Feb. 23.16 – Festive 500: we have a winner!

This year Rapha asked us to put up one of our new DSS2 bikes as a prize in their annual Festive 500 competition. The premise of the contest is pretty simple, you must ride 500 kilometres in the eight days between Christmas and New Year. The winner isn’t necessarily the person who completes it fastest or goes furthest though – some 13,000 participants finished the distance this year and one rider went almost 2,500km, five times the required.

No, the winner is the most creative entry in the competition. The one that records their distance in the most unique or memorable way. And this year’s deserved winner certainly did something special.

The Cebulas, a Polish family from Poland flipped the idea of a solitary rider churning through the kms on its head by doing the whole thing together. With their 12-month-old daughter Magda towed behind them. Parents Justyna and Arek rode every day between 24th and 31st December, encountering temperatures of -9 degrees Celsius – well below freezing. Rapha thought the Cebulas’ lovely video of the experience was absolutely in the spirit of the Festive 500 and awarded them the first prize of a DSS2. 

You can watch the Cebulas’ film and read some of the other entries (including a guy who chopped off the end of his finger and still finished) over on the official Festive 500 page.



Feb 10.16 – Tom’s own “klunker”

Tom built this wonderfully idiosyncratic machine to race in the recent Hack Bike Derby, but the bike itself has been much longer in the making than that. The rules of the Derby are simple: participants all turn up with their own custom-made, klunker-inspired mountain bikes, build a course and then race them. 26″ wheel only, no disc or V brakes or professional paint jobs are allowed and all bikes must be running the same rubber – in this case Bontrager 2.35 Team Issue.

Tom had been looking for an excuse to go back to his early DH routes and create a rough-and-ready “suspended” klunker for a while – the Hack Bike Derby provided the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. The ‘hack’ spirit meant he could really revel in the freedom to freestyle the design as he went through the build process.

The bike combines some pretty out-there features with, what is at its heart, a very ridable geometry. The tubing is a ‘Frankenstein’ mix of Reynolds 725, 853 and 631 – essentially anything that was lying around the workshop. Tom engineered the leading link suspension fork himself with 4130, mild and stainless plate, various stainless bolts and 1inch headset locknuts to secure the shock. The addition of a coaster brake at the back makes things a little more fun – although perhaps not the safest choice when in the thick of the racing action (as Tom learnt!). The saddle is maybe the most ‘hack’ part of the whole build – being made from plywood, foam and duct tape…

The bike’s built as a good times, get loose hack bike for bombing hills and getting back to simple pleasures. The purpose was always for it to be ridden after the Hack Bike Derby as well and it’s been built tough with enduring use in mind. Lets go klunking!

For more insight you can read an interview with Tom about the bike and event on cycleexif.com, or check out the #hackbikederby hashtag on Instagram to get a flavour of the event.


Jan. 26.16 – A Greek Odyssey with the DSS2

December in Greece – as good a time as any to grab a quick break and explore this marvellous country. Discovering it has a lot more to offer than blue seas and white washed houses. Tom’s link to Greece is a family connection, but he’d never explored it his own way – with one of the new DSS2 bikes and only the most essential items of camping gear. This trip was about testing the bikes capabilities, as much as it was about enjoying the stunning landscapes and remarkable hospitality.

The ride took Tom through some challenging scenery – not just up hill and down dale, but traversing extremely taxing and varied surfaces, from snow-covered tracks to gravel pathways and dirt trails. The versatility of the DSS2 is one of its greatest strengths as a bike and it took all the challenges presented by the terrain in its stride.

Stopping in villages along the way, the offers of melomakarono, a traditional cake made during the festive period are frequent and insistent. As are the looks of surprise when the locals find out just how far Tom has come.

Heading northwest from Athens, the route brushes the coast of the Gulf of Corinth, before ploughing on towards the ancient city of Delphi – supposedly ‘the navel of the earth’ – and the Vardousia Pass beyond that.

The descent of Sinani proved to be one of the most testing sections of the trip – a narrow track, treacherous ice patches and tight corners demanding constant alertness. Then a group of bear tracks in the snow. All of a sudden there was more than just the chance of falling to worry about. Tom says he sang to himself, loudly, to let any ursine creatures in the area know that he was coming – the only thing worse than riding round a corner to find a bear, he tells us, is finding a surprised bear round a corner!

Throughout the journey, Tom’s DSS2 stood up to the task of navigating any terrain it was pointed at – proof of its fearless versatility and remarkable toughness. It wasn’t all a brutal slog though, along with the tough climbs and descents, there were also high-mountain meadows and the glittering azure blue of the Ionian sea to lift the spirits.

Distance: 215 miles

Time: 3 days

Elevation gain: 23700 ft

Max grade: 26.6%

Surface: Road, gravel, snow, ice

You can order a DSS2 now online and start planning your own adventure.

All pictures taken by Tom on his old 35mm SLR and as always, much thanks to Pannier.cc for their support – the online resource for your touring or bike packing adventure.


Jan. 06.16 – Ed’s modern classic

Ed wanted his custom-built bike to have all the performance benefits of a finely-tuned modern machine, but with a few little hints towards classic aesthetics. We found the balance between the two by adding some timeless touches like polished Columbus XCR stays and Campagnolo componentry, while the Ritchey finishing kit completes the style.

The custom frame is built with a superb quality Reynolds 853 steel tubeset and the paint scheme – made up of three complementary shades of pearl blue – is inspired by ‘IKB 79’, one of a series of monochrome canvases created by artist Yves Klein. Klein created the single-colour works as a way of rejecting representation in art and expressing his creative freedom. Hopefully Ed will feel that same sense of liberation every time he sets off on his new ride this year!

The Wound Up fork we’ve used on the bike is made using their unique filament winding technique, which creates world-leading toughness with the same lightness of carbon. The wheels are built with a combination of Chris King hubs, H+Son rims and Sapim CX-RAY spokes – not only are they fast with a great rolling feel, they’re also durable.

The Brooks C15 saddle is the first racing model in their famous Cambium range. It delivers that same balance between classic and modern – drawing on Brooks’ long history and pedigree in racing, and employing modern aerodynamic techniques to improve performance. Disc brakes with Avid BB7 SL callipers finish the job.


Dec 17.15 – Win a DSS2 as part of the Rapha F500!

The Strava addicts among you will most-likely be aware of the Rapha Festive 500 already – it’s the annual contest run by Rapha and the aforementioned cycling app, to help encourage riders around the world to log some serious miles over the festive season.

The competition has been running for a few years now and entries are judged not just on completion of the required distance (500km in the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year), but on the creativity shown in how the experience is recorded. In the past we’ve seen people create elaborate packages and hand deliver them to the Rapha offices, we’ve seen one entrant create an entire custom website dedicated to showcasing the stunning photography they captured during the challenge and an illustrator from Cheltenham who submitted a film accompanied by a hand-drawn notebook.

But why would people go to all this effort? Well how does winning a DSS2 bike from Donhou Bicycles sound? This year Rapha have asked us to offer up one of our new, super-versatile bikes to the one lucky winner who proves themselves above all others – and we happily agreed. With just a few days left until the challenge begins, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make your entry stand out – the full details of the competition are here.


Dec 8.15 – Cycle Revolution

Cycle Revolution at the Design Museum in London is an exhibition celebrating remarkable bicycle design, featuring a selection of bikes from across the cycling spectrum.

Our ‘Speed Bike’, is on show as part of the bike builder’s workshop – which shows the tools, materials and skills that combine to create a bespoke machine. Donhou is one of just six independent British bike builders to be featured, so we feel really honoured.

Needless to say it’s a pretty special feeling to see our bike included among some really historic machines; from those that have broken the Hour Record (Eddy Merckx’ from 1972 & Sir Bradley Wiggins’ from 2015), to the Lotus Type 108 ridden by Chris Boardman at the 1992 Olympics – not to mention our personal favourite, the original Specialized Stumpjumper!

For more on the Speed Bike, check out the film ‘Experiments in Speed‘ by Spindle Productions. Or head down and check it out yourself – Cycle Revolution runs until 30 June 2016 at the Design Museum in London.


Nov. 27.15 – BLACK FRIDAY

Enjoy a 15% store wide discount in the Donhou shop.

Offer ends Sunday 29th Nov. at 12pm and includes the DSS1 and DSS2 as well as several new products.



Nov 21.15 – Christmas countdown

Christmas is creeping up, so if you’ve got a loved one with a yen for some handcrafted steel, a passion all things bike-related, or maybe you just feel like treating yourself – you’d better check out our online shop.

The biggest addition to the shop for this year is the DSS2, our brand new, super-versatile road-gravel-touring frame. The frame is available in stock sizes (54,56,58cm), with the stem length, bar width, crank length, chain set and cassette ratio are all specified personally for you and your riding style. You can read all about how we built the DSS2 in the shop, or check out the account of its gruelling test expedition in the barren wastes of Iceland.

It’d be remiss of us not to mention the DSS1 – the racier, performance road bike that we created to launch the Signature Steel range. You can get the frame and fork or the full build, in the shop now. If the frame size you need is out of stock, get in touch anyway – we should be able to help you out.

Even if you’re not looking to buy a new bike, there are plenty of other Donhou goodies – including T-shirts, books, bidons, prints and some beautiful handmade bike components. The only thing for it is to visit the store and explore. Al orders must be completed by 18 December to guarantee Christmas delivery.

Joyeux Noel!


Nov 09.15 – DSS2 on test in Iceland

To test a durable and versatile bike like the DSS2 – one that’s built to be ridden on road, gravel and for touring – we knew we had to do something special. A real challenge. To that end, Tom Donhou and his good friend and photographer George Marshall took two of the prototype DSS2 models to Iceland, with a goal of traversing the country’s barren and rugged interior, unsupported, fuelled by nothing more than pasta, tinned tuna and a healthy sense of adventure.

The pair struck out from near Reykjavik and immediately found the conditions testing – persistent rain and 15% climbs ensured they had to battle for every kilometre. Fortunately, they were starting out on the tarmac surfaces near to Iceland’s biggest city and the DSS2 has road riding in its DNA.

After 2 days of hard riding and gradually leaving civilisation behind, it was onto the Sprengisandsleið – an ancient pass that strikes straight through the heart of the barrenest, most otherworldly and challenging terrain in Iceland.  The name of this fearsome road is derived from the term ‘to ride your horse to death, to explode from exhaustion’. A charming moniker and the ideal way to explore the capabilities of the newest ‘steed’ in the Signature Steel range.

Any semblance of surfaced roads soon vanished – the Sprengisandsleið is a mix of hard pack, gravel, sand and rock strewn tracks. Near to the start, a sign by the road serves to drive home just how barren the next few days would be, “Next services 254km”.

The route skirts round the edges of calm, blue lakes; climbs high into the interior; offers tremendous vistas of melting glaciers and the imposing Hagafell mountain; and is buffeted by constant winds that saw both George and Tom unseated more than once. Still the DSS2 endured, sticking steadfastly to the job at hand, giving confidence in the increasingly tougher and tougher conditions.

Trying to outrun the storm that had been threatened for some days prior, it eventually caught up as the pair reached Nyidalur – a lonely mountain hut offering shelter to weather beaten travellers. When they asked about the possibility of continuing on, the ranger at the station shut the idea down very quickly, “These winds you experience are nothing compared to what will come through the night”. It would have been foolhardy to carry on.

Two days later, they dropped down from the desert plateau, eventually reaching the Northern stronghold of Akureyri and the northern Norwegian Sea. They took a lot of heart from the way the two bikes had stood up to the test. With no mechanical issues beyond a few punctures, and with great performance in some of the toughest conditions either rider had ever experienced, the DSS2 remained undaunted by the Icelandic extremes.

100% happy with the DSS2’s performance, Tom started production as soon as he arrived back to the workshop.

We would like to thank Pannier and Brooks England for their support with this project. If you would like to read more on the trip, there is a full account, with lots more of Georges photographs over on the Pannier Journal.


Oct 27.15 – Rapha + Liberty Town

To help launch a new collaboration between Liberty of London, the city’s oldest department store, and premium cycling brand Rapha, Donhou was asked to create two very special frames. The result of this collaboration is a collection of technical cycling clothing, featuring pieces for both road and more casual city use. We wanted to build a pair of bikes that reflected that split. 

The town bike we built draws on a lot of classic elements of city cycling, the step-through frame being the most immediately obvious. A custom-built bar and stem setup gives a lot of stability and a comfortable, upright riding position. 

The eye-catching paint job is inspired by a design found deep in the Liberty archive. The store is world-famous for its fabric prints, so it was very cool to be involved in bringing that heritage to bear on one of our frames. It’s the same print you’ll find throughout the Rapha + Liberty collection.

While the colour is prominent on the custom-made front forks, it fades out towards the back of the frame to create the impression of dynamism and movement. The scheme itself, with precise black dots on top of a pearly grey/green is all about invoking ideas of fluidity, beauty and speed.

We used a Gates carbon drive belt instead of the traditional chain – which makes for a hassle-free, clean drivetrain. Chris King hubs and headset add a flash of pink that mirrors the Rapha + Liberty highlights on both the clothing and frame.

Rear and back mudguards, plus super-responsive disc brakes, make this city cruiser more than equal to the task of riding in bad weather.

You can check out the Rapha + Liberty road bike we produced here. Or view the full Rapha + Liberty collection online.


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