Been a while and I wanted to dive into what’s going on in the shop. Specifically, what’s going on with frames – new and old. First the old, which is kinda new. More road frames are on the water. You know, the road frames that don’t have a name and were reviewed by Bicycling Magazine. This is the replenishing of the orange Molteni/Merckx inspired frames. 54cm and 56cm frames will be back in stock soon. And I’ve added a 64cm size to the mix. There’s not a lot of 64s coming, so if this tickles your bike needs, it would be wise to jump on it soon. Geometry for the 64cm size is on the geometry page. The webstore is updated to include the 64cm frames and the previously out of stock 54cm and 56cm frames.
And now the new. It’s no secret that I’ve been saying I’ve been working on a disc bike for years. At first, it was pretty much half-hearted because disc brakes just didn’t do much for me on road or cross bikes. They were an over-complication to a simple, elegant machine. The places I ride, and the conditions in which I ride, don’t warrant more braking power. And I still feel that way.
The one thing I didn’t want to do in creating a disc frame was to simply add disc tabs to an existing frame. I wanted to create something new from the ground up. Purpose built. I didn’t want to start with standard quick release axles and then revise a year down the road to thru-axles. I wanted it right from the get go. However, the pieces of the puzzle weren’t available when I first started thinking about a disc frame, so I drug my feet.
The pieces I wanted to build around were thru-axle dropouts. There were some rear thru axle dropouts available to me in Taiwan, but they didn’t float my boat so to speak. And they may have sunk smallish boats. At the time, there were no steel front thru-axle dropouts available. It wasn’t until about a year ago that front steel dropouts became available in 12mm. But what about the rear dropouts. I was talking with Sean Walling from Soulcraft Cycles quite a while back and we eventually worked together to create a suitable dropout. More than suitable, a really great dropout. Actually, Sean created it and I signed on to the program to use it on my frames. The disc side gives plenty of room to work with a mechanical disc brake and offers a flexibility in design to create frames of all sizes and bb drops.
Pieces of the puzzle in place, I had a couple of samples made to flesh out the final design and geometry. One was a Monster Cross frame (same geometry as the current Monster Cross frame) and the other was a frame designed around the Road Plus tire – 650b x 47. In this case, the WTB Horizon (big thanks to WTB for the technical info and tire samples). It’s this frame I was most excited about. It took me a bit of time to get it built up, but once I did, it’s pretty much the only bike I’ve ridden since I built it back in February.
What do I think? Can you say “fun?” I don’t exactly know what makes a bike fun, but this bike has it. It ticks all the boxes for me. It feels just as fast as my road bike, but it floats over dirt roads and completely broken up paved roads way more comfortably (and faster). On paved roads, the tires sing – you know that sound of a good tire on the road. They sing, I tell you! The ride out to the lighthouse takes me 3 hours on a road bike. It’s still a 3 hour ride on the road plus bike. The road plus feels faster on descents. It’s just fun.
What’s different about a road plus bike compared to a regular road bike in terms of geometry? Not much, except accommodating bigger tires. The 650b x 47 size has an overall outer diameter comparable to a 700c x 30 or 32 tire, which I had been riding. This feature is really what makes disc brakes attractive – the ability to run two different sets of wheels. However, after riding 650b x 47, I don’t think I would really want to have a 700c x 30 wheelset to swap in for a different bike feel. Maybe. All I know is that this bike with these road plus wheels is FUN. I’ve been riding these tires at about 30psi. Maybe as much as 35 in back and as low as 28 or 29 in front, but always around 30 and it feels perfect for me for on and off road riding.
Why the black fork in one photo and a red fork in another? Mainly, it was a mix up when they were painted, but the real reason is different fork offsets. I wanted to experiment with forks of varying offsets. The red fork has an offset of 60mm that results in a trail of about 48mm. The black fork has an offset of 50mm that gives a trail of about 58mm. A trail of high 50s is what is found on my standard road bike. On paper, trail dimensions between 48 and 58 are pretty big differences. But the reality is that, after riding a fork with 60mm offset for a few months and then riding one with 50mm or offset, I really can’t say that I LOVE one over the other. Sure there are subtle differences, but those differences are overcome after the first 5 minutes of riding and it’s just another bike. I suppose if I had two identical bikes built, one with the 60mm fork and one with the 50mm fork, and I was able to ride them back to back without any time lost between riding, I would notice a difference more than subtle. But, I have to choose one for the final design and maybe I’ll do a 55mm offset to split the difference. Who knows. All I know is that the damn thing is fun. I’ve got one more sample (along with one more monster cross disc sample) with the road frame shipment and after evaluating those, I’ll be ordering disc frames. And because someone is going to ask – probably no sooner than Spring 2018.
(What’s playing: Pearl Jam Corduroy)