Hi Carl, Finally got the bike built up and got a few rides in. WOW, it rides just as I expected: comfortably upright but very stable and fast, quick-turning but smooth, and climbs like a goat. Everything went together perfectly, from the headset races to the brake calipers, building it up was a breeze. And the fit is perfect. With a 6 degree stem and riser bar, like we discussed, all I had to do was adjust the saddle height, no fit issues at all. The slider dropouts are awesome, I can't wait to set it up singlespeed. But right now I'm having a blast with the 1×9 gearing, haven't found anything I can't climb around here, yet. My riding buddies are saying things like "Frank, I'm impressed with the way your climbing on that bike" and "I can tell he likes that bike because every time I come up behind him, he accelerates". I love the feel of the steel frame, it's stiff when climbing out of the saddle, the rear stays stuck to the ground(and so does the front), then point it downhill and feel the subtle springyness make the trail come alive. It's so well balanced, it seems to steer by thought. Thats the best way I can describe the feel of the bike. I really like the steel fork as well. It adds to the quick feel of the steering. Get the right amount of pressure in the tires(about 35-40) and you need the roughest parts of the trail to tell you that you're on a rigid fork. This baby was made for long backcountry epics and I can hardly wait. Thanks for a wonderful experience in collaboration Carl. Despite my inadequate descriptions of what I wanted, you obviously read my mind. Frank Billue, Boise, Idaho
The bike fit's perfect. It is comfortable for 24hr solo racing and allows an upright yet still aggressive seating position. It climbs excellent and decends predictably. Tight single track is quick & easy, but it is still stable on fast decents. The custom blend of tubes is very stiff laterally when I am out of the saddle cranking, yet very compliant. Not sure how you did this, but it just rides amazing. Built up with XTR drivetrain, DT/XTR wheels, RockShox Reba 100mm Fork, Hope Mono Disc Brakes.
This has been and remains a truly amazing ride. I should admit I was a little put off at first on what I thought was the ?fit.? It didn?t ?feel? right ? but that?s probably because it was perfect and I hadn?t ridden perfect before. I think I even called Carl about it.
Anyhow?very soon, very quickly?I was just simply amazed at how it felt on the trail. What truly blew me away was how smooth it was, especially coming off full suspension bikes. The rear felt like it stuck to the trail better than my Epic. I didn?t miss the suspension at all. It?s smooth. Responsive. It always feels like it stays put in the rough stuff. I have a few bikes, and every time I come back to this, again, I?m just amazed at the feel. Hard to explain. The S-works epic is long gone, I kept some of the parts. This is my main primary ride. Hard to describe ?feel? but it truly is perfect. And none of my component swaps have affected it.
Custom geometry steel by Carl, 29'er wheels by George at Speedgoat, and the details from my LBS add up to the best hardtail ride one could experience. The welds and finish are impeccable, and the blend of tubing makes for a ride that is both stiff and compliant. Like the bike I rode in the eighties, there's no rear suspension, just me and the trail. After riding this bike, no one will ever convince me that 29'ers are slow-turning or awkward, ot "too tall"; this one is nimble on the tight trails of the PA mountains, and navigates logs and rocks with sure-footed grace.
Last year Carl built me a road frame which proved to re-awaken my interest in riding; and now this bike is doing the same off-road.
In short, I'd say you nailed it. Yesterday was the virgin ride. It was 13 degrees out with a wind chill of zero….yeeouch! The ground was hard as a rock and as chewed up as I've ever seen it because of all the moisture we've had this winter. In case you don't know, our trails are very much like East coast trails. Tight, rocky and covered in roots. And yesterday's conditions might have just been perfect for putting the new rig to the test.
I was a bit concerned that this bike was going to be harsh when I saw the seat and chain stays. They're quite a bit beefier than my other bike. Well, it's anything but. It's a fine ride for sure. Supple across the rough stuff, tracks like it's on rails, dissipates the chatter and, most importantly, is up to the task of taking a pounding out of the saddle without flexing like mad. All this and it's nearly ¾ of a pound lighter than my other custom 29er.
Thanks for the beautiful ride. For people whom have never done custom before, they might not appreciate how great it is to work with a frame builder who does what he says he will do, when he says he will do it. It's a novel concept in the bike industry. I'm really gonna enjoy and ride the absolute hell out of this bike.