006 – Ale’s Gravel


Metronomy are one of my favourite bands and Small World is a fantastic album but this special edition is amazing and I think it really shows the value of letting other people into your creative process. They can often help to elevate your work and drive new ideas.

The Brief

  • Gravel Frame
  • Design for Lauf Gravel forks
  • Design for Ale’s geometry specifications
  • Ultra Endurance race focus
  • Experiment and explore new production process
  • Complete the build with time for Ale to race on it over the summer

The Design

To begin, Ale and I simply started chatting about frames and riding styles. Exchanging stories and opinions about riding. Ale does some insane events and rides seriously hard, he also has a great focus on the nuances of gravel frame designs. I obsess over all the little details and can give a great perspective from a casual rider’s perspective, but having Ale’s input was invaluable as he could give me fantastic new insight into what a rider wants when they are extracting every last bit of energy during a race.

There was initially no plan to do a build for Ale, we were simply enjoying chatting. But after some time he decided to go for it and have me build him a frame. I knew Ale had some specific requirements so we began by poring over the geometry of frames he has ridden and what he would improve on them. We settled on some fairly extreme geometry but I think it will give a really spritely handling style and allow him to ride super hard in his races. The main part is that the chainstay length with the Rocker dropouts at full adjustment will be approaching 410mm! The front centre is under 600mm and the trail is around 70mm. All of this while accounting for the Lauf forks and keeping the fit sensible for Ale.

With the geometry settled we got stuck into the aesthetic and functional details of the frame. There was a fair amount of feature creep here which is fine because I encouraged it as I enjoyed Ale allowing me to use this frame as a learning experience. To this end I managed to incorporate an entirely new rear end design, downtube storage box and integrated cable routing. None of this was easy to build but the final product was totally worth it.

The Build

To start and keep things easy I made the downtube and toptube. I ended up redoing the toptube as Ale thought the visible weave of carbon kevlar looked pretty eye-catching, so I switched the layup around for that. This makes for a good time to address the use of kevlar/aramid in this frame. It’s a hybrid twill weave cloth that I got hold of and although it’s a nightmare to trim I wanted to use it on this build and I feel it will add strength and longevity to a frame that is going to be put through its paces in a rough life. There are drawbacks to it but I felt that this hybrid weave would provide a good balance.

Onto the more complex sections; the chainstays were some of the first parts I decided to tackle and I tried a few new techniques here as I wanted to see if I could produce unique tube shapes without having to produce moulds, bladders and all the associated tooling. To achieve this I began with water soluble 3D print filament. I printed the internal shape of the tube and built the laminate on top of it and then used vacuum infusion. Everything seemed good however once I dissolved the core out it was clear that the part was barely saturated and the resin had just been skating along the top few layers of carbon. Infusion in this setup is notoriously hard, I can list all the problems here but that will go on for far too long! After some experimenting and tweaking I got it to a workable point but decided to keep it simple and just do a wet layup over the core and vacuum bag it.

To continue the theme of producing one off designs I tried using foam to create the seattube. Foam was wonderfully easy to shape and dissolved out very painlessly but maintaining any level of dimensional accuracy with my limited equipment wasn’t happening. All good learning experiences to take forward but I was certainly starting to feel fatigued with failed parts at this point. My final idea was to use wax to create the core. I printed a mould to pour the wax into and produced a pretty workable core, wax smooths out very nicely and can have material added easily which is more than can be said for foam or 3D printed material. The wax seattube core came out well and produced a far more accurate part.

The next challenge was the downtube storage box. This is something I have wanted to put into every frame I have ever made but it has just been beyond me. However this time with Ale’s encouragement and a bit of determination we managed to make it happen. I have perhaps over-built it but it’s pretty basic knowledge that cutting a big hole in a tube is never good for its mechanical properties. The method I went with was to produce the box as a separate item that I then bonded into the tube before bonding it to the headtube. The strength of the tube with the opening in it and then with the box bonded in was just what I had intended for in my designs.

Another thing Ale wanted was full internal routing. He wanted to use a Yoeleo handlebar so I got as many drawings of it as I could and started work. The first consideration for this type of internal routing is that it’s designed around using a 1.5” upper bearing. I actually prefer how this looks in comparison to the tapered headtubes on my previous frames. Sadly the Lauf fork doesn’t support internal cable routing but in time perhaps I can make some modifications to Ale’s fork so he can tuck that final cable away. In addition to the upper bearing I made the compression ring and dustcover/spacer arrangement to match my frame design to the underside of the Yoeleo bars.

The Paint

Ale requested a bare carbon look but with a few extra bits on it. As mentioned previously we have the exposed carbon/kevlar weave on the toptube and we went with a single diagonal stripe flowing down into the chainstays. This was done in a deep candy red over a crystal effect. It’s all pretty subtle and has ended up as a colour that can’t quite decide whether it’s red or pink! I really enjoy how it turned out and I hope Ale feels the same.

The bare carbon terrified me as I worked towards the paint stage as knowing that paint can be used to hide some of the inconsistencies in your work can be relaxing. Though with bare carbon my work will be completely on display for anyone to analyse and potentially criticise. But it’s good to have done it and realised that actually my work does look pretty good and it’s very easy to focus too hard on small things that most people don’t see.

The Assembly

I must give credit to Ale. I shipped him the frame with very little time before his race but he managed to assemble the frame with the help of a bike shop local to his office in Paris. We got so bogged down in all of the minutiae of the frame design that I neglected to double to check his bar and stem length. He has ordered a stem that is too long but It will have to do as he has to get to his race! This explains why his saddle is slammed forwards but bars can always be changed. With the bike assembled he managed a few test rides and an awesome photoshoot with his friend and ciclismo.it photographer Lorenzo.

Photo credit: Lorenzo Scarpellini – @lorenzoscarpellini_ph


This build genuinely exhausted me. Ale is a tough client who regularly pushed me for progress updates and wanted to be really involved with the process. Which is a fantastic thing as it really encouraged me to push my limits and try new things. However for someone who is not overly sociable and not great at being told what to do this was challenging! But it’s great to learn how to work with a customer and get the result that they want, as that’s what they’re paying me to do!

Ale has ridden this frame on the 20k Ultra Trail which involves over 20000 m of climbing and 1000 km of distance! He achieved 8th place and was the youngest ever finisher of the race! He has also done a write up for ciclismo.it which I would encourage you to read as Ale really had a battle to succeed in this race. It’s in Italian but the emotion of it still translates incredibly.

I truly feel that this build has been a great step towards building Sideways into what I want it to be and I can’t wait for future builds and future stories, rides and adventures to be written on bikes that I have crafted.

2 thoughts on “006 – Ale’s Gravel”

  1. Very nice and inspiring!
    Did you have any problems with destroying the printed cores in the vacuum bag? What infill did you use? 🙂

    1. Hey Stanislaw!The printed cores took some refinement. Initially they would collapse because they didn’t have enough infill. Then I had problems with them absorbing a small bit of moisture from the environment and becoming soft. I finally found the right balance though. For removing them I found that patience was the best solution. It sometimes took a few days of soaking to dissolve them.

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