When I decided I wanted a custom bike there was only one person I really wanted to make it a reality. I’ve worked with Mike DeSalvo before, back when I was living in Portland, painting the first run of Speedvagen cyclocross bikes. I knew since this bike would be a once in a lifetime bike I wanted to go with titanium, and Mike is one of the best in the industry.
When I first approached Mike about a bike I had the idea of a CX/gravel bike in my head. Maybe because I see those types of bikes being so versatile. While in the queue for my bike to be made, I started to become more aware of the vast amount of MTB trails that were an hour or less from where I lived in the city (Milwaukee). I also started thinking about the amazing river trails that have been hidden in plain sight just 2 blocks from my front door. Since I already owned a pretty amazing gravel bike, a Mountain Bike seemed to make more sense to me. Since I’ve never really owned one, I started to do my research and also work with mike to figure out what I wanted the bike to be.
I like my bikes to be able to be used for all types of terrain and situations. Just like my gravel bike can be used as a road bike, a touring bike, and a cross bike. I wanted this MTB to be the same. I wanted the geometry to feel comfortable with a rigid fork and a suspension fork with the latest tech/trend in spacing. While Mike was building the bike there were very little boost options for rigid so we went with a Boost Niner RDO carbon fork. Both the fork and the frame can take 29 or 27.5 with 2.8 tires giving me options if I wanted to change my setup. Plus, as a bonus, it had mounts on the sides of the fork, something that was sort of ahead of its time. While test riding some stock MTB setups at my local bike shop I loved the feeling of the 27.5 Stans wheels and 2.8 WTB Ranger tires. They were big enough to make me feel like a kid again, while they were still fast and light enough to power through long, flat trips.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Mike’s Curved top tube design. I love the way it makes the bike look fast even while standing still. The TT paired with the oversized titanium tubing made for a really stocky stance. There are a few really cool design features we added to the bike. The cable stops that go under the downtube near the crank are spaced to be used for another water bottle mount. Another feature to keep things clean is the dropper post internal routing near the bottom bracket.
I went with Sram xo1 as my drivetrain and a Thomson cockpit and dropper post setup and I couldn’t be happier. I love the shorter stem feel and the ability to lower my seat out of the way on trails (Remember, I was new to MTBs so a dropper post was blowing my mind) Overall, I’ve been riding the same setup for about 2 years and the only thing I’m not really satisfied with are the Sram Level brakes. They are not very reliable in winter and need constant adjusting. But they work for now.
While I have not gotten a suspension fork yet, I still plan on getting one for more aggressive riding. Just trying to figure out which one I want to get. Right now this setup is perfect for the Milwaukee river trails and some on/off-road fun on my daily commute.
I commissioned my friend Joe for Sturdy Bag Designs to create a custom waterproof frame bag. It fits the shape of the curved top tube perfectly while still leaving room for bottle access. It also features extra padding on the areas where the bag meets the tubing. This helps protect the frame from whatever I’m carrying in the bag, but also helps dampen any rattling of contents.
My DeSalvo has been my go-to bike as of late. I pretty much take it everywhere and anywhere. The big tires and geometry make it super fun on and off-road. This bike has seen its fair share of dirt and city obstacle riding. It’s been the perfect bike for me to learn the skills needed for more technical off-road riding and shredding around the city (I blame my bald tires on more street riding). I’m sure this has been said before on this site but there really is nothing like the process of working with a knowledgeable builder to build a bike that fits your needs, wants, and lifestyle.