Spectral Shred Machine: The Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc Cyclocross Bike

There’s something special happening right now within the US framebuilding industry. Something that ought not to be overlooked, no matter how too good to be true it might seem. Before we go any further however, I must make one note: a production frame is not a custom frame. There’s a misconception that everything made by a framebuilder is custom. A production run is a series of sizes, made in an assembly-line process, which drastically reduces cost on both the builder’s end and the consumer’s end.

With that come a few issues: one of which being fit and others include – often times – paint choice, or adding extras like braze-ons, pump pegs, chain holders, etc. The most important factor however is fit. Many people are driven to a framebuilder due to fit issues, but a majority of the population can be fit on a stock geometry with a series of tweaks. That said, the geometry for these stock sizes has to be able to accommodate.

Enter Wraith Fabrication, one of these new US-made production companies, headed by an existing framebuilder, Adam Eldridge of Stanridge Speed. Now, why would a framebuilder make another brand to sell bikes? Because of their construction: Wraith is tig-welded, Stanridge is fillet brazed. Adam isn’t the first fillet-braze builder to move onto a brand reliant on tig welding, either.

There exist a series of tig-only framebuilders who build production bikes for various brands, including Wraith Fabrication. Wraith now offers a disc cyclocross bike, the Paycheck and a road bike, the Hustle. These frames are built from Columbus Life tubing, with Ohio-manufactured head tube cups in Oregon and then painted or powder coated in Ohio.

Adam designed the geometries, specs and brought the project to life… using magic? Nope. Just a solid production. I got to take one of these bikes, the Paycheck disc cross bike for a series of rides over the past week. Check out an initial reaction below…

Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc CX Bike

Adam bought bulk tubing, forks and paints the frames in Ohio, where it’s cheaper. All of this to lower the oftentimes unobtainable “US made frame” pricepoint. How low? $1,350 for frame, fork and headset. Clearly, Adam is not doing this to “cash in” on the market.

Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc CX Bike

Now, it’s not all angel farts and spectral shredding. Like any production line, there can be hiccups. For instance, this frame in particular doesn’t have bottle bosses, but has fender eyelets on the fork. Granted, this bike in particular is a review bike, which usually means it’s got a flaw or two. The initial production run came with bottle bosses, as specified by Wraith. Personally, let’s overlook that one detail, because I just ride with a bottle in my jersey pocket.

Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc CX Bike

Wraith sent me their “Med/Large” frame, which measures 55cm square on the nose. I’ve done my best to tweak this bike to fit me. Which isn’t an easy task. Not because of the frame itself, I’m just one of those individuals that benefits from a custom frame due to my body’s proportions. For reference, my Geekhouse is a 60 seat tube, center to top and a 57 top tube with a 73mm BB height. The Wraith is pretty small on me, but the lower bottom bracket (70mm) and positive rise stem helps a bit.

I should note that I dropped the seat post a few centimeters for the photos to keep the proportions balanced.

After a few quick spins over the past few days, I’d say the geometry is incredibly capable of handling everything from racing to trail ripping. For racing, I like the bottom bracket to be a bit taller (the Paycheck has a 70mm BB height), but for trail riding and fire road rides (dare I say gravel grinding), I prefer a bit of a BB drop for increased stability.

Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc CX Bike

One of the biggest concerns with steel bikes are their overall stiffness. With the Paycheck, that massive tapered head tube and either Whiskey or Columbus carbon fork (depends on availability) take care of that problem without even blinking an eye.

Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc CX Bike

The oversized Columbus Life tubeset then delivers on the rest of the frame.

Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc CX Bike

Clearances? Although shown with a – what feels to me as – dinky 33c Grifo, the Paycheck has clearances for a large tire. I’m thinking I’ll put those new Clement tires on it.

Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc CX Bike

One striking detail I found was the lack of a disc brake bridge on the non-drive stays. Now, this tubing could in fact be stiff enough to opt out of a bridge. I’m not an engineer, so I’ll leave it up to the builder.

Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc CX Bike

As far as this build, it’s a very modest parts list, including Novatec disc wheels, SRAM Rival, FSA headset (included) and an aluminum cockpit. I even stayed true to the specifications with a set of ISSI pedals, QBP’s answer to a more affordable SPD.

The build weight for this bike, a size Med/Large is 20.25lbs as is. Not bad for a disc brake bike! Adam has built up a 16lb bike with ENVE wheels and carbon parts. I bet you could shave even more off with a Wolf Tooth or CX1 build kit.

Wraith Fabrication Paycheck Disc CX Bike

It’s tough to say what I think about this bike, right off the bat anyway, because it’s too small, but over the next few weeks, I’ll find various local riders to test it out. What I can say is that more important than this particular bike is the notion that maybe, just maybe, US-production is gaining traction once again.

  • Eric Bones

    Really love the branding and overall paint scheme/color on these

  • Eric

    Being located in Ohio and lusting a bit over some of the Stanridge Speed bikes that Adam produces, I really like the idea of Wraith. Provided their geometry works for me, this very well could be my next cross frame.

  • Matt

    I absolutely love my paycheck disc. I’ve been racing the hell out of it and I couldn’t be happier with the geometry and ride feel.

  • Rob Maybach

    Love the concept (more affordable domestic frames) and the bike looks great!

  • Guest

    This bike looks rather interesting and if it’s the harbinger of better things to come (after all there’s the Milwaukee CX bike too), then I’m all for it. The graphics are on point and the spirit of the frame affords both CX racing and trail riding (as you allude). That said, why are you posting reviews that are both premature and without proper context? Missing bottle bosses on a test frame or criticizing a lack of a bridge on the seat stays is a little inappropriate, especially without a long term test. What I’d love to see is shorter “sneak peak” shots (e.g. what bikeradar and MTBR do, the whole “whats in the queue” concept) that excite theradavist’s readership without these sort of dismissive “previews”. But that’s just me. I’d be reluctant to criticize a frame that an earnest company handed me without giving it a proper thrashing.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I always do two reviews, one that’s out of the box, after a few rides and one that’s after an extended period of riding. To me, that’s most important because it addresses the “honeymoon phase” of a bike and the “ok I’ve ridden it for a few months now, here are my thoughts”….

      I like to do things a little differently than BikeRadar and MTBR.

      • AdamEldridge

        Yo Internet! Stoked to get this going! It’s nice to see the objective initial critiques from John. The bosses were added to every frame after this first Paycheck from Wave 1. The forks have been a constant struggle. Everyone in the industry, most all industries in fact, run JIT Inventory. As we were delivering the first wave of Hustles we were faced with a 30% increase in cost from one fork maker and little to no inventory from the other makers. Luckily the folks over at Q came through big time for us with the whiskey No 7’s. As a maker we needed to try and stick to our original estimation of delivery, meaning we needed forks! :) A fender mount was of little importance as we needed to deliver this wave of bikes this previous August. Most every other maker had forks on boats not landing here in the US until well this next week (NOV W3).
        The allocentrism comes easy on the interwebs. Which is ok. However, there are always back stories to be told.

        Ultimately, I’ve never been able to afford a 2500USD frame, including my own frames I’ve built for the last 5 years. I’ve lusted over many, we all have but at the end of the day basic necessities tend to come first, at least for me.

        So how in the world do I give the feeling of a world class handmade frame constructed with the best steel possible to dudes like me?

        This is the result. Check out the reviews on the site. It’s going well. We’re supporting many sectors of the US manufacturing base, a local cardboard box maker, a machine shop, a powder coater, a paint shop and my buddies out in the PNW. I’m very proud to be able to do this and do it at this price point. Thanks so much for reading. Enjoy your day. HIt me up directly if you want!

        • David

          Love this stuff, Adam. You’ve created something really great here with your team of contributors.
          Im the guy that’s constantly hounding you for a slightly larger paycheck. and I’ll continue to do so. :)

        • Andy Moore

          Beautiful work, sir! Thank you for honoring those (like yourself) who work hard for every dollar. It looks like you have a stellar offering well worth the investment!

        • Mario

          Hey Adam,
          love the product, brand and the initiative. I’m considering a paycheck at the moment. Perhaps you could address the brake bridge concerns (don’t blame John – I made the same observation and am curious). Are you confident that a bridge would be unnecessary on these frames?

      • Speedy

        John – when looking at the Wraith Fab site, it shows the largest size for the cross bikes is a 56cm. Last I saw, you rock a 58cm. How’s that bike fit? Seems a bit small, and toe overlap is the worst on a cross bike. Otherwise, the bike looks good.

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          It’s very small on me (this is the 55cm square Med/Large) – too small to ride, so I’m going to get a few locals on it to write some reviews.

          • Speedy

            Good plan of attack. And hey, is that missing a pulley for the front mech, can’t quite tell. If so, it’s an odd omission. Personally I would prefer to see at least one set of bottle bosses (for training) and fender mounts (not a deal breaker). But at that price, for Life tubing some things can be over looked.

          • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

            Well, there are plenty of top-pull front derailleurs available. I’ve even got one of those adapters on my touring bike that work just fine.

          • AdamEldridge

            Hey Speedy, We’ve been running top pull Shimano CX70’s this year in Pro UCI Elite. Absolutely zero issues. I designed the frames for a top pull front. All the frames now have a set of bosses. Thanks! Have a good weekend.

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Love this branding! That + the price make this a no-brainer!

  • disqus_rGIpUOzzdN

    $1350 seems a bit much for a production model/stock size from a builder with not much experience. You can get a custom curtlo or stock gunnar for less and they won’t have bottle cage/fender mount issues

    • Rob Powell

      It’s a bargain.
      Trust me on that.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      And they’re not made from Columbus LIFE tubing. They’re made from True Temper Verus or the like.

      • Rob Powell

        I’m getting ready to take a frame class, and the tubing costs are fairly narrow. From the prices I got, tubing choices are nowhere near doubling the cost of the frame. Painting is by far the most expensive aspect, other than labor. My paint materials and decal costs are actually less than the cost of the tubing. (Columbus Zona)

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          Look at the prices of Zona vs. Life / Spirit or Dedacciai Zero. It’s not that drastic. Like $120 vs $180 for a tubeset. Then look at the cost of True Temper Verus – which is what a lot of the Gunnar bikes are made of and it’s around $80 – $90. I should have been more specific about pricing, but what I meant to say was the tubing is twice as expensive… not the bike.

          • Scott

            Also, FWIW, building with exotic 6/4/6 tubesets requires a much higher degree of skill than say 8/5/8, 9/6/9. While a skilled builder may not exert any more effort in working with higher end materials I feel its perfectly reasonable for the price jump to reflect all the hours with the torch that went into developing those chops.
            If you feel a bike should only be worth marginally more than the constituent material costs, as opposed to what the framebuilder needs to keep the lights on and food on the table, then go with a mass-produced frame.

          • Rob Powell

            I kind of thought that’s what you meant, but wasn’t sure. True Temper is nice stuff, the ’89 Waterford Paramounts didn’t seem to suffer with it…and my ’95 Hot Tubes TT bike is True Temper, smoother than any carbon TT bike I’ve had.

      • Em

        Last I heard, Gunnar roadies and crosshairs and the like were using at least partly OX Platinum/853.

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          Really? When did that change? That’s a good deal then as well.

          • Em

            http://gunnarbikes.com/site/bikes/

            “We rely on heat treated air-hardening steels for every Gunnar – mainly True Temper OX Platinum but also Reynolds 853.”

          • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

            Nice!

      • Jeremy Smith

        So basically, a Gunnar stock frame can be had for the same price. Important note: OX Platinum does not have the tensile strength that Columbus Life does. While *%# does have similar tensile strength, its minimum wall thickness is .4 mm, vs .38 mm for C Life. Theoretically, you can build a 3 pound steel frame out of either 853 or Life, but the alloy composition of Life is a little bit stronger. There is a reason that Gunnar uses Heavier, thick OC tubes in the rear triangle. Gunnars are really nice bikes, given, but Wraith is really the only other option outside of them Milwaukie for high end stock steel frames at this price point…and the Wraith is the lightest of the three. It’s awesome to see hard working folks step in to offer this fairly rare option. Seems these guys have plenty of experience, BTW.

    • Rob Powell

      Every production Wraith I’ve seen has had bottle mounts.
      My friend has a Gunnar, and they are apples and oranges.

      • c_j_drawbridge

        Gunnar vs Wraith, Apples and Oranges? Interested to know what you mean. I’m looking at both.

    • Scott

      Yeah, I too am sick of all these fat-cat framebuilders getting rich from the trade. This greedy Adam character probably just cares about buying more solid gold handles for his files.

    • Speedy

      Adam isn’t building them, so you don’t have to worry about that. He is using a sub contractor, just like Breadwinner and Speedvagen.

      • thebennonite

        Breadwinner uses subcontractors? What do you mean?

        • Speedy

          Breadwinner uses Chris Igelhart to weld frames, Speedvagen uses several people including De Salvo, and Oscar at Simple Bikes was producing Wraith’s frames for Adam, but he took a job as Production Manager at Chris King (for Celio I think?) so I’m not sure who will be making them now.

  • Rob Powell

    It can get a lot lighter.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      That’s the road frame! ;-)

      • Rob Powell

        It is.
        16.34 lbs without cages or pedals. Of course, light wheels.
        I’m saving my pennies for a Paycheck, which I plan to have at 18 lbs, +/- .3

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          yeah, my Mudville is 18lbs.

  • Rob Maybach

    By the way, 132.5mm rear spacing?

    • Chris Valente

      so it will take either 135mm (mtb) or 130mm (road) hubs. My SOMA has the same rear spacing.

      • Ham Sandwich

        yeah but why do this on a disc cross bike? 130mm disc hubs are so rare.

  • David

    Love everything about these bikes except the sizes, but I’ve told Adam that many times via social media! Ha, someday, that 59cm TT will come…

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      yeah, I couldn’t really be fit on any of the sizes either.

    • AdamEldridge

      When we increase in size I’m really looking forward to offering an “XL”. Thanks my friend I hear ya!

  • Justin Andrews

    Interesting to see your measurements on that Geekhouse. Long seat tube for long legs id imagine? Just out of curiosity what size was that All City Nature Boy you had a few years back?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Long legs, yep! XL on nature boy I think…

  • Hubert d’Autremont

    I think something to remember is that being a frame builder is really tough. As one myself, it is hard to find your niche in the market and figure out how make a living. It is also really important and I think often over looked that the tubeset is not what makes a frame cost money. People look at a tubeset and think that if you subtract the $180 from the $2500 of the frame, that the builder is taking in the rest. Not happening. Just add up the cost of braze ons, bottom brackets, dropouts, brass, silver, flux or argon, turning on the heat, insurance, keeping the lights on and if you are feeling really luxurious a cup of coffee in the morning and a beer after work. I think if Adam can make a bike for that price and make a living, more power to him! I do wish though that people would realize that making stuff stateside is really important and really hard to do. People should support it and not always seek a deal. Personally I wish everyone got paid more and everyone could buy nicer shit.
    I for one really appreciate that John will promote everyones work, but I also think he has to be honest. We all gotta get better at what we do both for ourselves as builders and for our customers.
    Keep up the good work Adam and John!

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Very valid points.

  • Rex Lombardi

    How’s worksmanship quality, like smooth welds, powder, etc. ?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      All top notch.

      • Rex Lombardi

        Guessed so, thanks. Looking forward to read some more from your handpicked midget (like myself) testriders.

  • alanbstardmp

    Columbus owns Cinelli unless this is a different ” Columbus “

    • Mario

      Ok. So?

    • Jeremy Smith

      Actually, they are both owned by the same parent company. Columbus does not own Cinelli.

  • alanbstardmp

    I suspect frame/parts are manufactured in China, and assembled in USA

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      That frame is made in the USA dude…

    • Jeremy Smith

      The tube sets are manufactured in Italy, and shipped to US. When we say “assembled” in this instance, we mean welded. The frames are built by hand here in the States. As far as the parts go, there are only three parts: Frame – discussed. Fork – Produced in Taiwan, where most high end bikes/ bike parts are made. Headset – you can order an FSA. Guess who makes the cups for the FSA headset? Wraith – Also in the US. So no, you’ve got it wrong in this case.