Todd’s Black Cat Bicycles Carbon and Steel Road Has 8 Lives Left

A few years ago, Todd from Black Cat Bicycles was on a road ride with a friend of his when they were both struck by a car, exceeding the speed limit on the narrow, remote road they were on. It was a terrifying experience as Todd fought to save his friend’s life, while working through his own sustained injuries. At the end of the ordeal, both of them survived, yet with some serious injuries. Luckily no one died and both cyclists can still ride. Ok, something died: Todd’s love for road cycling. Ok, maybe “died” is a bit extreme, but after an experience like that, I can’t say I’d be stoked to kit up and hit the road again.

Todd's Black Cat Bicycles Carbon and Steel Road Has 8 Lives Left

Usually when incidents like this happen, the bicycles involved are reduced to twisted, unsalvageable forms. Yet, Todd’s bike survived. In fact, it was damaged more when it was loaded into the California Highway Patrol car. Cats have nine lives, right? Well, this Black Cat has 8 left. 8 lives is a lot for a road bike and at first glance, this jade beauty might look like your average Black Cat road bike.

Todd's Black Cat Bicycles Carbon and Steel Road Has 8 Lives Left

… Until you notice the stem, the head tube, the lack of external bearing cups (is it a Chris King i6? I can’t recall), then the carbon seat tube and top tube. Yeah, this bike is very special. It was a NAHBS bike from Sacramento 2012 and when you sit back and think about how a carbon seat tube and top tube works with a lugged steel bike, you’ll end up scratching your head for sure.

It was an eerie sensation pulling this bike off Todd’s wall, removing the visible cobwebs and pumping air in the tires so I could photograph it. I knew the story was coming and hearing him narrate while I was documenting this beauty really made me think about how fragile we all are while we’re out on our bikes, surrounded by cars and distracted drivers.

Be safe out there, y’all and thank you, Todd for sharing this piece of your history with me.

  • Nicholas Petersen

    I would love to know how a carbon seat tube doesn’t break free from TT/seatstay lug with so much load on it. I assume it’s glued, which would break down over time.

    • Patrick Murphy

      Rob English (and a handful of others) does the “carbon seat tube in steel” thing a lot, and there a few builders like Firefly who do Ti lug/Carbon tube construction for all main tubes, although typically the junctions have MUCH longer overlaps. But hey, if your epoxy (or faith) is strong enough…

      Crazy beautiful bike.

      • black cat bicycles

        thanks, patrick.

        this was the third such bike i’d done when i built it. the lugs kept getting smaller with each iteration. the first bike i built like this failed on the (columbus steel!!) seat stays, so i took the opportunity to do some destructive testing on it. the steel down tube failed before the carbon tubes or epoxied joints, and even when the down tube failed, the carbon tubes and joints were still fine. still have the subassembly. it’s crazy to load up the thing by pressing the head tube into the ground and pushing on the bb, with the down tube being completely cut out. steel tubes would not hold up to the same thing.

        one of the reasons i went with the super blocky lugs was to create as much surface area as possible in the shortest length possible. that, and i’d never seen it done and thought it might look cool.

        next time i build a bike like this i might do slightly smaller diameter tubes to really take advantage of the flexy-flyer nature i might be able to squeeze out of it. it’s amazing how flexible it is, right up until it fails…

    • Almost all carbon bikes are epoxied together and they rarely separate.

    • shankshiv

      Not so long ago… tons of steel and aluminum road race bikes had carbon seat stays with matching forks.
      Reynolds and Columbus both supplied wishbone shaped stays which were glued into into seat tube lug and were bolted to dropouts.
      Sloped down tubes were hot then.
      You dont see to many on the road these days.
      I never had any structural issues aside from crashes with the Ionic I raced.

    • ABW

      The epoxies used by framebuilders are amazing. I’m not an engineer, but if I understand some of the properties correctly, they can be much, much stronger than a welded or brazed joint under certain kinds of stress. Unless the joint is improperly prepared, other areas of the frame will fail first.

  • Tim Guarente

    I love the touch of red from the handlebar showing through the torn bar tape. Like a real flesh wound. Maybe that was always Easton’s plan?

  • Off-the-hook beautiful frameset. A reference point, for sure.

  • Eric Hancock

    Those lugs are insane.

    Beautiful bike. I’d take one exactly like it.

  • Thomas Alexander Peralta

    With all the bikepacking and gravél rigs and fireroad fliers recently (not complaining), there’s something so refreshing about a truly analogue road bike. It’s about the exquisiteness of understatement. The lovely seatstays, the stem and its rusty bolt, the group, “old-fashioned” rim brakes and sensible wheels. The LUGS. The fact that there’s secret carbon under those barely distinguishable shades of green. This is a bike about which the layperson would see nothing special, and maybe that’s demonstrative of just how special it really is. Cheers to Black Cat on the machine, and cheers to you, John, for doing it justice.

  • Garrett Kautz

    That story still haunts me, it’s so damn frightening. Todd and KB are lucky to be alive. Cool to see this thing out in the sunlight again.

  • breed007

    This is why I just can’t get that into road biking. I can live with making a mistake on 1-track and getting badly hurt. But the idea of some asshole in a pickup taking it away me just doesn’t sit well.

    • I think about this often. I spend about 100 miles a week in traffic, sometimes more. I’m always around cars, and in my area with some 50,000 texting college students, it’s almost always an eventful commute. I get cut off, I get buzzed, I get brake-tested, I get turned into. People are stupid. Everyone’s distracted. There’s a psychological distance when you’re in your car, a veil of anonymity and isolation.

      Cycling with traffic is risk, but so is life. You develop a sixth sense if you spend enough time in traffic- I have it turned on even when I’m driving. You know the phrase about a gun always being loaded? Thinking of every light as a green light helps- some 96% of cycling accidents happen in intersections. That truck without a blinker on? Stay behind him- if he turns, you’re dead. It’s the assumption that everyone else is going to fuck up that keeps you from getting hit.

      I haven’t been hit —YET— in almost 20,000 miles, but I have avoided so many close calls, they’re just part of my life. I think even if I did hit, I’d be back. I don’t have the willpower to take the bus.

      • I jinxed it! I biked in this morning and almost got mashed by a pickup. He turned a very hard right, cutting me off, and I hopped the curb to keep from going under his rear wheel.

        Stay safe out there, kids!

  • black cat bicycles

    thanks, y’all! this is a good bike. i like it a lot. it has special powers.

    the accident was not my first tangle with a car. been hit a handful of times (several times rear ended by drunks- yea, really), but this was the first time i was hit on quiet rural road, and left in the coming dark (by two cars) to die. i wouldn’t have, but my buddy woulda drowned in his own blood. quite a mind game there. for my recovery from my broken hip, i got to get back on this horse and ride it back to wellness, mentally and physically.

    while i lost some love of the road, what i gained was a new appreciation for the even smaller roads we have in this county. the ones where you don’t come up on cars driving like bats out of hell. that’s why this bike has cobwebs. 28 tires are barely enough for some of the crazy stuff we have around here. these days bikes with 32s and disc brakes are my jam. sorry greeny, you know i love you. maybe i’ll have to braze on a disc tab and put a disc fork on you. oh wait, bikes can’t read.

  • Chris Valente

    Frame builder shop galleries are the raddest of The Radavist.

  • T C

    Can someone tell me what color this bike is? RAL code would be awesome.

  • Ham Sandwich

    thats about the coolest bicycle stem ive ever seen. straight boob milk.