The 11th edition of Lap the Lough takes place this Sunday, the 28th of August and to mark the occasion, Donard Bikes have created a special edition, bespoke, handmade, hand-painted carbon bike for the sportive.

What started off as a casual conversation on twitter between @donardcc @getupbeat @victorychimp and @lovelybicycle quickly spawned the #Lap11bike – a bespoke bicycle project.

The project involved designing the bike, creating bespoke carbon tubes, dropouts, bottom brackets and baking the whole thing in a homemade composite oven and the process has been taking place at Donard Cycles over the summer months.

Stephen from Upbeat:Cycle Culture explained how the bike came about.

“Back in June world renowned bike blogger @LovelyBicycle (now relocated to Ireland’s North Coast from Boston USA ) – paid a visit to a remote County Down stone cottage to investigate. Underneath the Bangor Blue slates and exposed wooden beams a different type of Irish “black stuff” was brewing.

Sheets of raw carbon fibre were laid out ready to be cut and moulded into bespoke tubes and intricate pieces of a very complex jigsaw. Rather than a sterile factory floor she discovered bespoke carbon bikes were an altogether more hands-on, crafted affair.

An alumni of Downland Cycles’ frame building school, Owen Byrne started Donard Cycles just over 18 months ago when he began honing his craft with traditional steel frames but carbon was always the goal, “with a Phd in Physics the science involved with carbon always appealed to me.”

Most carbon builders buy their tubes off the shelf but for the #Lap11bike project project Owen created bespoke tubes to his own specification – all baked in his own composite oven, ”I’ve a PhD in Physics and have developed a new method to analyse superconductor materials so building a composites oven was a fairly simple process.”

“Lap the Lough has always been on my list of things to do, and the event coincided with a milestone in my plans for developing my frames, so I tweeted about building a bike for the event, and designer @VictoryChimp picked it up and suggested painting the bike in the event colours and all really spiralled from there, @getupbeat who organise Lap the Lough are always keen to promote small independent bike businesses and got right behind the project, @lovelybicycle was on the next train down to visit the workshop. – it’s been a whirlwind few months!”

Owen explains the design process and specification for the new bike, “It’s the first bike to use a full in-house tubeset from Donard bikes, allowing the performance of the whole frame to be tuned and gives us full control over the process, which is important from a quality control perspective.”

Sketches and raw carbon cut into shapes for moulding
Sketches and raw carbon cut into shapes for moulding

“I’d describe the geometry as a “fast sportive bike” – it’s broadly the same as a race bike but with a higher head tube. I took all the design data and worked out the stiffness for each tube and how much carbon was required and the orientation the fibres needed to go in. The #lap11bike has three new tubes designs, so there was a lot of testing involved!”

Donard’s tubes are made from carbon pre-soaked in resin. The carbon is taken out of the freezer the night before and allowed to come to room temperature while the workshop gets cleaned down. The layers of carbon are then cut from templates … ”a bit like a tailors patterns, laid up by hand on the moulds and wrapped in a special tape that compresses the fibres to remove any air gaps – then it’s all into the oven”.

Composite pieces coming together
Composite pieces coming together

Joints are then reinforced with more carbon strategically wrapped around the joints to make sure the loads aren’t all taken by the adhesive and then the whole frame goes into the oven for the final time to cure the joints, “there is a specific temperature cycle to make sure everything cures properly. This part of the process gives the whole frame it’s final structural strength”.

After a few weeks in the workshop the frame was shipped off to Liquid Colour Design to paint @VictoryChimp’s design then back again to be finished off in Dura Ace.

Detail of the paint
Detail of the paint

The bike took just 3 weeks from concept to test ride and can be now be seen displayed in the window of McConvey’s Cycles on the Ormeau Rd in Belfast from Monday 22st-Saturday 27th August and en route around Lough Neagh on the 28th August.

Lap the Lough aims to increase participation, bike usage and fundraising and any profits from the sportive are used to create other cycle events.

The route of Lap the Lough is a 155-kilometre anticlockwise lap around Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Ireland and Britain. You can find out more details about the event on their website:

Donard Finished Bike



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