The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

When you get Sven Cycles’ Darron Coppin fired up about steel bikes, it’s hard not to get inspired about the future of cycling and the custom scene. We’ve featured many of his bikes on Cycle EXIF over the years, as they become more refined, elegant, and functional.

In an email conversation about a year and a half ago, I mentioned to him my UK travel plans, to which he suggested that I hang out with him at his Dorset workshop for a week and have a crack at building a frame together. Needless to say, I very gratefully accepted.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

Darron believes the classic English roadster is pretty much the ultimate bicycle and models many of his recent commissions on it, although his Semi-Custom models incorporate more contemporary ambitions — like adventure touring.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

He’s a strong proponent of eBikes: the Shimano Alfine /Di2 Sven Cycles Swift model, which utilizes the Shimano STEPS system, is probably the most attractive e-powered bike available today. It’s the perfect blend of tech and classicism.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

When Darron and I began talking about a possible collaboration, I wasn’t really sure that an English roadster was what I was after, but I was dead keen to build a bike that I could explore my local trails with and take bikepacking.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

I told Darron I was basically after a two-wheeled Land Rover Defender and he got to work, along with his business partner Mog, legendary UK frame designer and a lovely bloke, to put together the plans of a burly Sven.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

I sent them the dimensions of my On-One il Pompino daily commuter and tweaked a CAD drawing to accommodate the 27.5 wheels I’d asked for and the front load I was expecting to carry. Other technical details included disc brakes and a 1×11 drivetrain.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

Eventually, I made it to the UK and to Dorset and spent a week with the team of Darron, Mog, and Steve. The whole adventure is documented in a previous series of posts on Cycle EXIF, where we left the raw frame still in the jig.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

After learning how to braze fillets and building the front triangle, I left Steve to complete the rear end, forks, and other braze-ons. Darron kept me updated with tantalizing emails while I designed the graphics for the downtube and the typography for the seat tube.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

‘Made In A Dirty Workshop’ was bandied about one morning over a cup of tea and it stuck, ending up as the moniker for the project. Steve also applied the paint in Land Rover’s iconic Grasmere Green — the color of the first Land Rover.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

It took months to save for and accrue the parts, but I wasn’t about to scrimp. This was my dream bike and I had a vision of how I wanted it to be equipped and to perform. It took exactly a year before I bought a boxful to Joe Dodd, bike wizard at Summit Cycles.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

There were many contributors to this project. Jeff Jones actually discussed the handlebar setup and geometry with me on the phone. Travis at Paul Components went out of his way to make sure the Klampers, Boxcar stem and seatpost were right for the job.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

Zak, at Skunkworks Bikes, built his heaviest pair of wheels from two Velocity Dually rims and White Industries XMR hubs. Alec and Jake at White Industries made sure my drivetrain was compatible with the frame and BB shell.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

SCV Imports cornered a Slate Chris King headset for me (my first, and everything you’ve heard about the quality of King bearings are true). Dave at BOGear endowed me with one of his last tool pouches, made from ex-army Land Rover Perentie canvas.

The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer

It all came together on Australia Day 2018, when we rode with the Summit Cycles crew from Nowra to Canberra on a four-day off-road trip and, despite my inexperienced packing skills, the Sven rode like a dream.

There are plenty more adventures planned, too. Expect to read about them here as they roll around. I’d like to personally thank those who contributed to this project, especially Sven Cycles and Summit Cycles.

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The Defender Project: Sven Cycles X Cycle EXIF Dirt Tourer