Jun 20.16 – Stu’s Belgian beauty

We built this frame for Stu, making this his second Donhou bike. He wanted us to capture some of the iconic essence of Belgium and its inextricable link to classic cycling. To do this we created a ‘blown-up’ version of the three bands of colour that appear on the Belgian flag – red, black and yellow – and applied them in a chaotic, fragmented pattern around the frame. 

Of course, Belgium wouldn’t be Belgium without some horrible weather, so the bike had to reflect that and be a real all-weather riding beast. To that end we’ve painted Stu some mudguards in the same scheme, for when the elements turn sour. We’ve also used a Parlee thru-axle fork and thru-axle disc polydrops, so the bike can run disc brakes – perfect for extra control in the wet.

The tubing underneath the paint is stainless Columbus XCR, for that brushed, deep lustre that really complements the Donhou head badge. You’ll also spot the Donhou bridge between the seat stays.

This bike will definitely go quick, but it’ll also be comfortable – one of the biggest benefits of custom steel road bikes. 

 
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May 25.16 – Owners Ride 2016

And just like that another year has flown by, with another great Owners Ride under our belts. This was the second time we’ve run the event and we were delighted to have some clear blue skies under which to explore the North Norfolk countryside.

We assembled early on Sunday at Whitlingham Station where a pillar of steam from a traction engine unofficially marked the start point. In the run up to the big day we’d been working flat out to get our newest owner’s bike finished for him, so we could have the big unveiling at the ride. Luke was chuffed with his new steed and hopped on it straight away and rode the 60miles with no qualms.

After the big reveal it was off out into the lanes towards Thurning and Briston. We crossed the river at Glandford, entering the North Norfolk Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, then carried on past the historic Binham Priory.

Our lunch stop was quintessentially English. In the grounds of Holkham Hall, a Palladian country house that has been the seat of the Earls of Leicester since the 18th century, we lounged on the grass and refuelled with a view over the lake and a game of cricket being played alongside.

Keen to exercise the adventurous natures of our riders we planned a total of three ford crossings into the route, with some of the more intrepid owners actually riding through one of them. As well as that we threw in some secteurs of Norfolk pavé and a final breathless run down a lesser-known disused rail line. All of which acted as a great counterpoint to the shady, peaceful lanes that formed the mainstay of the route.

As we looped back around to the south we passed through some idyllic English villages, Little Walsingham and past the picturesque old water mill at Guist.

As with last year’s Owners Ride, one of the most enjoyable parts of the day was hearing what everyone has been up to with their Donhou machines and what schemes they’re cooking up for the future. The ride ended, as all the best ones do, with a cold pint and some cake back at the finish.

We’d like to thank Rapha for their support with the ride and also the boys at Break Fluid, who gave us some of their fantastic coffee. A special thank you goes to Tom’s mum for providing us with some sweet, home-baked flapjacks to keep everyone’s motors running. 

Also, big thanks to Tristan Conor Holden for the excellent photo’s.

 
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May 18.16 – Luke’s all-action Audax road bike

The bike we built for Luke was always going to have speed and stability at its core. He wanted something to do audaxes and long-distance road rides on, so we built the frame for comfort over those demanding endurance adventures.

The frame is built with Reynolds 853 tubing, while on the rear stays we used brushed Columbus XCR to create that amazing contrast with the grey paint – mirrored at the front end by our stainless steel head badge.

The blue bricks painted on the inside of the forks are inspired by the ones on Luke’s house, and within that are a couple of little details paying tribute to his two children. We custom-made the bi-lam seat cluster so it could feature a little bit of the blue paint too, and we also hand painted the mudguards and titanium bottle cages to keep the theme going.

We got to use some of our favourite componentry for this build, with a Chris King headset and Fizik bars combining for an awesome cockpit setup, while the wheels use Chris King hubs, plus Sapim CX Ray spokes and Pacenti SL25 rims – for a smooth fast-rolling ride that’ll easily cope with any rough stuff Luke encounters out on his long-range forays into the wild. The Brooks C13 saddle is their first ever carbon fibre model, so its lightweight, but still offers plenty of the comfort they’re known for. The ENVE GRD fork is built with an integrated mudguard, teamed with Ultegra Di2 disc brakes to offer great control on twisting descents and gravel tracks.

We presented Luke with his bike at our Owners Ride earlier in the month and he loved it from the very start, throwing his leg over the top tube and completing the 60-mile route with no bother. We’re not sure there’s a better way to ‘meet’ your custom bike for the first time. Of course, our Owners Ride pales in comparison to the bike’s first major test, which will be later this year when Luke is tackling a 1,200km audax ride in the Highlands of Scotland. We wish him luck!

More photo’s in the gallery.

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Apr. 11.16 – Rapha + Liberty returns 

The eagle-eyed among you may have already seen that Rapha and Liberty of London are continuing their successful partnership into 2016 with a new Spring/Summer collection of women’s cycling gear. Once again, to go along with the launch of the range, they asked us to create a custom road bike with a paint job that matches the prints used in this season’s apparel.

Liberty is world famous for its prints, so there was plenty in their archives to draw from this time around. For Spring/Summer they selected a houndstooth print which we have put our own twist on for the new bike. We ‘exploded’ the design and really focused in on the detail, creating this dynamic effect as if the print has been blown apart at high-speed. This taps into the ethos of the collection; fluidity, speed and movement. The execution was painstaking, especially applying the two different colours in the fine detail, but we’re delighted with the final effect.

The bike itself is highly-specced. The streamlined, fillet-brazed frame is constructed using Columbus HSS tubes, while the drivetrain is Shimano Dura Ace. ENVE provide the stem, rims and bars, while the headset is Chris King. For pure speed it’s hard to top those brands.

As this is a special bike we wanted to include a few special details. If you look between the stays on the seat tube you’ll see a trophy emblem. This is a tribute to the Liberty Cup, a women-only race that Liberty ran from 1901 onwards. The department store has been around for a long, long time, so while you wouldn’t immediately pair them with cycling, once you delve into the history there are a lot of surprising links. It makes working with them a real joy. We also included the Columbus dove on the other side of the seat tube – a mark of this bike’s steel pedigree.

You can shop the women’s apparel range at Rapha right now, or come see the bikes at Bespoked later this month in Bristol where Tom is also giving a talk about the subject of collaboration. After Bespoked the bike will be on show in the Rapha Cafe in Spitalfields.

  
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Mar 21.16 – DSS2 goes mono’

The ghostly landscapes of Iceland left a real impression on us when we went there to road test the DSS2. The terrain was a true challenge, not just for the bike, which we designed to be a tough and versatile frame that can be adapted to many types of riding, but also for our minds and bodies. If we could describe that part of the world in one word it’d be ‘grey’. In three words, ‘grey and spooky’ would probably be pretty close.

Even after we got back from testing the DSS2 we couldn’t stop thinking about those haunting, gravel-strewn vistas, so we decided to pay tribute to them by creating a second paint scheme for the bike, influenced by the wastes of the Icelandic interior. To really capture the nature of the place we’ve used gradations of grey for a brooding monochrome look. We christened this look ‘Bad Vibes’, as a counterpoint to the original ‘Good Vibes’ scheme.

Having been a ‘secret’ option until now, we’ve now decided to make the monochrome version an official option when ordering a new DSS2. You can get in touch with us by clicking here, or read the full spec of the bike over here.

 

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Mar 16.16 – Bespoked UKHBS 2016

This year we’ve decided to have a year off from the (glorious) madness that is Bespoked UKHBS, however if you were hoping to head down to Bristol to discuss a new Donhou build then please read on!

If you are going down to the show on the weekend of 15 April and wanted to talk to us about a project, we will be attending the show on Saturday and taking appointments to discuss any potential builds/Signature Steel enquiries then. So if you’ve got ideas for your own custom Donhou machine, or are interested in one of our Signature Steel offerings and want to talk in person with Tom, please drop us a line.

Tom will also be giving a talk on the subject of ‘collaboration’ at Bespoked and we’ll have the Rapha + Liberty bikes we made earlier in the year for you to get a closer look at, discussing that project among others. We’ll hopefully also have the DSS2 and the recent Donhou Klunker with us, so there’s still plenty of Donhou goodness to enjoy at this year’s show.

Want to book a chat about building your own custom bike? Drop us an email.

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Mar 12.16 – Nolan’s dark destroyer

Deep down every road cyclist wants the same thing right? A custom road bike that “looks fast standing still”, as the old reviewer’s cliché goes. Well Nolan certainly got that with this fearsome, brooding road machine, looking like something out of the latest Star Wars film.

The groupset is Shimano’s excellent Ultegra Di2, which means Nolan benefits from smooth, simple electronic shifting. While at the sharp end of the bike a Chris King headset coupled to a Whiskey No. 9 thru axle road fork provides unparalleled control.

The frame is built with Reynolds 853 Pro Team tubing, with interchangeable dropouts. Light, strong and perfect for going quick.

The paint scheme comprises gunmetal and black (both with a pearl effect), plus a translucent red fade in key areas that serves to both highlight and break up the two darker colours. Nolan plans to travel with his bike a lot (would you want to leave a bike like this at home?), so he asked us to add a little detail in the paint scheme that’d help him with rebuilding it exactly right after it has been in transit. The offset ‘equaliser’ marks on the joins act as guidelines so he can align everything just so. As well as adding a neat little detail.

Thru-axles in the wheels give the handling a greater predictability over quick-release equivalents, with Pacenti rims and White Industry hubs completing what is a fast, durable custom wheel build.

We think it’s fair to say Nolan is what you might call a happy customer. He told us, “Just been staring at the bike, my cup of tea went cold. You have got the colours spot on. It’s exactly what I wanted.”

 

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Feb. 25.16 – The DSS1 – be ready for those perfect days…

As winter starts to fade and thoughts return to the season ahead, it’s a fine time to remember that we all need a ‘Sunday best’. That’s a machine that you just love picking up, that’ll perform every time you wheel it out on that perfect dry, sunny day and will keep on drawing admiring looks from other riders.

The DSS1 fits the bill perfectly. It’s fast without compromising on stability, it looks great and it’s comfortable over long distances too. The judges of Bespoked, the UK’s biggest custom bike show, were so impressed with it they awarded it Best Road Bike in last year’s show.

Where our new DSS2 is a versatile superstar built for tackling various surfaces, whether with panniers or riding unloaded – the DSS1 is all about speed and panache. The DSS1 has plenty of admirers too, with Cyclist magazine having this to say:

Over several weeks of testing, with a handful of other highly desirable, top-end carbon bikes sat by its side in the garage, I found myself repeatedly picking the Donhou for a ride.”

While Road Cycling UK picked it in their annual RCUK 100:

Of course, there’s more to a bike than its paint job, but the deep granite grey with its pink to lime fade is gorgeous and utterly befitting of the craftsmanship that has gone into the frame.”

The DSS1 is available as a frame & fork or full build options. For orders you can check out our online store, or email us direct. For full details on the bike check here.

 
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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.


 

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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.

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