OWEN BYRNE

DONARD BESPOKE BIKES IS A REL­A­TIVELY NEW AD­DI­TION TO THE NORTH­ERN IRE­LAND SCENE, BUT THEY HAVE A USP – THEY SPECIALISE IN CUS­TOM-MADE CAR­BON BIKES AS WELL AS STEEL

Urban Cyclist - - Agenda - In­ter­view: James Witts Im­ages: Head­set Press (Bike Shots)

THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO MAKE CAR­BON-FI­BRE BIKES.

One is the mass-man­u­fac­tur­ing method, which is to place the car­bon in a com­plex mould, in maybe two or three pieces, and then glue the pieces to­gether to make the bike frame. But small-scale builders like me do what is called tube-to-tube build­ing. You’ve got a set of in­di­vid­ual tubes (in this case made of car­bon fi­bre) that are bonded us­ing aero­space ad­he­sives, and then the joints are re­in­forced with ad­di­tional car­bon fi­bre and the whole frame goes into a cur­ing oven.

CUT­TING AND FIT­TING THE TUBES

into the frame jig is kind of sim­i­lar to how steel bikes are made. But be­fore that, I make all the in­di­vid­ual tubes. The whole bespoke method al­lows me to cus­tomise the ge­om­e­try of the frame, as well as prop­er­ties such as the stiff­ness and strength of the tubes, so I can change the per­for­mance of the bike to suit a par­tic­u­lar rider or ap­pli­ca­tion.

BOTH PHYSICS AND MATHS GOES INTO THE WORK OF ART,

which is good as I have a PhD in physics that fo­cused on high-tem­per­a­ture su­per­con­duc­tors. I stud­ied the way elec­tri­cal cur­rent flows in the ma­te­rial and how it dis­trib­utes around de­fects, us­ing op­ti­cal mi­croscopy and mag­neto-op­tics. But most re­cently I was test­ing tele­vi­sions for com­pli­ance with in­ter­na­tional broad­cast­ing stan­dards.

I COM­MONLY USE MIT­SUBISHI CAR­BON

and Reynolds steel. Typ­i­cally car­bon is smoother whereas steel feels “springier” on the road – that’s down to the rate at which the ma­te­ri­als re­spond to vi­bra­tions. That can be tuned on a car­bon frame by adding other ma­te­ri­als into the lay-up.

CAR­BON BIKES ARE HARDER TO CRE­ATE

be­cause there are vastly more vari­ables – ma­te­rial se­lec­tion, fi­bre ori­en­ta­tion, resin cure cy­cles, tool­ing… Car­bon splin­ters are al­ways fun, too!

STEEL AND CAR­BON BIKES

tend to lend them­selves to a par­tic­u­lar genre of bike when they’re off-the-peg. That said, I’ve never made a car­bon tourer – but I’d be in­ter­ested to as there’s plenty of scope to al­low ex­tra ro­bust­ness to be added in and still be lighter than a steel equiv­a­lent. On the other hand, there are plenty of peo­ple rac­ing on very nice steel bikes.

I TRAINED AT DOWN­LAND CY­CLES

and then got stuck in. I spent two years re­search­ing ma­te­ri­als and pro­cesses, mak­ing tubes and test joints be­fore ‘go­ing live’. Half of the car­bon frames have been cut up for in­spec­tion or tested to de­struc­tion.

THE FIRST CAR­BON FRAME

that made it onto the road was mon­strously over­built – it’s now cut up and the parts are still un­der a work­bench some­where. The first steel frame was a Reynolds 853 fil­let-brazed road bike built down at Down­lands.

LAST YEAR I BUILT A BIKE FOR A LO­CAL EVENT

called ‘ Lap the Lough’. It’s a leisure bike event that cir­cum­nav­i­gates Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the Bri­tish Isles, and the or­gan­is­ers and some other peo­ple in­volved came up with this idea of build­ing a spe­cial bike for the event.

I LIVE ON THE SHORES OF STRANGFORD LOUGH

in North­ern Ire­land. There are some good routes to cover be­cause I’m a roadie at heart, but I’ve also done a fair bit of cross-coun­try and moun­tain bik­ing in the past.

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