Millfield Special #2 – The KH-K Gravel Bike

After moving out of the city to our new HQ in the Hunter Valley, the need for a Millfield gravel bike became immediately obvious. Our local roads are typical of the rural and regional experience in Australia, where sometimes the local unsealed roads are in better condition than the sealed roads.

Gravel bikes have become the solution for many cyclists, where both road riders and MTB riders can explore more of their local areas.

Our gravel project (like most of them) begins with a frame. In this case, it was a 60cm road frame built in the mid-80s by the legendary Australian framebuilder Kerry Hopkins. Built as a touring frame with pannier mounts and cantilever brakes, the frame spent many years in service of the original owner, a bike store employee in Newcastle NSW.

Unfortunately the frame was involved in a car accident in 2012, and the rear triangle was severely damaged. Under normal circumstances, this would consign the frame to the scrap bin, but it’s such a high-quality frame, the original owner gave it away. When we found it years later, we knew it had potential, and deserved a second chance.

The frame was brought back to bare metal with limestone blasting, which is much more gentle on the steel than glass or soda, and doesn’t leave small chips of paint behind. Aside from the crash damage, it was in good condition with no cracks or corrosion.

Finding the right framebuilder to fulfill our vision was easy – Sean at Killenbike. Sean has a talent for steel frame repairs and modifications, and we like his passion for gravel and bikepacking. We had a few discussions about specifications and what we planned to do with the frame, and we delivered it knowing that Sean would make his own decisions about the final product.

The bent rear triangle was removed and the headtube was machined off. The front triangle had some small alignment issues from the crash which Sean resolved when the new headtube was installed.

Sean manufactured a new tapered headtube, brazing it into the existing lugs.

He installed internal cabling ports for shift and brake, and extended the lugs under the chainstays for strength around the new tube penetrations.
You can see in the photos that the cabling isn’t fully internal; there isn’t room in this 80s BB shell to run cabling inside. The cables come out the bottom of the downtube and go back into the chainstays. This is a great compromise and with the full routing of outer cable, the shift performance is reliable in the muddiest of conditions.

The new asymmetric rear triangle was constructed for disc brake and 12 x 142mm through-axle wheels, using Paragon dropouts.

The Columbus gravel carbon forks are from Hillbrick, with a Columbus tapered headset. These are superb forks, super strong with internal cabling for flat-mount brakes, 12mm through-axle hubs and ready for up to 700×40 tyres.

The hand-made ‘spear-tip’ seatstay caps are a work of art, and the additional webbing above the BB guarantees ultimate strength when the gravel turns ugly.

As Sean was completing the frame rebirth, Campagnolo released the Ekar 13 speed gravel groupset. We wanted to be a part of the 13sp revolution, and thanks to some great work by the Campag importer Bikesportz, we got on the list for the first shipment of Ekar gruppos to arrive into Australia. This was in 2020, during COVID’s first lockdowns.

The Ekar uses a 1 x 13 setup with carbon cranks and a two-piece 9-42 rear cassette on the new N3W hub. The derailleur has a clutch to prevent chain slap in the worst trail conditions and the brake performance is amazing from the flat mount calipers and floating discs.

Our wheelset choice was a no-brainer: Campagnolo Shamal Ultra Disc. These alloy wheels are gravel-ready and incredibly strong…plus they look amazing with the innovative spoke pattern.

We followed Sean’s social media as the progress of the frame was completed. This is one of the custom bike build processes that can’t be rushed, and the final product was beyond our expectations. It was so much better than what we specified originally, and that’s why we recommend Sean’s work to many of our customers.

A thouroughly modern frameset with such history…all of it from Australian builders. We couldn’t be happier.

The completed frame went to Star Enamellers for paint, in a VW metallic blue and gunmetal grey. Peter added creative touches like the red highlights and gunmetal panel on the inside of the forklegs, plus matching bottle cages.
The custom red decals were designed and made right here in the Hunter by Sign Style and featured the new Millfield headtube logo for the first time.

In the sunlight the bike is amazing to look at, and it’s superb to ride. The initial running-in was completed on our local roads, with Pirelli Cinturato 700×35 endurance tyres. It’s now updated to Pirelli Gravel Hard tyres in 700 x 35, running tubeless with Vittoria liners. It’s capable on both sealed and unsealed gravel roads, and we’ve even had it in the single track.

With Pro gravel bars and lights by Lezyne, this is an adventure bike for day or night. It has rack and pannier mounts for when we’re ready to do some bikepacking. We’ve added a Cane Creek eeSilk suspension seatpost for comfort on the long rides.

The bike now bears the name ‘KH-K’, for ‘Kerry Hopkins – Killen’. It’s an amazing bike and we love it more every time we ride it.