This Friday heralds the weekend of 2014’s Bespoked Bristol — the UK Handmade Bicycle Show. It’s a grand event, not just for its recent stratospheric rise in popularity, but because it’s a celebration of the craft from a country steeped in a tradition of bicycle engineering. Gavin Buxton will be exhibiting there under August Wheelworks, the banner of which he is most recognised… for now.
Gavin’s workshop is in Norwich, on the east coast of England, which he used to share with Tom Donhou, a leading light of the United Kingdom’s new wave of custom framebuilding. Gavin picked up the torch and a few tips along the way and built, with a little guidance from Tom, a Christmas present commuter for Gavin’s girlfriend.
Raised in a family of cyclists, Gavin’s proclivity for engineering found an early focus. As a schoolboy grass track and XC MTB champ, wheels were inevitably broken, which provided material for Gavin’s talent. Today, world champs an track racers roll on his wheels. Seeking a challenge, he decided to designing and build his own frames.
This is the first of his designs, although it was fabricated by Pat Banks of Limit Fabrication. It’s a big, green, softail, steel 29er with a carbon seat tube and sneaky angles. “I managed to get the chainstay length down to 410mm,” enthuses Gavin, “still with plenty of tyre clearance around the 2.25 Nobby Nics.”
“The project started after I borrowed a stock Specialized Carve 29er for a Friday shred. I noticed that although the larger wheels were great for rolling over rough stuff, the increased wheelbase meant that it handled like a barge! I decided to design a frame around 29er wheels while keeping the wheelbase, especially the chainstays, short as possible.
“Starting with building a set of wheels for the project (perks of running your own wheelbuilding company), fitting tyres and physically measuring them, I then began to draw the rear end in my CAD program. It was obvious a curved seat tube would be needed along with a chainstay yoke of some kind due to the size of the tyre and its relative position to the single chainring.
“After this the front end was a doddle to draw. The bike has an effective 73 degree seat angle with a 69 degree head angle (with 120mm travel forks at ride height). Whilst considering tubing options, I decided that a bonded carbon seattube with internal seat post would save a little weight, but also have a big visual impact.
“The tubing is as follows: Reynolds 853 downtube, 853 top tube, 631 44mm headtube. The rear triangle is made from 4130 chromoly that has been custom shaped. The chainstay yoke is made from 4130 plate, pocketed to save a little more weight. The ISP topper is also 4130 chromoly and an ENVE seat clamp. A PF30 bottom bracket shell allows and EBB single speed option.
“After all the specs had been finalised, I approached Pat Banks of Limit Fabrications who built it from my design. I was fortunate enough to be let loose in the workshop allowing me to do a lot of the machining and tube fit-up prior to Pat finishing the frame. Meanwhile, I brazed the ISP topper, drew and brazed the laser-cut brass head badges.
“The frame, White Brothers Loop fork and ISP topper were painted in Volkswagen Manilla Green. The original idea was to sand the paint from the badges, leaving them bare to match the gold headset, hubs and bottom bracket. Though after receiving the frame back from the painters, the raw badges looked great so I chose to leave them.
“The kit comprises of SRAM X0 shifter, Type 2 rear mech and BB30 cranks, fitted with a Wolftooth chainring, Chris King PF30 BB and Inset 7 Headset. I built the wheels using Pacenti TL28 rims, Sapim spokes and alloy nipples onto Hope Pro 2 hubs. Brakes are Hope Tech 3 X2. Bar and stem are by Renthal, Vans/ODI grips and Selle Italia SLR saddle.