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Donard Bikes

Owen Byrne

Owen Byrne makes custom carbon bike frames in Northern Ireland under the name Donard Bikes. He manufactures the full tubeset and all carbon frame parts in-house using the composites curing oven he built himself. He also builds in steel. This year he’ll be exhibiting at Bespoked for the first time in the New Builders section.

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Do you remember your first bike?

My first bike was a blue Raleigh when I was about 3 years old, my cousin taught me to ride without stabilisers – well he stopped to talk to his mate and I kept going thinking he was still holding on. I've ridden all kinds of bikes ever since, and my favourite was a Giant Cadex – carbon tubes with alloy lugs. That was the bike I won my first race on, and it raced all over Ireland until it finally crashed into the side of a car.

 

How did you get into building bikes?

I always had it in the back of my mind until I met Julie and Bryan from Downlands at the show a few years ago. I did a couple of courses with them and then decided to keep building when I moved back to Northern Ireland. I spent a lot of time making and testing tubes and joints and frames, and pouring over carbon fibre data sheets and writing software tools to do laminate calculations and taking my first frame out of the composites curing oven that I built myself was a massive achievement. I've had carbon prototypes on the road for well over a year now, and my first “proper” bike was a special bike for a local event called Lap the Lough, with a paint scheme by Victory Chimp.

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How would you define your style as a framebuilder?

I'm in control of the whole process of making my frames, from making the carbon tubes to building the frames and then painting them. Working with carbon gives me a lot of freedom to experiment with the frames, particularly stiffness and riding performance, but it's also meant that I've had to understand a lot of technical information about frames that isn't really required for building steel frames, at least in the early days – but that's made my steel frames a lot better.

What this means for the rider is that I know every piece of carbon fibre in their frame, I know where it is and why it's there, you don't get much more unique than that.

As well as that I make some of my own tools, including my frame jig and I've built test jigs that I use to compare tube and frame properties with the theoretical calculations I've done in the design stage.

 

Who or what has inspired you along the way.

Anyone who's pushing their own personal limits. In cycling that's taking a chance in a breakaway or riding across the Alps or even just your first 30 mile ride. In the bike industry it's the same – any company that is really doing something new with technology, or materials or anyone who is pushing their own quality standard higher and higher.

It's really exciting to be building bikes in Northern Ireland right now because there is a fantastic composites industry here, and some great cycling companies like SeeSense, Victory Chimp, Galibier and Tadaias.

Julie and Bryan from Downlands cycles have also been a massive support to me as I've been getting things going.

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What can we expect to see from you at Bespoked 2017?

This year will be my first year exhibiting at the show as Donard Bikes and I'll be bringing two carbon race bikes. I'll have made the carbon tubes, dropouts and small carbon parts. The frames will be made from mostly uni-directional carbon fibre with use of High Modulus fibres in strategic areas. One of the frames will be my personal race bike for the year and it will probably have a few new changes that I've been working on. I'll have painted both the bikes myself, I'm still working on the paint schemes.

 

Where is your favourite place to ride?

Riders from County Down, where Donard Bikes is based, took the two top spots for fastest average speeds, and all three top spots for longest average rides on Strava last year, so of course County Down has to be my favourite place to ride. There are some great routes though the Mourne Mountains, and a loop of Strangford Lough taking in the Strangford ferry crossing is always good. The highest peak in Northern Ireland – after which Donard bikes is named, is almost always in view (unless it's raining!)

I did spend a lot of time in Bristol, so Cheddar gorge was always a favourite on Bristol road club rides along with the BWCycling early morning loops, and of course the Castle Combe races.

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And finally, if you weren’t building bikes for a living what would you be doing?

I've worked in start-ups and big companies before, in industries from Bio-medical imaging to TV Broadcasting and embedded software, and I have a doctorate in high temperature superconductivity. For now I have bikes to build, so I'm concentrating on that.

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Donard

Maker - Owen Byrne

Where - Northern Ireland

Designer -Owen Byrne

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Donard make custom carbon bike frames in Northern Ireland. The geometry and carbon layup are tailored to make the perfect frame. The full tubeset and all carbon frame parts are manufactured in-house.
Bespoke Steel handmade frames are also available

The design and framebuilding process is backed up with stringent testing and quality control to ensure all frames are built to last.

 

 

 

 

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