Golden Saddle Rides: Hunter Cycles Rigid 29r

I’ve long admired the work of Rick Hunter, yet have never been able to get ahold of one in my size. Especially since he has closed his order queue. My thoughts were, one day a frame would pop up in my size and I’d have to swoop on it. That’s what happened, in a nutshell, when I drove up to Chico, California to hang out with Paul Component Engineering for a few days. The trip coincided with the recent Paul Camp, a media gathering at the Paul shop, featuring eleven bikes, built by select framebuilders, all around a joint theme: a monster cross or mountain bike. Oh, and the bikes had to use the same color scheme: red, white and blue. As a group, these bikes were marvelous and I had a blast both riding and photographing them, especially this very frame…

After my visit to Paul, I contacted Rick to see if he’d want to sell the frameset, to which he obliged. See, the builders pay out of pocket to send these frames up to Chico, so I thought it’d be a good way for Rick to recover his cost and get this bike out there, ramblin’ around. Problem is, I’m not a “red” guy and the bike was very similar to my Independent Fabrication 29’r. So to justify buying it, I wanted to add some braze-ons to the fork and yeah, get it powder coated a new color.

All of this coincided with my plans to go to South Africa to attend the Karoobaix, a gnarly dirt road race through the Karoo Desert. Latest reports have the event totally anywhere from 250 to 300km in a day. Then, after the race, I’m planning on doing some bikepacking with the event’s organizer and some of his friends. So the bike I bring to South Africa has to take on a grueling course and be able to do some light touring. Personally, I’m really into riding rigid mountain bikes on courses like this and prefer a flat bar to a drop bar for light touring or bikepacking. There’s just more bag real estate bang for your buck with a flat bar. They also tend to be a bit more forgiving for long days, in my opinion anyway.

Rick and I chatted. He’d add rack mounts along with rear-facing cargo cage mounts to the fork, powder coat it “Mojave Brown” with tan decals and ship it down here to Los Angeles for me to build it up with some poached parts from my Indy Fab, along with a few new pieces I’ve been sitting on. Short pull Paul Klampers with short pull levers and compressionless housing have been my go-to brakes as of late, with White Industries 30mm spindle cranks, one of their new headsets and some gumwall Maxxis Ikon tires.

To top it off, I’m 1000000% sold on SRAM’s Eagle technology for a bikepacking rig, having recently put Eagle GX through the ringer on my 44 Bikes tourer. On a 29’r, you can run a 28t up front with the 10-50t cassette in the rear and you won’t spin out too much going downhill or at all on the flats. I put the SRAM XO1 Eagle kit on the bike, coupled with White Industries cranks and a 28t front chainring.

In terms of geometry, I’m not sure what my Indy Fab is, but this Hunter has a 69º head tube angle, a 74º seat tube angle, with a 2.76″ BB drop. The fork has an elegant rake to it, giving the bike a modern feel, with a very old-school aesthetic. Like all of Rick’s frames, nothing is straight from a part’s catalog. He hand machines everything, from the yoke, to the dropouts and thru-axle inserts. I love wishbone seat stays and I’d like to think this one offers a bit of compliance while descending rough roads, but that could very well be a number of other things. After riding a lot of 27.5+ bikes over the past few years, it feels nice to be on a 29’r with a 2.2″ tire.

The completed build looks worlds apart from its original and that’s not a bad thing, it just shows how versatile non-suspension corrected, rigid 29’r frames can be. Rigid mountain bikes are unforgiving on the trail and can prove to be quite sketchy, even on the most familiar bits of singletrack, yet they’re a great way to make your local tracks more interesting. In a white-knuckle kinda way.

I can’t wait to pack this thing up and fly to South Africa next month!
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If you want a custom build like this and live in Los Angeles, hit up Golden Saddle Cyclery.

  • boomforeal

    seems like there’s a fair amount of overlap between this bike and your 44 bikes UTE. fair to say, or am i missing some noteworthy distinctions?

    • Andrew Mc

      I too was thinking this. It is a beautiful bike though!

      • There is visual similarities, but it ends there, IMO. Two different bikes. Details laid out above…

    • John’s 44 has a super long top tube designed around using a Jones bar and a short stem, a 70mm offset low trail fork, and I presume less bb drop than this Hunter. In contrast, this is more of a traditional 29er in its numbers: top tube to correspond with a regular flat bar, mid trail fork, low bb. More nimble, lighter, a different purpose – though braze-ons are always welcome for versatility. I would also wager that the Hunter is built lighter and would be more forgiving when ridden unloaded.

      • Yeah, the hunter is MUCH lighter. 1 1/8″ steerer, tiny stays, etc.

        • John’s 44 UTE was designed for LONG days with “YUGE” loads in mind and built around 27.5+ wheels. If he asked for a 29er tourer with the above parameters, I would have designed and built that same bike very differently to be snappier, lighter and livelier. He stated his IF was just not cut out for what he was using if for and with that discussion his UTE was born. (All of the bikes are purpose built and it’s an honor to share space with IF and Hunter in his stable.)

    • The Hunter is much lighter, uses a 1 1/8″ head tube, has slimmer stays, smaller diameter tubing, is more zippy and snappy, shorter wheelbase, shorter top tube, shorter reach. One is made for the long haul and one is a speedier way around town and to the trails. Kinda like a Surly Straggler versus a Long Haul Trucker.

      • Zian

        I can’t imagine how you choose what bike to ride…

        • Well, the Indy Fab is in pieces and the 44 has a rack / basket / bag on it, so if I want to jam around on a rigid mtb, this is the only answer. I use the 44 for photoshoots when I carry my camera gear, grocery store runs and overnighters / tours.

          • Zian

            Haha thanks for the thoughtful reply. I was playfully referring to picking among ALL of your bicycles.

          • Gotcha! I actually have sold / given away a few this year. Looking to unload more. Try to keep it under 8.

          • AdamBike99

            The new “reasonable” bike ownership formula:
            n – 1
            (n = 8)

          • Kevin Capo

            Would you consider selling the Crema??

      • What’s the fork length and offset on the Hunter?

        • No idea. I’ll leave some of Rick’s design a mystery. :-) I had zero input on this bike.

        • rick hunter

          17″ AC — 2″ rake

      • boomforeal

        thanks for laying that out john!

  • Riley Stumm

    Why is the water bottle mounted so high up on the down tube? Ease of access? Seems like the disadvantages outweigh the advantages if that is the case.

    • Rick does that on his bikes and I’m assuming it is indeed for ease of access.

    • rick hunter

      Something I picked up from Don Myrah ( MTB world champ / CX national champ ).. He always had his custom race bikes made with an extra high water bottle on the down tube.. Makes it easier to shoulder the bike cyclocross style, but I generally do it for ergonomics and the ease of grabbing your bottle over rough ground and while pedaling. Mostly just do it that way for dirt bikes, road bikes I put it lower.

  • Chris Valente

    Closed his queue?!?! Bah! There goes my turning 40 gift to myself. I had heard his list was long but dayum!

    • Ham Sandwich

      everyone’s queue is wide open for the right price.

      everyone is for sale.

      nothing is sacred.

      rip wade boggs.

      • Chris Valente

        sooooo you’re bicyclepubes then?

        • Ham Sandwich

          thems fightin’ words.

          • Chris Valente

            Shit it was a compliment.

          • breed007

            Both pubes and ham are bots. Same scripts but ham is programmed to hates pubes.

      • rick hunter

        Not sure that many people get your sell out Wade Boggs reference..

      • breed007

        First off, Wade Boggs is very much alive. He lives in Tampa, Florida.

    • rick hunter

      Sorry Chris, been testing the patience of too many good people for too long.. Hopefully I’ll have some stock sized production models available when I get caught up.

      • Chris Valente

        Oh all good man. Mostly just a pipe (danglebong?) dream anyway… Production models sound good, staying tuned for that!

      • BSlats

        Would LOVE some stock sized models if you get caught up. Cyclocross, please! Keep up the great work.

      • What do you mean Rick ?

  • rocketman

    the bike looks great! Love the color too.. If you do want to try drops on it I would suggest the Ritchey Venturemax bars. They have the hood position of a Nitto Noodle with the drops of a Salsa Cowchipper. but an added slight ergo bump. Super comfortable for the kind of rides you are planning.

  • Warwick

    The Yokozuna cables look great on this build. They work brilliantly too.

  • rick hunter

    Hope you’re digging the bike John.. Thanks for the sweet pics and also thanks for taking the time for the write up..

  • Bluejaystr

    Sweeeet! Is the bullmoose with a single bolt at the steer tube enough?

    • Yeah, I’ve never had it slip. Although, the “internet” tends to comment a lot on it. It’s a set-it-forget-it setup, IMO. Also, I only use them on steel steerers, so that probably helps.

  • Just out of curiosity, is it more efficient to walk/push the bike than it is to pedal that 50?

    • I tend to not think about it like that. I’d much rather pedal if I can, especially since pushing a bike uses different muscles and usually, if it’s been a long ride, walking or pushing a bike will cause me to cramp. I’d rather spin up something than push.

      • I’m with ya on the pedaling aspect. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had an old school granny. That 50 just blew my mind :)

  • Area45

    Damn. That fork looks so good! I love the lines on Rick’s bikes!

  • Tim Guarente

    John, you say here you aren’t a red guy, and your olive drab and desert tan and matte finish bikes are all low key. What is the “loudest” bike you own?

    • Probably the Crema. It’s got white on it. ;-)

  • mjsenz

    Once again, John uses his website to brag about another amazing bike in his stable. (◔_◔) Just kidding, are my eyes green? Oh, and b-e-a-yoo-tiful comment on Insta yesterday regarding that barstool a-hole. It was right on the nose.

  • Jacob Samborski

    You actually dig that nitto bullmoose for trails? I bought one, but never got used to the hand position it puts you in.

    • Yeah, but I tend to not think about stuff like that too much. My bars are all over the place in terms of width, sweep and rise. I go between 800mm DH bars to 760 XC to Jones to Nitto Bullmoose. I try to just adapt.

      • AngryBikeWrench

        I’m glad you said this. It’s a perspective not often advocated. Why would I want every one of my bikes set up exactly the same way? I love that each of my bikes fits differently (within reason). That means each bike offers its own experience. I’ve even learned to embrace things like the “wrong” tire pressure. I took my Stragggler out on some singletrack the other night, and had waaay too much air. I could’ve stopped and bled some, but I was lazy and just kept riding. The same corner I’d ridden a dozen times before was now new and fun. Climbs I’d cleaned easily in the past were harder. It made the ride a lot more interesting.

  • Rick

    A set of Rick’s Smooth Moves would round it out! Love mine @disqus_AIiGTYWdpY:disqus!

  • Peter Chesworth

    Hunter, Sklar and Bombus. Three wonderful Radavist-featured bikes with a common thread – steel, simplicity, functionality and a certain pragmatism. Like a NAD 3020 amp. But a bike, not an amp.

  • Don Gouda

    heres a nice video of Rick Hunter talking a bit about this frame. Love hearing straight from the builders
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jk9DznKcrc

    • Ian Connelly

      thumbs up on posting this!