If you put a Mora-knife to your brand new carbon frame, you are likely to draw some attention. Same goes for putting up a photo wearing short-shorts together with a denim vest whilst posing with your bike. But behind the shorts-wearing showman, is in fact a bike nerd so fascinated and obsessed with bikes that he spends all of his spare time building up his dream bikes: the world’s lightest full-suspension XC bike, the world’s lightest 29’’ bike, the world’s lightest Downhill bike. All made with utter precision and a huge chunk of love. The man behind it? Mr Dangerholm of course.
Want to know how to make your own Dangerholm bike? Check this out:
NORWAY BORN, SWEDISH RAISED
Well, in fact, his name is Gustav Gullholm, a Norway-born 33-year old bike shop employee from Mora in Sweden. A man whose bike builds, or more like bike creations, has given him worldwide fame and a renowned name in the bike world. His builds have been as praised on Pinkbike as his shorts have been questioned, and his Instagram account “Dangerholm” has grown into a huge platform. But before we get to that, let’s start at the beginning: the Mora-knife.
“I guess anyone who puts a knife in their brand new frame will cause some stir”, Gustav says and laughs. Then adds: “But it’s not actually that mad. It’s a perfectly good way of stripping paint off your frame*”.
For Gustav, the bike build adventures he set off on has always required full determination and detailed perfection. Changing frame colour and design are just one of many steps on the road to creating his dream bike. Or, like in this case, to save weight.
“Companies have this race to develop the lightest frames on the market, with engineers spending weeks redesigning drop-outs to save 5 grams, just to spray paint them and add roughly 80-150 grams of paint”, Gustav says and shakes his head.
But he also gets why: “It makes a finished product”. And he definitely understands the fascination with a paint job. In fact, it’s one of the most time-consuming yet satisfying parts of his whole bike building process.
A saddle and a handlebar might come with different finishes - one might be matt and the other shiny - so then I rework them to make sure they look exactly the same.
“It’s is probably the hardest process of them all. It’s taken ages to learn and perfect my technique. It can take up to 25 hours to sand/strip all the colour of the frame. Then the painting process is on a whole other level. The work behind getting a sustainable and perfect finish is pretty crazy. For example, when you’ve painted on the clear coat, you sand it all down with super fine sandpaper, and then you polish it back up again. That way you get rid of any unevenness, the so-called orange peel effect”.
As you can tell, nothing is a job half-done when it comes to a Dangerholm bike.
“I am a perfectionist through and through, and so, every little detail has to match and be perfect. For example, a saddle and a handlebar might come with different finishes - one might be matt and the other shiny - so then I rework them to make sure they look exactly the same”.
NEVER COMPROMISE ON PERFORMANCE
But a Dangerholm bike is much more than just a uniquely designed paint job and meticulous finish. It is also very much about the components. Creating special solutions that are not only pretty for the eye, but also extremely clever and weight-saving. Like a custom remote linked to both the rear shock and the dropper seat post. That way you’ve got only one visible cable. Push it halfway to set the rear shock in climb mode, push it all the way to actuate the dropper.
Or how about spokes made out of Vectran fiber, basically thread, which have the same tensile strength as steel spokes, but weight a lot less.
When he builds a bike, however, even if the goal is for it to be the lightest bike in the world, he never compromises on performance. His bikes are not for showrooms, they are for the trails.
“I’ve seen some light bike building projects that border on pure idiocy. They aren’t actually built to last, which has given this whole weight saving thing a bit of a bad rep over the years. My bikes are made for me to ride and should therefore be able to take abuse out on the trails. Even if my name is not Emil Johansson, I think that after 20 years of riding bikes I’m not completely useless on two wheels”, he says and explains that he never compromises on the vital components such as tyres, brakes and wheels.
My bikes are not for showrooms, they are for the trails.
THE WORLD’S LIGHTEST DOWNHILL BIKE
“When I built the world’s lightest downhill bike, I still used aluminum rims, downhill tyres, Cush Core Pro inserts, a padded seat, lock-on grips and 203 mm brake discs”. Gustav is referring to one of his latest projects that went live over on Pinkbike in early August 2020. A Scott Gambler Downhill bike that he built to the astonishing weight of 13.42 kg. Almost more impressive, it’s a bike that's been trashed in the local bike parks all summer.
But if doesn’t comprise on some of the heavy stuff, how does he manage to still drop the weight? “When it comes to light bike builds, it’s all about the old saying: many a little makes a mickle. Meaning, it’s all about the details. Even if it seems pointless to buy a handlebar that is 100 gram lighter, if you do that in 10 places you’ve suddenly lost a kg.”
Even if it seems pointless to buy a handlebar that is 100 gram lighter, if you do that in 10 places you’ve suddenly lost a kg.
HOW DID IT START?
These world’s lightest bike builds are the reason behind Dangerholm’s rise to fame. It all started back in 2016 when Gustav set out to build the XC bike of his dreams. He decided to not let either his bank balance or conscious hold him back. At the time, Scott had just released two of the lights xc frames on the market - their Scale and Spark - and so he purchased the frames, and set out to complete his mission.
It was around this time that he decided to put a Mora-knife in his frame and post it on Instagram.
“The whole thing escalated quite quickly. Soon I realised that this was actually going to become the world’s lightest 29’’ mountain bikes”, Gustav says. It was around this time that he decided to put a Mora-knife in his frame and post it on Instagram. From having only close friends on the social media platform, he suddenly had 16 thousand followers by late 2018 and, in this typing moment, he has over 70 thousand. As the showman and bike nerd that he is, the social media and online articles is something he truly enjoys and sees as an important step in reaching his next goal in life: making his bike builds a part-time job.
But back to 2016 and his bike project. The Scale and Spark both became the world’s lightest bikes in their respective category - a hardtail 29’’ and a full-suspension 29’’ - and got the attention they deserved on bike forums like Pinkbike, MBUK and German site BIKE. The Dangerholm brand was born.
Did the builds come out of the blue? Of course not. “I had dabbled in these lightweight bike builds already back in 2010, when I bought a Trek Session and rebuilt it to weight under 30 pounds - which was probably the world’s lightest downhill bike at the time. But social media and online forums weren’t a big thing back then. It was the Scale and Spark that got me my first big feature on Pinkbike and that was the real ignition”, Gustav remembers.
After the first two XC builds, Gustav was hooked and one project followed the next. Many have ran parallel over the years as waiting times for some of his custom-made components can take up to a year to arrive.
Bikes often turn out even better than my initial vision.
He laughs: “Yea you can’t be in a rush when you do build like this. The bike I’m building right now was meant to be finished last autumn, and then this spring, and now it looks like it might be done just in time for this article to be released. But the good thing with some of these insanely long delivery times is that I come up with even more ridiculous ideas in the meantime. So the bikes often turn out even better than my initial vision”.
12 YEARS OLD AND OBSESSED WITH BMX
Putting a knife to your brand new frame isn’t a common sight in the world of MTB. So where did this obsession start? We have to go back two decades to when Gustav was just a kid riding BMX.
“I was probably around 10-12 years old and I had two friends who were as obsessed with BMX as I. Their dad was really into rally cars and had a garage full of stuff. So when we grew out of a BMX, we started playing around with them, spray painting them and doing small modifications. My first Downhill bike was a cracked welded-back-together frame that I had to spray paint and then find leftover parts for here and there, to get it built up. And I guess somewhere along my obsession started.”
Gustav studied technology and design at high school, but other than that he’s got no other education behind him. More of a learn-by-doing type of person. “I’ve always been obsessed with visuals and designs, so along with being a huge bike nerd, I guess I’ve put my creative mind to use on bikes”.
THE CAR WORLD
Mora, for those who don’t know, is a town where there is a big car and motorbike scene. One of those places where you feel like every 13-year old can rebuild an engine with a blindfold. Has that somehow influenced Gustav’s building interest?
“No, actually. I’ve never really known many people who are into cars, it wasn’t my scene growing up. But with that said, I think we can learn a lot from their world. They have a completely different culture compared to ours. Within the mountain bike world, no one even dares to cut their steerer tube down as they are afraid it will affect them selling the bike. In the car and motorbike world, people buy components and take them to molecule pieces in order to rebuild it to suit their liking”.
Gustav continues: “I’ve always felt that if you buy a nice bike for yourself, you should cut that steerer tube in the length that suits you. It’s the next owner’s problem if it doesn’t work for them”.
WHY THE SHORT SHORTS?
And as we all know by now, Gustav does more than just “cut the steerer tube”. His projects go beyond what most people in the bike world are used too and maybe that is why he’s gotten such a huge following. Or is it maybe because of his short-shorts? You can’t write about Mr. Dangerholm himself without mentioning the very short denim shorts he wears exposing a pair of extremely muscular thighs. Gustav laughs.
“It’s all a bit of fun really”, he says. “It started way back when some buddies and I wanted to organise a pre-party with a rock theme. We ended up putting flyers up all over town, renting a place to host it, and well, it all got out of hand”. This seems to be a common theme when it comes to Gustav.
I know they are often called Daisy Dukes, but they can actually be called Lemmy-shorts too.
And so they all needed rock outfits and this is where the shorts came in. Although they weren’t part of that first rock party, the event became a yearly tradition and soon the shorts too. “I know they are often called Daisy Dukes, but they can actually be called Lemmy-shorts too, from the lead singer of Motörhead. He wore tight black jeans on stage, and ridiculously short shorts in the summer”.
Today, Dangerholm is in many ways synonymous with very short shorts or other colourful legwear. And hey, why not add a little spice to life?
THE FUTURE IS HERE
But back to bikes. With plenty of cool and different kinds of bike builds over the years, there is one that lies a little extra close to Gustav’s heart. The one that is just about to be finished - a Scott Spark RC SL XC bike with completely internally routed. An idea that was born back in 2016 but had to be abandoned because the technology wasn’t quite there yet. However now it is, and almost five years on, his idea is almost reality.
“I had ordered a custom-designed handlebar back in 2016 so that I could fit all the cables inside it, so I was incredibly gutted when it didn’t work. At the same time, it’s been so cool doing this build as I’ve had the idea in my head for so long. Seeing it come to life is such a cool feeling”. And it’s been a long time coming. Gustav started the build back in 2018, but because of extremely long delivery times for custom parts, it’s taken up until now to get it finished.
This bike will be top-of-the-line of XC bikes today and is also very much what I think mountain bikes will look like in the future. Maybe as soon as 2025.
You can tell this bike build is something special. Gustav talks about it like a kid talks about Christmas. With its completely integrated cable routing and a very clean look, it’s very much a futuristic build and Gustav agrees: “This bike will be top-of-the-line of XC bikes today and is also very much what I think mountain bikes will look like in the future. Maybe as soon as 2025.”
So with the future already in Gustav’s garage, what is next for the visionary that is Dangerholm?
Well, mainly just making sure all the builds he’s got going at the moment get finished so that he can start dreaming together new projects for 2021. One thing’s for certain, we will see more of Dangerholm, the short-shorts, his bike builds and, who knows, maybe even the Mora-knife.
*Stripping paint from or in any other way modifing frames or components will always void your warranty and may be dangerous if done incorrectly.
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