Stig of the Dump

Stig of the Dump

January 14, 2019

"Nobody believes Barney when he says he's discovered a boy living wild in the dump. But for Barney, Stig is totally real. They become great friends, learn each other's ways and embark on a series of exciting adventures.

Barney is a solitary little boy, given to wandering off by himself…"

I think perhaps there is a little (or even a lot) of Barney in me. It certainly brought a smile to my face as the story I'd not read for probably forty years or more came flooding back. But then I did read that book quite a few times as a child.

I hadn’t yet decided what I was going to do with the ugly, heavy, neglected bike-shaped-object I'd rescued from my local dump. I was still only halfway home, having stopped off at the local brewery to pick up a takeaway (Shere Drop, arguably the best beer in the home counties) and I had two clear decisions made. The first being that all the paint was coming off, whatever this thing was to become would be based on a bare metal frame. The second; it would be a ‘He’ and he would be called Stig of the Dump.

So we got home, unloaded, got the beer into the cooler and out with the camera. First things first, photograph everything. You can never have too many reference shots, and you never know when you might want to start your own business doing bike repairs and custom conversions, and need some photos for a blog.

Next, a full inspection of what I’d taken on. Put simply, a good steel frame in virtually perfect condition (largely due to the industrial quantity of paint with which it had been coated) dressed mostly with cheap and heavy components. The corrosion of the hard parts and the perished rubber of the tyres and other soft parts, telling a story of a life lived outdoors and with little love. No firm decision could be made until the frame had been stripped of all parts, but it was the first Saturday of May and the Winter that seemed may never end had finally released its grip on Spring. There was a lawn to be mown, a BBQ to be cleaned down and beer to be consumed in the sunshine. 

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places; A pint of beer (of course), a VW camper convention, a silver spoon mistakenly put through the dishwasher, even an old oven tray. So by the time I’d stripped the frame back to it’s bare metal, I’d decided it wasn’t so much a paint job that I wanted to do, it was more of a ‘controlled corrosion’ effect. In VW circles they refer to it as the Rat Look. And so ensued round upon round of artificial rusting, sanding back, polishing, cursing, swearing, etc. 

In hindsight I think a few less rounds of coating would have got the perfect result, allowing for the clear lacquer darkening it down a few shades. But as experiments go, it was certainly a success. By this time I’d settled on what I wanted the finished bike to be, and in keeping with the whole Deviant Bikes brand it had to be something a bit unique. 

Back to my early teens - and the frustration that I couldn’t ride my Peugeot road bike in the woods, and pull off jumps like I used to on the Raleigh Grifter I'd converted to a single-speed, pseudo BMX bike (my parents had refused to buy me a Raleigh Burner) - I wanted a road bike I could ride on the local trails. A cyclocross bike that didn’t look like a cyclocross bike. Something retro enough in concept that it could hold its own among the hipster single-speeders cruising East London, but rugged and with enough gears to feel at home on the North Downs Way and the bridleways of the Surrey Hills.

With the frame now in its final rounds of clear lacquer coating, attention was switched to the big plastic box of bits that had been stripped from the frame. Frivolity was not an option as I was also now in the middle of the Bamboo bike project, and that frame was going to require all new components. That said, having removed what seemed like half a metric tonne of paint and stickers from the frame itself, I wasn't just going to weigh it back down with the heavy steel cranks and other components that originally conspired to create a relatively unlovable lump. Aesthetics and weight saving were both factors to be considered.

Some parts were pretty easy to write off from the start; the manky old saddle and handlebar grips, all cables, tyres (too far gone), and pedals. The wheels, although not far from true were cheap and heavy and the rims were losing the rust war. They won't go to waste though. The hubs are serviceable and will make good practice subjects when I get all 'Sir Alan' and take on an apprentice.

So, what absolutely had to be replaced?

  • Saddle (knackered)
  • Wheels & tyres (knackered)
  • Cables (never try and reuse old cables)
  • Grips (knackered)
  • Pedals (knackered)

Which bits got sacrificed purely for style?

  • Brakes (switched to a cyclocross style brake)
  • Cranks Chainrings (Stig was going to have different gearing)
  • Front Mech (switching to a 1x setup)
  • Handlebar & Stem (Stig wasn't going to be a town bike)
  • Shifters (wouldn't work with the new handlebar setup)

 

The end result

Lessons learned

Well, where to begin? I guess the overarching lesson here is

  • Start with a clear vision of what you're going to build before you start
  • Price it up and set a solid budget that covers everything, from the new wheels all the way down to the amount of disposable gloves you'll get through. I learned very early in my previous life as a digital project manager, budget creep can happen in the blink of an eye and be exponential if you haven't planned thoroughly. Whether it's a £1m online campaign or a £300 bike rebuild, the same same principle applies. But when you're setting up your own bike repair business, you don't have a multi-billion household brand client you can just hit up for a bit of extra budget.
  • Source all your parts at the very outset (from as few suppliers as possible)

Give your self plenty of time. If you're going back to the bare metal, stripping the frame is a bitch of a job. You'll have hours (literally) of thumb-twiddling time whilst waiting for the paint stripper to do its job, and then later while waiting for the various layers of paint/lacquer to dry. This is the time for sifting the parts you're planning to ditch into their separate recycling pots, and for reconditioning all the parts you're going to re-use.

What next?

Well, commissions come from the unlikeliest of places. A lady with a dutch bike that she would rather have rebuilt than lose to the local dump and replace with something new (even though replacement would cost her roughly half what we need to spend on rebuilding) and an old 26" MTB that we're looking at turning into a modern hardcore hardtail. Watch this space! We'll be documenting more of our projects as we go along.

Or, if you desperately want to breathe new life into that previously loved steed that is now languishing in the shed, wanting nothing more than to renew its relationship with you and get back out on the road or trails, get in touch. We'd love nothing more than to help you guys renew your riding partnership.

 

For the many and varied types of inspiration, our thanks to:

Surrey Hills Brewery (http://surreyhills.co.uk)

Death Machines of London (https://dmolcustoms.com)

Louisa Grace Interiors (https://www.louisagrace.co.uk/our-work/)

Cycle EXIF (https://www.cycleexif.com)

My Cool Bike - Book, Chris Haddon (https://books.google.co.uk/books

Urban Cycling - Book, Laurent Belando  (https://g.co/kgs/BJA5R5)

Boneshaker Magazine - sadly no longer in print, but check out the website (https://boneshakermag.com)

 




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