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.



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!


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!



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.



Theo (MTB) – 36.20

Neil Philips (CX) – 37.15

Andy Watson Smith (CX) – 42.25


Adeline O’Moreau (CX) – 38.40

Aoife Doherty (CX) – 39.00 


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.


Sep. 28.16 – Patrick’s stealthy town bike

Patrick wanted a town bike with a superb pedigree, but without the kind of flash that might draw too much of the wrong type of attention when ridden in the city. We created a bike with a stealthy blend of style and practicality to suit his needs.

With a frame of Reynolds 853 tubing this is a bike that’s built to be hard-wearing, without giving up too much in the weight stakes. The paint is ‘black magic pearl’ with a subtle dusting of silver for the detailing. Alongside the Donhou logos, there are also some icons dotted around the bike that have a personal meaning for its new owner. The custom integrated bar and stem, segmented fork and custom rack lend the bike a unique and retro feel.

For maximum strength, resilience and efficiency, Patrick’s build is propelled by the perfect pairing of a Gates Carbon Drive belt and Sturmey Archer 2-speed Kick Shift Coaster rear hub. Not only does this drivetrain give the bike a striking look and feel, but it also requires very low maintenance compared to chain-driven options.

As well as the belt drive which is perfect for riding in bad weather, the bike is rigged with mudguards to block as much of the road grime and water from spraying up at the rider. At this time of year, we’re sure Pat is going to get a lot of envious looks for that particular feature.

The stealthy bike is fitted with Paul componentry, while the Brooks finishing kit and Middleburn cranks round out a build that is truly one of a kind with a distinctively British aesthetic. Fast fun, built for London. 


Aug. 20.16 – Chris’ Trans America custom tourer 

Chris came to us with an idea. He needed a bike that would take him quite literally around a continent. He and his girlfriend had planned a huge touring adventure that would see them skirt the edges of the USA and Canada in one gigantic 12,000-mile loop – a journey deserving of the word ‘epic’. Of course, if you’re going to spend that much time in the saddle you need a bike that’s designed for the purpose – and that’s why Chris asked us to build him this rugged, versatile touring bike.

The custom frame is built around a comfortable geometry, but with a turn of speed should Chris want to ‘open her up’ a little bit. We used disc brakes to give Chris extra control when he’s descending with the bike under load and the wheels are built with tough Pacenti rims.

We decided on a Rohloff hub for this build, because of the minimal maintenance required to keep it rolling. It has an internal gearbox, with even distributions between each gear – the fact it’s a sealed system means you don’t get the normal wear and tear that comes from exposure to road grime and dirt, and ensures a very low chance of mechanical issues. The carbon belt drive is from Gates, another German brand who specialise in lightweight, carbon belt drives.

Another smart feature that will really come in handy out on the road is the dynamo lighting system, which we neatly routed internally through the frame and fork. This will allow Chris to generate wattage while he pedals and power the EDelux II front lamp you can see fitted to the head tube. He also has a USB charger port in the headset – so he can keep his gadgets charged up while he travels.

Chris collected his bike earlier in the summer and we’re delighted to say that he and his girlfriend have already made it from Toronto, where they started off in July, to Calgary. That’s an awesome 2,000 miles under the belt. Just 10,000 more to go now.


Jul. 19.17 – New. Wound Up and King Cage

We’re stocking a couple of new items in the online shop, including Wound Up forks as a single item, and King Cage bottle cages.

We use Wound Up forks on a lot of our builds now, the DSS2 in particular, because they offer unbeatable stability, vibration dampening and torsional stiffness. The company has been around since the nineties and their products continue to set the bar for superior design and function.

The filament winding process used to manufacture a Wound Up fork is borrowed from aerospace engineering – testament to the forks’ durability if nothing else. Obviously, we really rate them and are stoked to be selling the Gravel version with IS disc mount and mudguard eyes through the shop.

Also handmade in the USA are the King Cage bottle cages. These simple, classy cages are manufactured from stainless steel tubing that promises not to mark your bottles. We’re stocking a choice of their classic SS or contemporary Iris designs. Simple and stylish.


Jul. 13.16 – Harry’s shades-of-grey custom road bike

Finding a middle ground between contemporary and classic can be a tricky balancing act, but that’s what Harry wanted for his new road bike.

We used Columbus XCR tubing for this build, giving it just the right balance of rigidity, weight and comfort. The bike is also set up for internal cable routing, for that beautifully clean modern look.

In terms of componentry, we selected the very best brands to give Harry’s machine a beautiful ride experience. The groupset is SRAM Red for seamless shifting and we fitted the bike with Avid BB7 SL disc brakes, for that essential precision control when he’s really going after it on the descents.

The Wound Up carbon fibre fork is a key part of the build, these things can compete with a steel equivalent in terms of pure bomb-proof durability, but with the added benefit of being lightweight filament-wound carbon fibre.

We always like a bike to have a personal touch and for Harry we added a couple of neat details in the paintwork. You’ll spot a rose behind the seat tube – the symbol of Harry’s home county, Yorkshire. Then he’s also got his initials underneath the down tube, both of which we did in the exposed stainless of the tube set. Finally, the gradations of grey on the top and down tube give the bike a dynamic, but refined look.



Jun 21.16 – Touring the Reynolds factory

We were recently invited to tour the Reynolds factory, a really awesome experience given the amazing history of the company and their role in some major achievements in the pursuit of speed and engineering excellence.

It was the expertise of the Reynolds Tube Company that helped build the frame of the Thrust2, the famous jet-propelled car that held the land speed record for some 14 years between 1983 and 1997. Donhou are no strangers to this type of feat, making our own tilt at a similar, although perhaps slight lower-powered record, for our Experiments in Speed film a few years ago.

Reynolds is known for its iconic numbered decals – relating to the different properties of the steel alloys they produce. We typically build a lot of our custom frames and all of our Signature Steel range with Reynolds 853, their top end heat-treated, air-hardening steel, but we’ve also used their other tubesets when the situation has called for it. We’ve done track builds with stainless 931, used 725 for oversized chainstays and made use of the incredible strength of their marquee 953.

It was a great insight to see where the steel we build with comes from and it really adds some depth to the narrative that runs through every bike. Seeing the process of using rollers to expand and contract the tubes to release the various mandrels that give the unique butt profile of each tube was very interesting. 

When you see the process, you get a real sense of the journey, all the way from hundreds of tubes, all looking the same sitting on a factory shelf, to the unique Donhou custom bicycle that they become.      


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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