There’s not many team riders that get their hands dirty building their own machines, grafting before they’ve even stepped astride their bike, earning the closest connection possible with the machine they’ll ride and race. The boys were working late into the evenings in Donhou’s east London workshop, drilling, mitering, prep’ing and carrying out the all important beer and pizza runs, helping turn a collection of tubes into something fit for lighting it up at the front of the bunch. Under the watchful eye of Tom Donhou they helped craft their own stunning steel race machines.

Built from a mix of Columbus HSS and Spirit tubing and utilising the world’s lightest steel dropouts, Donhou has pieced together a fit for purpose bike with both punch and glide. The frames feature an opposed oval teardrop down tube and heavily ovalised top tube, with wide set stays putting stiffness where it’s needed, all with that feel of a finely tuned steel machine. 

The bikes are finished off with the excellent new Columbus Futura fork and Ritchey WCS wheels and finishing kit, all of them dressed in Donhou’s famed deep glossy paint, taking obvious cues from a certain womanising race car drivers ‘77 F1 McLaren… 

As for the team, you won’t see them warming up on the turbo. They’d rather crash and burn than play safe, hungry for the art of racing, when racing was about guts, not incremental gains… and of course, the cold beer at the finish line.

Kibosh Racing, punching above their weight since 2016, coming to a local road race soon. 

#YouAintProBro

With support from ColumbusRitcheyFourPureScratch Labs and Kask.

Photography – George Marshall


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.

Apr. 4.17 – Best custom CX at NAHBS 17

We crossed the Atlantic for the esteemed North American Handmade Bicycle Show show this year, a pinnacle in the world of frame building and are super stoked to come away with the award for ‘Best Cyclocross’ bike for our soon to be released DSS3. 

Our latest Signature Steel machine, purpose-built for cyclocross and the needs of a racer, was on display at NAHBS where we partnered with Brooks on their stand. We’re especially pleased given the rigorous judging criteria the guys at NAHBS always stick to. They have a separate category for adventure/gravel bikes – so it was nice to see the DSS3 get recognition for being a purebred CXer. A true honour!

The fact the head judge, Padraig from Red Kite Prayer, picked up on a detail as technical as this is testament to how much the panel knows about bikes!

“The lynchpin of this bike was the 3D-printed seat lug. What made it unusual was that it permitted the top tube to be heavily ovalized and when the seatstays were joined, they extended beyond the seat lug, which allowed Donhou to pass continuous derailleur housing all the way through the frame until it passed out of the seatstay and ran to the rear derailleur.”

The seat lug achieves much more than this, we’ll have more details when we’re ready to release the bike.

Personal show highlights included meeting the guys at Black Magic Paint – they’re technical ability with paint is incredible, stealing themselves the ‘Best Finish’ award.

The US has a way different perspective on custom MTB, so it was really cool to see what’s going on over there, particularly stuff like the coaster braked clunkers by Black Sheep.

Oh and it didn’t hurt being able to escape out into Moab for a ride post-show!

 

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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