Readers’ Rides: Katherine’s Dirt-dropped Hardtail Frankenbike


Readers’ Rides: Katherine’s Dirt-dropped Hardtail Frankenbike

This week’s Readers’ Rides comes from Katherine in Colorado with her do-it-all Orbea hardtail. Check out more details and the history of this unique submission below…

The bike is an Orbea Alma i.e. a Euro-racecar hardtail with all the goodness of a traditional, climb-hungry, pedal-friendly cross-country bike fit. It’s the type of machine that we’re rapidly losing to the longerlowerslacker movement, and I will gladly mark myself as a 35-year-old dinosaur by mourning that demise.

The paint is courtesy of Orbea’s MyO custom program and was inspired by the colors of the Colorado flag. I have been in my adopted state now for 10 years and wanted something unique and a little ridiculous. (Search the #ColoradoOrbea Instagram hashtag for more photos.)

After riding it as a rigid hardtail for a year, primarily as a “gravel grinder,” I decided to defile its original purpose and turn it into a drop-bar frankenbike. Around here–9,000 feet of elevation in the central Rocky Mountains–“gravel grinding” is done mostly on old U.S. Forest Service roads that, were they narrower, would be black-diamond trails for how rock-strewn and steep they are. Hence the 100mm FOX suspension fork (with the wrong stickers, apparently), PNW Components dropper post, and 29×2.3″ Teravail Ehline tires.

For the conversion, I handed the bike off to my dear friend Marty, a bike mechanic who has been at the receiving end of every bad-idea build I’ve had in the last 8 years. This was no different and required some fiddling to work around compatibility issues. Her patience for me is blessedly endless … so far.

The Shimano XT rear derailleur was mated to Shimano GRX shifters by way of a Wolf Tooth Tanpan that is functional 90% of the time. The tension is so tight that Marty told me to pray I never flat my rear tire because it will take two people to get the wheel on and off. (A GRX derailleur is on order, to be honest.) Mismatched Shimano brakes from the parts bin rounded out the drivetrain changes. Otherwise, I got to keep the XT crankset with 30t chainring and 11-46 cassette.

The saddle is an old Selle Italia Flite. Every bike in my stable has one; I buy them lightly used from eBay. The handlebars are Daja Cycleworks Far Bars via Velo Orange. I snagged the Industry Nine lightweight aluminum wheels secondhand from The Pros Closet. The stem is only 35mm long, which makes the bike just barely fit my long torso and long arms. It’s not a perfect conversion but it’s very close.

Oh, and the flask holder. It’s titanium. I zip-tied it to the seatstay over an old bike tube to protect the carbon. The flask usually carries a high-quality cognac on cold days. It was a parting gift when I left Dirt Rag Magazine where I was once the digital editor. About a week before its 30th anniversary issue was published, Dirt Rag folded. RIP, Dirt Rag.

This summer, the “Colorado Orbea” became my bikepacking bike for lack of a better option. Despite its lightweight race orientation and somewhat unconventional new geometry, it performed flawlessly when loaded down with bags and dragged up and over barely-there two-track in remote national forests.

For bikepacking duty, I made a protective sleeve for each fork stanchion out of old bike tubes, then used hose clamps to attach plastic Salsa EXP Anything racks. I chose hose clamps over zip ties because they’re reusable; I didn’t want the racks installed permanently. Fork bags along with a frame and seat bag did the heavy lifting. The flared bars were just wide enough to carry my sleeping bag and bivvy.

Is it the most ideal iteration of this kind of tool for the job? Probably not. I know that I’m playing in Salsa Cutthroat / Fargo territory with a Spandex-only type of bike, but I just love the way the Alma fits, handles and rides. It’s light, fast, and nimble, but also comfortable and efficient. I have a feeling the Colorado Orbea is going to go through many “why-the-hell-not” iterations of weirdness in a long life together.


We’d like to thank all of you who have submitted Readers Rides builds to be shared over here. The response has been incredible and we have so many to share over the next few months. Feel free to submit your bike, listing details, components, and other information. You can also include a portrait of yourself with your bike and your Instagram account! Please, shoot landscape-orientation photos, not portrait. Thanks!