003 – Bespoked Gravel Build

The Brief

  • Version 2 of frame 002, but with mild tweaks and improvements
  • Design to fit new SRAM Components
  • Design for suspension forks
  • Improve my paint finish
  • Internal routing for the single hydraulic hose


To quickly preface this build, I received the SRAM X Bespoked Inclusivity Scholarship so I am being provided with some new XPLR components to outfit the build with and being helped to get to the Bespoked show and display my work. I have been planning this build for a while but I wanted to refine a lot of my processes to ensure I displayed my best work at the show. Due to this and some awkwardly placed holidays this build is a pretty time constrained process so it involved a lot of late nights and early mornings! I wasn’t great at taking pictures throughout the process so this will be more word heavy. I hope you enjoy the write up.

The Material

More people than I expected were interested in the material. So to explain all that I thought I would make a section for it. Most of the material for this frame was given to me by my old job at a boat builder. They are a great company and I had a wonderful time working there and learnt a lot from people who have been working around composites for 30+ years. The boat building process isn’t inherently wasteful however the sheer size of the stuff they build means that what to them would be considered small offcuts are quite sizable to me.

A lot of the boats use biaxial glass but often have strips of unidirectional carbon. Some of the higher end and larger boats use biaxial carbon for the entire hull and twill carbon for the bulkheads. They have a foil making section as well which uses a lot of unidirectional carbon and was a great place to learn about how staggering a layup in combination with geometrical design can create a part that has gradual change in stiffness and massive resistance to bending and fracture under load. For people who know their carbon a lot of the carbon used is standard modulus but some parts use intermediate modulus. For this reason I have a small roll of high modulus which I purchased to use for some of the tubes to create stiffer areas.

The Build

I began by reviewing what was good and bad with my first run of this frame; 002. The first thing was to check my drawings and calculate how the extra axle to crown length of the forks would affect handling. From riding 002 I felt that it had too much weight forwards and I wanted to raise the front and slacken the steering slightly, so the forks would actually help this looking at the calculations. I tweaked the headtube angle by 0.5° just to ensure the change wouldn’t be too drastic but otherwise left the geometry unchanged as I think an apples to apples comparison will be fun between the two bikes.

While painting 002 I made a new toptube and downtube for 003 as I had a wedding/holiday booked and wanted to get ahead before that bled into my time to build this frame. After getting back from the holiday I had a proper look at the tubes I had made and decided they were unsuitable for the build as I had a large bulge where the tape lost tension while wrapping. This set me back by nearly a week as I spent a day or two coming to this conclusion then another 4 days redoing the tubes. Once these were done I cracked on with the other tubes and managed to produce the entire tubeset in 8 days! An enormous improvement in comparison to previous times, having the moulds working and my processes in place helped a lot.

I set up the jig, mitred, and tacked all the tubes together. I used quicker setting adhesive this time which was good for a quick turnaround as it meant I could fillet the tubes later that evening. Although it did make the process of assembling them a bit more frantic as the smallest hiccup meant the adhesive could get ahead of me and I had to mix a new batch. I probably won’t use this stuff again for this process. I like to be able to take my time on such a crucial step.

Frame Jig and bonding

I laid an excessive amount of “forbidden ice cream” on the joints as I knew the crux of the timings was going to primarily be a cure time issue and having to add more and wait for cure would set me back even further. This meant a lot more sanding and physical labour however 2 extra hours of sanding vs 6-8 hours of curing a second layer is simple maths. I tucked the seatstays together at the settube junction a lot more on this frame as I felt 002 had far too much visual weight and bulk so this made for some easier shaping.

Dropout Receiver and stays

I chose to incorporate internal routing into this frame as I have never tried it before as I personally think it isn’t worth the trouble. Though for a show build with eTap it only requires a single hydraulic hose so I thought I would give it a try. I had hoped to design some ports with removable covers that could be changed for different arrangements but I chose to just make a hole for the sake of time saving. I put a 6mm ID tube inside the frame which starts at the headtube and exits and the NDS chainstay. I left an old brake outer inside the whole time to prevent any crushing though I ended up with a small kink under the BB which you can feel when routing as it becomes ever so slightly tight. Lessons learned; bigger ID tube or be extra careful with kinks.

With all that I was able to do my layup. I had timed and recorded everything I did on the previous frame and I knew it was a tight 4 hours from resin mix to ready to bag although previously it was a much warmer day so I would have a bit longer before I started to get gelation problems. To help with timings I pre cut a lot of my peel ply as I had a clearer idea of what was needed. I also stuck release film to my breather with spray adhesive to allow for fewer processes. I tweaked an enormous amount of the layup this time, too much to summarise here, but primarily I reduced the layers around the seattube and reduced the length of a lot of the pieces. I also added some woven layers at sections that I felt needed some more support, particularly where I had created holes for the cable routing.

The Paint

I can’t remember the timings exactly but I think I bagged the frame with about 5 days before the deadline I had set myself so that left a very small window for getting the frame sanded and painted! As with the filleting I had to go pretty heavy on any fillers as cure times were yet again going to make things tough. This left a lot of sanding and little room for mistakes though it did mean the whole process took around a day and a half vs the weeks it can end up taking. I am slightly disappointed that I couldn’t do more rounds of finishing as there were pinholes and slight undulations to a lot of the surface. 

For the actual paint scheme I know that my artistic abilities are not my strong suit so I asked a colour scheme generator to generate a few schemes from the “Kwiqsand” colour of the forks as this colour was already set. I then put a small poll out on my Instagram story and let the people decide. 

The tomato greenhouse pulling its weight as a spray booth again

I wouldn’t say it is my favourite colour scheme and when sat next to 002 I think I prefer the pink and purple that it is rocking. From the show and social media I would say the scheme is definitely a marmite thing as some people just cannot bear it but others loved it. Good to have something eye-catching nonetheless.

The Assembly

Nic and Jimmi

A quick word about the assembly is necessary as I got Nic at Backyard Bike Shop in Newcastle to assemble the build for multiple reasons. Primarily I knew that these components are brand new with all the latest bells and whistles which is not something I have worked with before, so having an experienced eye and all the potential special tools that these things sometimes require. I also thought after having worked for a solid 9 months on my framebuilding I thought it might be nice to sit back and watch someone else do the work, especially with the coffee shop attached it was very pleasant to sit back and relax.

It was great to chat to Nic and the various people who came in about what they want in a high spec build and whether some of my build choices could be tweaked or improved. The internal routing got a thumbs up from everyone as we can all appreciate the frustration of finding a cable dangling around inside a frame! 

On top of all this I was honoured to have Jimmi Nicholls come and film the build for his YouTube channel! He produced an amazing video with some incredible shots of the process and the finished build. Check it out below.

The Ride

I don’t have a car so I had managed to arrange a lift in with all my boxes of parts. This meant I could ride home with the finished build and get straight into testing the frame. First impressions as I rode along the NCN 72 along the river is that the new to me wheel and tyre combination really make a difference. These are set up tubeless so they can go to far lower pressures than all my other tubed setups. With the forks in bouncy mode they really let you keep your head up and not focus on dealing with every small bump as they have it sorted. eTap is wildly smooth and almost feels like a CVT!

The frame feels really planted and it was nice to just set into a tempo on the clearer sections of path and let the bike glide. As I encountered more fiddly sections of the route the frame maintained that planted feeling yet still gave the spritely nature that makes you want to attack the turns and have a good time. I enjoy the front end tweaks I made and in conjunction with the forks it makes for a very comfortable ride. I feel I am beginning to get an understanding of geometry and what changes will create what result.


Super quick build. Perhaps too quick but I have learnt more about organising my time and making sure to schedule cure times to try and get things curing consecutively. Finishing still needs a lot of work but with quicker, more reliable layups and bonding that will allow me more time to get the finishes perfect. The frame rides really well and the extra material I placed in crucial places has helped to reduce the harshness from the rear while increasing some of the pedalling stiffness and handling confidence.

This build won the Best Off Road award at Bespoked 2022! The awards were judged by various journalists and industry professionals so it was amazing to have Katherine Moore judge my build to be worthy of even a mention let alone an award! She said she was impressed with the use of waste material and was happy to hear about my processes! The trophies are custom engraved Dynaplug pills on reused mahogany stands which were produced by a Men’s Shed (a wonderful idea that you should definitely check out: https://menssheds.org.uk/) We all got a good laugh about how they look which I feel added to the joy of receiving one!

I hope you have enjoyed following along and reading more of my waffle. Keep checking back for more builds!

Cable routing at the headtube
Tighter Seatstays
Rear Cable routing
Le Crab

Photo Credits

All of the studio photos (anything that looks good) were taken by Adam Gasson who put in a monster shift at Bespoked 2022 taking photos of every single build at the show!

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