I’ve posted a few teaser shots of this bike off and on over the past several months. It’s a 64cm Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross frame. With a twist. For almost all of 2015, I had experienced back/shoulder/neck pain as a result of a slow-motion, over the bars, digger on my road bike trying to ride over a fallen log. The landing gave my neck a good wrenching/twisting. Didn’t hurt at the time and I continued my ride, but a few days later… Combine this with a shoulder issue that gave me limited mobility and I was kind of a wreck for a while. I had had similar issues in the past and just used exercises and stretching that I used during those past times and it would get better. And then I’d do something stupid, like go for a big huge ride, and it would flare up again. This cycle went on for all of 2015 and partly into this year, but it’s been smooth sailing for the past 8-9 months.
Why this back story? Because it got me thinking bike position and maybe I needed a bigger frame than the 62cm one I’ve been riding. Maybe. But at 165-170 lbs., I really like the way the 62cm frames ride with the slightly thinner walled top and down tubes compared to the 64cm size. And then I thought “hey, it’s my brand/company, I can ask the factory if they’ll make me a 64cm frame with the lighter tubes.” This here frame is the result of that. Sorry, this is not going to be an option in the future. Total one-off.
I had the frame sitting around for several months trying to figure out how to build it. My original intention was for it to be more of a road-going bike. A big, comfy, all-day, road bike. But then I stuck wheels that had Bruce Gordon Rock ‘n Roads on it and I started hitting the dirt and the thought of that big road-going bike went out the window. I really did go to the depths of my personal parts bins for the build on this one.
As it sits, it’s built with:
- Shimano 9-speed bar-end shifters
- XTR M952 GS rear derailer
- Top pull XTR M901 front derailer
- Ritchey Logic cranks 46/36/26 (I added the 26 for the Grinduro!)
- XTR M960 11-34 cassette
- prototype XTR pedals that have been in my parts bin for 10 years unused
- XTR M900 canti brakes with KoolStop Cross pads activated by Shimano R600 brake levers
- Deda Magic Stick carbon post holding up an original Selle Italia Flite saddle (the combination has a flex that really takes the edge off rough roads/trails)
- King headset
- Ritchey Classic C220 stem in 100mm (I usually use 120 stems on my 62cm frames).
The wheels are White Industries T11 hubs, WTB ChrisCross i19 rims (discontinued now, but I have a good sized stash for rim brake/tubeless applications), DT Competition butted spokes, and WTB Riddler 45c tires with Orange Seal sealant. The tires have been on the bike since the summer when I did a photo shoot with WTB for the new 45 Riddler. They have a bit of wear, but didn’t warrant changing out for the race. The tire is a 45 – a voluminous 45. Perfect for the conditions up in Plumas County. I generally run them for my on/off-road rides at no more than 30psi – maybe 28 or 29. Before leaving sea level, I aired them up to 30 front and back and up in Quincy, at 3,400′ of elevation, they felt firmer than that. I left them alone for the climb but let some air out at the top. My guess is they were down around 25-27psi. My thumb told me they would be perfect for the off-road – and they were. Amazing traction – cornering, climbing, descending. I think I felt the tire compress to the rim a couple of times during the day. One thing is for sure, there are a lot of great tires in the 40+ range today. When I first started making these bikes, there weren’t a lot of options. It’s great to see this tire size happening.
The original build had me trying out a Compass Randonneur bar. I had read Bicycle Quarterly’s reviews of bikes and Jan Heine’s complaining about the shape of modern compact type bars saying the the Rando bars never caused him hand pain. Hey, I thought, my hands have been in some pain, I’ll give those a go. Nope. The shape didn’t do much for me. I didn’t like the upwards angle tops and overall, they were a big “meh.” I get along with the Salsa Cowbell bar on other cross bikes, but I decided to try Salsa’s Cowchipper bars. I had recently built a bike with the Cowchipper for a customer and thought they felt pretty nice. I use the 46cm Cowbells on my other cross bike, but the 46cm Cowchippers felt really wide. Comparing the 46cm Cowbells side-by-side with the 44cm Cowchippers shows that the 44 ‘chipper is very close in actual width/position to the 46 ‘bell, so that’s what I went with. And, boy howdy, I sure do like those bars. Super comfortable on all the sections of the Grinduro! course and most important, no hot spots on my palms like I get sometimes with the Cowbell. New favorite off-road drop bar – especially pared with the Shimano R600 levers (which are, unfortunately, now discontinued in favor of a lower end R400 lever).
What I ended up with compared to my 62cm frames was a bike that had a bar position that is the same height, but ended up being about 1cm shorter in bar reach. I think that’s really all I needed on my 62 – a 11cm stem instead of a 12cm. A whole new bike just to learn that. I’m usually lazy in a way that, when I get a bike built, I’m hesitant to change anything out, but maybe I need to get over that. It’s just a stem. But in this case, it’s not just the stem, it’s the bike as a whole and how one fits similarly, but feels different when riding. It’s hard to nail it down, but this one just feels right. For now.
Let me take a moment to comment on the one thing that I came away with that I’m super in love with. The brakes. Man, these thing perform awesome. As you can see, the angle of the canti arm to the straddle cable coming off is about 90 degrees. That’s the sweet spot for low-profile brake arms like these. The combination of the brake levers and their specific cable pull, the pad position relative to the eye bolt, the straddle cable height/angle, and the KoolStop dual-compound pads have amazing performance. The Grinduro’s course includes a super fun, moderately technical, single-track descent off Mt. Hough. You need good brakes to go fast and these brakes are just friggin’ awesome. I’d say this set-up offers better power/modulation than the Paul Minimotos on my other cross bike. And that’s saying a lot because I love those brakes too. Since the M900 canti brake hasn’t been made for over 20 years, the next best thing is the Paul Touring Canti – also one of my favorite brakes.
(What’s playing: Sturgill Simpson Brace For Impact (Live A Little))