Project Progress – Let’s Talk Road Plus

By blackmountaincycles,

Filed under: 650B, Black Mountain Cycles frames

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)


37 responses to “Project Progress – Let’s Talk Road Plus”

  1. Chris F. says:

    Nice, I like it! On the fork offset, did you consider the differences when carrying a front load? I read a lot of Jan Heine’s stuff and I know he likes a low trail for front loaded bikes… this bike would seem right up Jan’s alley with a front rack…

    Might have to have a 3rd BMC to have the whole set! 😀

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Chris, the extent of my front load is a small handlebar bag. I don’t think it affects handling one way or another. But I know owners of the monster cross frames do sometimes carry front loads, so that will be considered.

  2. Michael Mann says:

    I’m so excited for this bike. I hope for your business this is super popular. I suspect it will be. Any idea on price for frame/fork?
    I ride your road frame at 56cm comfortably. Will these be sized similar?

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Thanks Michael. I don’t have an estimate on the price yet, probably be a few months before I know that. As for sizing, I’m still playing around with sizes, but there would be something similar, I’m sure.

  3. Will says:

    Sign me up. Just finished a a five day gravel tour on an old Soma DC with 650b x 48mm Compass EL tires squeezed in. Total blast. Just need a bit more clearance.

    Also another vote for fork offset and braze-ons to support a small front rack + rando bag.

  4. Dodge Whipple says:

    Cool concept. Fat puffy tires with road style smooth “tread” (no knobs) are magical. I have been wishing for a road bike like this one. I haven’t been sure about 650b for “big and tall” guys, but if you say it works, I’m in. “Fun” is the most important and most missed word in cycling today.

  5. BigSchill says:

    Love the new disc bike proto’s. Kinda curious what the max tire width on the roadplus frame will be? The Compass tire runs closer to 50 mm wide and Panaracer has new gravelkings coming out in 650B x 48 as well.
    Also please consider a slightly slacker STA in the 58 and larger sizes for us with longer femurs… 72.5d would help fit more riders. ( with that and a 25mm setback post it would work for me!!

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Max tire would be anything in that range of 47 – 50 and, hopefully, fenders with those too.

  6. Vince says:

    Way cool, I think this is the direction to go

  7. Bert says:

    Looking good Mike! Planning to have room to fit a 26×2.35″ (approx 685mm dia. – similar to Horizon/700x32c)? Would be great to build-in clearance for those wanting to run Compass RTP, etc (secretly hoping WTB end up doing a 26×2.35″ Horizon too).

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Bert, that’s a possibility since the outer diameter matches the Horizon tire. Just need to make sure there’s clearance in the width. Thanks.

  8. Grady Linehan says:

    First of all, I love my black Monster Cross. 🙂

    Secondly, count me in on the first batch of 650b framesets. Please make sure to include ample water bottle mounts. Fenders are a great option to have as well and some will demand them to be included.

    I’d also like to use a Swift Ozette or Acorn Boxy rando, so a rack for the front is a must have. Wouldn’t mind provisions to run light cables through the frame as well.

    I’ll be watching.

  9. Jeffery says:

    Very interesting as I have been thinking about one of your last MUSA disc monster frames. BTW, Chris S. and I rode part of the Pony Express route on our monster cross bikes yesterday up by S. Lake Tahoe. Super rad!

  10. Rob Harrison says:

    +1 for fender clearance with ~48mm 650b tires.

    I’m running 47mm WTB Horizons with fenders on my NFE (and LOVE the bike and tires) but fender clearance is a *little* tight.

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      One of the main reasons for a second sample is to improve clearance for fenders. Thanks, for the insight, Rob.

  11. Kevan says:

    Out of curiosity – what’s the axle-to-crown on the fork? And will it be available separately?

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Kevan, I’m still playing around with a-c, but it will be in the 390-400 range. Too early to know if the forks will be available separately. If there’s interest…

  12. Flavio Colker says:

    Sweet!!! It will be a hit.
    Although i still can´t get excited by discs (why more weight?) i see the advantage: build light, cheap carbon rims w/out worrying too much about brake tracks. A smaller lightweight wheel w/ fat tires is a lot of fun.
    Another superb bike from you Mike…

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Thanks, Flavio! I hear you on the brakes, though. This would be ideal for me with a nice set of XTR canti brakes.

  13. Robert Etzler says:

    Mike if I have any more fun than I’m already having on your latest MonsterCross I purchased at the beginning of the year, I’m sure some politician will try introduce a law against it as being a sin. I absolutely love my Monster Cross. Most fun I’ve ever had on a bike. At 72 I figured it would be the last new frame I would ever “need” to buy, it does everything really well. I just added another thingy to my bucket list and to think that list was just about completed.

  14. Mike says:

    If priced similarly to the road frameset, I am on board! I echo others that have said Horizons with fender clearance and braze one for a rando rack.

  15. Tim says:

    Hold your nose all you want with the disc brakes, and just look at the miles of smiles! I’ve been out to the lighthouse recently, and the ranch access route is really awful with all the cracked (and missing) pavement. This thing you designed looks to make that kind of riding more enjoyable.

  16. Jesse says:

    (I had posted this on the 650b list but realize this is probably the more correct place for it.)

    Idea: Offering two different fork options yielding either low or mid trail respectively. If it were, say, ~40mm & ~60mm, I’d purchase one of each.

  17. John says:

    I’m curious if the Compass 650x48mm tubeless tires would work. I assume they would. I’m very interested. I’m not sure I need disk brakes, but the market can’t seem to stop it. I’m wondering how the disks will effect the ride quality mainly. I’m really interested in this frame, but I might just have to get a regular road bike.

  18. David Hsu says:

    Hi Mike, since you started with the thru-axles, can I ask what the advantages / disadvantages are? Best, David

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Advantage is that the wheel goes into the same exact spot every time. Open dropout do allow for some wheel shifting under breaking. And you will never have the risk of a wheel pulling out of a dropout under braking. There are no disadvantages as far as I am concerned.

  19. john campbell says:

    keep me on the list for the disc monter cross. 15mm front axle is ideal as i can run a SON disk front hub.

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Thanks John. A list may be started once frames have been finalized and I have more info. One thing I do know, axles will be 12 thru front and rear. Sorry.

  20. Matt Liggett says:

    Looking forward to seeing this bike. Is there any chance you’ll do a version for cantis?

    • blackmountaincycles says:

      Matt, I would love to do a canti version, but I barely have enough storage/warehouse capacity for the current frames. Maybe someday. Who knows.

  21. Ansel says:

    I was digging out a old frame jig today and making a list at Henry James to build a bike like this . Please save me the hassle and sell me one when you can. There are a lot of
    “standards ” when it comes to hubs now! 142×12 ?maybe Boost? I just had I 9 build up some sick, boost front and rear 650b wheels. Noticeably stiffer! So what are you thinking 12x 100 and 142×12?

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