What happens after you order your NorthRoad bike?
It’s happened! You’ve just said yes. You’re a part of the family now, but what takes place between you ordering and you collecting?
Come behind the curtain for a second. There’s a lot that goes into building custom bikes for people, especially in the post-pandemic cycling world where demand has almost catastrophically outstripped supply. Making Carbon Fibre road bikes in the UK is something that not a lot of people are doing. We’re proud of our process, and we don’t mind sharing it with you.
Step 1 - We confirm your frame size
A quite straightforward process. A few measurements or a recent bike fit and our knowledgeable team will make sure that we order you a frame that fits! We’re pleased to say that of the many hundreds of NorthRoad bikes that are out there we have never had reports that a bike has been the “wrong” size. Our carbon bicycle frames are all designed to be fast, but they’re also designed to be comfortable. Riding a carbon bike in the UK is no longer a compromise of speed vs. having your skeleton rumbled free of your body. Never the less, this is all for nought if it doesn’t fit. So we’ll make sure it does.
Step 2 - Component Sourcing
This is the step that is proving most difficult in 2021. Covid-19 has had an impact on almost every industry, and the cycling component industry has been one of the worst hit. Factories that would churn out millions of components a year ground to a halt, whilst demand for the humble bicycle went through the roof. No summer holidays, no pubs, bars or restaurants, no football or rugby. But you could cycle - and cycle we, as a planet, did. We’re grateful for this, cycling is good. But it will be a while before the supply of the parts we need is back to normal.
For us, groupset components have been the biggest struggle. Shimano and SRAM make up the majority of our builds. Pre-Covid we would simply get in touch with the UK supplier in each instance, ask them for a groupset, and we’d get it the following day. Delightful.
However, the lead time from official suppliers is, at the time of writing, well into 2022 so we’re having to be a bit more creative to make sure our customers get their bikes. We currently find a lot of our groupsets internationally, navigating the often treacherous waters of import duty, missing packages, and post-brexit confusion. In some cases, we have had to buy groupsets from retailers in the UK who have had priority from suppliers. It’s not always fair, but we’d rather take a smaller margin and deliver excellence, than hold out and hope.
Whilst we spanner in the day, we tap our keyboards relentlessly as the sun goes down looking for the parts that will make your wheels turn. If you have a longer lead time than anticipated this is the reason why. We won't start to prepare your frame until your parts are in.
Step 3 - Frame Preparation
Depending on the model you have ordered, we will instruct our suppliers to build and ship your frame to us. Your frame comes to us “raw” and “rough polished”. This means our next job is frame preparation. This is where we inspect the frame thoroughly and very gently sand any imperfections. Carbon Fibre is a wondrous material, but picky about what sticks to it. We’re continually improving our knowledge and skills on how to prepare a carbon frame without relying on costly, and quite frankly boring factory paint jobs. We can’t share all of our secrets so there’s a few half steps in here that make our bikes a bit special, but rest assured, a lot of it is good old fashioned elbow grease.
The frame is then spray-primered in our paint booth. The primer will show up any minor imperfections that we may have missed on first inspection so the primer is left to dry, then we’re back at the sanding stage, then we try again. Patience is the name of the game here!
Step 4 - Paint
Once the frame is primed for paint, we sit down, look at the design you would like, and scratch our heads.
All of our logos (except gloss or leaf logos) are stencilled on rather than placed as decals. This means we have to work in layers. The “logo” layer is typically sprayed first. This is then left to dry for 24 hours, inspected, and then we mask off before we spray with “main” colours. We typically need 24 hours per colour on the frame to make sure everything has chance to dry and settle the way we want it to, before finally applying just the right amount of lacquer to finish. This means if you choose two colours on your frame and a third colour for logos, your frame will have been in the booth for almost 5 days including the lacquer!
Step 5 - Build
This is where your new frame meets all of it’s new components. Brakes are bled, gears are indexed, bolts are torqued, tubeless tyres are wrestled with. We like this step. It’s where all the hard work comes together and we get the first real glimpse of your vision.
Step 6 - Quality Control
Two heads are better than one, and four eyes are better than two. Once your bike is built, whoever didn’t build it goes through our 23 point quality control process. For every fault the inspector finds the builder has to buy coffee and cake. It’s the rules. Any final amends are made and the bike is signed off as finished.
It takes time to do a good job, and we deal in doing the best jobs we possibly can. We’ll go as quickly as we can but never at the expense of doing it right. If you have a vision for your next bike, please talk to us. We’re a small, honest, and hard working team and we love talking all things bikes. You can contact us here, if you’d like to talk over the phone just leave your number in a message and we’ll be in touch.
How would you like yours?