“A light weight custom tourer. Fast road speed but with the ability to throw some bags on!”
Personally, this album evokes a relaxed summer afternoon feeling that makes you want to just groove with whatever is happening and let the flow take you. Hopefully the same sentiment will be drawn when riding The Space Cowboy!
- Road focus – Maintain lively handling while still being able to cover many miles
- Bags – Further discussion required but luggage capabilities are a must
- Full build – I will be responsible for speccing out an entire bike this time
- Custom touch – David lives locally and wants to celebrate a local builder
To begin with David got in touch via the website and we arranged a video call to discuss what he wanted from a custom build. He explained his desire to take the bike on long “credit card” tours with a specific trip in mind to christen the build; A ride to Copenhagen! We chatted for a few hours and covered a lot of the sentiment of the build and the requirements but as I was in the process of building 006 we continued our discussions over messages and short phone calls here and there. With this back and forth I felt I was really able to tap into what David wanted from this build.
To begin I explored David’s fit data and discussed how comfortable he felt on his current bike and whether a bike fit would be necessary. With many happy miles on his current bike and no problems or injuries we decided to base the fit off of that bike. I took the measurements and laid it out in CAD and began the geometry design of 007. The first design choice I made was the forks, I chose a set of Ritchey Gravel Forks, admittedly a little out of place on a road build but they had everything we wanted for this build: healthy tyre clearance and cargo bosses while still being relatively light.
I chose to create a trail of around 60mm which I hope will create an ever so slightly more relaxed handling frame than an all out race frame whilst providing a less fatiguing ride for longer days in the saddle. With weight on the front from bags the handling will slow down as well so this should all balance out to a happy medium. For the chainstay length I went with 420mm for very similar reasons. When compared to a fully loaded 26” touring bike this handling is still road bike handling but I didn’t want to stray too far from responsiveness as there’s no point in exploring far away lands if you can’t get on the drops and enjoy a good descent once you’re there!
The aesthetics of the build are primarily focussed around the idea of keeping it classic with all the modern touches. So the tubeset I used on 005 will be perfect for it. They have a side profile that looks like circular tubing whilst from the top they have a noticeable taper to increase stiffness down to the BB and give a bit of flex to the seatpost. I chose to go with dropped seatstays as well because this will aid in comfort and it just looks cool. For the headtube we are going with fully internal routing so a straight 56mm OD headtube will fit the larger bearing nicely and smoothly flow into both the fork and the headset.
To begin I laid up the top tube and downtube as I have the mandrels already prepped. These came out wonderfully and as I got them done first it allowed me to spend some time sanding them back and adding an extra layer of resin to flat out any of the remaining low/high spots from roll wrapping. I set the tube up on a rotisserie with a light coat of resin and this cures very level. I saw this in the fishing rod industry and this is how they varnish the rods and tying. Having a perfect cosmetic weave also allows for some fun paint features later in the build.
For this build I decided to go back to moulds and internal bladders as it is a process I have wanted to revisit for a while. So I drew up the designs for a headtube, bottom bracket, and seattube lug. With the dropped seatstays the length of an individual seattube would have been about 200mm so to reduce the number of joints I extended both the BB lug and the ST lug to meet each other and form the seattube. I began by 3D printing a set of plugs for the moulds and spent some time finishing them up to a nice shine. I used a slightly experimental process of making cast moulds using Easy Composites TC80 resin. This was a lengthy, expensive process but has provided me with some relatively solid moulds that can be reused and modified with ease. I have created videos of the process which you can see on my YouTube page for a more detailed look.
I chose to make the bladders from latex this time and I’m very satisfied with the process I have now and have since used it for various other parts with great success. It’s nice to be approaching a point where every process isn’t a battle! The lugs all came out perfect first try and required minimal finishing to get them ready to bond in the jig. The only slight hiccup was that I entered the wrong dimension for the BB to downtube junction so I had to manually build that up before bonding it in.
For the BB lug I designed it to have a 52mm hole where the BB Shell can be bonded in. This means if I wanted to use a T47 shell I could bond in instead of the PF30 carbon shell I went with for this build. Though I think a PF30 shell is perfectly suitable and saves around 30-40g versus a T47 shell. I also designed a recess where I planned to bond in an integrated front derailleur hanger but after a few tries of making the derailleur hanger I decided to patch over this section and go with a clamp on derailleur hanger as I wasn’t happy with any of the results I got. Not the end of the world and probably for the best as I think “braze on” FD hangers cause more problems than they’re worth on carbon frames.
The dropouts for this build are my first foray into designing the full system in house. Which is quite a task and something I have gladly transferred to Paragon by using their Rocker Dropout system. However in the goal of low weight they just weren’t going to cut it and this is something I have wanted to do for a long while. So to begin with I started with the very trendy UDH standard, which I think is a good system that is a step in the right direction for derailleur hangers as a whole. The discussion on it can become almost political so I won’t get bogged down with that! The biggest challenge was designing the non-driveside and the brake mount as there are a lot of tight clearances to be aware of and the standards between brake manufacturers are not consistent. I made a mistake on my initial design which people managed to catch when I made a video on the dropout design. So thanks for catching it before it was too late Daniel and Peter! I encourage you to watch the video for an in depth view of the dropout design.
To produce the dropouts I used the TC80 product again and this is where it comes into its own. Small detail and intricate sections are great for this product and the resultant compression moulded parts came out strong and clean. There’s still some refinement needed for the process but producing compression moulded parts is getting slicker every time.
To assemble the frame I set the jig up and test fitted everything. I then took a picture from as far away as possible and overlaid it in the CAD to double check everything. With everything in a happy spot I mixed the adhesive and bonded the frame. Once it was bonded I wrapped the bond section in some uni to reinforce the joints and prevent the lugs peeling out the tubes. This is something I could design into the tubes in the initial layup but this process doesn’t take much labour so it’s not a major issue.
Once everything was cured and post cured I began to do some finishing sanding and prepping for paint.
I discussed many different paint ideas with David and we had a great time sharing inspirations. For the majority of the build we were planning to go with a red frame with yellow brand something akin to the Cannondale Saeco team bikes but after drawing up a few designs and discussing further we decided to go off piste and try for an orange design. Other inspirations were the Ridley Helium 2015 design with the block white section on the downtube. I enjoyed getting the felt tips out and playing with design on paper as it’s a great way to have something tangible as sometimes the computer screen doesn’t quite have the same feel to it.
The main twist I added was to have all the logos and text be bare carbon. So to begin with I laid down a coat of clear and then applied the vinyl masks for the text and logos. This is where David and I had discussed in detail his music interests. I asked on our very first phone call if he liked music and he instantly had a lot to say. He showed me his drum kit in the corner of the room and spoke about his all time favourite musicians like Kate Bush and Fleetwood Mac. We had agreed early on that the bike needed a name so we had been keeping an eye out for something fitting and David spotted a copy of Jamiroquai’s “A Funk Odyssey” in my workshop. Hence the name “The Space Cowboy” was christened. Back to the point, the logos and text were applied including the name of the build along the toptube and the opening lines to Kate Bush’s “Running up that hill” were nestled into the chainstays. I like little touches like this as they are unlikely to be seen by many but the few who do spot them will appreciate it and the rider will always know it’s there. I did make a slight mistake when I got the vinyls cut for the lyrics as I put “do you wanna KNOW how it feels” where it should have been “do you wanna FEEL how it feels” but I noticed it early enough in the paint process to be able to fix it!
I put the white on next and then masked it all off ready for the orange. The orange I ordered was listed as “Metallic Mandarin” and the sample images they had looked very orange but as the paint dried it turned more brown and I was very disheartened. However, I continued on and got the clear coat layers on and the colour really started to pop. The metallic shimmer in this colour is certainly present and I think it creates a really unique look. I am using paint from Specialist Paints as I saw their booth at Bespoked and I have been very impressed with the quality and consistency of the product. They provide a good range of cans which is the most valuable thing for me as a full setup with a compressor and airbrush is not something I have access to at the moment. But these paints are certainly a step in the right direction.
The Space Cowboy is the first build I have done where the customer requested a full build. This is great as it allows me to closely control every component that goes on the build and ensure that everything comes together as a whole system. However, doing it for the first time certainly adds some stress. To begin with I had to get distributor accounts for the various components needed which took a while and a few phone calls. It is totally worth it though as now I have access to well priced, reliably stocked inventory of all the major parts brands even down to the nitty gritty of small parts like cable grommets, spacers, and clamps. For the groupset we chose to go with Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8000 series as in both our opinions this is the best choice for a 2X road setup. This is the first time I have had hands on with the new lever shape and for a quick review I think they are great and would happily have them on a build of my own. Though they have a long reach which needs to be accounted for if someone is looking for a millimetre perfect fit.
With the groupset sorted we discussed wheels. We had agreed on an initial budget and the wheels were going to tip us over the edge but after some discussion we decided to not skimp on wheels as that would be a waste after all the work that has gone into the rest of the build. The solution was to add a little more to the budget and to find some wheels that were a little cheaper. We ended up going with a set of 50mm deep Hunt wheels. I have no personal experience with Hunt wheels but I have heard good things and the fact that they have a genuine UK office and provided consistent warranty, spares, and support through it was the main thing for me. The aerodynamic claims are verified and the price was exceptional, particularly with the deal they had on.
For the finishing kit we decided to go with a full RItchey setup. I compiled a list for David to look through and mull over. The main surprise was the price jump between alloy and carbon for a lot of it. For a carbon seatpost and handlebar we could have lost around 150g while spending nearly 3 times as much on each item! So I suggested we go with alloy seatpost and bars which I think is a smart decision.
A quick review of the Ritchey parts:
Headset – Ritchey Switch System – By far this is my favourite implementation of the current integrated cabling options. The stem doesn’t look too bulky and can be switched out without disconnecting brake lines. However I can’t fathom why Ritchey doesn’t provide a fork with integrated cabling as an option!
Seatpost – Ritchey WCS Link – It’s a nice piece but the tapered cut at the end just gets in the way of mounting a Di2 Battery and the clamp is a little convoluted. Though the clamp design allows for the narrow section at the top which I do enjoy.
Bars – Ritchey WCS Streem – These are a lovely set of bars and they have a good shape all round. The drop is fairly deep which is something I should have factored in but I think David will get along with them well. The cable routing holes are very fiddly to access but they create a clean look for the finished build.
All in all the Ritchey finishing kit is really nice and having a cohesive set to adorn The Space Cowboy really ties everything together. In the picture I have just mounted a simple Selle Italia saddle but David brought a Brooks C17 along when he picked it up.
Tyres – We planned to go with GP5000 All seasons in 32mm but unfortunately the stock of the exact ones we wanted hadn’t materialised by build time so I mounted a set of Schwalbe Pro-Ones in 28mm with Schwalbe Aerothan TPU Tubes. We will see how David gets along with this setup and consider if we want to change anything up before his big trip to Copenhagen.
I have had a great deal of fun producing The Space Cowboy. It’s provided a few challenges along the way but I feel this frame has been another big step forwards in my framebuilding journey, I’m especially happy to have had the opportunity to build a road bike for a customer as well because gravel is fun but I’ve had the itch for a proper road build for a while now. David has been great fun to work with and has been incredibly receptive and patient with my developing style.
David will be riding The Space Cowboy to Copenhagen in support of JDRF, a charity for Junior Diabetes, and he has set up a Just Giving page. I think it’s a wonderful way to raise money and I would encourage anyone who feels the same to support his efforts in any way they can.
With the moulds I have produced for this frame I should be able to produce another one relatively quickly so if I have some downtime between builds I will aim to get one built up for stock. So if this is your kind of build and the geometry suits then keep an eye out for one of these becoming available soon!
Thanks for reading and remember to check out the YouTube videos for more in depth ramblings about this build!