Building European MTB Bike – Jurgen’s Story

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Building European MTB Bike – Jurgen’s Story

It is interesting that the most commonly asked question, once people hear about my bike, is ‘why?’.

And to be honest there is not a single answer on why I built my bike exclusively from European parts.

I went ahead and started building it encouraged by a number of simple factors like having the time. But now, reflecting back, I probably could point to three main reasons for my motivation:

A Growing Interest In Where My Bike Parts Come From

and what’s behind the brand that is selling it. As a manager in a bike repair shop, I come across a lot of brands that come in prices and levels of quality. But there is also a story about the company, the inventor and their relation to cycling. I think we appreciate things more when we know where they come from.

logo on a bike

Desire To Buy More Local

Like most of my friends, I am becoming more conscious of our impact on local communities, the country and even the environment. As someone who interacts with cyclists daily, I appreciate the relationships I have with the customers from my and surrounding towns. And I would not have the job without them coming to the shop. Hence it is a great feeling for me to buy something from the locals too.

And in this instance, although the distances are longer than when I buy my favourite cheese, but the feeling is the same. And, of course, there is a growing consciousness about the air miles the things we buy travel, and how much that affects the environment when all things are accumulated.

A Way To Support Independent Innovators

A way to support independent innovators. I feel that this project has opened my eyes to the fact that there are a lot of small passionate people, who innovate and make things better for cyclings. Most of the time they start doing it because of their passion and following their heart. If all cyclists support small innovators before the brands that have marketing budgets, then innovation will continue to benefit us. 

My biggest discovery was Noble Cycles from Habay, Wallonia – it is a highly specialised frame welder who made my frame from scratch. It was made to my measurements and we spent a lot of time discussing my riding style. More about Noble Cycle workshop here.

Noble shop in Habay village, Wallonie

I also wanna share my joy about mullet setup (29″wheel front and 27,5″ rear) this way the larger front wheel takes on all the battering, while the smaller wheel at the back allows for more flexible maneuverability. It is a great option for cross country and funbikes. 

Advice To Others Planning To Build Their Own MTB Bike

My advice for people who want to build their own bike from European made parts would be to utilise the list of manufacturers and components that I am including here. Tomas has also made a list of parts in “European Road Bike – Parts List”.

This will save you a lot of time and frustrations. Also, do not forget to enjoy the journey. I almost regret now that my project is coming to an end and I no longer get the buzz on finding a new part or hearing from the maker.

Things not going right is part of the process, but if you focus on the positives you will have much more fun.Sometimes the road to it is just as nice as reaching the destination.

hand made mtb bike - finished project

European MTB Bicycle – Parts Used (Plus Alternative)

Frame and bars: Noble Cycles

Headset: Hope Technology

Seatpost: Darimo / Ergotec

Saddle: Brooks / Prologo / Selle San Marco

Grips: AbsoluteBLACK

Brakes: Hope Technology

Techfork: BOS

Suspensions hubs: Erase Components

Spokes: DT / Sapim

Rims: rad15

Nipples: DT / Sapim

Tim tape: Tesa

Tires: Continental Cross King Protection 2.2 / 2.3

Antiflat latex fluid: Vittoria / Schwalbe Doc Blue

Bottom bracket: Hope Technology

Crankset: Ingrid / Hope Technology

Chain: Wippermann

Cog: AbsoluteBLACK

Derailleur: Ingrid / Rotor / Acros / Rohloff

Pedals: Time Atac or Look

lifestyle bicycle picture
close up
detailed shot
parts

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Made In Belgium – Meeting The Makers

Discovering Belgium and Belgian Makers, By Bike

Belgium is a fascinating country with loads of adventures to offer. Hence I decided to explore it close and personal – by bike. This way, I find, I have more time to know the country, its people and all those unique things that can push us to travel and discover.

Belgian countryside is full of exciting discoveries. Like for example, this bike road going straight through the lake – it was quite an unusual feeling when we drove through it.

Considering that farming is still a very big activity outside the cities, it was nice to get close and personal to the views, smells and interactions with the animals.

Beer making is a craft, and are around five hundred beer names here; hence it is not surprising to come across beer breweries too. And how lucky that one of them was of the famous Delirium, mostly recognised for its pink elephant.

The brewery had a fascinating fountain in front of it – a guy (partially sculptured) thirstily drinking water from the elephant’s trunk.

If you can only drink as much beer, then I would suggest focusing on Trappist beers. There are six Trappist breweries in Belgium run by actual monks, who perfected their own unique recipes over centuries. I added a picture of Orval brewery – which can be visited, if you like ancient buildings with tasty history.

So, What Is Made In Belgium?

As part of my journey in discovering European makers, I spent a fair amount of time researching what consumer products are still made in Belgium. Despite its widely shared rustic image (above is an example), it’s a an advanced country with huge industrial complexes in petrochemicals, medicine, food and even metals. But let’s discover what is closer to our homes – things we, as consumers, can buy and use.

DC Carpets

DC Carpets is a reminder of the days when Belgium was the main maker and supplier of carpets globally. Today only a few factories remain, mainly working for the European markets.

I found it fascinating that they had a vast range of carpets from Eastern European patterns, through contemporary designs, all the way to impressive vintage and Persian themes – all made in Belgium.

Four brothers started this company in 1963, and it is still a family-run business today. Its owner and SEO Koen showed us around and warmed us up with coffee after we arrived by bike on a rainy day.

It is here that I learned about the new trend in the industry – there is a new and growing demand for outdoor carpets. Now being stuck in the garden, can also mean enjoying a trendy carpet on your terrace.

www.dccarpets.com

Decca Sportswear

Decca sportswear started off as a family atelier in 1930 and shifted its focus to cycling apparel in the 1970s. Since then, it has become a well-known cycle wear maker known for its handmade quality and supplying various European cycling teams. Several cyclists who won Tour de Flanders wore Decca gear too.

Today the company is a relatively small player globally but provides high-level personal service and tools in Europe. For example, amateur cycling teams get their personalised page where they can order their apparel individually.

When I visited their workshop in Gavere, they also introduced me to the team and showed impressive jerseys they designed for the previous corporate partnerships and customisation projects.

https://decca.cc

What Is Made In Gent

Gent is an exciting city with charming canals and traditional architecture. It is a vibrant city with its large student population, and you can feel it in the evenings along the various canals. The old town is, of course, a favourite meeting place for socialising and shopping.

There is a huge cycling culture which is very prominent with wide dedicated cycling lanes, cyclists and an impressive number of bicycles parked by the central station.

Jaegher Bikes

I reached out to Jaegher Bikes before coming to town, and they invited me over to see their shop and an assembly workshop. And I was glad to find a contemporary bike shop with a coffee section and outdoor seating.

In the same place, they also assemble the bikes in plain view of everyone. Jaeger makes frames according to the customer size and riding style. It takes around two days for an experienced welder to make one custom bike frame. And they are really impressive – made out of light and surprisingly thin stainless steel, featuring internal cabling routing and elegant welding joints.

I like that these guys build the bike for you instead of matching the bike in stock to what you might want. Also, it is a different shopping and maintenance experience when you deal with a boutique bike brand with high standards.

PAARL Custom Handbags

Gent is a fascinating city for many reasons, and the fashion industry is one of them. There are many fashion designers based here and quite a few boutique shops dotted around town.

I visited the PAARL boutique shop, located in the beautiful old town, as I was very keen to meet its owner and creator, Pearl Du Buck. She opened this atelier that designs, and hand makes customised handbags.

Here, customers can choose their preferred type of leather, unique marble covers and all that in a relaxing environment with a cup of coffee or even a glass of wine.

I feel that such interaction with the artisan and the designer when creating your bag, to see it being made and adjusted to your ideas, is the best way to buy something that you will appreciate for a very long time.

Prices start from €400, and you can visit it in Onderbergen 74, Gent.

What Is Made In Antwerp

Antwerp is a fascinating name, especially if you consider that its name comes from “the man throwing a hand” (in Dutch) – as depicted in this statue in the city’s main square.

It is an interesting city with a mix of traditional buildings from the Middle Ages and contemporary architecture, windmills and huge sports parks. I especially liked getting lost in the narrow streets in the old town and discovering little cafes and restaurants in a leafy shadow.

An extra level of charm comes from its canals. We had a fantastic picnic lunch on the concrete bank of one of the canals, and the locals seem to do the same a lot. To cross one of these, there is a frequent Waterbus service that takes on passengers and bikes along and across the city’s canals.

This city is also famous for its diamond. 84% of the world’s mined diamonds pass by its Diamonds Quarter. Here diamonds are traded, processed and shipped to other parts of the world.

Koba Handmade

Koba never planned to own a business or be an artisan; she has always been a busy mom of three and worked as an air hostess for 23 years. However, when Covid struck, she decided to take her cotton basket making hobby to a new level.

She hand sews these unique cotton baskets from environmentally friendly recycled cotton thread, which she buys from a local Belgian supplier. And it is her conscious decision to go with more natural, undyed colours, to further reduce potential pollution.

These cotton baskets, bowls and planters feel and look different, a functional design touch that can be used in many homes. And it is clearly popular as the orders are growing from all around Europe.

www.kobahandmade.be

Rombach Glassblower

Rombach is more than just a glassmaker. It is a public workshop, a gallery, a social gathering place and a community support centre – all based in one rustic former factory in the sleepy suburbs of Antwerp.

Frederik Rombach has been making glass for six years and now uses these skills to run classes, individual courses, making prototypes and creating sculptural work. I visited him during a showcase when he was making a glass penguin for the public, with blues vinyl playing in the background.

For me, his and his students’ products listed on the website are more than just glass vases, sculptures or lamps with made in Belgium tag– it is a piece of a community and contemporary artisanship.

www.rombachs.com

Riding in Wallonia

Wallonia is region mostly south of Brussels and it is very different from the Belgium we saw in the north. You can still see a lot of farms, but we found ourselves surrounded by forests more and more. The scenery has also changed to the rolling countryside with small villages each showcasing a church poking above the roofs from far away.

Those nice views came at a price though – to enjoy it we had to cycle up the hills, with various levels of steepness. Most of them were ok for our fitness level, but be aware of the massive mountains surrounding Liege with 12% gradient riding into the city and out.

Almost every village we passed had a memorial with American and Belgian flags – commemorating American soldiers who were defending or liberating them at the end of WWII. It contains the details of the regiment involved, casualties and what type of battle took place in that location.

Noble Cycles

We found Noble Cycles in a small town of Habay, Wallonia, just next to a border with Luxembourg. A long ride from Brussels, but it was worth it.

Nicolas has been making bikes from scratch for over ten years now, but it all started when he decided to quit his demanding IT job and start a lifestyle that would allow him to spend more time with his kids.

Being a small workshop Noble Bikes are proud of their customisation options, including the most important one – building your own custom frame based on your body measurements and riding style.

It was fascinating to learn how the body is measured – Nick took five measurements, and I discovered that one of my hands is 2 cm longer – explaining how custom built bikes help prevent injuries and strains.

More on this bike atelier – video I tubmlr

Boutique Shopping in Brugge

It is impossible to talk about Belgium and not to mention mysterious Brugge. Also known as a “Venice of the North” thanks to its picturesque canals and occasional boats.

Historically it was a trade city focusing on the wool and textile industry in the 15th century. These days it is more known as a vacation destination thanks to its historical vibe. I could not meet any makers, when passing by but was lucky to wander around and discover these cute boutique shops stocking hand-selected wares.

It is another way to discover new artisans, small fashion designers and get yourself a truly unique piece from Europe. Just walking around and admiring small, ancient shop fronts is quite magical.

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Budget Gifts That Come With An Amazing Story To Tell

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Budget Gifts That Come With An Amazing Story To Tell

Even the most ordinary item can become very dear to the receiver if you wrap it in an exceptional story for him/her to remember. If it is a great story, it is likely that he or she will be proud of sharing it with others too.

Budget is irrelevant, the consideration is everything. I especially like the gifts where it contributes to the good of the society or the forgotten. You will find at least one of those bellow.

BEN CARSON

‘Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what

we give.’

For a moment let’s stop focusing on what your budget is, but more about what is special about this item and how does it make you feel.

It is fascinating how many passionate people out there doing something small or big, but something that they believe in. Those are my favourite stories and I hope it will be yours soon too.

Eco-Friendly Sunglasses Cork Case

Eco-friendly gifts makes us feel good, whether you giving or receiving it. There are loads of things we can do with more consideration about the environment and gifts are not exception.

Although a lot of people tend to associate ecologically friendly things to a more expensive category, it is not always the case. These cork sunglasses cases come from renewable cork and cost only $16.

Cork, you see, is essentially a tree bark which regrows every 9 years, without ever harming the tree. It is a huge industry with wine already, mainly made in Portugal. Needless to say, this material is many times better than plastic or leather.

You can buy one from ‘Wear Joplins’ shop on Etsy.

House Number – Spanish Traditional Ceramic Tiles

Traditional Spanish ceramic tiles are recognised and appreciated worldwide. They are extremely tough and appreciated for the decorative purposes, especially when one need to add a touch of colour.

Spanish started making these ceramic tiles thousands of years ago. Then with Arab invasions to Europe, with Europeans conquering colonies it spread around the world. For example you see very similar tiles in Mexico these days.

If one has to point a starting point, it is claimed that Spanish cities of Sevilla and Cádiz in Andalucía started exporting them worldwide first. But, of course, they are still made in Spain and you can focus on the tiles showing house numbers. They are also hand painted and will last generations.

Probably the most convenient way to buy would be on Amazon. From $12.95.

Italian Ceramic Cap For Olive Bottle

As authentic as it goes. These Italian ceramic caps for olive oil bottles are made in a small Italian city of Siena, by third generation of ceramic artisans. Each cap is hand made and hand painted using traditional techniques.

Bianco e Nero di Staccioli is a well known artisan shop and has a lot of great ceramic kitchenware. But, if you are looking for a budget gift, you can get the same story for $20.

I like that this gift is very useful, frequently used and turns boring olive oil bottle to something with a personality and history. Be sure to hear ‘ where did you get that’?

To buy duty free with fast delivery in the US, use ‘Bianco e Nero di Staccioli’ shop on Amazon.

A Truly Unique Wine-Bottle-Stand From Italy

San Patrignano is a unique rehabilitation centre in Italy. There are long waiting lists due to its success in bringing people with dependancies back to the society, by giving them a trade. No mobile phones or visits home allowed.

The program lasts 3.5 years and each participant has to choose whether to work making food, at the farm growing grapes, wine production, or artisan skills making leather, textile or wood products. By buying it you support the cause.

Making things is part of their circular economy and a way of building a support network by working in a tight team. There are many great things made, and there is a good option on a tight budget – an Italian wine bottle stand.

Future addiction free artisans make them from used wine barrels with which are also hot stamped – giving each stand a unique look.

Price: 15 Euros directly at San Patrignano shop.

Hand Made Hair Brush, Made In England

Kent Brushes is a company that makes rather nice hair brushes – by hand. And yes, you guessed it right – it is located in ‘garden of England’, also known as Kent.

It is really unusual for such daily item at such reasonable price of under $10 to be made in England. Most of brushes these days definitely don’t come from Europe. That what makes is so special. Especially if the gift if for an Englishman or someone with a fascination about the Great Britain.

This brush is still made from cellulose acetate, which for us feels like solid plastic widely used worldwide. But instead of moulding it Kent Brushes team hand saws it from pre-made sheets. That way it does not leave any sharper edges, which then can get caught by the hair.

Visit Kent Brush shop, to get your hands on one of these.

An Italian Made Ceramic Cup With A Custom Message

Italian ceramic artisans are at your service. It is the first Italian artisan family, that I come across, which is willing to customise the coat of arms and the message on the cup. Essentially you expressing your wish, they make it happen in bright traditional colours used in Italian ceramics.

So let me tell you a bit about ‘Biancoe Nero Staccioli’. They are based in The Palio of Siena which consists of 12 districts. Each district used to compete and have their own coat of arms that you see on the cups. Only this family has the permission to reproduce them.

Probably this would be a perfect gift for an Italian, who would appreciate the link to history and craftsmanship. But others will love it for the personalisation too.

Buy it on their Etsy shop, for $35.

Swedish Fire Steel

Fire starter is a practical and interesting gift for all outdoor lovers.

What sets these fire starters apart from the matches or lighter is that they are wind and rainproof. It produces sparks in wet and windy conditions, and the temperatures of 3000 degrees easily start the fire going.

The fact that the military developed it and that it comes from a country famous for its outdoor culture – Sweden, will be a great gift for any outdoor fan. It even comes with a built-in emergency whistle, as a bonus.

Considering that it comes in the package branded ‘Light My Fire’, it must surely be a good line for the greeting card (wink wink).

Buy it on lightmyfire.com shop for $17.

Murano Glass Bottle Stopper From Italy

Murano glass is one of the most celebrated types of glass out there. It is made for over 1500 years on the Venetian island of Murano and is famous for its colourful patterns.

Glassmaking is huge in Murano. If you walk through the island, you will see small workshops with artisans blowing the glass into a variety of the most impressive and colourful pieces you cannot imagine.

Unlike expensive glass art pieces or stunning chandeliers, wine openers offer a budget option to add a touch of Italian made glass art to your or your loved one’s home.

Luca M. Donna, the artisan behind these pieces, sells them on her Lamp Work Studio shop on Etsy for just over $20.

Big Budget Is Not Needed To Find An Interesting Present From Europe

IN SUMMARY

It is not always easy to be romantic. But, with some thought, on what your loved-one cares and appreciates, you can get there.

These gift ideas tell a story about the makers and their values – can you match it with her?

It is my hope that the touch Europe can also make these gift ideas more interesting and special. There is a lot of romantic excitement about European countries – and for the right reasons. So, use it to your advantage.

picture link to history about Laquiole brand

Laquiole is a traditional pocket knife maker from France, but it is also a cute village in a deep countryside.

link to post about Sweden

Sweden is a nice, scenic country. Did you know that they also make jet fighters? Eco jet fighters, true story.

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Wine is not the only thing you can gift a wine lover. These unique accessories will impress them too.

thumbnail link to cyclists gift ideas page

Cyclists are a special breed. They think differently for sure, but there are many things that excite them.

Great Gift Ideas To Your Inbox – Quarterly

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