SHARING MY EUROPEAN DISCOVERIES
I spend six months researching and trying to locate different parts to build the 100% European bicycle.
It was quite a journey, hence I am sharing my list to make your life easier should you wish to do something similar.
Click on the part name to jump straight to the full descriptions and pictures.
Handmade carbon road handlebar is made by a young German company that is adapting the latest carbon making techniques.
It is, as expected, a very light and aerodynamic handlebar that proven itself. I like that it comes with 'made in Germany' statement, which looked quite nice on the bike.
The only disappointment I had was the communication with the company, my emails and additional questions were completely ignored for some reason.
Also note that they have a few budget handlebar options which are not made in Germany.
Before I started this project I did not realise that stem can be such an important part about building the bike. My other choice was not fitting with the Haero Carbon handlebar, but Hope had loads of stems for variety of bikes.
If I am building a next bike I will probably go for one of their flashier colours, as they remind me of the paint job on the racing cars.
Hope as a company, has in impressive story. Started by two Boeing engineers it has grown to a global company known for its innovation and quality products that don't compete on price.
Although I bought it second hand if you are building only from new parts De Rosa team is still a good option.
All of their 12 strong staff are technicians and specialised mechanics who are doing this job because of the passion, not just the paycheck. And to ensure that their skills and knowledge align with the De Rosa brand, everyone had to complete their training in De Rosa school before joining.
The founder, Ugo De Rosa, is still working at the factory together with his two sons Danilo and Doriano. In total, they are making around 5000 frames per year, all in the same factory in Cusano Milanino – all by hand.
I went for Veloce groupset, which was great during long trips and number of triathlons, London Triathlon itself. One note that I would probably have to make – it is significantly louder than others. Although it "sounds quality" for many, others might find it a little annoying. For my cycling mates, I make a grand entrance each time they hear me coming.
An interesting historical fact is that in the 1950s the Campagnolo used to manufacture wheels for sports cars like Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborgini.
Even today, in addition to group set, Campagnolo also makes many other parts suitable for road racing, triathlon, cyclocross and track: wheels, hubs, individual cranksets and even bottle cages.
My older De Rosa frame needed a narrower seatpost that is not being made any more. But luckily I found this second hand seat post from the days when it was being made in France.
Vitus is a company started by building frames in 1970. And it was good at it – it won awards and following. Even today they still continue supplying tubes to other bike frame manufacturers.
Today the brand is still alive and selling direct to consumer bikes that are built in Combodia. I actually rode past that factory, and it was great to see all those local people being employed and bettering themselves in a very poor country.
It is new generation seats that tap into Brooks heritage. The design is reminiscent of original shape but slimmer and with a longer nose-piece. Leather was replaced by vulcanised natural rubber, which comes in a variety of contemporary colours. Tubular steel rails allow additional adjustments.
My personal experience was excellent. It felt comfortable not only during daily commute but also during multi-day trips and races. I was a little surprised that the grey colour that I liked so much is starting to lose its depth within a year of usage.
Natural leather grips that come with strings attached. It is quite a unique look and maybe not necessarily ideal for the racing bike, but I just love it. There are various colours to choose from, and it also has models for city leisure bikes.
Putting it was pretty straightforward, and I still enjoy using it more than two years later. In fact, the leather is now changing colour on the most frequently used sections, and that adds even more character to this unique look.
The only downside that I found was the cork plugs. They shrank on me and no matter what I do – soak them, leave then in humidity – they are simply too narrow to hold in my handlebar ends.
These tires are specifically designed to prevent punctures, and I do hate being stuck by the roadside in the rain trying to glue my tube. It is a little heavier, but it worked well when I was forced to ride on gravel.
Also used them when racing in The Big Rond in Belgium and during my long Coast to Coast trips. I did not feel at a disadvantage against my fellow travellers. In more than two years of extensive riding, I did have one puncture. But it was an exceptional case that did not repeat itself again. I could not be happier with them, especially considering the price I paid for these tires.
There is a lot of hype about these wheels. My buddy Vytas, the bike shop owner, recommended them to me. It seems that it is one of the companies that offer good quality and price ratio. Also, they do have a wide range of prices and types of wheels.
From worldwide locations, we managed to identify the following country specialisations: Biel, Switzerland – factory, product testing and design; Poland – rims and as well as a wheel-building centre. Germany – aluminium rim profiles; Taiwan – carbon products.
Also, did you ever wonder what 'DT' stands for? 'Drahtwerke Trefileries' in German and French mean 'wireworks, so full name stands for 'wireworks made in Switzerland'.
This light is from their dynamo light range as I connected it to the SON Dynamo on my front wheel. Its performance has been outstanding for my needs, I have never had a bicycle light that would lit up the entire road that way.
I like the easy clip on that allows me to take it off for parking or daytime rides.
As a company Exposure Lights started as the manufacturer of the seat posts. Now they are split into two separate divisions' Exposure Lights' specialising in bike, marine and diving lights and 'USE Components' that make seat posts, handlebars, wheels, and apparel.
IXXI rear LED light is charged via mini USB cable and lasts for 15 hours. I like its simple rubber housing and capacity indicator. Very simple, sturdy and reliable – exactly what I would expect from German engineering.
I love these type of companies – there is no trickery in origins of its innovation and product manufacturing. The company was founded in the German city of Meinerzhagen in 1925, where it remains to this day.
In addition to rear lights, the company also makes reflectors, bicycle lights, dynamos, rearview mirrors (for bicycles and motorbikes) and chain guards.
Yep, the same company that now makes excellent hubs. It was quite interesting to hear from other bike builders that this was the only choice. For some reason, they are not even considering other brands.
These days Hope offers 14 hub options to cater for a broader range of cyclists. With Hub Evo 4 Pro, they came up with an interesting concept which makes their hubs' future proof'. The idea is simple – make them suitable for all widths of frames. Hope achieves that by simply inflating the drum.
There is loads of more info on google about this.
Maybe it is just me, but I loved that these pedals were white. However, with time, I came to regret my decision – they definitely don't look as cool now.
It was great to find this company, though. Look is the leader in clipless pedals, known around the world. The company employs around 420 people worldwide, with all of their development, design, and manufacturing takes place in the company's birthplace – Nevers, central France.
Look is the actual inventor of the clipless pedals. They came up with the concept and technology in 1984, and keep developing new types of pedals to this day.
There are three things that I really like about this mudguard. First, it can be fitted without any tools as it has a great screw-in system that I have not seen before.
Second, it has small but a nice touch – a reflective ring at the back, for those dark winter evenings on the road.
And lastly, its green credentials – "50% of resin comes from vegetables in France," and hence it is easily recyclable after you done with it too.
Zefal is a well-known company in France, but maybe a little less elsewhere. It is a world leader in pump manufacturing, and 70 % of their production is exported worldwide.
I received the bottle from them in the same box as my ordered Hero carbon handlebars. There is a stamp that says "made in Germany" on the bottle, but there is no further information on their website.
The bottle is nothing too special but does the job. It also contributed to lowering the price tag of this bike. So I have nothing to complain about.
There are quite a few bike part manufacturers that now offer bottles made in European countries. I even recently saw it on Look and Campagnolo websites.
I suspect that there is one big maker of such bottles who brands it for anyone who is ordering it. Despite extensive search I could not identify such factory though.
The company is specialising in Hub Dynamos that are smooth running, lightweight and durable. It is designed to last for at least 50 000 km. Hence the company extends a five-year warranty to all of their products.
One of SON’s latest innovations is the smart pressure compensation system which prevents hubs from water intrusion and consequential damage.
It all started with one guy. Wilfred Schmidt made the first prototype in 1992, by the 1995 serial production began. It is still not your usual company. The premises are based on mixed-use property, with a lot of attention placed on socially and environmentally responsible conditions
It is an unusual looking and functioning bike lock. I like that 5 mm steel bars with a soft coating protect the bicycle's paintwork. Also, it is nice to have a lock holder that straps it to the bike frame. Bars are linked with special rivets that allow the lock to be folded.
Folding lock is a slightly different way to protect the bike. It is a cross between the chain and cable locks. But what I like the most about it, that it fits so snug and tidy when you are carrying it around on your bike.
Did you know that Abus also allows you to key all of your Abus locks alike, at the time of order? 'Qualia!' – one magic key will open all of your different locks.
Are you building a nice bike yourself? Have some thoughts on mine? Feel free to share in the comments bellow.
Some people wonder why would I do a project like this, so here is a quick background story.
I started cycling as part of my personal wellness project – I wanted to complete a triathlon. Well, and loose weight too. That was about it, to be honest.
But, at the same time, I was on the discovery mode. Being fascinated how little do we know about what is being made in Europe these days, I wanted to buy a European bike. And that's when I discovered that this subject is not as simple as it seems at the beginning.
Most European bike companies do not build bikes in Europe. And those that do, use parts that are made overseas. Although those parts are great, I decided to discover more about European cycling heritage, and how it influences cycling today.
And that's how it all started for me. For full story visit my blog Building European Bike – My Story.
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