Podcast: What Does it Take to Build a Bike Frame From Scratch?

Oct 4, 2018 at 1:49
by HKT Products Ltd  

Have you ever wondered what it takes to build a mountain bike frame from scratch?

For episode number 058 of The HKT Podcast we are joined by Si & Matt Bowns of 18Bikes. 18Bikes are an independent bike shop based out of Hope Valley in the glorious Peak District, Sheffield. Since taking over the shop in 2006 and after a couple of years building the business they began manufacturing their own frames, one at a time in a small but perfectly formed workshop around 15 miles from the shops location. Recently they have turned their attention to building a range of steel hardtail mountain bike frames with a different approach to sizing and geometry. Enjoy!

From left to right; bottom bracket shells, horizontal dropout inserts, modular dropouts, ISCG mounts and rear brake mounts ready to be installed. Head tube badges are also made locally and were designed by Tado.

Each frame is individually hand welded in Sheffield and, a finished frame ready to go to the paint shop.

The finished product.

You can simply click the link above to take a listen or, you can also find the podcast by searching 'The HKT Podcast' on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, Stitcher and Youtube. You can even shout at your smart home device and it'll do all the work for you!

Don't forget to follow us on social media too, it's @thehktpodcast on everything.


74 Comments

  • + 22
 Bike looks pretty cool raw, especially with the heat marks from the welds Big Grin
  • + 5
 Not your average Orange weld Big Grin
  • + 9
 Raw steel is the best look on a bike IMO, its also almost impossible to maintain.
  • + 4
 Agree. It looks rad! haha
  • + 5
 @Boardlife69: raw Ti... sorry
  • + 10
 Everyone likes it better raw
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Reynolds 853
  • + 3
 @drbelleville: that's for elite wannabies. They may have the looks, they may have some moves... but deep inside they are still peasants. Titanium is the real elite. No, better than elite... So fkng regal.
  • + 2
 Clear coat ?
  • + 4
 @vggg: it will still rust under the clear coat. I came very close to buying a custom raw steel frame, but after researching my heart out it seems it really is impossible to keep that raw look unless you want to spend two hours of polishing for every hour of riding. Might as well get a chromed out Harley instead.
  • + 0
 @Boardlife69:
clear two component expoxy coat should last a while, though it's tricky to get it to bond to non-blasted steel.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: id say steel has won many, many more races than titanium
  • + 5
 @jaycubzz: carbon fibre won even more races than Titanium. It has nothing to do with races. It has to do with owning a bike from world's most pretentious metal. Peasants. All peasants. I don't own one. But I plan to. Meanwhile I will go to Malverns bike festival borrom a Ti bike from Sick Bicycles, ride around telling people on carbon bikes: "bow peasants!!!"
  • + 6
 @Boardlife69: bmx industry has been clear coating raw frames for at least the past 10 years.
  • + 2
 @vggg: clear coating doesn't stop rust from forming under under it (it just slows it down a bit) A good friend of mine has this problem with a BTR he got a year ago. It was clear coated but after about 6 months the areas of tubing next to welds and cuts started to show signs of rust, now it's really obvious and he has to get it stripped and painted.
  • - 2
 @WAKIdesigns: scandium?
  • + 0
 @nickgarrison: And they just let them rust. Just use tubing thick enough that it doesn't matter.
  • + 2
 @djm35: Or is choosing to.
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Titatium is beautifully expensive but it is only the cost that makes it elitist. Indeed, you may know that a titanium frame is very often too smooth and flex compared to a Reynolds 631 or 853 frame, and it gets tired faster than a steel frame.
For a same frame, a builder will not use the same thicknesses of tubes if it is steel or titanium. Check out the Stanton Switchback`s features for instance: you`ll see that tubes are thicker on the Ti version than on the steel one.
Anyway, even if i`d have the money, I would not buy a titanium frame. I`d prefer to stick to steel
  • + 2
 @Franzzz: who said anything about performance. It is the cost that makes it regal. Peasants!

Also, speaking of hardtails, honestly? There is nothing steel, CF or ti would do for you that aluminium can't. Once you put a 100mm suspension fork into it, you can save material talk for an evnening with pretentious IPA and 90% dark chocolate. That is exactly why I laugh at people for being peasants for not owning Ti frames
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I feel sad every time I see you downvoted. Every time it happens, I just wanna link /r/whoosh
  • + 1
 @nickgarrison: I've seen many of these clear coated BMX bikes that look like crap two years later. A few of them look ok with a ratty rusty look, but most look like you pulled that bike out of the river.
  • + 1
 @Boardlife69: Now I don't know too much about how paint works but does colored paint have a more complete coverage vs clear coat at a molecular level that wont allow moisture in over time? I've seen dudes let a raw frame get rusty and clear it but I haven't seen a frame that's clear coated from the shop get rusty over time. Also, not sure how straight clear compares to the translucent colors a lot of companies have offered. On the other hand, a lot of people that ride bmx end up replacing their frame almost yearly and that may be why I don't see a given frame long enough to see it rust under the clear.
  • + 1
 @nickgarrison: When you paint, you use primer to bond to the raw steel and protect it. The problem is that the primer is opaque, so it is incompatible with the 'raw' look (note I've heard talk of a clear primer, but I know nothing about it, or anyone that uses it). I'm not sure about the translucent colors, but I suspect they have the same issue as the raw/clear because typically you can still see the heat zones of the welds, meaning no primer.
  • + 1
 @marky-d: RIght, but what exactly is it about clear coat that allows rust to still occur? Does the clear wear off or something because it doesn't have a primer or enamel to stick to?
  • + 3
 I think you guys should simply get an aluminium frame...
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I think you should be paid for all the bullshits you say. You would certainly be millionary in a very short term Smile
  • + 0
 i am just tired of how steel is more compliant than aluminium, that there is a quality to how it feels. And all the rest of stories owners of Salsa fatbikes with drop bars tell to deal with lack of excllence in anything they do and inability to provide any excitement to people they meet. I cannot feel the feel of steel because I am busy doing sht while riding. @Franzzz:
  • + 13
 Thanks a bunch for posting Pinkbike. Looking forward to hearing what people think to the episode!
  • + 3
 seconded!
  • + 1
 Great interview. I really like how the bikes are sized and proportional CS lengths. Maybe one day the rest of the bike industry will follow.
  • + 1
 @fartymarty: Thanks for listening mate! Quality username too... hahaha
  • + 4
 I was lucky enough to demo that yellow beast on Saturday. Took it down an Enduro stage at the Forest of Dean and the bike just ate it up!! Just wanted to get you down as fast as possible and make you find something more difficult!! Great work guys!! Steel is Real!
  • + 6
 Ancilotti... Take note of those welds...
  • + 2
 I thing they hired welder from kuvalda bikes
  • + 1
 I would say the welds need to be a lot better to show raw, did the top and down tubes at head tube get finished welded all the way around
  • + 5
 Rad, stuff like this is cool and a contrast to the big manufacturers stuff, more articles like this please.
  • + 2
 Much appreciate. Thanks for listening and your feedback!
  • + 2
 Tbf though just cause steel rusts, doesn’t mean even after it has set in that it’s not rideable.

There’s a difference between surface rust and penetrated rust. It takes a long time is what I’m getting at.
  • + 1
 @HookitProducts @18bikes
Great podcast and really good to hear about the thought behind the frame build geometery etc, shame never made it to demo day to meet you guys. Keep up good work.
  • + 2
 Cheers, glad you enjoyed the podcast - it's been great to hear that so many folks have listened! There's always the option to borrow demo bikes from the shop.
  • + 3
 18 Bikes is the best bike shop in the UK. Really hope they succeed on this.
  • + 2
 FYI (for those interested)...the actual discussion on frame BUILDING begins at about 48 min
  • + 0
 and boring as hell
  • + 1
 @brajal: All feedback is good feedback.
  • + 1
 Building myown bike is a big one on the bucket list. I'd better learn to weld before I'd have to learn to CAD program a 3D printer instead....
  • + 2
 please send it to me the raw ones.
  • + 2
 Get in touch, I'm pretty sure the guys at 18 can make that happen!
  • + 3
 we can, but even with a clear coat it just doesn't last!
  • + 6
 I get asked this nearly every day. Steel rusts!

Various people will tell you how applying oil of sheeps intestines (or some other snake oil) applied seven times a day for the first 8 months then weekly for the rest of forever will stop the rust. But for the rest of us a nice powdercoat does the job!
  • + 1
 @phutphutend: hahahahahaha sheeps intestines doesn't work!? Who'd have thought!
  • + 1
 @phutphutend:
Even powder coat is porous unless the coater does a few layers - which the frame builder doesn't always want to do due to weight concerns (why though? It's a steel frame?). My steel Siren Twinzer is testament to that...it's getting a proper paint job soon.
  • + 1
 @phutphutend: no, that's for Brooks saddles!
  • + 1
 @silentbutdeadly: ours our treated inside and out before powdercoat too - a lot of brands do that
  • + 1
 @18bikes: Inside too? How thorough does that end up?
  • + 1
 Another bike shop in Sheffield called 'Airdrop'.Also very good bikes. Seem quite a few round that area Smile
  • + 1
 True! We have a great scene around here with Airdrop, Cotic and now 18Bikes. Stanton also aren't made too far away from here. Thanks for listening!
  • + 1
 Add new frame? Wait Only time))
  • + 1
 Guess im building a frame now
  • + 1
 Seat stay extends to top tube, frame is compact and it is yellow.
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