Since hearing that a very different kind of framebuilder had set up shop just down the road from where I grew up, it was perhaps inevitable that Donard Bikes' Owen Byrne and I would end up working together at some point. As it turned out, that point arrived sooner rather than later, when last year we both found ourselves working independently towards the annual Lap The Lough event. I was on kit design duties, while Owen had planned to debut his handmade carbon bikes with a frame designed for, and ridden at, the event. A casual comment on Twitter led to us bringing both jobs together and creating the Lap 11 Bike.
Sketch to jig to final frame for the Lap11 Bike.
Following this project, I've had the pleasure of working with Owen again to define the stock paint options for Donard, alongside the schemes for his first show bikes. These happily went on to win the Best New Framebuilder and road.cc Choice awards at this year's Bespoked.
One of the award-winning Donard bikes at Bespoked 2017
With this great progress in his first year of business, the time came for Owen to update his branding to reflect his process and level of workmanship. Donard's carbon bikes are uniquely handmade in-house from start to finish, from custom layup and tubeset, to final construction and painting.
Custom carbon tubing at Donard Bikes.
Having already had some ideas on how this could be achieved while working on the paint schemes, Owen and I struck a deal. I'd develop the Donard identity and in return he'd build me a bike. This would deviate from Donard's trademark carbon, since I like a nice steel frame as much as I like a bit of bartering, but Owen's traditional framebuilding is just as nice as his more innovative offerings.
The final branding and tube decals for Donard.
Excited about the opportunity to have a frame custom built to my specification, my mind was immediately reeling with the possibilities. Having just hacked together a super low-geared, big-tyred, 1x set-up on my cross frame for the Dirty Reiver gravel event, I'd started to love the simplicity and fun this type of bike and riding brought. So the ideas coalesced into something with all this baked in, with flexibility beyond. Fast enough to throw round cross courses from September to December, but comfortable and adaptable enough for long off-road rides, overnighters and aimless fun the other three quarters of the year.
A visit to Donard to size up me and my current cross bike.
Once I'd put together my shortlist of other details and features, Owen went about defining the geometry and materials, while I got the markers out and set about my end of things. More of that in part II.
Initial work at Victory Chimp HQ vs. Donard HQ