The seed was planted last summer during a weekend visit to Cameron Falconer’s compound in Quincy to ride singletrack in Plumas National Forest, one of my favorite local playgrounds. I already had a 5-year-old Falconer hardtail that I loved and rode everywhere, and there was nothing wrong with it.
Well, there actually was something wrong with my bike on that Saturday (a component failure), so I borrowed one of Cameron’s personal steel hardtails to ride on Sunday. Luckily for me we ride roughly the same size bike. Cameron has experimented with quite a few geometries over the years since he made my last bike, and the loaner I was on happened to be one of his latest designs. We were riding big chunky rough stuff in the Lakes Basin area and I was bouncing through big rock gardens more comfortably than with my old bike, feeling a lot more stable, and by the end of the ride I was like, “BUILD ME ONE LIKE THIS.
So, he did. The biggest update from my old hardtail is the sizing and geometry. A longer top-tube allows me to run a shorter 35mm stem, and with a 65 degree headtube angle and 51mm fork offset, the front wheel feels further out in front of me, adding high speed stability, and making me feel much more confident dropping down into things. This frame has a steepish seat tube angle of 74º because my legs are longest below the knees, which means I need a pretty high seat height that’s somewhat forward of stock geometry. This saddle position feels as efficient climbing as on a road bike, and we do a lot of long grinders around here. The chainstays are 445mm, which also helps with stability, and the right chainstay has a short section between the tire and chainring that Cameron machines from 4130 round bar. This little trick allows me to run a meaty 29×2.6” DHR with plenty of room and non-boost cranks. Paired with boost spacing on the rear hub, this results in a better chainline in the easy gears. The bottom bracket height was chosen to try to keep pedal bashing at a minimum in the rock gardens of Chico’s Bidwell Park.
Tubing is a mix of Columbus and Vari-Wall with Paragon dropouts and headtube, all good solid stuff, and Cameron seals all the tubes up for corrosion resistance, a nice extra touch most people wouldn’t notice. Sharp eyes will catch the external seat-tube water bottle bolts, allowing me to run the latest in long travel dropper posts without water bottle boss interference.
I chose a crazy loud baby-blue and pink color scheme for this bike because I’m kinda sick of all the muted earth tone plastic bikes that are the trend right now. On a personal level, the color choice is also a little bit of a tribute to the Trans Pride flag, but we can talk about that on the side of the trail sometime.
The bike built up like Legos. For some reason the White Industries M30 cranksets always feel so satisfying to install and adjust. Out riding, the 140mm Fox 34 feels quite a bit more supple than my old fork, and a quick backpedal on the I9 rear hub produces a unique screeching buzz that warns hikers that a giant angry robotic insect is coming to sting them. Do we really need 690 points of engagement? Probably not, BUT picking your way through some of the rock gardens around here can put you in the middle of an awkward trackstand in the middle of a pile of big rocks, and it feels pretty nifty to be able to instantly position your cranks within 0.52 degrees of where you want them when you catch yourself stalled in the middle of a step-up.
Overall, this is a fairly simple, solid, reliable bike, with as many parts made in the USA as possible, and meant to survive some rugged abuse in the Sierras without any complaining. I’m already enjoying the empowering stability of this geometry, and find myself covering my brakes less while bombing the rough stuff. This loud ass bike will be hard to miss in the wild, so if you see me somewhere on the trails this summer, give me a shout!