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Me and my bike: Talbot Frameworks' Matt McDonough

James Spender
20 Mar 2017

Talbot Frameworks’ Matt McDonough talks us through his original – and favourite – mixed materials creation, the Dalsnibba

Every year in Norway there’s a race from Geirangerfjord up a mountain called the Dalsnibba,’ says Talbot Frameworks’ founder, owner and framebuilder Matt McDonough. ‘I visit the area a lot because we have some family friends there, and I’ve ridden up the mountain numerous times.
It’s stunning, and it’s what this bike is named after.’

It’s a long way from McDonough’s workshop in south London to the easterly fjords of Norway, but the spirit of the mountain is manifest in the Dalsnibba, a lightweight, super-stiff climbing machine.

‘This is the first mixed materials bike I ever made – a prototype, if you like,’ he says. ‘I started building lugged frames, then fillet brazed, and now most of our work is TIG. This is fillet brazed, though, as you get that smoother finish on the bilaminate lugs. The carbon is from Enve, the main triangle is filament-wound and the seatstays come out of a mould.’

Bi the bi

The term ‘bilaminate’ originally referred to framebuilders adding an extra, often patterned or logo-stamped sheet onto a regular-cast lug as an aesthetic touch, thereby adding another layer, or laminating the lug. Today the term is more commonly applied when two shorter tubes are fillet brazed together to create a sleeve into which separate tubes are brazed or bonded. In the case of the Dalsnibba those tubes came from Utah-based Enve. The top, down and seat tubes are filament-wound, a process whereby carbon threads are wound around a cylindrical mandrel before being impregnated with epoxy resin and cured. 

This process is often favoured in lugged carbon designs as filament-wound tubes can be made to tighter tolerances than their wrapped or moulded counterparts. That said, the seatstays are moulded due to their more intricate wishbone shape, and the chainstays, like the lugs, are conspicuously steel.

‘Unless you weigh next to nothing then we tend to build Dalsnibbas with steel chainstays,’ adds McDonough, alluding to the fact that unlike a lot of builders he makes the Dalsnibba as one of three ‘standard’ models in the Talbot range – although every one is still custom made. ‘Steel makes a huge difference to the stiffness in the bottom bracket area, so the chainstays are Columbus Life.’ 

Elsewhere the head tube and bottom bracket are from Paragon Machine Works, a California-based machine shop popular with independent framebuilders, and the lugs are made out of T45, an aerospace-grade steel alloy. To keep the weight low the tubes that comprise the lugs have been turned on a lathe, inside and out, to remove excess material, before being hand-finished with a few semi-ornate flourishes. As such, the overall frame weighs 1,250g, very competitive for a frame that’s pretty much half steel. 

Although Talbot Frameworks’ frames start at £1,650 including paint, the Dalsnibba comes in at £3,000, so it’s no surprise McDonough has decided to spec it out with some exotic parts.

‘The fork is an Enve 2.0 road fork and the finishing kit is carbon Fizik stuff,’ says McDonough. ‘The groupset is Dura-Ace Di2, although I swapped
out a few components, and the wheels are tubulars.’

The fork and finishing kit have been colour matched by the Dalsnibba’s painter, a Bristol-based artist known as Dokter Bob (although McDonough does the majority of Talbot’s paint). It’s incredibly striking in the sunlight, a deep, shimmering metallic blue and mithril silver, but look beyond the aesthetic and it’s some more understated parts that draw the eye.

The brake callipers aren’t the expected Dura-Ace 9000 but American-made Eecycleworks Eebrakes, which come in at just under 200g a set with pads. The chainset is Cannondale’s SiSL2, and the wheels are conspicuously unbranded save for some etching on the hubs. 

‘The brakes are silly money, around £700, but they weigh less than 200g. I’ve used of a lot of lightweight brakes but these ones actually work! The
SiSL2 chainset is much lighter than Dura-Ace [483g versus 632g] but still really stiff, and the wheels are Light Bike rims laced to Extralite hubs.’

Extralite hubs are almost worryingly light at a claimed 48g front, 134g rear (by contrast Dura-Ace 9000 hubs are 120g and 248g respectively), and 24mm deep tubular rims from Asian manufacturer Light Bike come in at a claimed 320g. With spokes the wheels are less than a kilo, meaning the overall build is how much?

‘It’s 6.2kg and costs approximately £8,000 full build,’ says McDonough matter-of-factly. ‘It’s full custom geometry but this is pretty much a 54cm-effective top tube. This is “sunny-one-hundreds” stuff – I have other bikes for day-to-day – but I really like this one. It’s well made, really light. It’s a cool bike.’

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