Carl Strong is something of a torch wielding Renaissance man. Operating out of Bozeman, Montana (not often thought of as a cycling industry hotbed), the self-taught welder/framebuilder has been in business for a decade, and now can put the stick to steel, titanium or aluminum, in any number of geometries, depending on the choice of the buyer. We asked him to build us something kind of burly out of titanium, something that would make a good steep-country trail bike, and he sent us the bike pictured. Made out of straight gauge Ancotech titanium tubes, the $1,900 frame is long and tall in the front, with a pair of super short chainstays keeping it snappy in back. Built up with the full-Gucci outfit featured here (Shimano XTR wheels, Marzocchi Marathon 100-mm fork, a mix of Shimano XT brakes, FSA carbon fiber cranks, XT and XTR shifters and derailleurs, everything else rounded off with FSA stem, bars, headset and saddle), the bike weighed a respectable but not dizzying light 24.75 pounds.
It’s a pretty sweet ride. The stubby chainstays make for a very tractable, snappy climber, and once you get used to keeping your weight forward on the bike, it can be monkeyed up some pretty ugly stuff. The long, tall front end gives the bike a comfortable, stable feel, and it’s easy to pick ugh lines at any speed, but care has to be taken to keep the front planted and pointed when climbing those aforementioned steeps. Carl opted to build this frame stout rather than flexy per our request, and it feels more planted and stable than most lightweight ti bikes. However, it’s still a ti frame. Even with a honker 1.5-inch down-tube and FSA’s oversized MegaTech bottom bracket and shell, we could regularly get enough bottom bracket sway and flex going when standing to sprint or climb in a heavy gear, which caused the chain to rub on the front derailleur. Not that this is a problem, more an observation. It wouldn’t be an issue at all if I wasn’t such a bowlegged freak, and it’s just something I’ve come to expect when riding any sort of ti or lightweight steel frame.
But that’s really the only fly in this ointment. Otherwise, this is one of those do-it-all trail bikes that fits like a glove and should be good for a lifetime of burly big rides. Construction is first rate, and having a bike that fits “just right” is truly a beautiful thing.