The Custom Bikes of Grinduro Scotland
Photos by Kyle Kelley, words compiled from each builder by Andrew Denham
Each year at Grinduro California, the event reaches out to a handful of builders to showcase their handy work. With this year’s first event in Scotland, Grinduro decided to do the same, pinging a handful of UK builders to design the ultimate Grinduro bike, display and race their creations. The project was supported by Columbus, Lauf, SRAM, Clement and Fabric. The featured bikes were the subject of a public vote to establish the ‘best in show’ with the winner getting an awesome prize of Flights and entry to Grinduro California! Adeline O’Moreau won the vote with her awesome ‘Good Vibes’ MTB which she rode to victory in the under 30’s women category, so we’ll begin with her creation first.
There’s some grit in the corners of my eyes when I wake up on a sleeper train chair in London Euston. Actually, there’s grit everywhere. It’s like I’ve been in a fight with a grit monster. Which, if I’m completely honest, is not far from the truth. Before Ginduro arrived in the UK, I remember looking at that new party race from afar, thinking boy, this sounds right up my street. The adventure started with a phone call from Andrew, it’s almost a habit now. But holy shit! Feather, Donhou and Shand are the ones I look up to the most this side of the pond. I feel honored, humbled and a little bit like an imposter too. Hell yes, I’ll make a bike for the race.
A little while after, a weekend in May, I find myself on Arran on a recce ride with Paul, Amanda, John and Neil. That island is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever explored. The riding is so varied, the landscape changes going around every tree. There are hills and gravel and singletrack and steep descents and drop offs and I fall in a ditch a couple of times, and I am terrified a lot of the time.
At this point, I’m certain of it: I want to make an XC MTB. Partly because the ghosts of landing face first on the rocks of Pen Y Ghent’s descend at 3 Peaks still haunt me. Partly because I just really really want to make one. I’ve never made one before – and I’ve not ridden one since childhood. But where the hell do I begin? Tony gave me a fit earlier this year, that’s a start. But from there, what? There are so much more variables in the design of an MTB – and my experience riding one is very limited, ancient and absolutely irrelevant at this point. To make things easier still, at that moment in time I’m also moving workshops. Everything is up in the air and I have no idea how I’ll be able to deliver. Once again, Andrew saves the show. He offers me to come down and build at Bicycle Academy – it’s still one of my favourite places on earth, which also happens to be home to the most concentrated amount of MTBers I know of. So I pack my bivvy and head to Somerset.
I spent four days in the lush countryside, waking up in a field, riding some of the boys’ bikes to see how they feel, tweaking my design, and finally cutting and brazing some metal.
The bike is built as a prototype rig, around a Works Component angle headset, allowing me to try out different head angles. The Zona 29r bent down tube gives me lots of room to clear the RockShox forks crown, and the rear is kept tight and close whilst still full of clearance around the 27.5 wheel. The rear end is spaced for Boost and everything comes together nicely on a T47 bb shell. Solid! I also go for bottle bosses cable routing, all external, down the top tube. That way, I can easily swap the Reverb dropper for a rigid post when long adventures call. Maintenance will be also super easy that way. And some 3d printed cable clips under the stays to the rear brake and derailleur. I don’t like hiding things away. Bikes have cables and hydraulic hoses, that’s what makes them work. I’m proud to keep them out.
I worked with Rob from Colourburn Studio on the paint. The Grinduo purple mixed with the Mercredi yellow make for an eye popping colourway. The frame is covered in long arms giving hand-signs, which are some of my illustrations. After doodling almost an entire notepad worth of hands I picked 4 that would make the cut. It was just about the good times. When you look through the SID, you can see everything is A-OK.
The weather making a turn for the worse made me even more confident in the choice of an XC MTB, although I felt very nervous to ride the bike for the first time on race day.
The entire ride was amazing. A lot harder than what the recce ride indicated.
And where the MTB was a little slower up the long hard packed climbs, it allowed me to fly down the single tracks to take the win in my category and come out 3rd fastest woman altogether. And the best in all this was to see how much time I made down the technical single track descent. Confidence descending is restored, I felt like I was flying.
When we huddled up in the theatre for the results, nerves were making it hard to speak. I knew I raced as best as I could and there was nothing I wish I would change on the bike I made. It was the result of taking my chances and doing things a little bit differently. It was the result of a lot of work and a lot of support from amazing people around me. And of course, that was all that mattered. But still. There was more I wanted to win.
When Andrew called my name for having won the public’s choice, I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs. For the first time since starting Mercredi, I felt like an impostor a tiny little bit less. I must be doing something right, I thought.
Whiskey that night tasted better than ever.
The bike is a tweaked version of our soon to be released DSS3, the 3rd offering in our range of handcrafted steel machines. The DSS3 is designed as a CX racer and for the Grinduro build we dropped in the Columbus Futura Gravel fork and upped the tyre size.
The DSS3 won the Best CX build at NAHBS earlier in the year, after testing and development during the ’16/17 UK cross season. With this frame, we really wanted to use design to push past a standard steel frame and the centre point of the design is the 3D printed seat lug. This allows us to achieve multiple things; it sets the seat stays wider apart for greater tyre clearance, it allows us to use the custom formed ovalized top tube building stiffness into the frame as well as making shouldering more comfortable. Lastly and probably the coolest thing is the lug allows us to route the rear derailleur cable internally all the way through the frame (although on this build routed externally while we finalise the lug design). Other features of the frame are 44mm head tube, thru axle dropouts and flat mount disc mounts.
For the Grinduro paint, we simply went with the spirit of the event and had fun with it… It looks quick, it’s essentially a flame job, but using actual paint drips instead of flames for the punk rock vibe! Minimal masking and simply getting the freak on with a paint brush. The splatter paint did a great job of hiding the dirt post event too.
At the event, there were a lot of talks about which bike would be more suitable and as the weather changed for the worse this subject became more and more important. With 3 flat out gravel sections and 1 tech DH, which with the weather worsening was going to be more a case of getting down with the least mistakes, I still felt that a dedicated gravel machine was the right choice, for the timed sections at least.
The bike rode great. Running the Clement MSO 40’s soft on the awesome Zipp Firecrest wheels meant the bike flew over the gravel up the first long climb stage, although coming down the tech DH stage I was definitely under tired, with the shallow tight tread of the tires not giving me much to cut into the loam and mud. In the atrocious weather, my brakes had started to fade by this time too, but I dropped my saddle and hung, had a couple of slip off’s getting offline trying to pass people, but couldn’t complain for the conditions. I only saw the results for the top 35 but think I bagged 6th fastest through there, and would be interested to see how many CX bikes were in front. All in I finished 10th overall and 4th in my category, frustratingly only 7 secs behind 3rd!
Was such a cool race, beat by the time I rolled over the line and the weather only helped build the camaraderie. Good beers, good bro’s, good racing!
So, as you may have already read, we were each given a brief to follow for our bikes. As a road rider, I was given the task of building a more road style bike. I built it using an almost road racing geometry but with clearance for bigger tyres. That clearance ended up being quite important, it threw it down before and during the race and I ended up switching to some 33mm CX tyres before the race began. I kind of had in mind that the bike would become my training bike following the event, but I also used it as a bit of an opportunity to build a bike I could race CX on. I’m not a huge fan of a traditional CX geometry and always wanted to try something a little less sluggish. Turns out, it worked just as I wanted it to. Well balanced, with sharper steering and a lower BB than your average European CX bike. Obviously, the bike was going to struggle on the wooded parts of the race, thick dirt, dropoffs, and technical downhill are a bit out of my comfort zone as a road cyclist. Everything else, it was perfect. Great on the single track, great on the gravel, climbing it was perfect, descending on gravel and even on a super long and very tight switchback decent it was great. In the race, I came 27th, as a racer myself I was obviously disappointed result wise, but I’ve hardly ridden this year due to a busy year with work but the fun factor overcame that feeling tenfold. I’ll be back next year for sure, hopefully I will have a lot more from tagging along for the ride! Following on from that, I plan on being at Grinduro in the USA in 2018. What an incredible cycling event!
We built a family of 4 almost identical bikes with the simple idea that they should be really compliant and set up to allow us to attack all of the rough stuff, whilst looking rad.
The bikes were designed with a T47 BB, through which we were able to route all of the cabling, thanks to the nifty design of the Rideworks BB which is machined to give a load of space between the shell and the BB. We offset the seat tubes forward, the down tube forward and the chainstays to the very bottom of the BB shell, to make the cable route super clean and to increase clearances. Syntace 142×12 dropouts keep things neat at the back end with 14mm seat stays and no bridge allow the back end to flex quite a bit, and to keep things looking neat we custom bent them to match the chainstays. The main tubes are a 28.6 and 31.7 Spirit, and we used that lovely Columbus tapered head tube with external cups to keep the proportions in check. The goal was to build bikes that corner really predictably on gravel and forest trail, that can be ridden aggressively into therough stuff. We designed 3 of the frames around the yet to be release Columbus Futura Cross fork, which matches the Lauf Grit specs perfectly, and boy did those Lauf forks work well; soaking up all of the chatter and taking the edge off sniper routes and random rocks! The other frame was designed around the very popular Columbus Futura Gravel fork that Feather and Donhou opted for.
We went for a mix of SRAM Force and Rival, 1×11 (with a cheeky blackbox narrow wide ring, and 160mm flat mount disc. Ritchey WCS finishing kit with their fantastic VentureMax bars and the tires are Compass 700C x 38 Steilacoom with ultralight casing. These things are ridiculously good, I only hope that they make a 44/48mm option soon, as they would be insane!
We worked with Giro, SprayBike and Morvelo to create the most cosmic purple non-factory factory set up at the event. Sick. Or “sick in the mouth”, we’re not too sure.
I was working at the event all weekend, teaching people to braze some cool Grinduro bottle openers so I didn’t get to race, and Tom Sturdy was bedridden with a violent stomach bug so it was down to John Ross and Tom Macphail to represent for TBA. They smashed it, and by that all I really mean is that they made it all the way around without giving up in favour of a hot bath, some whisky and a reassuring cuddle. It was so wet out there!
The whole event was awesome and the bikes rode like a cosmic purple dream!
When asked to build a gravel bike for Griduro we didn’t do a custom build as our Stoater and Stooshie designs have been refined over time and ideal for this type of riding allowing tyres up to 45mm in width. I ride a fair bit off road and on MTB trails with the Stoater and there’s very little I would change. For Grinduro we built a Stooshie with the main difference to our standard builds being the Lauf fork. We’ve done a few builds with the Lauf since they launched their gravel fork, but I had never ridden one in anger until Grinduro, so it would be an interesting test.
The Stooshie frame is designed around a tapered carbon fork using oversize tubing from Columbus and features modular dropouts from Paragon that allows for different axle standards. The PF30 bb shell also allows for singlespeed as well as Rohloff drivetrains which are great for off road gravel grinds in Scotland – as experienced in Arran!
Paint wise, I had a nice metallic lilac that was Grinduro in flavour and thought I’d try some chameleon pearls over the top, but they just weren’t working right. Next plan was to do some splatter fade effect with dark purple and white, but when Euan pointed out he’d seen a sneak-peek of Tom’s build on Instagram (that was similar) I decided to keep things simple with the Lauf fork painted to match.
I had an idea what the Grinduro route might be like and was excited to ride it guessing what the Grinduro team had likely planned and knowing we like to ride similar terrain on home ground. Fitness was also going to be an issue having been off the bike for 18 months with back injury, but fortunately, it appears to have sorted itself and I had around 4-6 weeks to (sort of) get my legs back.
The route itself was indeed what I expected and the timed stages suitably challenging. The climbs I knew I’d have no speed on and would just hang in at a steady pace, but I was looking forward to the technical decent and it didn’t disappoint. The Lauf just soaked up the roots and tight turns and the bike had a nibble feel that helped to easily pop the front end over obstacles. A real hoot. The fork was great too on the rougher gravel roads and trails and soaked up the inevitable front-end clatter you get at speed. You still felt like you’d been in a fight the next day, but shoulder ache was definitely reduced.
Looking at results I was about mid-field which was to be expected and didn’t detract from having a beer or six afterward as everyone dried out. It was a cracking weekend and a real treat to have Grinduro come to Scotland and see what we have to offer. Maybe next time we’ll pray to the weather gods and ask for some sunshine!
One of the main driving forces in the design of this bike was an ethos to work with what I had already got, a hack bike of sorts but one with some pedigree. I’d always been a great fan of ‘bottom-of-the-parts-box’ builds as they represent a level of ingenuity and sheer pig-headedness in the quest to make what is ready to hand work.
The starting point came from the very first frame I made, a gravel bike that had been retired after a hard crash. The top tube needed replacing but seeing the chance to tweak the geometry I decided to replace the downtube as well. The idea was to pay homage to aggressive cross bikes with their high BB’s and quick handling and see how this would cope with the mixed terrain of the route. Possibly I took this too far with just one set of water bottle mounts but I certainly didn’t dry out on race day! The tubes for the front triangle were ones I had in the workshop. Similarly, the paint was a mixture of colours from previous jobs, the teal being a mix of blue with silver and the pink a mix of hot candy and an orange/purple flip. As luck would have it Dan Cole from Cole Coatings rocked up to the workshop the day I was painting and laid the paint for me, such a rad guy!
The meat of the build came from my parts box. 10-speed SRAM Apex and Rival shifters were renovated, gutting the innards of the left shifter to bring the right back to life after the paddle broke off (mega hack bonus points). I married this to a GX mountain derailleur and cut down an 11-speed cassette to make it 10-speed. SRAM provided the cranks to get the right gearing while Halo provided the awesome carbon Vapour 29er wheels.
The bike rode like a dream climbing beautifully and coping excellently with the varied terrain. It was on the gravel that it really shone and begged to be dragged fast on the descents. The WTB Nano 40c lived up to their impressive reputation, handling everything except the stickiest of mud. It was hard not to want to ride this bike further and further and it broke my heart when I hit the finish line. Plans for next year are already underway!
The BokehTi shares the geo of our hugely successful Alu Bokeh, described by Guy Kesteven at BikeRadar as “…possibly the most holistically perfect complete bike I’ve ever ridden…” and winning the ‘All Roaders’ group test with a 5 Star review. Like the Alu Bokeh, it uses an almost entire custom tube set with our own bends and crimps and our own tooling for the ‘Dform’ down tube.
The BokehTi website section is still under construction and will be up very shortly [we can only make 5 per month and demand is outstripping production already!]
Both frames use custom tubessets from Dedacciai, the BokehTi also uses specially shaped and bent chain stays and super advanced 3D printed Ti dropouts from UK tubing supplier Reynolds. We are the first in the world to use these for ‘production’ bikes and have helped Reynolds develop and perfect the dropouts over 2 years and 5 versions! They are flat-mount/thru-axle and have a complicated internal structure to cope with riding and braking forces + internal routing for electronic shifting [some pics attached].
The Bokeh bikes are designed with more off-road use in mind, I call our Definition and Resolution bikes ‘Multi-Surface’, the Bokeh and BokehTi are ‘Multi-Terrain’. So, they are designed with riding on much more broken surfaces and trails with larger rocks etc, rather than just ‘gravel’. The mud-clearance is also huge on the fork and we don’t use a bridge for the chainstays so clogging won’t be an issue.
The BokehTi has taken over 2 years to design, develop, test and bring to production. It’s been the most challenging design project in the entire 18yrs of bike design career! We have worked Josh Ibbett, who won the TCR 2015 on our Definition Ultegra/Hydro bike to develop what we call an ‘AdventureSport’ bike with Continent Crushing, fast, long distance abilities. It is welded in very small batches [5 at a time] by a highly skilled and experienced welder in the Italian Tuscany region.
We have now made 15 BokehTi frames, most have been built into bikes [some varied examples attached] and we hope to complete the first 20 before the Italians take their summer break in August! We already have almost 30 names on the waiting list for the next batches when they return to work early in Sept.
Price for frame, Mason Parallax fork, Deda headset, both Mason F-Stop thru-axles, Mason Penta carbon post, Mason seatclamp, all bolts and fittings including Mason MultiPort inserts is £3,250. The frame is bead-blasted, this is very tough and also ‘de-stresses’ the skin after welding, we call it a ‘Structural Surface Finish’. The logo’s are hi-polished with discreet decals designed specially for Ti. Fork Parallax fork is designed and tolled for by us and is UD carbon with clear lacquer and exclusive metallic copper Mason decals. A full Ultegra/Hydro or Force 1x bike would be around £4950. Weight of a recent 60cm Force 1x build with carbon 700c’s was 8.47kg.