Homegrown: Ed Haythornthwaite's bike

As we seem to be constantly telling you, we’ve just moved to Monmouth to be nearer to trails, a thriving bike scene and some classic pubs (more about that at a later date). We’ve also moved into an office with the guys from our sister site, Dirt.

The crew at Dirt comprise an interesting lot, each of them equally passionate about bikes and all with deep-rooted histories in the two-wheeled world. One of the crew with an incredible technical knowledge of the sport and its machines is Ed Haythornthwaite.

It’s his thirty-fifth birthday today (actually, it was yesterday, but never you mind about that) and we thought we’d have a (very) mini celebration of his life by letting him unleash his beast… That is, the hardtail bike that Ed designed and built some years ago and continues to use as his do-it-all workhorse to this day.

The bike. Just remember, it’s NOT pink…

Ed Haythornthwaite on his pink dream machine:

“I think I must have made this frame back in 2006, possibly even 2005. At the time I was working two days a week as a bike mechanic and the rest of the time I was building custom frames for people. I specialised in fillet brazed steel frames, using the best quality tubing available. I got into it by doing a welding course where I chose to concentrate on brazing, and then I learnt all the bike specific stuff from a mate of mine, Robin Mather, who has since gone on to become one of the UK’s most respected frame builders. I made my own jig and all that kind of stuff and all the tubes were cut and shaped by hand using nothing more than a hacksaw and some good files.

 I made my own jig and all that kind of stuff and all the tubes were cut and shaped by hand using nothing more than a hacksaw and some good files.

It amazes a lot of people that even some of the most famous custom frame builders still make frames in this way, you don’t really need fancy machines and once you’ve got the knack it really doesn’t take too long. Saying that, I probably did spend way too long sometimes making dropouts and the like from solid plates of steel. I reckon I probably spent about two weeks making this fame, which is really way too long if you want to make a living from building frames, but I am a bit of a perfectionist so that didn’t help matters.

That head-badge is a ‘chrome dome’, styled on Ed’s own look (his own words). The ‘Bald’ written on the down-tube is another self-reference.

This particular frame was never actually meant for me, I built it for Steve Jones (Deputy Editor at Dirt Mag) who asked me to make him one for a feature that he was going to do on me in the mag. I think he was so used to getting free stuff that he thought I would just give it to him, but being on the breadline there was no way I could do that, so when he didn’t come up with the cash I kept it! It was the best decision I ever made cos, for one, it’s the best hardtail I have ever ridden, and secondly it wasn’t that long after that the words along the lines of “hardtails are pointless” came out of Steve’s mouth. He would never have appreciated it. Actually, maybe if he had bought it and ridden it he wouldn’t have formed that opinion?

It was the best decision I ever made cos, for one, it’s the best hardtail I have ever ridden, and secondly it wasn’t that long after that the words along the lines of “hardtails are pointless” came out of Steve’s mouth. He would never have appreciated it.

The geometry of the frame was based around a Yeti DJ which Steve had been riding and loving at the time, but there were a few tweaks that he wanted. If I remember correctly it is slackened out a bit (it sits at just under 67 degrees with this 130mm travel DT forks) and it has a slightly longer seat tube and head tube. The top tube might have been tweaked a bit too. One thing that remains though is the super short back-end, which helps to make it so much fun.

Road bike seat stays give more ‘vertical compliance’ according to Ed.

Tubing wise it’s a Reynolds 853 front end, Columbus chain stays, and some super skinny road bike seat stays which I bent myself. I didn’t fit a brace between these so it has a super comfortable rear end whilst the beefy chain stays mean that it still accelerates like a rocket. Oh, and to help get tyre clearance for fat tyres I used a 73mm bottom bracket instead of a 68mm one. It was annoying though cos at the time my only 73mm option was pretty weighty, but because the weight is so low down it possibly even helps the handling of the bike.

Tubing wise it’s a Reynolds 853 front end, Columbus chain stays, and some super skinny road bike seat stays which I bent myself.

Anyway, for one reason and another it must have been another few years before I actually got the frame painted and built up. If you’re wondering why I chose pink (or telemagenta to be precise) it was simply because in an effort to be ‘cool’ I had owned waaay too many stealth black bikes over the years and I really fancied going in completely the other direction. Oh, and I got the powder-coat done at some place on the outskirts of Bristol for £25. They did a good job too. I was already riding a similar hardtail that I had made, but after the first ride on this one that older bike was instantly relegated to my brother.

Classic old-school Ritchey dropouts. All tubing and braze-ons sourced from Ceeway bike building supplies.

I’ve taken this bike all over the place and I use it for all kinds of riding. Despite all the fancy full suss bikes that I have in my shed this is still the bike that comes out most often. It just makes me smile on any ride, and crucially it’s never boring. On some tracks I just find a full suss a bit too easy and dull. I’d always prefer to be under-biked than over-biked. I like that skittish feeling that you get on a hardtail, it keeps you on your toes. I feel like I can ride most tracks just as fast on this bike too, some even faster, and although that might not actually be the case the stopwatch doesn’t matter to me, it’s all about the sensation, and that’s what this bike gives me by the bucket load. I love it, but I must admit that after I have been out for a ride on it I always find myself wishing that I had the time to build some more frames for myself. Maybe one day…”

Any other homegrown heroes like Ed out there? We want to feature your stories here.

  1. ed

    What a lovely bike!

  2. Churchie

    That is one sweet frame.

  3. ScottyJohn

    Nice one mate and Happy Birthday you old bar steward

  4. Bean Grinder

    Was that two weeks of solid work or in fits and starts… and any plans of coming out of frame building retirement Ed? I would still be interested in one.

  5. chris-m

    Out of curiosity, Ed, which frame building course was it, please? Diolch yn fawr.

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