Should you buy a custom bike frame? Some thoughts

I’ve had a quite a few emails from readers since I posted about my Woodrup Sportivo asking about the process of specifying a custom frame.

Now I have few hundred miles under my belt on this lovely machine, I feel it’s time to offer some thoughts on going custom which may be of help if you are considering a similar project.

Why do you want a custom frame?

Woodrup SportivoThis is an important question and one that requires some thought. In my case, my height, back trouble and aesthetic considerations were key factors in opting for a custom frame.

Your requirements may be different… Continue reading

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Woodrup 853 Sportivo: done

Woodrup SportivoHere are some pics and build specs on my Woodrup. Assuming I can sell some more stuff, I hope to add an upgraded wheel set at some point but the hoops off the Thorn will do for now.

Frame: Woordup Sportivo 853 oversize tubing, custom.
Wheels: DRC rims on XT. Gatorskin 28mm tyes.
Mudguards: SKS
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra 57mm drop.
Pedals: Shimano Ultegra
Drivetrain: Sram Rival 20 spd, 50/34 crankset and WiFli rear mech. 11-32 rear cluster. 10spd Sram PC1051 chain. Chris King BB.
Bars: Pro Lt
Stem: Cinelli
Headset: Chris King
Seat post: Deda RSX 02
Saddle: Brooks B17
Accessories: King Cages, stainless steel. Carradice Zipped Roll.

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Mountain Warehouse Extreme Brisk Mountain Jacket – a few miles down the trail

Mountain Warehouse Extreme Brisk JacketI’ve been wearing the Mountain Warehouse Extreme Brisk Mountain Jacket for a few months now in a range of conditions and it high time I offer some thoughts.

In common with the Adrenaline cycle jacket, which I posted about a while back, this jacket is manufactured from IsoDry, although a better performing version of the fabric according to the swing ticket.

The Brisk uses 10,000mm IsoDry, which has a claimed moisture vapour transfer (MVT) rate of 5,000g/24hrs/m2. Stats aside, the fabric of this jacket is considerable softer than that used for the Adrenaline and the jacket feels more comfortable as a result on the hill.


The Brisk Extreme features a contrast, full-length water resistant zip, 2 zip fastening zide pockets, a chest pocket and an internal map pocket, which just about takes an OS map – just. It has a comfortable micro-fleece lined collar, Velcro cuffs, a draw cord hem and a draw cord hood, though no wired peak. Ventilation zips are located at the armpits.

In common with the Adrenaline, the jacket features a mesh liner to help manage moisture with full lining below the waist and on the arms.


The Brisk in a size large fitted me pretty well. The arms were plenty long enough and the jacket not too baggy so a fleece sits nicely underneath. I didn’t miss the lack of a waist draw cord as I find the pack waist belt does this job well enough in use. It may be a little short for some users, but I prefer a jacket of this length.


The Brisk has been used in a variety of conditions from wet summer tramps across Peak bog to a (very) wet three-day backpack from Glenfinnan to Inverie. It performed pretty well. However, while it keeps water out, breathability is poor compared to other (more expensive) fabrics.

This shortcoming was brought into sharp focus on my Scotland walk. In typical fashion, conditions ranged from sublime to pretty rank. Being summer, though, the ambient temperature was generally high and I sweated heavily at times. These very damp conditions, both inside and out, would have tested any mountain jacket, but the Brisk really struggled.

Even with pit zips open, I was constantly damp, particularly on the descent into Inverie when this dampness degenerated into a chill, which saw me shivering by the time I reached the Old Forge. The chest pocket leaked too, sadly, although the full-length zip seemed up to the job as far as I could tell. The hood was of a decent size and comfortable but would have benefited considerably from a wire peak.

Another unpleasant characteristic of the jacket in these conditions is that it smells. At first, I thought this was me. However, my merino base layer and fleece were reassuringly ‘fresh’ after three days backpacking while the shoulders and waist areas of the jacket where it contacted my pack hummed.

I’ve washed it since according to the manufacturer’s instructions and the nasty niff remains when used in tough conditions.


The Extreme Brisk Jacket is well designed and well made, but sadly let down by the IsoDry fabric. As a general waterproof for ambles and country walks it does a fine job but I don’t feel confident using it in the mountains. I note this jacket is currently unavailable in the MW range, although I think the quoted ‘discounted’ retail price was £69.99. This represents fairly good value if you bear in mind its limitations.

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Woodrup Sportivo 853

After nearly three years thinking about purchasing a custom frame I have, at last, taken the plunge. I took delivery of a Sportivo this week from Woodrup Cycles in Leeds, built with care and enthusiasm by Kevin Sayles.

woodrup-sportivo-8While three years may seem like a long time, I’m glad I deliberated. Trips to Bespoked Bristol planted the idea of a custom frame while also highlighting the challenges of building in steel a frame that would be big enough and satisfy my eye aesthetically.

This latter point was very important. I spoke to many builders who could deliver a frame that would fit but didn’t necessarily understand the ‘look’ I was after. I reviewed examples of large frames and, frankly, some looked like gates. I became despondent and rejected the whole project. This was not helped by personal financial ‘challenges’.

Then I visited Kevin at his workshop in Leeds armed with my Thorn Audax and we had a lengthy and fruitful chat about fit and form. Kevin is a real cycling enthusiast and has been building for more than 40 years. He used to work for Thorn and was pretty certain he’d set my Audax up.

While I had pretty fixed idea as to what I wanted, he suggested the 853 oversized tubeset which resulted in him having to fabricate a seat cluster lug (the frame had to have lugs!). The geometry was tweaked to accommodate my penchant for Brooks saddles and their relatively short rails. Other features included stainless strips for cable rub and a ‘proper’ head badge. A Chris King headset and bottom bracket completed the order.

I am delighted with the result. Not gate like to my eye, although remember I am 6’6″ with a 37.5″ cycle inseam. Can’t wait to get it built :-)


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Thorn Audax Mk3 size 600 frame set for sale (NOW SOLD)

Note: this frame has now been sold

My size 600 Thorn Audax Mk3 frame set in lovely cobalt pearl blue is for sale. Includes Cane Creek headset, Thorn 100mm 17 deg ahead stem, frame prep and stainless bolts throughout, Thorn seat pin and Shimano Tiagra bottom bracket.

Price £260. Buyer to pay shipping charges and I would prefer not to ship overseas.

This steel frame is extremely comfortable and would make a perfect century bike or winter trainer. It has braze ons for front and rear racks and direct fit mudguards.

While it has been very well cared for, there is the odd chip on the chain stay although not to the bare metal.

Full specs can be found on the Thorn website. Any questions, please email me.

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First look – MPOWERD Luci inflatable solar lantern

Just before I headed to Scotland I had an email from a company in the United States asking about distributors for their inflatable solar lantern. I duly responded and the company sent me a sample to try.

MPowered Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern
The MPOWERD Luci inflatable lantern is intended for outdoor leisure users including hikers, campers, anglers, kayakers, cyclists… you get the picture. It is constructed from soft clear transparent plastic, is waterproof and features a square solar panel in the base charging a slim 3.7V DC lithium polymer battery. This is sealed in the base with no facility for replacement.

Light is provided by 10 led lights arranged in a circle in the base providing a maximum of 65 lumens. In the top of the cylindrical lantern is a flexible reflective disc that helps distribute the light to a claimed area of a square metre. The top disc also features a mouthpiece with stop valve for inflation/deflation while plastic handles are located at the top and base allowing the lantern to be suspended.

A switch at the centre of the solar panel toggles the lantern between ‘bright’, ‘super bright’, and ‘flashing/beacon’ settings and powers the unit down.

The manufacturers claim 12 hours on the bright setting and this seems plausible in summer temperatures. I left the unit on all night on the hearth and it was still emitting good light in the morning after nine hours. Charge time is eight hours and the unit will still provide four hours of light if not used for a year from full charge.

Inflation and deflation can be a little tricky, though. The mouthpiece features a stiff valve making it quite difficult to inflate by blowing straight from the lungs (as if you were inflating a Thermarest). Musicians familiar with the embouchure technique will have an advantage!

I found it easier to inflate the lantern by opening it gently like an accordion (forgive the musical references) while holding the valve open with the point of a pencil or other pointed (but not sharp) implement. The lantern can then be topped up by blowing air in the mouthpiece.

This is a well-designed and well-made lantern that performs well based on early use. It may be a luxury for lightweight backpackers given that it weighs a little over 110g but I will find room for it in my cycle panniers as it illuminates the inner of my Vaude Hogan XT perfectly. It has particular practical benefits for anglers fishing at night and those who love messing around in boats.

If you are interested in finding out more check our MPOWERD’s website. Interested retailers should contact

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Glenfinnan to Inverie – a re-acquaintance

Motoring along the glorious Road to the Isles as we do every year (at least once), my mind always wanders to thoughts of walking in the rough hills that bear down on that ribbon of Tarmac.

Normally, this drive is on the clock. We need to get to Mallaig and negotiate the infuriating Co-op  to stock up for a week at the rental cottage before making the Western Isles.

This year was a little different though. We had more time at the cottage and had arrived in the Highlands early. Everything was less rushed. This gave me three days to amble though the glens to Inverie from Glenfinnan before heading to Tarbet on the ferry.

glenfinnan viaductMy other half dropped me at the visitors’ centre at Glenfinnan on a mizzly Monday morning. The forecast was poor for at least two days of my walk but I didn’t mind. I was relishing a re-acquaintance with this landscape and travel by two feet after the distractions of two wheels.

Given my lack of walking of late – not to mention my lack of walking with a full pack – I felt it important to take my time, to let my body adapt, to see if the muscles indeed had memory. Continue reading

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Mountain Warehouse Adrenaline Cycling Jacket – First Impressions

I think being contacted by Mountain Warehouse to review a couple of items of their clothing is a good omen. Since the email and offer of waterproofs, it has been conspicuously dry in the rainy Northwest. I hope this good fortune extends to my three-day backpack in Scotland next week.

Mountain Warehouse Adrenaline cycling jacketNorth of the border I’ll be using the company’s Brisk Extreme mountain jacket. For this ‘first impressions review’ I’m turning my attention to its Adrenaline cycle shell.

Mountain Warehouse has gained some prominence on the high street but, it’s fair to say, is not the first port of call for the function or fashion conscious outdoor enthusiast.

The company supplies own-brand product at very competitive prices. You won’t find much, if any, evidence of GoreTex of eVent swing tickets in its shops, and you may have to dig around for a more technical garment amid the cags-in-bags and clockwork torches. That said, and based on my extended use of the company’s ‘Shimano Merino top’, its more purposeful gear is well designed and durability is on a par with more recognisable manufacturers.

Continue reading

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Surly ECR XXL four months on – Evading Clichéd Rides?

I’ve had my mahoosive Surly ECR since March.

In that time, it’s been on numerous trips over the trails near home, took part in a celebratory ride for the bike shop that supplied it (and was greeted with nods of approval from the Surly dudes), lugged bikepacking gear on an epic trip from Settle to home along the Pennine Bridleway and ferried me out for coffee on a hill when I just couldn’t take it any more.

Surly ECR in the Pennines

A sunny day on the trails. An ECR day.

Continue reading

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Cycle touring Morocco days 8 and 9 – Next stop: the Sahara (kind of) to Take Your Time

I was reluctant to leave the Palmeraie given another difficult night but I really wanted to get back o the road and salvage something from the final few days on the bike.

We decided to follow the main N9 route south, slowly. This was by no means an original or adventurous route but I still felt very weak, despite shaking off the fever. Pushing off and through the streets of Quazazate, my legs had no power. Tom seemed refreshed after a couple of days rest and powered ahead, pushing a big gear.

Heading south from Quazazate on the  N9

Heading south from Quazazate on the N9

Continue reading

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