My Crust Bikes Dreamer is An All Road Light Tourer

I love bourbon but over a year and a half ago, I quit drinking, so my love for the brown Kentucky whiskey has been put on hold. Last year when I drove up to Portland to shoot the bikes of the Chris King Open House, the team there hooked me up with a set of their ultra limited Bourbon hubs and headset as a thank you for shooting 19 bikes for them. When this color was teased at NAHBS, almost three years ago, my head imploded. No matter what I could do, however, Chris King said that Bourbon wouldn’t be a color in their catalog. Something about not being able to get the color consistent. Bummer! They did however, have a small batch aging in their archives. When I was gifted the Bourbon parts, I had to make a bike worthy of such a kit.

Dreamer Dreaming

Ok, that’s not fair, to be honest, I’ve wanted to make a drop bar touring bike ever since my Geekhouse was stolen, but have just waited until the opportunity presented itself. Enter Darren Larkin, the builder of the Crust Dreamer frames. Darren lives in Los Angeles and makes the Dreamers for Crust. Usually, they’re just stock geometries, but Darren and I worked with my custom parameters to make a custom Dreamer to fit my specific fit requirements. I took my Bourbon parts and looked at complimentary colors, settling on Prismatic Powder Coat’s “Bullfrog Belly,” which is a departure from the Earthtone themes of my other bikes, but still visible without being fluoro.

Build Kit

I’m sold on SRAM’s Eagle technology, but right now, there’s no compatibility with drop bar levers, so you’re stuck with either a trigger shifter on the flats of the bars, or hacking away at a Shimano shifter like Benedict has done, or Microshift has a 12-speed barcon that works with Eagle – much better than I expected I might add! Paired with my favorite cranks made by White Industries, I had the drivetrain figured out. For bars, I went with the Sim Works GSC bars, a Paul Boxcar stem and post, Paul Klampers, TRP Levers, Brooks Cambium with a new Outer Shell saddle pack, Serfas bar tape, those King hubs with Santa Cruz Reserve rims and WTB’s Venture 47mm tires. I even saved a pair of the King Cage cerakote cages we made with Black Magic Paint for this build. Eventually, I’d like to add a SON hub for USB charging and lighting, but that will probably be a bit down the road.

Light Tourer

Currently, I wanted to shoot the bike without bags, but the Dreamer is suitable for light touring with a front rack, a rear bag support, and a frame bag. Any number of bags will fit this bike, including a randonneuring bag, or a Fab’s Chest, or even a bikepacking bar pack. My frame bag fits in nicely and any number of rear saddle packs or micro panniers will work on the rear. Looking at this bike’s profile, you’ll note the wheelbase, chainstay length, and trail as being a bit more like an all-road and less like a touring bike.

I’ve accepted the fact that long distance, multi-week tours are not realistic for my schedule these days, and when I do tour, it’s usually ultralight, so a bike like this is perfect for what I view as touring. Don’t expect to see four panniers and a trailer on this thing! I am however hoping to do some all-road touring this year and even if that means taking to my backyard in the Angeles National Forest.

Thanks to Darren for working with me on the geometry, Chris King for the Bourbon gift, and Golden Saddle Cyclery for building up the bike!


Follow Crust Bikes on Instagram, Darren on Instagram, and Golden Saddle Cyclery on Instagram.

  • Bryce Rinkenberger

    This may be the most glorious machine ever.. Can I has?

    • Bryce Rinkenberger

      its too bad you cant have chris king and a dynamo..

      • I know right?! These wheels would also look great on my Firefly if I ever swap them for a dynamo.

        • Bryce Rinkenberger

          those wheels would look great on anything

      • Jared Jerome

        You can get one of those velogical units…

  • ScottMCarlile

    New… favorite… bike… ever! Holy moly, John. Solid work, she’s a beaut! Agreed, though… the ideal would have a dynamo/light set-up to create pure perfection.

  • Matt Meko

    I’d say the bourbon pulls the yellow well into earthtone territory. I think I’ve seen clay layers that yellow color down in the SE US. I really like the finish on the bars, you don’t see that anywhere else. Like faux titanium.

  • Zach Ary

    how do you like the ventures?

    • More grip than the Byway is all I noticed so far.

      • Kurt Jensen

        Is it just me, or do the Ventures (and Byways for that matter) look a lot like the semi-slick XC race tires popular in the 90’s?

  • Jared Jerome

    Have you taken it off any sweet jumps?

  • Definitely one of my favorite Crust dreamer builds!

  • Raoul Morley

    Sweet ride that’s an awesome bike where’s the Panaroamer sticker from?

    • It’s from Monkey Wrench Cycles in Nebraska. They also do a Suntourist decal.

      • Raoul Morley

        Amazing thanks it looks like so much fun, I’m so jealous of the sun and warmth right now…

        • It’s a little strange for it to be this warm in January. The AQI has been rough too.

      • mark rothschild

        There are Humanoids…in Nebraska???

      • Peter Hedman

        Sure it wasn’t Vince at Ponderosa Cyclery? MWC and Ponderosa are the coolest shops in Nebraska – such steez…

    • atsaecniv

      yeah, ponderosa cyclery is who to bother on those. Def don’t call Nate askin for those stickers (but definitely call Nate askin for those stickers)

    • atsaecniv

      sick bike, John

  • Pat Smith


  • m burdge

    pretty versatile-looking machine there. Nice.

  • mark rothschild

    Frame Weight???

    • Didn’t weigh the frame. Without pedals, bottles, cages, saddle bag it’s 21lbs. I could lighten it up by upgrading the cassette – that GX Eagle cassette is kind of a tank (448g) versus XO, XX1 at 360g.

      • Peter Chesworth

        weight schmeight. Most of us could lose a kilo cheaply through reduced burger consumption.

        • Totally! Bike weight doesn’t matter until you’ve got to push it up and over a mountain. Aside from quitting drinking, I don’t eat meat during the week now too! haha

      • mark rothschild

        21 lb. = more Gooder….Nice

  • dkimrey

    In love with this bike. Nice work John. Have you thought about how you’ll load it for a small tour?

    • Hey Drew! Probably a frame bag with a front bag like the Fab’s Chest and a bikepacking saddle pack.

      • dkimrey

        Good deal. Looking forward to ready about your rides.

  • This one is looking good!

  • Sattelfest

    cool space horse. Colour combination (frame/decal) is great.

  • bikecow

    Curious what you had changed geometry-wise? TT and HT length? Looks pretty similar to my Plante Cycles all-road build! :)

  • Sattelfest

    How does it compare to your sklar all road/cross (besides more touring ready)?

    • Here are the geometries. Larkin/Crust on the left, Sklar on the right. In short, the Sklar has a longer top tube and is run with a shorter stem, has a shorter chainstay, and no provisions for racks, fenders or cargo cages.

      • andygowans

        Seems like the geo changes over stock are shorter reach and higher stack. A mix of the medium and large frames sizing with more BB drop? I think those numbers should make for a great riding, comfortable bike.

        • Exactly. The large was too long and the medium, too small overall. This geometry is my Geekhouse geometry since I’m never seeing that bike again.

      • Sattelfest

        Always interesting to compare. Thank You!

  • Nigel Chang

    John, have you explored whether the Microshift lever could be mounted on a Gevenalle/retroshift lever? Might open some new drop-bar shifting opportunities….nice ride. Chapeau.

    • Not sure honestly. I know Jimmy runs his on a thumb shifter pod.

    • Patrick Chen

      A standard stock microSHIFT lever cannot be used on a Gavenelle shifter. Gavenelle machine the levers to have a longer cable groove. The mounting bolt is also shorter on Gavenelle. I hope they make the 12 speed eagle version soon!

      • Matt Guzman

        Interesting because I thought I remembered back when retroshift was first starting that they used to just sell the levers and you would mount your own bar end shifters?

        • They still offer a lever only which fits older style downtube shifters. Microshift mounts differently.
          In December they teased about 12 speed xtr compatabilty, so it can’t be far off. Maybe with their restock in March.

  • tom

    Next level nice. Love the old school gum brake hoods.

  • John

    Outstanding color. I have a Dreamer with a carbon ENVE fork, and I think it’s my favorite bike that I own. I have it set up a Go Fast All Road, and it really ticks most of the boxes I could ever have.

  • David Madina

    Any reason why you went with a dreamer vs. something like an elephant nfe; you spoke really highly of it in your previous review… just curious, of course.

    • I really liked the Elephant but I like what Darren is doing too. I honestly didn’t even think about the NFE. Maybe it’s because we already have one. I bought my lady one two years ago.

  • Such a good looking build. I really love this bike.
    Interested to hear more about the feel of the 12 speed microshift shifter. I know there was talk of trouble with first ones.

    • We’ll see! Worst case you can set it up friction.

  • Joe Umbrell

    One of my favorite bikes on here so fat this year. Dig the bar end shifter. In regards to Gevenalle, no SRAM stuff has been compatible so far..

  • Marc Gasch

    Loving the new Venture 47 here as well. My new “go-everywhere” tires. Cool rig!

    • really great round here with all our sandy roads.

      • pbass

        Beautiful bike. I’m running Byways here in SoCal on all of our fire roads, etc. Have always been pleasantly surprised with how they grip, but sometimes, they fall a tad short on some loose climbs, so the Ventures are on my radar. How do they work for you compared to Byways (if in fact of course, you’ve used Byways)?

  • Roberto Mauriello

    Is the headset mango?

  • Hrvoje

    Why go with Eagle 12speed instead of Force?
    All of the trouble with Microshift just for more range? And the rear derailleur almost touches the ground on these 47mm 650b tires.
    Could be so much slicker with XX1 cassette and Force shifters.

    • fallsviewafro

      Because TRP RRL levers are dope. Do wish they had a black drilled lever option though.

      • dan scheie

        Would it be wasteful to buy both a black set and a gum/silver set to swap the levers over? Cuz I kinda want to do that.

        • The black set still has silver levers. The black levers are the hydraulic version.

          • Jonathan McCurdy

            nah there’s a black version. i have a pair on my downtube bike.

          • Well not according to TRP. I’d love to see them things, but TRP’s website doesnt offer them, and their phone people have always told me nope.

          • Yeah, I called. No dice. They have black arms but they aren’t drillium.

        • I was thinking about pulling the arms and getting them cerakoted with the next run of bottle cages for the web shop.

      • Raoul Morley

        They did used to make them have a look out for them, I’ve a set going on a new build, I picked mine up cheap because everyone wanted the brown ones…

        • Oh yeah, they make a black lever but it’s not drillium.

          • Raoul Morley

            Totally misunderstood I’ve got silver lever with black hoods and body

    • Because our dirt roads are 18% and up. I’d rather have more gears than have it look slicker.

      Two people I know have this shifter and have been riding it with no issues. Fingers crossed.

  • Janus Farré Rytter Jensen

    Is the possibility for a 2-by a custom option too?

    • dan scheie

      Looks like there is provisions for cable routing on the top tube and seat tube for a front derailleur.

    • yep. it can run a 2x

      • Janus Farré Rytter Jensen

        Yea I can tell. I was just curious because I contacted Crust regarding the possibility for a 2x Dreamer build and was told that although it wasn’t designed for it, it would definitely be possible. So after seeing your splendid bike-build, the sight of a cable stop on the seat-tube and a third on the top-tube made me wonder whether they will open up for that possibility on stock frames in the future, or if it was your own idea for an easy add-on.

  • Peter Chesworth

    Proper bike.

  • Nice. “Bullfrog Belly!” That Prismatic website is such a rabbit hole. A rainbow rabbit hole. I remember looking for a sparkle dark navy blue for my bike a year ago and there were like 27 variations of just that. It was the hardest part of putting that bike together.

  • Yemble

    Love the look of chopstick narrow, steel, TA forks like that.

    • I love watching it flex over washboard too!

  • Zac

    That… is one very nearly perfect bicycle.

  • JB

    Fantastic build!

  • andyestridge

    I was thinking about getting a Dreamer about a year ago when a Geekhouse Woodville fell into my lap. Super happy with the GH, but still think about the dreamer. How comparable are the two? I know the Dreamer is a “light tourer”…

    • My GH was more of a fully loaded bike. Longer stays, longer wheelbase.

  • Charlie D

    Beautiful John!
    You sure know how to put a bike together.

    • I have a 20-sided dice with components on it that I roll to figure out how to build them. ;-)

      • Charlie D

        Try not to lose it :-)

  • AdamBike99

    I can’t decide what I like better:

    The way you rack focus and change DoF between otherwise identical photos, or
    the way you captured the series of bike shadows…
    I have, however, decided that your work is my favorite on the interwebs!

    • Thanks man! I try to have fun shooting them and showing details like that!

      • Chris Valente

        I was pretty impressed by the clone stamp work to remove the stick on the overhead shots. Haven’t seen that angle much in your photosets. I dug it.

        • Thanks! The road had a big earth wall next to it from where they cut the shelf road, so I climbed up and shot down. It was an interesting angle. I just get stoned and photoshop out the metal dowel prop, so it’s fun for me! haha

          • Chris Valente

            Watson/King 2020!

          • No more White Men in the presidential seat for a bit plz. haha

          • Chris Valente

            Goodolnamz/BicycleNomad 2020

          • That’s more like it!

          • Jon B.

            47 and 50 are epic.

          • It kinda feels like you’re about to throw your leg over it, huh?

  • Sattelfest

    nearly 100 comments….best bike 2019 allready? Come on Mr. Ultraromance. Fight back….(to our benefit)

  • adventureroadbiker

    Definitely setting the standard high for 2019!!

  • Ben Shane

    mmmmthomson clamp with paul seatpost???? I’ll look the other way. lol. Sick bike, gives me a lot of build ideas for my T6 Rando!

    • hah! I was wondering if anyone would point that out!

      • Terry Dean

        i like seeing expensive bits mixed up with budget bits. my bikes are always budget oriented and it’s cool to see parts i might run on a bike like this haha

        • Yeah, it’s got some affordable stuff on it for sure but it’s still pretty blinged out. For me, spending money on high end componentry at my local shop (I don’t get discounts or anything there – it’s a tax write off after all) is good for all parties. Paul gets an order from GSC and I get solid stuff that won’t strip or break, plus it holds its value if I ever sell the parts later down the road. As for the drivetrain, once Sram made Eagle GX there was no longer a reason for me to buy XX1 or X0. I can’t tell the difference honestly, aside from the weight. The Microshift thing is a crap shoot. We’ll see how it works! I hope it doesn’t die on me in the middle of a 120 mile ride somewhere.

          • debineko

            I doubt the microshift shifters will let you down. I love how they offer both road and mtb compatible versions. Not all the models have the option of friction shifting so you have to be a bit careful with that. Their RD-R51M 10S rear derailleur is also the best option I’ve found for pairing with 10S Shimano road shifters when using a wide range cassette. I use it with 36T but it could probably be pushed higher. Classic look and much better shifting than with 9S long cage RDs whichever side of the bolt you clamp the wire.

          • @ride_that_trail’s SRAM Eagle shifter died on him not far into Hunt 1000 so… y’know… crap shoot away i guess.

  • BurnDawg

    Another beautiful and well put together bicycle. I can almost hear the sand pinging off that downtube as it flies down a freshly rutted out fire road. Color scheme is reminiscent of the old mustard Salsa Casserolls and that bar tape really ties the room together. How is that bar tape holding up after some miles? It looks light on cushioning yet still comfortable without gloves.

    • Thanks! Yeah, those tires fling sand and rocks up like Gravel Kings. Kinda fun sounding until a piece of sand hits you in the eye. haha. The tape probably won’t hold up as long as other options, but it looks great right now. ;-) I don’t wear gloves, so it’s plenty padded for me.

      • BurnDawg

        Been wanting to try some cloth type tape for awhile, might give that a try. Thinking a bag like on Ronnie’s Atlantis would be a perfect match.

    • Sattelfest

      @colour scheme: or fresher version of Paul`s Black Cat

    • jtbadge

      I’m also really feeling the mustard.

  • Medium Rick

    Really like this bike.

  • andygowans

    How do the Paul Klampers feel and perform compared to SRAM Force or Rival Hydro?

    • It’s a hard comparison, but I like the short pull Klampers, which have a lot of braking power and modulate well. Hydro always feels on/off to me and I like the Force Hydro brakes a lot. But I also like Klampers a lot. Sorry this isn’t much help! hah

      • andygowans

        Thanks John. That does help. I’ll get a set to try.

  • BuffaloDaveToGo

    What a great build and excellent execution on frame color and complimentary components! On the geo side, this is similar to my BWC G Road but in a larger size. I wonder if they ride similarly? For the record, I have added PDW O’Beasts and swapped out the handlebars for Eastons as well as the Cambium for a Scoop. Photo by Ethan.

  • rocketman

    thought that color looked familiar. My Bullfrog Belly Bantam Dirt Rando. Fits 700 x 48 tires, low trail, skinny tubeset with 1″ quill stem

  • So good! The first Dreamer I like ALMOST as much as the #bigdreamer ;) I do have to say I like my hydros.

  • jonny fong

    Now you got me Dreaming!

  • nate

    when will those bottles be available in the web store??????

  • Kurt Schneider

    Hey John…any feedback so far on the Microshift/Eagle performance?

    • It works great! No issues so far. When I mounted a handlebar bag that pinched the cable, I did have to adjust the barrel adjustment a tad but that’s it.

      • Kurt Schneider

        Good to hear it’s working out. Just waiting on the shifter to show up for the installation on the Fargo. Thank you for the update.