There’s a feeling of apprehension when you take on any new project, from a car repair to a jigsaw puzzle. That apprehension always finds a way to compound into a brief but deep uncertainty once you loosen that first bolt, or dump the puzzle pieces on the table. This is how I felt taking on this custom Donkelope bike build. Each step in the process required functional and aesthetic deliberation, and multiple re-thinks, and the initial dive into the project was exciting and terrifying. It took 12 hours to complete this build; 14 hours if you count the wheelset build.
This was an interesting re-purpose for this bicycle. It was initially hung, incomplete, on a wall by the owner, and never ridden. The frame was designed to be used with 25c tires on the road, and not to be used for light touring. This is very evident as clearances in the frame are rather tight near the bottom bracket and the rear brake bridge. However, touring became the end goal for the bike (clearances be damned), so a new fork with ample clearance was brazed, the frame and fork were sent off to paint. With those simple revisions, this bike was ready to be built; it was just going to need a little bit of work to get there.
The hardest aspect to build around wasn’t the front end of the bike, surprisingly. Focusing on small details helped the overall build maintain a clean look, instead of turning it into a frankenbike of plastic and metal. I ended up using wine corks to pad the fender where it met the rack, and I re-purposed a Shimano CX70 cantilever brake spacer to help create a mount for the Supernova E3 Pro headlight. I wanted to keep the aesthetic of the bike at the forefront, so I avoided using zip-ties and instead used copper battery terminal clips to help secure and route the electrical wires from the Schmidt SON dynamo hub.
The rear rack system of any custom bike should simply “go together”. It didn’t. It wouldn’t. I own a Dremel, though, so eventually, it did. Because this frame was originally for road riding, it can’t boast about how much room for tires there are. This made mounting the fender around the rear brake bridge on the frame incredibly difficult . I had to take the hammered fender and carefully cut it, taking care to create a smooth transition from one piece to another.
After making necessary adjustments to the fender itself, I had to have access to install the rear brake, which required another customization in the form of a brake mounting bracket. For easy adjustments for the rider, I made a bracket that had an additional hole drilled to fit a 5mm hex to tighten the rear brake.
After making the brake-fender combination work, there was another snag. The rack had only the foot mounts that would attach directly to the frame, the upper stays on the frame versus the rack were incompatible. To work around this, I simply drilled a hole through the rear fender and just like the front, secured the rack and fender together with the use of another wine cork. To finish off the electrical for the rear Supernova TL-2 taillight, I simply used more copper terminal connectors to secure the wire.
The last custom touches I added were the matching leather tape and saddle. A piece of leftover tape was used on the top tube as a nod to the owner’s past history with track racing.
- Donkelope Bikes Road Frame, 57cm, 1in. Steerer
- Donkelope Bikes Touring Fork
- Chris King Headset, 1in., Silver
- Soma Highway Handlebars, 44cm, Silver
- Thomson X2 Road Stem, 110mm, Silver
- Thomson Seatpost, 27.2mm, Silver
- Brooks B17 Saddle, Honey
- Origin8 Leather Bar Wrap, Honey
- Clement Strada LGG 700x25c Tires, 60tpi, Tan Sidewalls
- SRAM Force 22 Drivetrain, 50/34t Compact Crank, 11-32 Cassette
- SOMA Champ Élysées Front & Rear Rack
- Velo Orange Hammered Fenders, 35mm, Silver
- Tektro Long-Reach Front Brake/ Shimano Dura-Ace 7400 Short-Reach Rear Brake
The wheels were another piece to this puzzle. They were a straight-forward randonneuring wheel built with a traditional look on a modern-size rim.
- Schmidt SON Wide Dynamo Hub | Polished | 32H
- Indigenous Wheel Co. House Branded Hub | Hodala Logo’d | Silver | 32H
- H Plus Son TB14 Rims | 23mm Wide, 14.1mm Deep | Polished| 32H
- Sapim Race Spokes | 2.0-1.8mm | Silver
- Sapim Poly-Ax Brass Nipples | 14mm | Silver
- Fr. & Rr. \ 3-Cross
Congrats to Donkelope Bikes for creating and recreating a frame. To the owner, good luck on your adventures. To me… [pats self on back].