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What’s not updated yet are the complete bike specs for both bikes. I’m noodling my way through these. I was kind of at a loss what to do for specs. Compared to rim brake options, there are actually a lot more things to consider for disc brake frames. And, up until recently, I was wondering what I was going to do for hubs. Recently, I learned Shimano was going to offer 105 level 12mm thru axle hubs. I didn’t know what to do for a good, affordable wheelset. Now I know. And yes, you read that right. Shimano will offer new R7000 series 105 hubs in 12mm thru axles. Most excellent. By the time the frames arrive, I’ll have specs for complete bikes up. Even if you opt for frameset only, the specs will give you a good idea of what parts will work on the frames for your builds.
I also don’t have the option to purchase outright the frames yet. That will be reserved for when they actually arrive. For now, I’ve unlocked the deposit page. Minimum $100 deposit. Increments of $100 if you want to put down more. When you place a deposit, please let me know in the notes which frame/size/color you are after. The frameset price – $695 for frame/fork, Road+ or MCD.
I suppose you are really wondering what colors the frames will be. That’s the most important part, right? I wondered and pondered for a long time too. Revisiting pink for the MCD frame was a top choice as I’ve heard plenty of “pretty pleases,” so Pink will be one of the colors for the MCD frames. I also really like the Aurora Red on the Road+ sample frames I’ve been riding, so that’s one of the colors for the Road+. But what about the second color for the two frames?
In addition to vintage bikes, I’m a big fan of vintage Porsche and VW cars. Rear engine, air-cooled. I’m a huge sucker for Type 3 Squarebacks and Notchbacks. Writing this, I google “vw type 3” and get lost in a rabbit-hole for a bit. You’re welcome. Some of the paint jobs on these old cars also make great colors for bike frames. One day, I find myself looking at old Porsches and it strikes me, holy hell, that’s awesome! I’ve got to use that on one of the frames. This is what I’m talking about.
Olive 1970 911 (apologies to whoever owns/took this photo, but thank you)
The second color option for the MCD is Olive Oil. After trying to find color codes for that 911, I chose the Pantone color 16-0847.
Second color for the Road+: back to looking at images of old Porsches and I come across Aetna Blue from the 1959 356. It’s very close to the light blue of the old 1971 Squareback I had. It’s also very close to the light blue road frames I did a few years back. After spending hours trying to nail down the exact color code for Aetna Blue, I realized that that road frame was damn close and just went with it.
1959 356 Aetna Blue
Damn, I love these old German cars. Once more – the deposit page. Get yours now! Anything else? Probably.
Road+: Aurora Red or Aetna Blue
MCD: Pink or Olive Oil
Availability: I should be receiving both frames end of June/early July.
The new run of Monster Cross frames (the V5.3) came out of paint last week and will be consolidated for shipment this week. This is the 7th run of Monster Cross frames and that could’t make me happier. That means that rim brake frames are still relevant in this ever-changing industry. It’s nice to know the more some things change, the more they stay the same. After all, how many of you have bought a pair of shoes, or a pair of pants, or a jersey and discovered that you really like this item and later decide to buy another (or more) of the same just so you can have a back up or put them all in regular rotation only to find out that the company “changed it for the better,” but it’s not better. In fact, it’s worse than the original item you bought that you loved so much. Yeah, I have too.
I’m happy to report that this V5.3 of the Monster Cross frame is unchanged from the first V5 frame. And the only thing that changed from the previous V4 frame was the addition of the Pacenti P-B-P fork crown. As long as there is demand for these frames, and the bike industry doesn’t discard 700c wheels and rim brake rims, you’ll see a V5.4, V5.5, V5.6… You get the idea.
As of today, I’ve closed off the deposit window for this order of frames. In its place is a page to place an order for the frame color/size of your choice, with or without a headset. All frame sizes and colors are available. However, 56cm Gentian Blue frames were quite popular with the early deposits and, as of today, there are only 3 available. Get ’em while they’re hot! But that Greenery! A bit wild without being over the top. I dig it. Expected arrival of the frames is early February. Maybe early-ish.
(What’s playing: Randy Newman You Can Leave Your Hat On)
Well, I went and did it. Placed the order for both Monster Cross Disc (MCD) and Road Plus disc frames. I recall a few years ago someone sent me a link to some forum where my frames were being discussed. One commenter wrote something to the effect that I should just get over myself and get a disc brake frame produced. I thought it was funny at the time and it’s still funny. Get over myself. Okay, consider myself gotten over.
I’ve glossed over some of the things to expect on the new MCD and Road + frames in previous blog posts. Recently, I’ve had inquiries about placing pre-order deposits on frames and sizing. Those are the two topics I’d like to divulge today. And pricing. Let’s get that one over with now – $695 for frame/fork. It’s a $100 increase over the rim brake frame, but the dropouts will be stainless steel, there’s more braze-ons, and the fork is more labor intensive.
Pre-order deposits – not yet. While I’m super appreciative of the fact folks want to give me money to secure a frame that hasn’t arrived in my hands yet, I’m not all that keen on having people’s money without giving them something in return. There’s no way I’d be able to justify a crowd-funded project with the end of the tunnel a year down the road. And I don’t need the advanced payments to pay for each production. The shop does well enough that I’ve been able to pay for all production runs of frames in cash. Once I know more about the production timing and know that things are going along without a hitch, I’ll open that pre-order window. Probably sometime in Spring. I do appreciate the offers, though.
Sizing. Geometry. Whatever you want to call it, it will be different than the previous sizes. As I’ve stated in the past, the new disc frames will have much more of a slope to the top tube. That means smaller frame sizes, but not smaller frames. More seat post exposed. More seat post exposed means it could be a smoother ride because the seat post is flexing more and taking the edge off small bumps and vibrations. More slope also means the frames will look more moto (to my eye). And more moto goes more better with disc brakes (according to my aesthetics).
Since I’ve started this project, I’ve created frame drawings for hundreds of owners showing your fit on my frames. What I’ve found is that y’all like your bars up near your seat level – some a bit above, some level, some a bit below. A lot of the drawings I’ve done include a generous stack of headset spacers. Y’all really don’t like to slam that stem. And I don’t blame you. These new disc frames allowed me to create something new, from the ground up, taking into account what I’ve learned from fitting and sizing riders. When you look at the geometry chart of the disc cross frames and compare them to the rim brake cross frames, you’ll notice that the stack has increased fairly significantly. And reach has come down a bit.
Increasing stack means you can run the bars where you like them without resorting to a big stack of headset spacers. I think this gives a lot more flexibility to setting up your bike to fit you easily. Fewer spacers, choosing stems with different angles, flipping stems. And because the stack is increased (read head tube length increased), that inherently means that the reach is decreased because as the stack is increased in-line with increasing head tube length along the head angle, the reach will shorten. Simple geometry. As you look at the geometry chart below and compare the medium/50cm MCD frame with the 56cm rim brake cross frame, you’ll see stack increased 19mm (meaning one less 20mm spacer you’ll need to use) and reach decreased 6mm. Let’s look at that as it pertains to fitting and frame size. First is the current 56cm rim brake cross frame.
This is the existing 56cm cross frame. 589.1 stack, 373.7 reach, 150mm head tube. Now let’s look at this exact frame as if it a 20mm headset spacer was built into the head tube. I chose 20mm because the new 50cm MCD frame has a 160mm head tube, and the new disc fork is 10mm taller than the rim brake fork. Virtually all of the sizing drawings I’ve done include at least one 20mm spacer.
The same frame as the current 56cm, but the head tube increased by 20mm results in a stack/reach of 608/367.4. And now here is the new 50cm/medium MCD frame.
See how that worked. 608.1 stack and 368 reach – virtually the same frame size as the 56cm monster cross rim brake frame with regards to how someone might fit on it. I didn’t include a bunch of other dimensions, but trust me, the 56cm frame with the 170mm head tube is the current 56cm frame with a simple 20mm increase to the head tube. You can have your cake and eat it too. Or you can have your cake and eat it without resorting to tall stacks of headset spacers. Maybe you can now slam that stem. Not that that is important.
I showed the 56cm frame for reference, but the same thing applies to all the other frames as well. In addition to fewer spacers, the stand over heights will be improved with the increased top tube slope. Stand over went from 82cm on the current 56cm frame to 80cm on this new 50cm frame.
I’m now two glasses of wine into this post so I’m hoping it all makes sense. Here’s a geometry chart to show the current rim brake frames and the new disc brake frames for comparison.
A while back, I posted some preliminary details about the new Road Plus disc brake frame and now I’ll let the proverbial cat out of the bag about the new Monstercross Disc (MCD) frame. Bear in mind this is a prototype sample. It’s pretty close to what will actually be available next year. There might be some changes. Some minor revisions. Some, not a lot.
The main difference between the disc frame and the existing rim brake frames are somewhat minor in the grand scheme of things. The biggest change, besides the brakes, will be the overall shape of the frames. Both the Road + and MCD frames will have a much more pronounced sloping top tube. Stack and reach will remain pretty close to the original frames – about the same reach, a bit more stack. The amount of sizes will be reduced because managing inventory is easier with fewer sizes. With the new sizing, there will still be good transitions between sizes and a new smaller size. The Road + frame will follow the sizing of the MCD frame with regards to the sizes and sloping top tube.
Some of the details that are shared with the Road + frame are the segmented fork, frame dropouts. Both forks will get mid-blade eyelets for low-rider racks and braze-ons for a Nitto style small front rack. I’ll try to maximize the number of water bottles that will fit on the frame, but am not, at this time, leaning towards cluttering the fork up with braze-ons for bottles and cargo carriers. As you can see in the photos of the prototype, there are two bottles on the down tube and one on the seat tube with a fourth on the bottom side of the down tube. The bigger frames will have these bottle locations with smaller frames only fitting one on the down tube.
I decided to route the front derailer cable on the right side of the down tube eliminating the roller from the rim brake frame. The housing routes very naturally and cleanly from where it exits the bar tape. I’m a big fan of crossing derailer cables on older mountain bikes with down tube cable routing because the housing has a more natural, easy route from the shifter to the stop.
Tire clearance will be the same as the current Monstercross frame. The photos show a WTB Nano 29″ x 2.1″ tire which fits with minimal clearance. Okay in the dry, probably not so great in the wet. The bike as pictured is as I ran it during the Grinduro! race/event back in October. The tires were great during the downhills, but I think a 45mm tire would have suited me better overall.
Beyond the tires, I set this bike up with White Industries R30 cranks with 44/30 rings, Ultegra 11-speed shifters, XT 11s derailleur with a Tanpan S11 adapter, 11-42 cassette, Salsa Cowchipper bars, Pacenti SL25 rims with White Ind XMR hubs.
Dropouts and wheel axles are 12mm x 142 in the rear and 12mm x 100 up front – same as the Road +. The frame tubing is the same as the rim brake frames. The seat stays are smaller diameter since there’s no brake mounted to them.
Some may ask about the color. Did I color match the frame and fork to the color of the Pacenti logo? Nope. That was totally random. And turned out quite nice. I built the wheels quite a while ago. The fork was supposed to be blue to match the frame, but it got painted the same as the sample Road + frame. The seat is a sample WTB Rocket V that I got from WTB probably 13 years ago when I was doing product development for Haro. Never used it and it sat in a parts box all that time. It works on this frame/fork and the white bar tape is a good touch, except it gets dirty fast.
I’m pretty excited about this. I’ve got final drawings done and approved. Waiting for a quotation as of this writing. As soon as I get a quote and can figure out a selling price, framesets will get ordered and I’ll probably open a deposit/pre-order window sometime after the first of the year. I’ll post the geometry for the MCD and Road + along with any other updates soon.
Blue and green. Sky and grass. “Blue and Green” is also a song by The Wood Brothers. “Blue In Green” is from Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis. Blue and green are also the new colors for the new V5.3 run of Monster Cross frames that will arrive a bit after the first of the year. This new run of frames will have no changes to the previous over the previous V5 generation of frames. Same geometry. Same braze-ons. Same Pacenti fork crown. Same same. ETA for the frames is end of January/early February. I’ve got 70 frames on order in pretty much equal splits between blue and green. Because I’ve been asked by folks about securing a frame, I’ve unlocked the frame deposit page. One hundred bucks will secure a frame. When you place your deposit, please note the size and color you would like.
So, what color blue and green are the frames? Here’s a shot of the tube samples. The blue is RAL 5010 – Gentian Blue. The green is Pantone 15-0343, Greenery, which is the 2017 Pantone color of the year. I think it will look pretty good on a bike. The blue is the color of the sample MCD that I’ve been riding and I know it looks good on a bike (more on that one later).
As always, questions welcomed by email or in the comments.
Colors for Monster Cross V5.3
(What’s playing: “Blue and Green” by The Wood Brothers)
Bike of The Year! Yes, you read that right. Guitar Ted bestowed the honor on his Orange Crush, his orange Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross frame he bought from the very first run of frames back in February of 2011 – almost 6 years ago. When I think to ask a buyer of one of my frames where they heard about them, chances are high that they read about them on Guitar Ted’s blog or website Riding Gravel. For that, and the BOTY honor, I say, thank you, Guitar Ted (aka Mark Stevenson). I’m humbled.
In the post, Guitar Ted writes “apparently there are enough folks digging the ride that when Mike comes out with a new batch, sizes in the most popular range sell out lickety-split. In fact, he is even taking pre-orders on frames now.” Yes, that is definitely happening. I see it’s been well over a month since I gave an update on the frames. Everything that was noted in that post about current availability is try except the 62cm pink frame is gone.
On the road frameset front, 56cm frames are sold out. For some reason, 56cm was overwhelming in its demand, far outstripping all other sizes in the rate the frames sold. Because the other sizes did not sell at the same rate, I have really good supply and can’t justify ordering more frames for a quite a while. I kind of blew the forecasting and bell curve for that order. But you never know. The next time I order frames, if I go heavy on 56cm, another size will move faster. Go figure.
So, yes, deposits are being taken for this next run of frames. Colors are semi-gloss black and Aurora Red. So far the deposits are heavy on Aurora Red, and sizes 54cm and 56cm. Half of those sizes are already spoken for. If someone is thinking they want a 54cm or 56cm Aurora Red frame, it would be wise to get your deposit in. Just sayin’. As of last week, frames had been received for painting with forks closely following. I’m anticipating framesets shipping via ocean freight before the end of the year and arrival in Pt. Reyes Station, soon after the first. Good start to anyone’s new year!
And because what would a blog post be without a picture.
Chicken of the woods fungus – which I’m told is edible. I’ll take someone else’s word for that.
(What’s playing: The Pretenders Light of The Moon)
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)
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))
I don’t know about you, but I like Summer. I like the heat. I like to feel warm. I have a hard time motivating when it’s cold. Yeah, I know cold is a relative term. Just a few weeks ago, we had the mother of all heat waves here. It got up near 110 degrees. And I love it. Soaked up the warmth. And just today, it was 37 degrees outside my front door when I woke up. And because I left the windows open overnight, it wasn’t much warmer inside. The temperature swings here are wide and difficult for me to cope with initially. I’ll get used to it, but I ain’t gonna like it. And then the wind. yeah, that’s starting up too.
Oh well. You don’t want to hear me complain about the weather. Because complaining just ain’t going to accomplish anything – especially with the weather. Grin and bear it. You came here to find out what the heck is going on. Why are the Monster Cross frames sold out in every size except 60cm and 62cm and when are the disc brake frames going to be available. Where are all those 6’1″ to 6’4″ riders?
I did order more Monster Cross frames in early September. The lead time is typically 5 months, so look for a February arrival. Or somewhere thereabout. There are no changes to the frames. Let’s call this V5.3 – same as V5.2 and V5. The color will change. I haven’t actually figured out the color yet, but I’ve got some tube samples to help me decide. I fine-tuned the size mix so I have more 54cm, 56cm and fewer of the bigger sizes. Early on, the biggest sizes sold out first and now the average sizes are selling much faster. Someday, I’ll dial in the crystal ball forecasting methods. Probably not.
Disc frames. Yes, disc frames. Running a retail shop and frame business solo doesn’t leave me with much time to sit down at my desk and devote a working day or days toward dialing in the disc frame specifications and geometry. That’s a hint that they won’t just be the same as the rim brake frames, but with disc brakes. More on that later.
In the mean time, I have been spending more time on my 650b Road Plus prototype and it is still as fun as it ever was. Since I wrote this, I have received an updated prototype that more reflects the geometry of what the actual frame design will be. I’ve also been spending time on the Monster Cross Disc (MCD?). I built it up with WTB Nano 29″ x 2.1″ tires and will be tackling this weekend’s Grinduro! with this bike. There’s not huge clearance witht he 2.1 tires, but it’s enough in the dry. Once it gets wet, I’ll fit it up with something narrower – maybe the WTB Resolute 42, which is supposedly more of a wet weather tire. When I designed the Monster Cross frames, there was really only one properly sized tire available. Now, there are a lot. Really. A lot of great tires. Too many? Probably not. But too many to properly try out. And by try out, I mean use until they’re worn out. I don’t like throwing on new tires when the current ones aren’t worn out. I can’t ride enough to wear out that many tires.
Tangent. Back on track. Where was I? Probably best to start wrapping things up and save more for later. Several weeks ago John Watson from The Radavist and crew stopped by the shop while on a bike tour through Marin. John took a bunch of great photos and posted them on his site. Turned out pretty nice and I appreciate the attention. Thanks John!
I’ll leave it with these two images.
Color tube samples under consideration for the Monster Cross framesets currently on order.
Same frame sizes, but different sizes.The pink frame is the current 64cm size. The blue frame in the background is the prototype Monster Cross Disc frame. It’s a 59cm, but it has virtually the same stack/reach as this pink 64cm frame, just a shorter seat tube. This is the direction I’m going for the new disc brake frames.
And I got out for a couple of really nice rides on each of the prototypes over the weekend. Clear skies, cold nights, warm days.
After a lengthy wait to get frames through customs and delivered, the new order of road frames arrived yesterday. I’d been out of stock in the 54cm and 56cm frames for a while – and just within the past 2 weeks, the 58cm frame. All are back in plentiful stock now including a new 64cm size. These frames are the same as the previous run of frames – no change and that extends to the color as well, orange, orange, and orange. The geometry of the new 64cm size is here and the web store is open! I’ve got plenty of Velo Orange and TRP brakes available in all color options to go with the new frames. Tires too (need to add the Compass tires to the webstore as I’ve been stocking sizes that fit my frames) are available. Wheelsets… you get the idea.
Now, I need to get back to prepping frames for shipping. I hope I ordered enough 54cm and 56cm to last a while…
Verifying alignment of the new order of road 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.