Category Archives: portraits
For Mosaic Cycles, they don’t grind gravel, they just go on road rides. Roads that are mostly dirt, so when Aaron decided to make a bike for ‘all-road’ conditions, he didn’t have to change much, aside from tire clearances. He did however add a few braze-ons for versatility reasons. Fender and light rack mounts are the most obvious additions. This particular frameset includes the new Ethic Industries fork. The GS1 is offered both as a steel bike, built from True Temper S3 tubing, or a titanium frame, with a geometry slightly tweaked for off-road or all-road riding.
The GS1 is designed to ride better on those long days in the saddle on dirt. This is one bike that has intrigued me and I’ll be able to actually ride it in the near future as part of a long-term review. Stay tuned…
If you’re intrigued, holler at Mosaic, where they’ll be more than happy to answer your questions or build you a bike of your own.
This bike is a wedding gift for a woman named Sarah from her husband Josh, who coincidentally bought a Shamrock cross a few years back. Sarah and Josh met at a cross race, and there were exactly 585 days from the time they met, until the day they got married.
Individually painted paper airplanes each represent a day and you guessed it, there are 585 of them on the bike. Sarah wanted a bike that was a race machine during the season and a commuter the rest of the year. Throw some race wheels, swap out a few parts and you’ve got a bike ready for mud.
“The bike is just a vessel in a sea of play” is Machine Cycles’ mantra. Builder Kyle Ward is left-handed, an architect and an artist who happens to enjoy building bicycle frame. From the few moments we spent discussing design and custom bicycles, I could tell Kyle has that special spark that motivates people to do great things. Or at least really beautiful things…
This bike wowed me at first and continued to with each new detail that I discovered. That paint? Inspired by a pair of socks Kyle was wearing the day he painted the bike. The navy blue fork and saddle are beautiful touches and the turquoise notes accent the matte brown. For tubing, there’s a lot going on: True Temper OX Platinum with stainless stays and a custom titanium stem.
Days get long photographing bikes at NAHBS, but this one was a pleasure. That bike has a mean stance, yet a soft and playful demeanor. Machine Cycles has a really great website, so head on over and check it out.
Max Lundbeck brought a rather unique bike to NAHBS this year. A cross bike for himself, this vibrant rig represents his Swedish heritage. His family has a tradition, a heritage box, which represents each male in their family that has had a son. This box dates back to 1797 and its latest entry is Max’s own son.
These names are painted on the seat tube and the frame itself is adorned in the Swedish flag’s colors. For the build itself, Max wanted a cross bike that he could commute on. Hence the fender stand-offs, eating up some of that extra clearance.
Campagnolo Chorus with a Shimano top pull, Brooks Cambium saddle and bar wrap, along with Ruffy Tuffy tires mean this race-ready rig will be rolling smooth year round.
For it being LoveBaum Bicycles‘ first year at NAHBS, I’d say it was a successful one. Winning the “Rookie” award is quite the honor for the framebuilding pairing from Denver. While their curved seat tube track machine was very much about performance and style this bike is all about customization. Chad Lovings, the other half of LoveBaum, recently completed this build, an all-road bike that oozes that ever-present NAHBS panaché.
For starters, the client’s initials have been carved from the seat tube cluster lug. A bold, cursive KP with crisp lug lining is the highlight of the frame, while other details like the internal routing and custom stem are equally as pristine, yet flow so well, they disappear in the overall package.
Built from a True Temper S3 and Nova, Chad used Fillet Pro to create smooth transitions, tube to tube. Finally, a rust orange and forest green sparkle paint job makes this bike pop with gold lug lining and dropout cell fill. For the build kit, the client went with Ultegra Di2, ENVE, Challenge Almanzo tires and Chris King.
Does this bike deserve the “Rookie of the Year” award? Oh yeah…
Say, for argument’s sake, that you’re the owner of Henry James Bicycles, the main supplier of True Temper tubing, various lugs and tools. You know just about every framebuilder in the USA and have seen their work in great detail. So when it comes to select a builder to construct your dream bike, who do you call?
For Hank from Henry James, he looked to Santa Barbara’s Stinner Frameworks. When he found out about the beloved Mudfoot cyclocross bikes, he wanted in, but not being on the team, Aaron and painter Jordan Low designed Hank his own paint job.
Arguably my favorite from Low, this bike has pizzaz. With matte and glossy notes, a pearl top coat and yes, stripes with fades, Hank’s bike is a show stopper. SRAM Red 22, Chris King, ENVE and cyclocross tires with minimal tread will take on the fire roads, trails and tracks surrounding Henry James’ facilities in SoCal.
In fact, this bike looks so damn good, I might have to visit them to see it in the wild… If you’re at NAHBS, swing by the Henry James booth at #636 to see it in person.
Each year, NAHBS presents challenges. Both to frame builders and believe it or not, me. As “media” it’s my job to document these bikes and deliver delicious galleries to you, the readers. Now, don’t interpret that in a negative light, because truthfully, it’s my favorite time of year.
Over the past few years, there have been plenty of spaces to photograph bikes, especially outside. This year however, mother nature dropped a blanket of ice and snow on NAHBS’ host city of Louisville, Kentucky. Which presented me with a problem…
Backtracking a bit… For the past few weeks, I’ve been checking out Google street view and photos of the convention center only to realize, I’d spend a lot of time photographing bikes indoors. Luckily, I’ve come prepared and while I don’t think everything is completely dialed in just yet, I’m a lot more confident with my setup.
Tonight, the kind people at Henry James allowed me to experiment some on their two beautiful Stinner Frameworks Disc Cross Bikes. The first one being Ryan from Henry James’ wife’s bike. Jenny’s an avid mountain biker and this will be her first “drop bar” bike. To give her confidence, Ryan decided to go with disc brakes and SRAM’s CX-1 group, the closest thing to her MTB kit. From there, Boyd‘s disc cross rims and Chris King’s components topped off this bike with ease.
As for the paint, there’s only one man who paints bikes like that: Jordan Low. His paint design and execution really brought Aaron from Stinner Frameworks’ craftsmanship… and those colors!
When South African, World Cup champion Burry Stander suffered a tragic death on a training ride in 2013, Specialized lost not only one of their riders, but one of their family members. To honor his death, they released an S-Works Epic 29r under their Specialized Projects line.
Based on their FACT World Cup geometry, this flashy frame is covered in a sparkly orange paint, adorned with African art and features a graphic inspired by the South African flag and Stander’s unique personality. The resulting product makes for an orange blur that glows in the late-afternoon sun (and is rather hard to photograph).
As far as tech is concerned, this S-Works Epic frame features a FOX/Specialized remote Mini-Brain with AUTOSAG, pushing 95mm of travel and a Rock Shox Sid Brain. Built with Sram XO1 and rolling on Roval Control SL 29 with Maxxis Ardent gumwalls set up tubeless, this thing is ready for blast off.
While I’m sure it’d take a while to truly grasp what this frame represents, Jonathan has taken quite a liking to it. All I can say is damn, look at those chain stays!
Sometimes, it’s the unexpected that delivers the most fun. Wheel size, when it comes to mountain biking, is a polarizing topic. People will swear allegiance to the 29r platform, without a blink of an eye and admittedly, I’m one that errs on that side. Being tall with long legs, I’ve kind of sworn off 27.5 hardtails.
They’ve either felt too squirrely for me to coerce or not big enough to roll out of hairbrained situations I often find myself in. If my riding ability were to be described in a word, it certainly wouldn’t be “finesse.” I need something that offers a larger diameter to correct little nuances in my riding habits. 29rs seem to deliver that.
Like a bucking bronco, those small wheels ain’t for this limestone cowboy. Or so I thought.
As previously stated in the Highball 29r post, Santa Cruz put a lot of work into developing their new 27.5 wheelsize option. While the general look and feel of the 27.5 version is almost identical to the 29r, all it takes is a few moments on this bike, particularly while descending, to tell that it is indeed, a different beast from its larger-wheeled sibling.
Ok, maybe it’s not all that different, but there are a noticeable points.
For one, the headset. While it’s a small detail, the bottom cup is a standard, press-in on the 29r and integrated on the 27.5. Because of the smaller wheel size, the chainstays could be shortened, thus the wheelbase loses some length, as well as steepening the seat tube angle to a 72.5º. But what I noticed, almost immediately, was the slacker head tube angle.
It seems like 69º is the magic number for hardtails (I should add that the Chameleon is also a very fun bike with a 67.3º head tube). It takes them from the category of XC race-specificity and dangles them over the all-rounder, “stunt” zone.
A 69º head tube angle is just right: not too slack to drop it into the AM range, or to make climbing a battle fought with a wandering wheel, nope. It’s just slack enough to make descents a complete blast. Even with the lower stack height (604mm versus 633mm on the 29r) frame, I never felt like I was going to fly off the bike descending. For reference, I rode the XL model.
Whereas I felt a lot of apprehension to fall in love with the Highball 29r, the 27.5 was love at first flight… It just whipped around so well.
The Highball 27.5 has all the technical advancements as the 29r, it’s just in a different realm in terms of handling on descents but we’ve already discussed that. Let’s look at the frame.
With the new layup, the lines are cleaner than ever and without the external routing, you can really focus in on the body language this bike is throwing around. Even sitting still, posing for a photo, it appears to have a meaner stance than its sibling.
Granted, having ridden the rather stealth-like black and red bike with XX1, this blue frame with XTR looks a bit flashy. Although, with a price. Take note: with the ENVE wheel upgrade, suddenly you’re in the $8,799 water… Thankfully, the XT package without ENVE is only $4,299 with the CC-grade carbon.
Another great detail on the Santa Cruz Highball is the new disc caliper design and placement. This new position eliminates the need for a chainstay / seatstay bridge. Although it does make it a slight pain in the ass to adjust on the trail with a compact tool.
Now onto what seems to be the deal breaker for a lot of people, just based on internet chatter and commentary over the 29r. The 27.2 seat post. Since there are so few options for a 27.2 dropper and no cable guides or internal routing for a stealth post, you’re pretty much stuck with a Thomson dropper post and some zip ties, which is what almost everyone did on the media launch.
Personally, I can ride a 100mm hardtail just fine without a dropper, although it does add a certain amount of versatility to the bike, especially if you throw a 120mm fork on the front end.
Before to write off Santa Cruz’s decision to go with a 27.2, attempt to understand their rationale. Ever ride a standard 30.9 post for hours on end during a marathon on a hard tail? Yea, it ain’t comfy. The 27.2 diameter does allow the seat tube to be elegantly reduced, resulting in a lot more compliance, which is a good thing for your butt.
That’s really the only initial concern I felt the need to address.
With a rowdy, confident stance like that, the new and improved Santa Cruz Highball CC 27.5 drew me right in. After an afternoon descending singletrack, I was sold. Maybe XC-oriented 27.5 hardtails aren’t that bad afterall? Or maybe the Highball is just that good.
Photo by Sven Martin
If I were to chose between the two, based on ride quality alone, I’d lean more towards the 27.5, without discrediting the 29r’s confidence-aspiring ride characteristics. The stability and shredability of the 27.5 platform translates so well to the Highball and all I needed was one, 10-mile descent to change my opinion.
The Santa Cruz Highball CC XX1 starts at $6,299 ($500 cheaper than the previous model)
The Santa Cruz Highball CC XTR starts at $6,799
The Santa Cruz Highball CC XT starts at $4,299
The Santa Cruz Highball C S starts at $3,199
The Santa Cruz Highball C R starts at $2,799
The Santa Cruz Highball CC frameset is available in black or blue for $1,899.
One thing to note is the 27.5 Highball has a size small, while the 29r does not. In return, the 29r has an XXL, while the 27.5 does not.
…and for or those seeking a weight comparison…
CC carbon size M matte black w/XX1 kit: 19.61lbs / 8.89 kg
CC carbon size M matte black frame only: 2.58 lbs / 1172 g
Specs and other information can be found at Santa Cruz. You can also compare my notes to the 29r version at Shredding the All New Santa Cruz Highball CC 29r MTB.
Contrary to popular belief, you can shred a 29r – even a XC race-ready 29r. Those big wheels have a bit of a stigma attached to them and while they may not be as flickable as popular opinion would suggest, there’s a lot to be said about a lightweight rig being just as happy on flat as it is with a bit of rubber side up action.
Santa Cruz has kind of neglected their Highball over the years, not intentionally, but with the popularity of their Nomad, Bronson and even the Tallboy, they’ve been busy working on their all-mountain and trail bikes, while leaving the Highball sitting in the corner – void of dunce hat at least.
While the main silhouette of this bike reads the same – hey, it’s a hardtail, how different can it really be? – the Highball got a revamp from the ground up, including a new 27.5 wheelsize – more on that to come. For now, let’s just look at the 29r…