Golden Saddle Rides: Nils’ Brown Bantam 650b Tourer

Nils had a beloved Chumba 29+ mountain bike that he rode everywhere. Road rides, mountain rides, social rides, it didn’t matter. He pedaled that bike all over Los Angeles. Then one day he got hit by a car and the Chumba was beyond repair. After insurance money came in, he was on the hunt for a new bike. Something that would be able to tackle easy mountain singletrack and still be nimble enough to ride on the road as well.

Nils'Bantam26Tourer-40

Then he found Bantam Bicycle Works, located in Portland and was hooked. He loved the way Bob built his bikes and contacted him for a 650b tourer, with clearance for the Compass Switchback Hill 48mm tires. All the minutia was handled and the final details were decided, save for one. The head badge. At the time Bob was making head badges of various animals for his bike. Nils chose a goat, because, goats are metal.

The guys at Golden Saddle Cyclery helped Nils with the product selection, including White Industries, a SON hub, specially polished 650b Blunt SS rims and working out how to make the SRAM shifters work with the front and rear derailleur.

As I’m sure your eyes have noted the lack of the front derailleur. There’s a story there. After some problem solving, the guys at the shop realized they needed a specific derailleur, which would require a shim at the clamp, prompting Bob to machine one up. At the time, Nils was just shifting by hand while the shim was being made and since then, the bike’s been completed. I just liked the vibes from this photo shoot and didn’t want to redo it.

Nils'Bantam26Tourer-51

Nils has taken this bike all over California and then some. It’s been the best all ’rounder for him on his journeys and I can’t wait to see where he goes next!

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Follow Nils on Instagram, Bantam on Instagram and if you want a custom build like this and live in Los Angeles, hit up Golden Saddle Cyclery.

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  • ncoffeeneur

    Where can I score some of these “Department of Shredding” stickers?

  • Shifting by hand? What a badass! Also, curious about the chainring sizes.

  • Area45

    If LA cycling had a mascot it would be Nils. He’s the best!

  • Kirkland Team Rider

    Fork crown is off the charts…

  • Whitney Ford-Terry

    That human is rly good at life.

  • Evan Robinson

    trail looks so ill

  • Charlie D

    Nice. Considering a similar drivetrain and shifter set-up on a Gunnar Grand Tour. Can we get the ring sizes? Is iit 26-46? Which front derailleur ended up being best? Love it.

    • Nils-Erik Hilliard

      Charlie, I really love this drivetrain though it’s not without its quirks. white industries cranks are really sweet. Chainrings are 48/26 pictured here, but I think I’m going to 48/28 when the little ring wears out. With 650b wheels and big cog in the back don’t need that low low ring, so going for slightly crisper shifting
      I’m using a standard SRAM force derailleur with a shim Bob made to space it outward slightly. Shifting is perhaps not as smooth over that ring gap as on the roadie bike, but I have no complaints. Only 2 dropped chains over 2000ish miles last couple months on mixed terrain

      • Daniel Jackson

        Nils, do you know what bottom bracket you’re using here? Make and spindle length?

        Thanks much,
        Daniel

        • Nils-Erik Hilliard

          Yea, it’s a Shimano UN55 bottom bracket with 125mm spindle

          • Daniel Jackson

            Thanks Nils. Do you know the trail on the fork Bob made ya?

      • Charlie D

        Thank You sir. Confirms a thing or two for me. I was thinking 9 speed but then…if I do an X9 rear with an 11-36 10 spd cassette and 26-44 rings I get like 19-107 gear inches which is fine by me on a road touring bike as an old fucker. You think the 18 tooth chainring gap will shift considerably better? We were talking about it at work and wondered if a Shimano shifter might drag that chain up better than SRAM? I’d rather go SRAM personally. Thanks for the notes man. Slick bike you gots there.

        • Nils-Erik Hilliard

          No problem. I haven’t tried a Shimano front derailleur on here, but it might do. Let me know if you run one and how it goes! The SRAM FD shifts acceptably on this 22t chainring gap, so my suspicion is 18t gap will be nicer. I have never run indexed rear shifters before this, so I’m not set in any 9/10/11/12 speed camp. 10 speed seemed the cost effective way to try out when I was buying parts.

          • Charlie D

            Thank You. I’m thinking that I can run a 118 BB or narrower which should help the scenario with a 42 or 44 big ring and avoid any shimming etc. Speaking of shiming, got a pic of how they did that? Curious…

  • Justin Scoltock

    You can’t deny the love Nils has for his fellow humans/bikes/fun..all-round best dude. And such a good build to boot! #deptofshredding!!!!

  • Steve

    man walds ziptied to porteur racks really seem like the way to go these days. why the heck am I still trying to make a decaleur work.

    • Once you go Wald, it’s hard to go back. I’m putting one on my fatbike next week.

    • Nils-Erik Hilliard

      Bob built me a pretty sweet decaleur to work with this bike, I feel bad not using it. but the wald is just so useful and versatile for every day…

  • hans

    this is almost as good as the dinner plate Nils made for me a couple years ago! #potterynils

  • I love riding with Nils. Long Live Nils!

  • YoungG

    I once met a guy who said he knew what Nils’s chin looked like. Same dude said he touched Tom Ritchey’s mustache at a party, too.

  • Barrel at the end of the line! Hell yes!

  • Ray Juncal

    It’s Nils, there’s no esplainen’ it…

  • There are some lovely understated finishing touches to that bicycle. Very nice.

  • Andrew Schwab

    This is perfect.

  • Brad Beadles

    “Nils was just shifting by hand” lmao what a badass. Can we get a video of this in action???

  • ap

    This is a pretty large frame right? Curious to TT or ST length just for my own reference in thinking about a new custom.
    Looks like a great bike.
    oh and does it plane ?!

    • Not sure on top tube and seat tube length. I’ll ping Nils.

    • Nils-Erik Hilliard

      Ap, yea it’s a larger frame. Top tube is 62cm, seat tube slightly less at 60/61? don’t remember exact measurement. Love this bicycle and it fits me so naturally. Choice to go custom has no regrets.
      Not sure about ‘plane’ to answer your question there, what’s that?

  • That city shot is breathtaking! So good! It’s amazing how much great photography comes out of those hills…

    I’m on this site every day. And I see the Los Angeles trails a lot. But damn, that’s a good shot and totally unique- nice eye! It took me a full minute to see Nils down there in the corner.

  • Brian Richard Walbergh

    I am wondering how low of a trail figure does this bike have? Looks to be pretty low. And how that works with the wide flared bars, is the steering really quick? Too quick?

    Also wondering why it looks so damn good?

    • I dunno about the other stuff but it looks so good because it’s brown! :-)

    • Nils-Erik Hilliard

      It’s low trail, though perhaps not as low as some. Don’t remember exact figure. Steering is great with the wide bars, I don’t think too quick. The one place i notice actually is when riding no-handed: the bike steers itself really easily with hip weight and I have to be conscious of it to stay straight, whereas some other bikes I’ve ridden seem to run straight no-handed with out trying.

  • Sebastian Burnell

    I get an ultra romantic feeling about this bike…(-;

  • Mark Reimer

    Love this bike Nils, everything is perfect!

  • AaronBenjamin

    All class.

  • johngruber

    Which porteur rack is on this bike? Love the head badge!

    • DaymanDaryl

      Looks like a custom (since it attached to the crown-top bosses), likely by Bantam since he also makes racks. It is holding up a basket (likely by Wald).

  • salmansqadeer

    What handlebar bag is that on the front of the bike? At first blush I thought it was a burrito bag but the leather straps are all different!

    • PatrickSenecal

      Looks like a Swift Industries Bandito.

  • Daniel Jackson

    Anyone know that the trail is on this frame/fork? Or head tube angle and fork rake numbers?

    Thanks,
    D.

  • Joshua Eric Sawyer

    Hey, Nils! I met you briefly at the beginning of ALC this year. This bike is sick!