– Documenting Life

Nil Desperandum

Steven has always had a thing a for travelling. But it wasn’t until a client approached him to take part in a cross-Europe charity cycle from London to Paris that his journey into cycling truly begun. It was… Read More

Number One

Jeffrey was driving home from work in Connecticut on his 40th birthday. He pulled up outside a bike shop and bought himself a new road bike, with which he spent his first spin falling over because he couldn’t… Read More

Semper Fidelis

Anyone from the Bronx, NY and her surrounding boroughs will be able to tell you that “only the strong survive.” It’s a slogan that has been widely plastered onto cheap souvenirs sold to tourists and copied by others… Read More

The Pedaling Heroine

Success is up to you. When Orla’s father handed down an old, aluminium Lapierre to help his daughter commute to and from college, never for a second did he think that in just three years’ time she would… Read More


Like many of those who approach us, this cyclist found himself in the common dilemma in which a family life got in the way of the cycling life. But like many, he compromised. Having pursued an array of… Read More

The Magic Dragon

“Make me a stiff fucking fighter jet. I just want to go fast as fuck. I’m not worried about comfort. I want speed!”   The heritage of this frame can be traced to the heartlands of America’s Last… Read More


The fifty-first FiftyOne was created for Melbourne based cyclist who approached us through one of our international representatives. He is a cyclist to the core. Born and bread. In his youth, he spent much of his time absorbed… Read More


Two months before the 1910 Tour de France, somewhere on the Tourmalet pass of the Pyrenees mountain range, Alphonse Steinès lay wounded in a frozen abyss of snow under the night’s sky. His car was no longer capable… Read More


Winners never quit, and quitters never win. This is a story of sentiment that reaches far beyond a bicycle. This is a story of persistence. A story of belief. A story of winners and quitters. But this story… Read More

Fit for a King

Conor McGregor is the undisputed king of the UFC ring, known around the world for his record-breaking boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr., his sharp wit, and his even sharper dress sense. But what you might not know… Read More

The Anaconda

When former Irish sprint track champion and reptile enthusiast Dr Julian Dalby came to Fifty One cycles looking for a new bike he had one overriding request, it needed to be rigid. In his own words it needed… Read More

Route 841

Aged 46, Jason Black is Irelands leading global endurance athlete, summiting Mt Everest via the treacherous north face route. He is a multiple world mountaineering speed ascent record holder and currently has his eye focused on the biggest… Read More

The Dark Side of the Moon

“Cycling was never an obvious choice of recreation living in North Canada,” recalls the owner of this unique frame. As kids, there was a sporting path set in stone for the Northern Canadian youth. When the big chill… Read More


This client wanted a paint job that would really stand out in the peloton. Using neon colours on the frame, our designers went about creating a striking colour scheme that would be applied to not only the frame… Read More

PDM Concept

As told by Dan Moore owner of this PDM-Inspired FiftyOne Like many riders of my age, the 1989 Tour De France was a defining moment in what would shape my understanding of what was cool in cycling. Greg… Read More


Ten years ago, ENVE’s first products were specifically designed to service what they believed was an underserved small frame builder community. They had the belief that the heart and soul of the bike industry was living amongst this… Read More

The Perfect Fit

There are fitters, and then there are fitters. Aidan Hammond forms part of the latter group. He is one of the most respected bike fitters in the UK & Ireland. Aidan is a neuromuscular physical therapist, a massage… Read More

Back Home

The Sannino Cronometro, a work of art, built in 1985 by legendary Italian bike builder Mauro Sannino. Using Columbus SLX steel, Sannino built a limited run of this blue frame, whilst most of his bikes were built with… Read More


The design for the Conquista bike stems from the track and finish line of the Paris-Roubaix, one of the toughest cycling competitions out there. Conquista is all about tales of heroism and conquest, achievement against the odds, so… Read More


An overworked and overweight 40 something man and the epic parcours of L’Alpe du Huez may not immediately go hand in hand. Out of touch and out of love with the sport of cycling two friends begin to… Read More

Rás Concept

This year see’s the 65th anniversary of Ireland’s iconic stage race. The Ras. We’ve partnered with AquaBlue academy rider Ronan McLoughlin to create this fantastic tribute bike honouring the race and the riders. We’ve inscribed the 32 previous… Read More

U.S 01

As the name suggests, this was the first bike we shipped to the US. It was a beautiful build to work on and made for an absolute gentleman. During the course of our discussions it quickly became clear… Read More


This client brought a lot of creativity to the table. We kept coming back to images of the Borealis and his love of astronomy. We eventually focused on a section of skyline and replicated that section on the… Read More

Death or Glory

Death or Glory is about going all in. Leaving nothing on the road. No regrets. That’s the approach we took with the paint design on this creation. Neon colours jump out on the dark background. The top tube… Read More


Inspired by Stephen Roche’s iconic Battaglin from his incredible 1987 season. We created a modern take on this classic bike. We matched the pantone colours form the original build but introduced a modern camo-fade design. Integrating the bars,… Read More


Fusion was part of a trilogy of bikes we proudly displayed at the UK’s premier hand built bike show, Bespoke. We worked with Fusion Think in the U.S to develop the paint theme. As part of our gratitude… Read More


The decision behind the design Neon was inspired by a client’s love of motor racing. Not only a love for F1 but street racing as well, an uncommon duo as F1 fans tend to dissociate themselves from street… Read More


We had some fun with this bike. The owner was adamant they wanted something very, very discreet but containing lots of detail. The dominant colour is actually a dark charcoal grey. It plays perfectly to its setting appearing… Read More


This design started out so shiny & happy and then took a darker, more complex look at our perceptions of design, art and events and how they are altered over time. The colour pallet brings us back to… Read More

Rothmans Racing

The theme of this creation was based on the legendary Porsche 956 and its Rothmans racing livery. The car was introduced in 1982 and although weighed only 800kg (1,765lb) it developed over 630hp. The car went on to… Read More

To this day the dossard 51 has a mythic status in cycling, but what happened all those years ago to create its aura of magic.

1969. Eddy Merckx enters the velodrome at la Cipale in Paris to take victory in the contrela montre and the final yellow jersey. He has won six individual stages, the yellow jersey, the green jersey, the white jersey (then awarded for the combined classification, not the young rider’s competition of more recent years), the Grand Prix de la Montagne, the trophy for the most aggressive rider and the team prize.He has beaten Roger Pingeon by 17’54”, the biggest winning margin since Coppi in 1952. He is wearing dossard 51.

Never before, not in all its 66 years, had a rider wearing the number 51 stood on top of the podium in Paris. Blondin dubbed Merckx the ‘Yellow Mao’ so implacable was his domination. Merckx would win again in 1970, 1971 and 1972 and 1974 but this time with the number 1 on his back.

And it’s thanks to Merckx, and all the other multiple Tour de France winners that dossard 1 has been carried to victory twenty four times. But it is 51 that continues to carry the weight of expectation.

Merckx didn’t ride the Tour in 1973. He’d already won the Vuelta and the Giro, and opted for a hat trick of wins at the Worlds instead narrowly beating ‘eternal second’, Raymond Poulidor, in a two-man sprint. It left the road wide open for Luis Ocaña.

Ocaña had inflicted the heaviest defeat Merckx had ever suffered on the stage to Orcières-Merlette in the 1971 Tour. Like the matador flirting with his bull, Ocaña had teased out a slender lead into a dance of death that put him in the yellow jersey and left Merckx floundering over 8’ behind. But even wounded bulls can turn on their tormentors. Four days later, provoked by a brutal Merckx attack on a day of torrential rain in the Pyrenees, Ocaña overcooked a bend on the descent of the Col de Menté. His Tour ended there, hunched in pain, the matador gored. Ottavio Crepaldi, wearing 51, would finish the race 25th, more than an hour behind Eddy Merckx.

It takes about 25 seconds to count from 1 to 51. That’s half the gap that existed between Ocaña and Mariano Martinez at the finish in Aspro- Gaillard on the afternoon of 7 July 1973.

It was Antoine Blondin, that great myth-maker of the Tour de France, who dubbed it the ‘dossard anise’ after the French aperitif Pastis 51. A number like any other, perhaps infused with a whiff of the flanneur, to be pinned to a race jersey and carried like a badge of honour, the membership to an exclusive club.

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The day that Luis Ocaña sealed what would be his only Tour de France victory, wearing dossard 51. It was the first of six stage wins as the untouchable Spaniard sought to dominate on every terrain from the cobbles of the north, to the mountains of the south, even the race of truth could not resist Ocaña’s onslaught.

He finished the race more than 15 minutes ahead of a young Frenchman named Bernard Thevenet. It was Thevenet who would wear the number 51 in the 1975 Tour and deliver the coup de grace to Merckx that the Spaniard could never quite achieve. He would become the Merckx-killer. The assassination started on the climb of the fabled Puy de Dome, the great lost climb of the Tour de France. Thevenet had lurked at less than two minutes from the Cannibal for days and he attacked five kilometres from the finish, eating up the kilometres where Anquetil and Poulidor had duelled elbow to elbow eleven years before. The Frenchman had the incomparable Belgian climber Lucien Van Impe for company and it was Van Impe who surged for line to raise his arms aloft, Thevenet finishing 15 seconds later and crucially – 34 seconds ahead of Merckx.

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The Belgian was 30, a little older, a lot wiser. 1975 hadn’t started badly and victories in the Milan– San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Amstel Gold Race would result in his seventh straight Super Prestige Pernod trophy the season-long competition to determine the best rider. But he’d faltered in Romandie, pulled out of the Giro and suffered a heavy defeat to Thevenet in the Dauphiné Libéré. Was the Tour about to be de-Merckxed?

He declared publicly that he wasn’t interested in winning a sixth Tour, but he started aggressively and by the end of the first time trial was once again in the yellow jersey. And he was still in yellow when Nello Breton stepped out of the crowd and punched him hard in the gut. Hard enough that Merckx was winded. Hard enough that he bruised badly. Hard enough that he called for painkillers on the next day’s stage from Nice to Pra-Loup, a dead end road to an unremarkable ski resort.

Merckx hit back on the descent of the Allos, descending at the limit of physical possibility. One of the Bianchi cars was not so lucky, plunging into the ravine, its occupants miraculously emerging unscathed. Merckx was flying, Thevenet was already over a minute down with only 6km left to race.

Any rider can crack, even on a dead end road to an unremarkable ski resort. In the space of a kilometre Merckx no longer had the force to turn the pedals. It was as if his bike was mired in the tarmac, his cadence no faster than a country postman out on his rounds. Thevenet’s deficit turned swiftly into a 1’52” advantage. Yellow was his. Merckx was history.

Hennie Kuiper wore 51 the following year, pinned to his rainbow jersey. But he had only an imperious stage win in Belgium and a handful of unlikely Maillots a Pois by the time the race finished in Paris. In 1977 it was the turn of Alain Meslet, leading a Gitane team much depleted after the departure of Van Impe. He finished 10th but he won alone on the Champs Elysees, the most beautiful victory of his career.

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The 51 stayed with Gitane for the 1978 Tour. But this time it was pinned to the French national champion’s jersey of a cocky little bastard called Bernard Hinault.

It was Hinault’s first Tour de France. To prepare he’d ridden the Vuelta that April and won it, just for fun, taking the intermediate sprints classification jersey too. Then he took the tricolore and here he was, on the startline in Leiden with the ‘dossard anise’ on his back – though Hinault preferred his whisky, and a decent malt must be at least 51% malted barley. It was a changing of the guard. His principle adversaries were Hennie Kuiper (29), Bernard Thevenet (30) and Joop Zoetemelk (32). Kuiper crashed and broke his collarbone. Thevenet was a shadow of the rider who had slain the Cannibal hospitalised in 1977 after his second Tour win with acute failure of the renal glands, he had confessed in 1978 to using cortisone intensively for the previous three seasons. Michel Pollentier had hovered around the top five and might have threatened had he not been ejected from the race after winning on Alpe d’Huez, thanks to a little difficulty with a condom of clean urine and a complicated system of tubes. Pollentier says he looks back and laughs on the affair of ‘Pollentier’s pear’ but it potentially cost him a second Grand Tour win to add to his 1977 Giro triumph. And then there were two. The old and the new. The roads of Leiden were home turf to Zoetemelk, who had started his cycling career with the local club. But it was on the Puy de Dome on Bastille Day that Zoetemelk made his move, dropping Hinault on the slopes of the ancient volcanic conk with all the expertise of the old pro to move 47” ahead on GC. By the time the race hit the final time trial, the 72km between Metz and Nancy, the art nouveau jewel in northern France’s crown, just 14” separated the two adversaries.

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“Age and treachery” pronounced Fausto Coppi, “will beat youth and skill.” But in the race of truth there’s nowhere to hide. By the time the day was over, Hinault would be in yellow, nearly four minutes ahead of Zoetemelk.

When he turned pro in 1975, ‘the Badger’ (as he became) declared that one day he would be French champion, win the Tour de France and become world champion in the same season. He’d have to wait for 1980 to win the rainbow jersey, but two out of three wasn’t bad.

And there it ends. Gianni Bugno would come close in 1991, finishing second behind Indurain who would dominate for five straight years. Greg Lemond never wore it, nor did Laurent Fignon though in a neat inversion he would win his debut Tour in 1983 in dossard 15, just as three other riders have done. And four riders have won wearing 21, the number reserved for the previous year’s third placed rider. There is, in the end, nothing unique about 51.

And yet, for that brief and brilliant period it blazed.

A glorious statistical anomaly worn by riders in their first, or only, Tour wins: the greatest rider to ever turn a pedal and his giant killer; the fragile, tragic Spaniard straight out of a Goya painting; and the sexy, arrogant Frenchman with his Ray-Bans and his attitude. Four riders of quite different styles and temperaments, united by a number.

In Chinese, the number 51 symbolises being without trouble, or carefree. Décontracté as they say in French, tranquilo in Italian. The ability to switch off from the circus of the Tour and stay relaxed yet focused on the goal of becoming a champion. The means to generate magic when the road rises inexorably upwards or the seconds tick the margins between triumph and defeat.

And this is where magic and superstition combine, in these simple prime digits. 51. The dossard that hardened Tour fans still search for in their copy of L’Equipe every July. The number that still carries with it the distant memory of myth.

By Suze Clemitson (Conquista Magazine)

Five Steps to a FiftyOne

Bike Fit

You will attend your local bike fitter who will take your measurements and send them to us here at FiftyOne.

One-to-One Design Consultation

Our engineer will take into consideration your riding style, past bikes and any preferences you may have for your new build. Together with your bike fit report we draw up your new frame on BikeCAD.

Frame Building Commences

Once you have signed off on the bike design, our frame builder will get straight to work on your frame.


Our graphics designer will then draw out through conversations and a psychometric test your perfect custom paint job. Once you sign off on the artwork, the lead time is 6 weeks. Our highly decorated painter will then hand paint the new frame to the highest quality.

Your FiftyOne Arrives

Finally, you can ride out on a bike that is no longer a dream but a reality.

Start your journey with FiftyOne

How a FiftyOne is built

Once the customer signs off on the frame drawing and geometry the bike build commences. The carbon tubes are cut and mitered to length. The tubes are mitered using a diamond tipped hole saw. They are then inserted into the jig to test their fit. The tighter the fit the stronger the joint. With every frame build there is great attention to detail. We will take the time to file and sand the joints by hand to ensure the tightest fit possible so your frame is the strongest it can be. How you treat the small details determines how you treat the big details.

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The tubes are then taken out of the jig. The ends are covered in masking tape and the builder then sands down any rough sections and prepares the surface to ensure a good bond. A high strength adhesive is used to bond the tubes together and then its left to cure. The frame is then removed from the jig once it has reached solid state. Before the joints are wrapped with prepreg, a fillet is built up around the joints. This ensures a smooth transition from one tube to the adjoining tube avoiding any acute angles in the fibres and minimising potential weak spots.

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We can vary the lay-up and use different weights of carbon fibre depending on the riders size and riding style. This lets us fine tune the ride characteristics of the frame.

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Once the joints are wrapped, the whole frame is vacuum bagged. It is then cured in the oven. Jason Schiers of ENVE Composites was involved in developing our lay-up schedule including the duration of our oven curing cycle.

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When the frame has cooled and the bagging material has been removed there is a thorough inspection of fibre compaction. Any leftover resin is then removed from the frame with some light sanding. The frame is then ready to be handed over to the painter.

Order Your FiftyOne

Why FiftyOne

With little left in the tank and my eyes glazed over with fatigue, I peeked back to see the chase group closing the gap. I had been up the road for hours and in truth, things were looking bleak. We were about to be caught by a quartet of fresh faced men who had sheltered in the main bunch for the day whilst we chose to toil away in the wind, rain & grit.

The finishing circuit contained a ‘wall’, a 1km steep hill that rose at an aggressive 16% gradient. I’d already struggled to stay with my breakaway companions on every lap. If the fresh new riders decided to force the pace I’d be faced with the embarrassment of finishing out the back and alone.

But I wasn’t going down without a fight. Between the top of the climb and the finish line were a series of 90 degree bends with some negative camber and uneven surface thrown in for good measure. The group had been treating the turns with the respect they deserved and with a cautionary approach.

If I could stay with the leaders over the hill, I’d only one option. To launch a violent attack in advance of the turns and achieve the near impossible. If I was still upright, conscious and had all my teeth I had only a 700m dash to the line and to victory.

This decision wasn’t based on gut feeling or desperation. It had been forged in dusty workshops with various frame builders over the years. Conversations about the implications of making minor head tube and fork trail adjustments. Small tweaks over the years. I had long accepted I wasn’t the strongest climber or the fastest sprinter so having the ability to regain lost ground on corners and descents became a valuable asset.

Many years later I found myself trading in the racing for the sale & distribution of bikes. I became familiar with everything; the best brands, the boldest designs and the more intricate components. But I also noticed a worrying trend. People were spending thousands on bikes that were factory made in bulk to a set size and shape. The necessity for streamlined processes had done away with the customer interaction and small details that can make such a big difference. The bikes were great, sure but they weren’t made with the rider in mind. They lacked the personality, the chemistry, the romance. I recalled the ultimatum in Brittany. The moment when I assaulted the final corner with a certainty and belief in my machine and the characteristics that had been built into it to ensure I not only came out alive but ahead.

With a flick of the hips the bike tore toward the apex of the corner and did what it was made to do. And for a brief moment, nothing else existed.

I didn’t win that race because of my ability. Nor was it due solely to the bikes handling. I won that battle because I was able to take those corners knowing that at that decisive moment, the bike and I were One.

Why “FiftyOne”?

Cycling is a unique sport, where it’s teams that compete, but individuals who win and lose. Every team has its designated winner. And the only way for the team to win is for every other member to sacrifice himself in the service of the one. So, when the team members receive their dossards, the leader’s always carries a number ending in ‘1’ – ‘11’, ’21, ‘31’ – a subtle sign to make him stand out from his team mates. First, but not among equals.

For over six decades of Tour de France history, dossard number ‘1’ – worn by the defending champion – was the most prized, and by far the most successful. But then, four times in nine years, the Tour de France was won by the rider wearing dossard number 51. And these were no ordinary Tours. Eddy Merckx rode to his first win, in his first Tour, in 1969. Merckx was absent in 1973 when outsider Luis Ocaña crushed the competition in both the mountains and the time trials, winning by over 15 minutes. Bernard Thévenet effectively ended the Merckx era, and took the Tour, with a dramatic attack on the Col d’Izoard on Bastille Day 1975.

1978 saw the arrival of a new era, as Bernard Hinault took the first of what would become five yellow jerseys. Four of the greatest stories, and the greatest champions, in Tour history.

Ever since, race number 51 has had a special mystique that sets its bearer apart. Awarding dossard 51 is a way for any race’s organiser to honour a special rider, a subtle sign to make him stand out from his colleagues.

Order Your FiftyOne