Custom Gravel Bike by Martin

Custom Gravel Bike by Martin

Design: Custom Gravel Kit
Build: Custom Gravel Kit, Workshop
Location: Sussex, UK

What made you decide to build a bamboo bike?

My current bike is slightly too bog for me and I wanted something more custom. I also thought building my own frame would be cool and teach me some techniques that I would otherwise not learn. Also in this crazy time I thought it would make a great vacation.

Did you enjoy building the bicycle from scratch and would you recommend the experience?

100%. Apart from the strain of being on my feet all day I loved the workshop. At times it felt that time was tight, but I am happy with the outcome. I was able to tweak the frame size and have a couple of attempts at getting the wheel fit right which showed how flexible James is in his approach. I would highly recommend the workshop. James is very perceptive at managing each builders stress points. He seemed to know when to let us do things and when to step in. The banter and general atmosphere really helped and seeing others go through the process helped and also meant that we could help out each other. The other thing I would like to say is that James has honed the process over many years and it shows. Each step was well explained and easy to follow. I particularly liked that in many of the steps the margin for error was quite high and so made me relax that I would come away with a working bike. Which I did.

What did you find most difficult about your bike build?

The wrapping of the logs was the most difficult. This was done on a jig from one side of the bike and it was all too easy to finesse the side you could see and ignore the other side. Once we had reduced the amount of epoxy we mixed to around 50ml of the epoxy and 25 of the hardener, I was much happier with the whole process and we wasted virtually no epoxy. I am not much of a finisher so the third day which involved sanding and smoothing the lugs was quite stressful as the mistakes from the day before were very obvious. As it turned out none of these mistakes has affected the end products function. The cabling was a real faff. but that would have been the case whatever the frame.

What was the easiest part of the build?

I really enjoyed selecting the bamboo. I wanted a frame that looks like the raw bamboo and there were so many options for each tube. I never knew there was so much variety in the the bamboo. I also enjoyed the cutting of the tubes to fit the Jig. Seeing the frame come together on the jig was really satisfying. One thing I did that really helped was to take measurements of my current bike. This meant that I could change the size on the jig before I started making me more confident in the sizing.

How would you describe the ride of your finished bike?

It fits me. That is the most noticeable thing. It rides well and although a little heavier than I imagined I don't notice that when riding it.

What would you improve about the build experience or your finished bike?

The main issue turned out to be the lack of components for the finished bike. In the end James and I cobbled together a set of parts that allowed me to have a rideable bike. I had hoped to put on a one-by drive system, but I could not get hold of one so I have ended up with a 3-by which is fiddly to set up and I have to commend James for his help in getting it to work. I had a great time and being able to ride away following James to Stratford station, proved that I was capable of building my own bike. If you are wondering if this is for you - I would strongly recommend it.