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Bespoked Bristol – Rapha Continental bikes and builders

Some of the most beautiful bikes displayed at Bespoked Bristol, the UK’s handmade bike show, have been those commissioned by clothing brand, Rapha, to launch their Continental series of ‘epic’ rides in the UK.

The clothing brand has paired six frame builders with six riders with a remit to document some of the nation’s lesser known routes, recording their riding experience in words, pictures and film for an online journal.

Visitors to the show at Brunel’s Old Station were greeted by a display of four of the frames commissioned by Rapha, which included work by Tom Donhou, Ricky Feather, Brian Rourke, and this year’s ‘best in show’ winner, Robin Mather.

RCUK caught up with Tom Donhou, and with Ricky Feather and the cyclist who will ride his machine for the project, journalist Max Leonard.

Donhou has built a machine of Reynolds 853 to be ridden by Sam Humpheson, one of the trio behind London cyclists’ café, Look Mum No Hands, who had been engaged by Rapha to build the wheels for each of the six commissioned machines.

Tom Donhou with his bike for Rapha's Continental project, to be ridden by Sam Humpheson

“It all came about when I had bikes in Look Mum No Hands last November,” Donhou told RCUK. “James from Rapha had emailed and when we got talking at the café it just made sense that I would build a bike for Sam.”

The Norwich frame builder, ‘best in show’ winner at the 2011 show, said he had built a ‘stiff-ish’ machine for Humpheson to accommodate both the rider’s preference and the type of terrain he will be riding.

Donhou’s is the only machine of the six to be equipped with disc brakes. “It’s a hot topic at the moment. We went for it because of the type of riding Sam will do: long days in the saddle over some rough back roads. The Continental concept is hard riding. It seemed right to sacrifice a bit of weight for reliable power. It’s ‘all seasons braking’. In my eyes, it’s the perfect brake set up. If it was a racing bike, it would be a different story,” he said.

Each of the bikes is finished in black with hubs and headsets from Chris King in the clothing brand’s signature pink . The componentry has been provided by SRAM, while the finishing kits are from 3T and Fizik. The wheels are built with Ambrosio rims and Sapim spokes.

Ricky Feather with Max Leonard and the bike Max will ride for the Rapha Continental project

The bike built by Feather for Leonard won the show’s ‘best road bike’ award. He used Columbus XCr tubing, lugged, and cut away at the head tube to display the stainless steel. The underside of the bottom bracket shell is cut with the symbol of the Laungedoc region of southern France where Leonard has ridden extensively.

Feather told RCUK corrosion-resistant stainless steel had been an obvious choice for the type of riding demanded by the Continental project. A delay in receiving the tubing left him working round the clock. “It’s probably the shortest time frame in which I’ve built a bike,” he said. “It took two, maybe two-and-a-half days.”

Leonard said he was glad to have been paired with Feather, whose modern twist on traditional craftsmanship he admires. He added that he was looking forward to riding the machine, whose frame he had unboxed just two days earlier at the Look Mum No Hands café.

Rapha’s display of specially-commissioned machines drew much admiration. Donhou and Feather, however, were agreed that their pursuit of perfection meant neither could be fully satisfied with his own creation. “It’s got to be spot on, perfect every time, otherwise it’s not my work,” said Feather.

Many thanks to show photographer, Kayti Peschke.

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