By David Cabourn
I wanted to let you know about my experience as a novice frame builder when I took a course with Downland Cycles, who also exhibit at Bespoked in Bristol each year.
I had always dreamt of building my own frame and one Christmas decided to see just how practical making that dream come true would be. After a little internet research I decided not only was it achievable it was also within the modest budget I had available to me.
Downland Cycles in Canterbury run a five day frame building course at their dedicated workshop in Canterbury with the additional option of building a fork on the 6th day. So I booked my course and began dreaming of the bike I was going to hand build.
Bryan and Julie who own Downland Cycles couldn’t have been nicer or more patient with this over excited 40 something novice who was full of ideas and no practical knowledge to support them. Bryan talked through my plans with me before the course so he knew what I was hoping to achieve and Julie offered meals and accommodation in their Bunkhouse, along with other local accommodation and tourist options for my wife in the area.
Day one started with a professional bike fitting and adjustments to my current road bike which I took with me to ensure the perfect riding position for me. These dimensions were then used to design my new frame, Bryan went through BikeCad with me and together we worked out the measurements and angles for my frame and cutting list. Before the day was through I had all the components for my new frame and was well on the way towards seeing a bike before me.
During the week I learnt BikeCad skills, geometry requirements, lug designs and options, the different fork options available to each category of bicycles, how to use a frame jig, cutting and filing techniques, pipe bending, machine operation, brazing. The list of skills and knowledge I have gained could go on and on, I got so much more out of this course than my own hand built frame and fork.
Throughout the course either Bryan or Martin was there on hand to guide, tutor and support me in each step of the process, offering guidance and recommendations to achieve the best frame possible. Their vast knowledge and friendly nature makes learning easy and the whole build was both challenging and rewarding in many ways. The comradery between course attendants was also an added bonus I had not expected and I have made good friends for life with similar interests and dreams as me. Julies warmth and home cooked food was an added bonus that really made the place feel relaxed and welcoming.
The end result of the week was my very own bicycle which I am very proud to say I hand built from scratch and, if I do say so myself, a very good looking one too.
I was so pleased with my finished bike and my new found passion for frame building that I booked a second course for this year which I attended in March. This time I chose to add on the Wheel Building Course which involves learning how to build various wheels from scratch and the art of spoke lacing, trueing and tensioning. I am proud to say I now have a City and Guilds/IMI Accreditation in wheel building and two sets of wheels I hand built for me.
Thanks to Downland Cycles I now have two frames, forks and wheels that I built from scratch and have the pleasure of saying ‘I hand built those bikes’ to anyone who asks where I got them from. I can’t praise Downland Cycles enough for the service they offer people like me, who would never have the space, tools or knowledge to achieve their dreams of frame building.
Downland Cycles also offer fully accredited Bicycle Maintenance courses which can be anything from 1 day to 3 weeks depending on the skills or area you wish to develop in. I know the people who I met on that course were extremely pleased with the knowledge and qualifications they came away with and some are now looking to go into bicycle maintenance professionally.
I would highly recommend anyone who is interested in Frame building or Bicycle Maintenance look at Downland Cycles website, www.downlandcycles.co.uk or give Julie a call on 01227 709706.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review. I hope you find it of some interest.