Feb 28.18 – A Proper Shake Down

As the first of the DSS3’s rolled out at the start of the year, one stood out in particular. A lively lime green machine, with a scattering of personal tokens to the owner and his friends and family. The bike looked great, but thats not why it stood out.

James, the owner to be, had decided his first ride would be from the Donhou workshop to home. Pretty normal I guess, except James lived just outside of Madrid, Spain. Now thats one way to very quickly build a bond with your new machine!

Once James was safely home he was kind enough to answer a few questions and share some scenes from his ride.

Could you tell us where you live and ride ordinarily?

I live in Alcorcon, very close to Madrid, 30km which I normally ride off road to work every day and return by train unless it’s really muddy. But weekends I normally go to the Sierra of Madrid, where we have a lot of lovely mountains to climb, I combine small roads with off road gravel. And stoping for a good meal is a must. 

Where did you hear about Donhou bicycles and what drew you to a DSS3? 

I had an aluminium cyclocross bike (Giant TCX) which was great, but you know what we are like, we always want more and better, so I changed to the same bike in carbon and with all the best on. With this bike I rode from Madrid to Santiago and back, 1,500 km in 16 days and thats where I started to think about a steel bike, and if possible hand made.

I had read about many frame builders and came across a video on youtube where Tom (Donhou) explained his ride across China and started to follow him. I had the feeling Tom was a rider and he knew exactly the kind of bike I wanted because it is more or less what he likes. A fast gravel all-round classic, but up to date technology bicycle and on top he was just releasing the DSS3 with a gravel setup. So it was easy, mailed him, I asked why should I decide to buy his bike and he convinced me very quickly.

At what point did you start to concoct your plan to ride your new bike back home?

The very first moment I decided to get it. I was born in Redhill, Surrey, so it was easy, from Tom’s to Redhill and from there, home. No doubt. 

That was some shake down ride, were you nervous at all about riding all that way on a bike you’d never seen or ridden before?!

If I tell you the truth, I was 3 months thinking, ” I hope this Tom knows what he is doing …….”  

I already had a really great bike, it was very difficult to go better, so light, stiff, Di2… But when I saw my new bike and lifted it, I just couldn’t believe it. Beautiful. Tom told me to go out for a ride down the river side, that was heaven. All the nerves and fears went in a mile. It was perfectly adjusted, everything, I didn’t move absolutely anything. Perfect.

What route did you take? Can you tell us a little about the terrain.  

I went from London to Redhill following route ?, a bit too much mud and I wasn’t as fast as I thought I would be, from there to Brighton by road, next day to Portsmouth.  Weather this day was great, sunny,  that was around 200km.

From Portsmouth I got a ferry to Santander, there I met my brother-in-law and from there we went down to Burgos and ending in Madrid. 650km more or less.

The original idea was to do it all off-road, but weather was so bad in north of Spain, pouring with rain, snowing, cold wind, everything you can imagine, so we started off-road every day, stopped for lunch, and ended the day on small roads to where we had to sleep. That way we managed to do it on time, we had to be back Sunday 25th.

And how did the English leg compare to the Spanish one

The English part was very nice, I visited places where I hadn’t been for 30 or more years, it was very special. The ride was great getting to know my new bike, I met a bunch of great people , but it was very exhausting, a lot of miles off-road and mud for the first day, I thought would be easier, but Im happy I did it, great experience. And I had a day in the ferry to recover.

The Spanish Leg was longer and very hard weather conditions, more hills and some mountians, from north to centre of Spain, with big changes in flora, culture, buildings, food… a great ride.

I noticed you ate very well on your trip, if you could cycle back to any one of those meals, which one would it be?!

Yes , I told you that is a must!  

Food is a very important part of culture and each place has things that are unique to the area, and that’s what I normally look for.

If I had to choose right now, steak and kidney pie I had in a pub at Lindfield on my way to Brighton. It was so many years I hadn’t had a real one, it was glory!!

How did you get on with your new bike?

Excellent, I could answer with just that word.

It was like if it had been with me for ever, real silk, absolutely firm, very comfortable on off-road and perfectly balanced in all aspects, I’m really thrilled and impressed with the bike .

Riding down El puerto de la Morcuera, one of my favourite, 1,800m  mountain, about 9km, I cried, literally, it was a pleasure, so safe, so firm, stuck to the ground, but rolling silk, braking hard on each turn and the frame was like a block, solid but friendly, not like carbon that is much more aggressive. Thats when I thought “this is my bike”, I stopped and sent Tom a text: Thanks Tom.

Can you tell us a little bit about the set up for this trip? Bags, tires etc…

I hate carrying too much, so I just use three Apidura bags, 14l saddle bag, 4l frame bag, and a bar bag, with the least you need not to smell too bad when you stop at places. :-)

I used Schwalbe G-one, 38c tires which I already knew and are great.

A Garmin 1000 to follow the route.

Lake winter boots, Assos Bonka gloves, Assos Habu 5 jacket, Endura Pro SL Primaloft gilet, and for rain and cold all Rab clothes, merino plus vest and gloves, Polartech trouser, Flashpoint rain jacket . 

Any final words?

I’m so happy I decided to do this, it was great experience. It was great to go personally for the bike, so I saw where the bike was built from nothing but a person I met and had lunch with.

Now I ride a bike that was designed and built by someone I know, and I know it was done with all the care and love as if it was for himself. THANKS TOM.


No problem James, we wish you many, many happy miles!