Steel is real. We all have personal paths when it comes to cycling and it’s serendipitous when our favorite bikes can adapt to align with these twists and turns within this cycling journey. My Retrotec has long been one of my favorite bikes. In the time I’ve owned it, I’ve swapped out the drivetrain, brakes, fork, wheel size, yet this latest permutation is easily the most drastic…
If you recall a few months back, I put a Phil Wood EBB on this bike so I could run it singlespeed. While it worked great, I found that switching gears was a pain. Since the EBB was installed into an English bottom bracket, there were only a few millimeters to work with to get proper chain tension.
That’s when I saw Curtis Inglis from Retrotec working on a new frame, equipped with Paragon Machine Works Rocker Dropouts. I quickly asked Curtis if he’d retrofit my Retrotec and of course he obliged.
I stripped down the frame, boxed it up, and shipped it back to him. We originally thought we’d be able to chop the existing dropouts from the stays and simply weld in the PMW Rockers. Turns out, Curtis found that we were a few centimeters off, so he built and bent new stays.
This whole process took only a day or so and the frame was back in my hands here in Santa Fe.
The powder coat on this bike was extra fancy. It was a NAHBS bike after all. Now the bike had raw chainstays. I didn’t want to lose the patina on the front triangle of the bike on a complete respray and kinda liked how the bike looked now, a testament to how steel frames can be modified easily. So I left it raw for the time being.
Eventually, I talked to a friend who recommended a solution called Black Magic by Sculpt Nouveau. This patina is acid-based and only takes a few minutes to turn raw steel into a deep, dark finish.
If you do a web search for “Santa Fe Average Humidity”, you’ll be greeted with a comedic number of 7%. That means we don’t have to worry about rust here. In more humid areas, you’d want to clear coat the raw steel. Sculpt Nouveau makes a topcoat for their patinas but I’m just going to watch and see how the raw patina holds up over time.
Chris King 40th
This bike was used to showcase the olive drab Chris King 40th Anniversary kit at the 2016 NAHBS. Hundreds of these kits were available and there’s a story here that many don’t know. Each of these olive drab components were hand-polished by one employee. He took it upon himself to polish each hub. Each headset. Each bottom bracket. His name was Jonas and he passed away unexpectedly shortly after from a rare disease. I’ll never take this Chris King kit off this bike because Jonas was so stoked to see it at NAHBS and it was the last time I spoke with him. Ride in Peace, man.
Yep, those funky Doom Bars are still kickin’ like a buckin’ bronco on this bike. The extra width and back sweep makes the Retrotec ride a big boy BMX bike. With all that extra leverage, I’m able to torque the bike up and over steep trails and lean in a bit more on the turns. These bars really made this bike a lot more fun!
It took me a while to build up my singlespeed strength again. Originally it was geared at 30:18 and now this bike is geared at 30:16 and 30:17. With the 16t cog, I can ride the XC trails here and with a 17t, it’s just enough for me to ride further up the mountain. I’m still working up to be able to go into the deeper, high country trails, and when that happens, I’ll probably put a 20t on the rear. With the new Paragon Machine Works Rocker Dropouts, I can swap gearing much easier and all I have to do is loosen the bolts. So far, I haven’t had any slipping issues, as long as I torque the bolts down with a long-handled hex key.
Here’s the geometry for the Retrotec, for those who have asked. :-)
I love my Retrotec. I love the humans who made this bike what it is and I love riding singlespeed here. It really made my fitness skyrocket and harkens back to my fixed gear days when I lived in NYC. This bike is a lot of fun and due to its material, was able to adapt with my riding style as it’s evolved over the years.
Yes, steel is real!
Thanks to Curtis Inglis from Retrotec for all his help!
… oh yeah, I know I need to manage these cables better. ;-)