mile away. The absolute highlight has to be seeing the original clunkers as raced along the infamous trail by the likes of Joe Breeze and those earliest pioneers, the Larkspur Canyon Gang.

If you’re ever in northern California, stopping by the Museum is essential for any cycling history buff. You can visit their website at: mmbhof.org 

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Dec. 19.17 – Rob’s custom winter road bike

A custom road bike is an investment, so having something that’s equipped for year round riding makes a lot of sense. That’s exactly what Rob asked us for – a winter-ready, fast and beautiful road bike that he could ride come rain or shine, something that could be comfortably thrashed round the outer circle of Regent’s Park in London or taken into the country lanes. This build is to be Rob’s only bike, regardless of weather or time of year, so it had to be tough and durable, as well as quick.

We built the frame with Reynolds 853, the British company’s highest quality, highest strength, seamless air-hardening steel, with a custom bi-lam seat cluster giving the join between seat tube and top tube a clean and modern look.

With an electronic Ultegra Di2 groupset this is going to be one smooth-shifting ride, while the hydraulic discs add the ‘stop on a sixpence’ responsiveness Rob will need when he’s hammering it in a paceline past London Zoo or going after it on a technical descent.

The paint scheme is a nod to the beautiful blue azzurro of Italian football shirts, mixed with a really rich, lustrous red for the chain and seat stays at the back of the frame. The red pops up again on the bike’s headtube – helping the brazed-on silver Donhou head badge to really stand out – and on the custom-painted mudguards.

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Oct 27.16 – Taking on the Transcontinental Part 1

George Marshall is a long-time friend of ours at Donhou. He’s a professional photographer and takes most of the photos you’ll see on our site, as well as accompanying Tom on his recent expedition to Iceland to test the DSS2. In search of an even greater challenge, this year George signed up for the Transcontinental, a self-supported 4,000-kilometre solo race across Europe. He took his Donhou, and his camera along with him. After giving him a couple of weeks to readjust and recover, we caught up with George to find out more about his adventure.

How are you recovering?

In terms of a physical recovery from the Transcon, I just ate. I had this uncontrollable hunger. Like, absolute bottomless pit. I lost about a kilogram during the race itself, but I’ve put about five back on. You quickly get in a routine – I was on the road for two weeks – and your body gets used to it after about a week. I probably could’ve kept on going, because I was in quite a consistent sustainable routine – six hours sleep, 14 hours on the bike and four hours of eating and faffing. I had a partner, who scratched quite early, and that slowed me down a little bit. After that I pushed it really hard. I was doing two hours sleep a night for two nights. I actually got up to about 40th, and then I had a really bad day. I realised it was because I was pushing too hard. That’s when I decided not to destroy myself going for top ten.

Is it more survival than racing?

Yeah, it’s not a bike race. The whole thing is about keeping your chin up. You’ll be bombarded every day with disasters. There’s the obvious, easy ones like punctures. But then you’ve got navigation – that’s the big one that gets you. Say you’ve descended a big climb and you realise you’ve got to go back up. Or you get chased by some dogs. Or you descend for a few hours and you’re frozen solid with cold. The race is really about keeping happy, lying to yourself and telling yourself you’re happy. You’ve got to know why you’re doing it before you start.

Why were you doing it?

I think I realised halfway through that I wanted to do it because I could do it. It was at the top end of what I could achieve, but it was achievable. I knew it would be a challenge, but I actually like travelling, I like riding on my own. And the other thing is my girlfriend is pregnant, so this was the last year for a while I can do something like this. I just had to seize the opportunity.

Is there anything you’d have done differently on the Transcon?

I wouldn’t have worn pink in the Balkans! I have this super-tight, aero Rapha jersey that’s got a really bright pink band around it. I wore it one day and I felt so self-conscious, it’s fine in London, but it felt weird there. I went into this petrol station and there were four hench, brutal blokes in there. You get a bit ruined on these trips, you look a bit weird. Your eyes are messed up. You stink. And you get a bit impatient with people, so I just asked the person working there, “Where’s the toilet?”. And she pointed to the women’s. Everyone in the place just erupts laughing at me, and I was like “It’s this f***ing jersey isn’t it?”. I went outside and changed it.

You can read the rest of George’s story in part two.

 

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Oct 28.16 – Transcontinental part 2

This is the second part of our interview with photographer and ultra-racer, George Marshall. Part one is here.

What was your mindset going in?

I did the National 24-hour Time Trial the week before Transcon. I came 5th, racking up 498 miles. I saw my physio three days in a row the week after, and she basically told me I was ruined; that I needed basically a month off. When I got to the start line I was the most f***ed one there. I hadn’t slept, I couldn’t walk. I was like, “How the hell am I going to ride to Turkey?!” What I discovered is you’re much better having your mental reserves topped up, rather than being in peak physical condition.

Tell us about the bike your rode.

It wasn’t built for this race, it’s not a tourer. When it was made I just went to Tom and asked for the fastest possible bike. I didn’t want any fancy details or trinkets that would make it slower. He was really happy with that as a brief. I’ve raced crits and time trials on this bike. It’s got great wheels, it has Di2. And most importantly it fits me like a glove. For the Transcon, the only change I’d make is that I’d want discs for some of the descents I did. 

Any advice?

What I realised is you’re better off going slow for seven hours, than smashing it for four. The best guys go fast and they don’t stop. I went quick for a few days and I was flying up the table – but then I realised doing it that way was a lot less enjoyable. I like taking pictures, taking in the scenery and I enjoy just sitting down in a caf and watching it all go by. I went to Bolzano this beautiful town in the Italian Dolomites, and my race brain was saying “Keep going!” And I suddenly just went “Screw it”. I ended up spending a few hours sitting there taking it all in.

So was it a positive experience?

Whenever I talk about it I just go on about the crap side; the dogs, the sunburn, getting punctures on a motorway in Greece. I was on the hard shoulder, run out of water. I had to walk for 500 metres to the nearest tree. Of course, the patches didn’t work – the 44° heat means the glue won’t set. And I had a little meltdown. 

Are dogs really a big problem?

Yeah I wasn’t too worried about the dogs, because I’ve always loved dogs. Now, I f***ing hate dogs. It’s just like that film The Birds, once you’ve seen it you think ‘They’re evil f***ers!’ As soon as you get to the Balkans it changes. You go over into Kosovo and from that point on there’s just dogs constantly everywhere chasing you. In Greece you have to ride at night because of the heat and that’s the worst – because all the dogs come out at night and lie on the roads. You’d be riding through a village and you’d see shadows start to move, then one dog would bark and they’d all be after you, nipping at your heels. 

Would you do it again?

The only thing that possibly would make me want to do the whole thing again is that I have a lot of things to correct. Overall it’s an experience of epic highs and lows. Lows like that moment on the motorway in Greece. Highs like sitting in Bolzano. The skill in it is just keeping yourself riding.

Thanks, George!

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Oct 24.16 – Colin’s XC machine

When he first got in touch with Donhou, Colin was actually looking for a custom road bike – but after borrowing an MTB frame from a buddy he was instantly gripped by the mountain bike bug. Suddenly the slick custom road bike project he’d had in mind morphed into a down and dirty trail-thrasher.

We don’t get to build many MTB frames, so it was a real pleasure to work on this awesome build for Colin – especially as MTB is so close to our hearts.

Not content with just bombing the local trails, Colin has taken his newfound passion for all things offroad to such extremes that he wanted a steed which would be suited to the awesome Cykelvasan MTB race in Sweden. A gruelling challenge based upon the Vasaloppet ski race, it’s run over gravel and single track through dense pine forests – so the bike had to be really up for the test.

Colin’s frame is a mix of Reynolds and KVA stainless with DT Swiss wheels and forks. The groupset is the powerful SRAM XX1, and the bike is dressed with a Thomson finishing kit. The 650b wheel size makes this a nimble ride that’s still got enough size to smash over smaller obstacles.

The brushed stainless steel frame is wrapped up in ‘black magic pearl’ black with red highlights, marrying it perfectly to the components. We wish Colin ‘lycka till’ for his race in Sweden!

   

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Sep. 29.16 – TransEpping No1

There were slams, there were dog chases and there were a lot of wrong turns! But (almost) everyone made it to the finish line and the crisp cold beer that awaited. We had a great turn out and as more and more riders turned up it was clear we had a good mix of MTBs, CX and road bikes. But who would be fastest to the line? Which bike? MTB, CX or would a road bike steal it with clever route planning?

Everyone was asking themselves and each other a lot of questions. The event description only really said, ‘come join us for a race to the pub’ and as Tom handed over the race map and stamped the start time on their check cards, you could sense a little, “what am I letting myself in for?!” on the starters’ faces.

The clock was running from the moment racers were handed the route map – should you make a dash and figure it out as you go? Or take the time to plan your route? From the start there was a choice, hit the ‘waterworks scramble’ or take the single track? With the first checkpoint tucked in the bushes above the A406 it marked the edge of London. Then turning your back on the North Circular, diving back into the darkening depths of the ancient forest that is Epping.

Blazing your way through the fallen leaves on the forest floor as you descended down to Highams Lake led you to the 2nd checkpoint and a ‘Magic Work’ wizard hat stamp for your check card. Another look at your map. Marked ahead from here was the main technical section; take your chances on the mix of single track, wash board and gnarled 4×4 track, surely the quickest route to checkpoint 3 if you avoided punctures and managed to keep on track. Or hit the road and route around and try to sneak past the rest…

Checkpoint 3 marked the start of the final section and some golden hard pack gravel taking you to the finish. A chance now to get your head down, although racers had to be careful not to overrun checkpoint 4, which a lot did… Or maybe they just weren’t paying enough attention while dodging the forest cows grazing at the the side of the trail!

With the clock ticking, there was a final chase to the finish line and racers dashing to hand in their checkpoint card and have their finish time stamped. An anxious wait then followed while the elapsed times worked out. Finally with everyone over the line it was onto the ‘finishers party’ and as riders sipped cold beers and exchanged stories, routes and discoveries from their Saturday night adventure, summer was turning to autumn… Prizes were awarded, congratulations shared and as the chill started to set in on sweaty backs it was time to dart off once more into the moonlit forest.

RESULTS

Male

Theo (MTB) – 36.20

Neil Philips (CX) – 37.15

Andy Watson Smith (CX) – 42.25

Female

Adeline O’Moreau (CX) – 38.40

Aoife Doherty (CX) – 39.00 

Group

Sunday Echappe (CX + MTB) – 38.45

For full results please see the event page.

Most Epic Adventure

Special mention and winner of the ‘Most Epic Adventure’ prize goes to Best Friends Forever rider, Jesse, who after losing his route map didn’t find a single checkpoint and ended up completely lost in the woods!

Check out a short film from the night here.

 
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