Donhou Expedition Bike

Meet my expedition bike aka "Django"...

Django on the Han
I'd been planning on putting together a heavy duty  expedition bike ever since I went cycling around New Zealand back in 2008. It's one of those things that I just kept putting off, the main reason being because I couldn't bring myself to spend that kind of money on a bike. That was until I found out that a friend of mine from my university days in Sheffield was now a frame builder.

Tom is based in Norwich in the UK. He has been building custom frames for a couple of years now and his work is magnificent. He won the "Best in Show" award at the 2011 Bespoked Bristol Handmade bicycle show. Check out more of his work at the Donhou Bicycles website. Serious bike porn!!!

Pre-welding in the Donhou Workshop.

The finished frame. I went for a British racing green finish. I had a battered Claud Butler in this colour about 10 years ago. I can't remember what happened to it.

Ritchey Biomax Pro Handlebars
Ritchey Biomax Pro Drop Bars. These are my first drop bars and I love them. They are super comfortable. They offer so many hand positions which is a godsend on a long ride. It's a real relief on your hands and your back to be able to move into different positions during a cycle. I mostly ride on the hood of the brake lever. I only really use the drops on climbs. They allow you to get low so you can use your stomach muscles without having to bend your arms too much. The shape of the drops distributes the pressure on your hand evenly so there is no discomfort.

I opted to have bar end shifters as I've read that they are much tougher that brifters (brake/shifters). Another useful thing is that they can be switched from index shifting to friction shifting easily. This is really useful when the indexing of the gears needs to be sorted out.

To match the British racing green paint job there was only one choice for handlebar tape - brown. I used Brooks leather handlebar tape and gave it an application of proofide.

Brooks Flyer Special
Brooks Flyer Special. This is my second Brooks saddle. The flyer is sprung at the rear so it softens the vibrations on rough roads and tracks. It's really comfortable even though it hasn't fully broken in. I've clocked up about 400km on this so far and it feels like an armchair. The springs are pretty rigid so it doesn't affect your pedaling.

Donhou headtube logo detail
I love that Donhou headtube logo! Sean bought me a Chris King Sotte Voce headset in brown whilst he was in Portland. They didn't have it in black, which is just as well because I prefer the brown model! (cheers Sean!) The Sotto Voce line isn't as obnoxious as the usual line which has a really loud logo emblazoned on it. Chris King headsets are guaranteed for 10 years so I shouldn't be getting any troubles with this for sometime (touchwood).

Donhou downtube logo detail
Pletscher Twin Kickstand. Loads of people despise kickstands, but I'm not one of them. They are incredibly useful when you are touring. This kickstand is a little on the heavy side, but this is an expedition bike not a road bike and I couldn't care less about a bit of extra weight. The stand has two legs which fold together when not in use. Because the stands are quite large it results in one of the wheels being raised from the ground. This is useful for two reasons:
  1. When fully loaded the front wheel raises off the ground which prevents the bike from wheeling itself around when stationary. 
  2. When the bike isn't loaded the rear wheel raises off the ground which allows you to spin the wheel when tuning the gears or doing minor repairs. This would be very useful if trying to true your wheel whilst on tour. 
The only problem I'm aware of with these stands is that they have been known to crush chain stays on fully loaded bikes that don't have a kickstand plate. This shouldn't be a problem for me as Tom built the frame with a large kickstand plate specifically for mounting this Pletscher stand (see above photo).
Pletscher Twin Kickstand

Wheel Set Up
These rims are 26" Alex Adventurers, a Taiwanese brand. Initially I wasn't sure if I should get these. I couldn't find a great deal of reviews about them and there is a lot of snobbery online towards Asian brands. Most people favour Mavics. When I found out Alex Adventurers come as standard with Surly's Long Haul Trucker I decided to try them out. The tyres are Schwalbe Marathon (1.75).

I've wanted a dynamo hub for a long time. I love the idea of creating electricity from pedalling. I was initially looking at the Schmidt SON but it was much too expensive for me. I bought this Shimano DH-2N72 for about $80. The specs are much the same as the Schmidt SON but so much cheaper there was no contest in the end. I haven't noticed any drag when riding with this hub. The great thing about a dynamo hub is being able to charge batteries and devices while cycling and of course never having to worry about your batteries going dead on your lights.

Supernova E3 Pro (Iris lens). This dynamo lamp is ridiculously bright, perhaps a little too much for the city. I like it a lot nonetheless. Unlike the terraflux model which has a more condensed light that focuses on illuminating the road surface, the Iris lens spreads its light much further. I'm really happy with this purchase although it cost far too much. It was an impulse buy (I was going to go for a cheaper Lumotech lamp but it was out of stock) however I'm really happy with it. It makes me want to go on more night rides.

I have Tektro CR720 cantilever brakes. The brakes are a little weak to be honest. I'm going to swap out the brakes pads with some Kool Stop Dura Salmon inserts. I understand these are infinitely better than the pads that come with the Tektro cartridges.

Django - Donhou Expedition Bike
For now I've just got a pretty standard rack which I will change when I take on a larger tour. The rear panniers are Ortlieb backrollers. They are waterproof and having a great system for clipping onto the rack. They are much nicer than Topeak's panniers. I'm looking for a handlebar bag now although I haven't seen rave reviews of any of them in particular.

Frame & Fork Donhou Bicycles - Custom Expedition Frame
HeadsetChris King - Sotto Voce
Seatpost Satori
Saddle Brooks Flyer Special
Pedals MKS Sylvan Touring
Handlebar Ritchey Biomax Pro
Tape Brooks brown leather tape
Stem 31.8 100mm 107deg
Brake lever Tektro RL341 Compact
Cross Lever Tektro RL720
Crank SLX M660
Bottom Bracket Shimano SLX
ChainKMC X9
Front derailleur Deore M591
Rear derailleur Deore M591
CranksetDeore 9s 11-34T
Shifter Shimano 9s Bar End
Brakes Tektro CR720 Canti Black
Rims Alex Adventurer 26" 36H
Front hub Shimano DH-2N72 dynamo hub 36h
Rear hub Deore LX 36h
Tyres Schwalbe Marathon 26" - 1.75
Kickstand Pletscher Twin Leg Stand


  1. Hi Al, nice bike, man! Although if you want to take it on a heavy duty expedition I would invest in more solid rims, such as sun rhyno lites. they are strong and wide and allow you to mount fat tyres. I'd also swap the cantilever brakes for V-Brakes - AFAIK there should be solutions out there for that they'll work with dropdown handlebars. I'd also have opted for disc-brake compatibility (especially with the straight forkblades) - My bike looks similar to yours, you can check it out on: or:


    1. Yeah, my rims are a temporary measure. They'll do for the roads that I'll most likely be riding in the near future, but I'll definitely be swapping them out in the future. Nice blog BTW! Really makes me want to get out there ASAP.

  2. Hi,
    Stumbled upon your page while searching for "British racing green" - I'm selecting a color for a frame repaint, and must say your bike's color is the best green I've seen so far, very very nice!

    1. Cheers! I love that colour. It also reminds me of the old Lotus racing cars.

  3. great bike. I prefer the old wide profile cantis for touring - with good pads such as the salmon pads, and a low straddle cable hanger, you should have plenty of braking power. They are better than V-brakes if you do knock a wheel out of true, as they sit much further away at rest, so don't rub: adjustment is much more critical with V-brakes. I do like Rhyno-lites as a touring rim, however; I've never tried Alex Adventurers. Get some Power Grips for your pedals, too - the best exped touring solution.

    1. I bought some salmon kool stops. They are excellent brake pads. I also just bought some power grips. They took a bit of getting used to, but I love them!