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Building a Custom Bike
Posted by Sam Newham on
We’re proud to unveil a special project of ours, where we worked together with Woodrup Cycles in Leeds and Kingston Customs in Hull to build the ultimate bikepacking bike.
We found through the process that there aren’t a huge amount of resources out there when it comes to building up your own custom bike, so we’ve put together everything you need into this blogpost.
FINDING A FRAME BUILDER
The first aspect of building a custom bike is going to be choosing where you want it built. We’re very lucky in Leeds to have Woodrup Cycles, which is less than one mile away from Restrap HQ. We chose Woodrup Cycles not only because they’re our local bike shop, but because of their heritage. They have over 70 years of experience making bespoke bikes their customers, and have made some amazing bikes over the years.
Kevin Sales, Woodrup’s main frame builder has mastered the trade over 40 years of hard work, making bike frames for the likes of Barry Hoban (most successful British cyclist in Tour de France before Mark Cavendish), and Hugh Porter, who won the track World Championships on a Woodrup. This means that Woodrups are one of the few bike manufacturers that can legitimately use rainbow stripes on their bikes.
There are a lot of great resources you to help you find a great frame builder in your area. One particular resource worth noting is the list of frame builders at Bespoked UK, which you can find here: https://www.bespoked.cc/2020-a-c.html
Once you’ve found your bike builder, you’ll need to think about the frame. There are two main factors to consider to start off with; the tubing and the geometry.
There are two tubing main brands you’ll see cropping up for the most part; Reynolds and Columbus. Each have different types of tubing which vary in weight, thickness and hardness. The type of tubing used makes a big difference to the manufacturing process, and can influence the price of your build a lot. Once you have an idea of what kind of bike you want to ride and the riding you’ll be doing, have a chat with your frame builder to discuss the options available. For this build, Nathan opted for Reynolds 853 Pro. This is a lighter version of the well known 853 tubing. This is thin-walled, hardened tubing that still allows a nice amount of compliance while riding, making longer distance rides more comfortable.
Next is geometry. The best place to start here is to find a bike you want to ride and go from there. You’ll likely find that your frame builder will offer you a bike fit, and draw up the design from there. Small changes to geometry can make big changes in handling and how the bike fits. It’s a good idea to know what components you’ll be using as these can also influence the build. The forks you’ll be using and the headset make a big difference to how the front of the bike is built up, so consider these parts carefully. This bike was adapted from the geometry of a Brother Kepler disc, which Nathan has ridden for a long time, but changes were made to the headtube length and angle of the top tube to bring the front end higher for more long distance comfort.
Once you’ve got the tubing and the geometry hammered down, you’ll then be looking at the finer details of the build. This could be extra embellishments (these will of course, vary from one frame builder to the next), things like cable routing and certain components. The builder will have a good idea of certain intricacies to think about, such as braze-on mountings, how the tubes are fitted together, and other finishing details you might want on the bike.
Nathan opted for Quick-release on the rear of this frame, to make sure the bike ages well. Thru-axles aren’t at a set standard at the moment, and this is intended to be a bike for life. Other details include a laser cut rear bridge with the Restrap logo, and fully cabled outers to ensure weatherproof cables. The bike is fully fillet brazed, for a smooth, clean finish. The seatpost clamp is integrated into the frame, with a forward facing slot to keep road grit from causing the post to potentially seize over time.
THE PAINT JOB
This is where you can get wild. The paint job of a bike is where it gets really custom, and can really suit your style. The sky's the limit with paintwork, so don’t be scared to get creative. There’s plenty of things that can be done with even a low key paint job that’ll take the finishing to the next level.
Your frame builder might have an in-house paint shop, or they might outsource their work to a paint shop. For this bike, we used Jack at Kingston Customs. Jack has done lots of work with Woodrup Cycles and other frame builders, such as Saffron Frameworks and Feather Cycles.
You’ll be surprised at the amount of paints and finishes available. Jack took us through different types of paint and finishing from ultra-hard coatings to paint that thermally changes colour, along with other finishes like iridescent coatings and acid-stained golf leaf. It’s worth noting that jazzy colours and hi-tech paintwork will increase the price of the build, but a good chat with the painter will give you a good idea of what’s possible.
Nathan chose to keep the bike fairly subtle, as not to go over the top and do something that’s so jazzy it could age badly over time. The paint job on this bike consists of a fairly simple black colour, but is embellished with a sparkle finish which makes the bike look stunning in direct sunlight. The frame logos are then finished with silver leaf, which adds an extra level of finishing and colour. Logos were applied in places that wouldn’t be obstructed by any luggage while touring, meaning that the amazing paint work will always be on display.
To ensure the paint job has a glassy, smooth feel and finish, Jack applied multiple levels of lacquer sanded and repeat coated, to protect the paint job underneath and blend everything together.
FULL SPEC LIST OF THIS BIKE:
Woodrup Cycles Bespoke Frame
- Tubing: Reynolds 853 Pro
- Integrated front-facing seatpost clamp
- Fully outered cable routing
- Laser-cut rear bridge with Restrap cross needles
- Quick-release on the rear
- Replaceable rear-mech hanger
- Threaded bottom bracket
Shimano 105 R7000 Groupset
Thompson Elite Seatpost & Stem
PRO Discovery Handlebars (42cm)
We filmed a video talking about this full build on our youtube channel, too. Check it out below: