The Story of My Bike That I Made Myself

Owen Byrne, April 2013


Over a year ago, I decided it was time for a new bike. I hadbeen riding my current bike since 2004 and it was still going strong, but itwas getting a bit scratched and the head badge had fallen off – which isdefinitely a sign that it's past its best.


I really wanted to get something special, the choiceswere either a very expensive carbonframe or a custom steel frame. I couldn't decide. Fortuitously, one day Ihappened to be passing the Bespoked Bristol framebuilding show, so I popped inand had a look at what some of the countries finest framebuilders were up to.That cemented the steel choice for me. I came home with plenty of leaflets andflyers and thought about it for a while, and what I thought was that therecouldn't be that much to building a frame myself, so I did.


I booked myself onto a framebuilding course at DownlandCycles in Canterbury, which can be done by the power of the internet for someinstant gratification which was then followed by 8 months of waiting. Long harddifficult waiting. On an old worn out bike.
The more geograpically aware of you will know that it is along way between Bristol and Canterbury, so I duly booked myself into aB&B, and when the time came, I set off on my merry way via the modernlocomotive on a cold wet winter evening. Given the current climate, I willpoint out for the purpose of clarity, that this cold wet winter evening was inDecember.


The frame building course takes 5 days, most of which isspent filing. The second biggest task is measuring, a fair amount of timetrying to remember GCSE trigonometry, and a small amount of time welding –which is by far the most stressful. The tea flowed freely as we discussed themerits of different butt profiles – with perhaps the greatest lesson being notto set your tea on metal surfaces (because it will get cold quicker). Withguidance from Bryan and Martyn, the week flowed like perfectly heated solder,until the point that I discovered that my back end was skew-whif by about 1mm.This mostly came about by the discovery that the middle of a bottom bracketshell is not necessarily the width of a bottom bracket shell divided by two(in other words – measure your 68mm bottom bracket shells to make sure they arein fact 68mm). After much consideration, we decided that 1mm probably wasn'tgoing to be the end of the world considering that everything else was more orless spot on.


In the evenings, my coursemate Paul from the ElectricBicycle Network and I spent our time sampling the brews in the localhostelries of Canterbury, and I think we managed to upset some of the localsby sitting in their traditional seats in one of the pubs. However we werecareful to ensure that we didn't drink too much so that we would have keen eyesand steady hands for the following days filing.


I also picked up my new carbon fibre forks during the week,after being handed what seemed to be an empty box, we proceeded to weigh theforks which were exactly 300g and the packaging that they came in, which alsocame in at exactly 300g.

Finally the frame was finished, and I set off on my wayhome, on the train again, now carrying an unpainted steel frame and a box ofvery light forks, desparately trying to remember to pick up everything when Igot off at every stop. I proceeded to jam my new shiny frame in the ticketbarrier at Paddington station, and almost collapsed in a state of dispair, butnot only was the frame fine, I think it actually knocked that misalignment outof it.


So, that was the easy bit done. The hard bit was picking acolour scheme! I had already spent many long winter miles stewing on this one.During this process I discovered that I have owned a bike in every conceiveablecolour already – yes, including purple with white and yellow spots, soelimination didn't help. Too many people already have black, I've currently gota blue bike, I'm not riding a Champs Elysees lap of honour so yellow is out, redis a bit angry and green is unlucky, so I gave up and plumped for plain white,safe in the knowledge that I could get it repainted later should artisticinspiration strike. Next choice was enamel or powder coat? Enamel is 100glighter, but powder coat is cheaper and faster. Another tough choice!


With the frame safely off to the painters, my attention nowturned to deciding which components to hang from this work of art. It maysurprise you to know that I had also spent many long miles considering thisalready. Being of a scientific and orderly mind, it was only natural that Icompose a spreadsheet to help with the task in hand, and with the help of myspreadsheet, and google, I set about cataloging the various components andoptions, along with their prices and weights, in readiness for collection ofthe frame, when on inspecting the finished product, final seleciton could bemade for optimal visual beauty.


Ordering began, parts started to arrive and excitement grew,a bottle cage and headset from here, a seat clamp and handlebars from there,until finally I had amassed a great pile of boxes and bits, including some veryexpensive black and silver boxes from Shimano and a tasty pair of wheels fromBW Cycling. I would also like to point out at this stage that, disappointingly,the number of free Haribos provided by Mr Wiggle is not proportial to theamount of money you spend.


With everything finally in place, I set about another boutof arduous waiting, this time I was waiting for a suitable day for theauspicious build. As with previous waiting, this waiting mostly took the formof training, or cycling round the roads in the cold and wet and dark on my oldbike dreaming of sunny days ahead zipping effortlessly up over alpine passes onmy trusty (not rusty) new steed. Finally I did so much training, that my immunesystem was surpressed enough to get a very bad case of man-flu, and I was outof action long enough to get so bored that I couldn't resist any longer, so outcame the frame and all the bits and the building began.
Oh my god! How much fun is it to build a completely new bikewith all new components from the ground up, there were empty boxes flying allover the kitchen, threads getting greased, bolts getting torqued for hours onend, with little shrieks of joy every time a gear was adjusted or a cable crimpeduntil BAM, everything came to a full stop. An insurmountable problem! Disaster!All of my mental energy was suddenly focused on what could turn out to be theruination of the project, a waste of all the time and effort and money! I wassweating, trembling, tearing my hair out! What colour bar tape!? Black orwhite? I couldn't decide. There is only one thing to do at times like this andthat is take a break and sleep on it. So I did and I awoke fresh, sat boltupright in my pit on Easter Sunday morning and exclaimed in a clear voice“BLACK” (to the consternation of my wife). Black it was and very soonlater the tape was wrapped and the job was done. The bike was complete, thebeast was alive.


Now at this point I should point out that I was stillsuffering from the man-flu and could barely speak without coughing up a smallpiece of lung, not at all helped by my earlier proclamation on bar tapecolour. Luckily, we all know that one of the best cures for this affliction isto go for a cycle, especially if the outside temperature is below zero. So onwith the lycra and out I went. The first sit was carefully measured, the firstpedal strokes trepidatious, but nothing important fell off in the first fewyards, so I cycled on.


That first ride was amazing, the bike sprung forth withevery pedal stroke like a lamb recently rescued from a snow drift, it sailedalong the road like a superconducting magnet floating on a sink of liquidhelium. It went round corners like an electron on a trial run in a particleaccelerator (i.e very fast and not about to smash into anything). It descendslike Peter Sagan's popularity since he started touching podium girls. And itclimbs like an angel rising up towards the infinite happiness of heaven above.Readers, it was amazing!

So there you go, the story of one new bike. For thetechnical among you, the main frame is made from Reynolds 853 tubing with 653chainstays. The frame weighs 1900grams before painting. The final weight isjust a shiver over 8kg and the price would bail out Cyprus. Now I'm off to dosome cycling, on my trusty old bike what I built myself, and I shall bemeditating on the colour and componentry of the next one!


And in one final piece of news, it now looks like the bikeis going to be on display at this years Bespoked Bristol show.


More information on the framebuilding course can be foundat had a bike fit at, who alsoorganised the groupset and wheels and installed the bottom bracket. The framewas painted by I can definitely recommend  for anyonelooking for a B&B in Canterbury