2021 Philly Bike Expo: Pachyderm Bikes Custom Cyclocross

Since 2014, Dan Schaumann has been a full-time professor at University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Design and runs a R+D lab within the Department of Ophthalmology. In addition to his teaching duties, various design-related past times, and riding/racing bikes, Dan has been building frames as Pachyderm Bikes out of the Chicago-based Bubbly Dynamics co-op workshop and now from his own garage shop space. Through peer and self-teaching at Bubbly, Dan honed his craft and has built race bikes for himself, teammates, and friends. He’s even started teaching others the art of framebuilding. Continue reading below for Dan’s description of the cyclocross bike he built for his friend Sam Scipio and displayed at the 2021 Philly Bike Expo, as documented by Jarrod Bunk‘s imagery.

The cyclocross race bike I displayed at PBE was built for my friend Sam. The idea for the bike came to fruition as Sam and I drove to Kansas together for an endurance race. Sam had just picked up a sponsorship, but the carbon race bikes provided for her didn’t quite fit and took funny component choices to work. On the drive down she asked if I could build her a ‘cross bike. Of course, I said “Sure – let’s do it!” Ultimately, it took the better part of three years to complete from idea to maiden voyage, but good things take time and we were in no rush.

Sam has a Surly Cross Check named “Sweet Potato.” It’s her highest mileage whip (daily driver, cross, gravel, etc) but, again, with a fairly goofy component fit to get things to work. So, going into a custom build, Sam worked with Rachel at Velosmith to get the fit right for racing. The goal was to make a lightweight and responsive bike. With contact points sorted and wheels placed confidently under the rider, tubes are were draped based on “neutralized” component fits. We managed to build in a little wiggle room for future possibilities while keeping the wheelbase and front end geometry relatively tight turning for midwestern cross circuits.

The steel frame – with rim brakes and carbon fork – is lightweight, reliable, and raceable. A NOS Enve Canti Cross fork is light and balanced, complimenting the mix of steel tubing, which includes: 36mm OX Platinum headtube, 28.6 Columbus Spirit toptube, 31.8 OX Platinum downtube, True Temper externally-butted seattube for a 27.2 post, and Columbus Life seat and chainstays.

Finishing was fun – no less than twenty swatch samples were obtained to find the perfect shade of dusty maroon to match the skin of a Japanese sweet potato, per Sam’s request. After stainless steel badges were brazed in place on the head, seat, and downtubes, I applied a cast texture powdercoat in-house at Bubbly Dynamics.

Sam spec’d all components and built up the bike. She laced up a light wheelset – White Industries road hubs to Velocity Quills with Donnelly Cross tires. The SRAM Force 1 mechanical group fits Sam’s hand the best, works great, and keeps the build raceable/replaceable. SimWorks bar ends and stem with built-in cable stop are integral to making the tight cockpit work.

Sam’s brake setup is something special. The Paul Component Engineering cantilevers are yoked up by Sam’s own Jubilee Manufacturing heart hangers, which are obviously extra-cute show-stoppers. She ran through multiple rounds of CNC prototypes and design refinements on this product while she was learning to build her first frame in my shop last winter. Sam got it fully built up and ready to ride late last summer. The excitement on her face when we rode together says it all. She is stoked on this bike and that makes me happy.

Over the winter of 2020/2021 Sam and I did a framebuilding course out of my new home shop, where she built her first frame: a fillet brazed MTB bike she took out on the tour divide this past summer. She built herself another cross race bike and won a SRAM sponsorship for the 2021 Philly Bike Expo. We showed this bike in Philly to celebrate and share our passion for framebuilding with each other and the bike community at large. At one point in the show, my teacher Doug stopped by the booth to visit and so did Sam. They all got to meet and we had a little intergenerational framebuilder moment. I wish there was a picture of that.

Having a concept, bringing it to life through shared resources, networks, and knowledge bases; enjoying it in the world in a liberating way; while respecting communities around us past, future and present – that’s what it’s all about.