In this edition of Bikesof the Bunch, Mike Howes tells us about his custom steel road bike that was built by August Bicycles in the U.K.
By Mike Howes
I’d ridden aluminium and then carbon “off the peg” frames for years and generally been happy. But I reached a point where I felt these where not giving me the same warm feeling my old 70s steel fixie left me with when I rode that. My mind was made up after using a titanium bike on a cycling holiday, so when I got back, I started chatting with Gav (Gavin Buxton) at August Bicycles about what he could make for me.
Why August? I could have bought an equivalent Ti or a newer carbon bike, but the idea of having a bike that was totally unique and personal, as well as being built in the city I live by someone I knew, was far more attractive. Also, I wanted a bike to connect my heart with riding. Something tactile, compliant and characterful.
I was sure I wanted a steel frame with a classic look but with the modern features that would make it handle well and look unique. Gav suggested the tapered headtube and the super-thin wishbone seat stay. Also the Enve full carbon fork, the hidden rear brake and the internal brake cable. What was left was a solid, strong frame upfront with a clean, sleek frame trailing behind it. I love that.
Gav knows all about the details, so I’ll let him explain:
“Mike came to me with a pretty loose brief: he had his fit information which would dictate sizing; he wanted to use rim brakes; a maximum of 25c tyres; and told me that the bike would be used for 50-100 mile fast rides but the rest was up to me.
“We went with a mixture of Columbus Spirit and Life tubing with a tapered head tube (upper, 1.125inch; lower, 44mm) at a length that would mean no headset spacers. Then there was the wishbone seat stay with a direct mount rear brake for the chainstays that would leave the lines of that wishbone unobstructed for the world to see. We also kept the tyre clearance of the wishbone nice and tight: nothing looks faster than minimal clearances!
“The build was finished off with a pair of our proprietary CNC dropouts. The bike is fully fillet-brazed, with internal cable routing for the rear brake through the down tube and internal routing through the chain stay for the rear derailleur to help clear the brake. A 27.2mm seat post saves a little weight and by running a little more post than usual, allows a little flex to add some comfort to the ride.”
Paint was very much my bag as I work in design. I wanted something timeless and clean. I went for the vintage gold as a nod to my old 70s Gazelle, and the stripes are the colours from the band I was in once. All in all, it meant I had something very personal to me.
I collected the build kit to go on the bike as a way to occupy myself while the build took place. I knew I wanted Campag as I’d always ridden that. I didn’t have the cash for anything high end so went for the Athena alloy groupset and then added a second-hand carbon crankset to lift it to the required standard. Stem, bars, seatpost and saddle where basically what I had learnt worked for me over the years – nothing high spec but all in-keeping with the feel of the bike. And of course, it had to have August handbuilt wheels… I left that to Gav. All I asked for was light and black… with five coloured nipples mimicking the stripes on the frame.
Frame: August Bicycles custom steel
Fork: Enve Road Fork 2.0, tapered steerer
Headset: Chris King
Groupset: Campagnolo Athena
Wheels: August custom (Bitex hubs, ceramic rims, Sapim CX-Ray spokes and alloy nipples)
Tyres: Continental Gatorskin (winter), Vittoria Open Corsa gumwalls (summer)
Bar tape: Fabric
The result of all this was well worth waiting for. I’m so, so happy with the bike. It looks amazing and I constantly get people talking to me when I stop. The ride is just brilliant. Obviously it took me a while to dial in, but now it is just fantastic. Really sure-footed, direct, responsive and it just rolls so well. I think it even feels faster because I feel so happy when I look down at it.
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