“It gives the impression of speed, as if the bike is bursting out of its paint.”
Some bikes look fast stood still. This is one. The finish is striking, but the angles are aggressive too. It is long and low, small, but perfectly proportioned.
“It’s a woman’s bike, but it’s not a girly bike.”
The downtube is Columbus HSS: oversized and purposeful. The headtube tapers from a 1.5” lower bearing, offering sufficient real estate to increase the front end stiffness. The chainstays are just 410mm long. The fork rake is 43 degrees. This is a machine intended for speed.
“It hurts quite a lot by the time you’ve finished a frame, but it’s a really satisfying process. When it's finished, it’s always worth the effort.”
Rings of brass are shaped with finger and thumb in perfect parallel to the tube. Hand files are used to smooth the welds: half-an-hour for the junction of each tube. Hard graft brings its own reward. The builder says he should be sick of it by now but his immersion in the task and the end result brings the same satisfaction each time.
“The early concepts were based around birds in flight - a lot of images of shimmering feathers - and the pattern has a lot movement in it.”
A pattern is applied to the entire frame before a coating of black to create the fade. Layers of vinyl and latex mask one layer of paint while the next is applied. An artist’s brush is used to finish the job. A paint scheme of this nature is not easily achieved - it is time consuming and fiddly - but the result is worth the effort.
“The fit is geared towards a woman, as is the paint, with the Liberty print, but we didn’t want to go over the top. The [Rapha] collection is super technical. It’s race spec.”
No corners cut. Full Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 groupset. Full ENVE finishing kit. ENVE Road 2.0 tapered fork. ENVE SES 3.4 carbon rims laced to Chris King R45 hubs. Fizik Arione Donna saddle.
“At the moment, it can be seen in the Liberty store. Rapha has its own stand and the bike can be viewed there.”
A second machine – a town bike – hangs in Rapha's London café.
Rouleur spoke to Tom Donhou, a framebuilder. Visit Donhou Bicycles for further examples of his work.
High quality bikes deserve high quality cover