Brian’s Crystal FX Self Made Fillet Hardtail 29er: His Horse With No Name

It’s cold and blustery in Santa Fe these days so, much like Hailey, I’m riding more pavement than I’d normally like and have put riding the mountainous trails on the shelf for the moment. Winters are great for water levels in the west, especially ones like the winter we’re having this year. Not much gets me out of the house on windy days, and battling headwinds in a 20º “real feel” is not this desert rat’s cup of tea.

Yet, living in a tourist hub, I often get hit up to meet with travelers passing through town. Sometimes, they want to catch up over a cup of coffee, other times; they have a bike they want me to see. The other morning, I got a message from Brian, who was returning from the Baja Divide with a unique bike in tow…

This was my first time meeting Brian, who worked for years in the footwear industry. He had just left his job and decided to take off six weeks to tour the Baja Divide but first, he had to make a bike for this trip.

With experience in various creative manufacturing roles throughout his life, Brian figured out how to fillet braze using a minimal at-home kit. Fillet brazing is often the most easily-accessible means of framebuilding because it’s an additive technique. The process involves melting brass up into fillets and then filing down the excess, making a smooth transition between tubes. Thanks to the filing step, it’s easier to cover up a beginner’s less-honed skills in fillet brazing, whereas in tig welding, there’s nothing to mask a beginner’s uneven, gloopy beads.

Why a Hardtail on the Baja Divide

After building two frames, Brian decided to build his Baja bike.  He opted for a hardtail instead of a rigid 29er. His thoughts were that a suspension fork would make the long, testing days on the route easier on the body, and he’d be able to rip the descents. Along the route, Brian felt his decision to run a suspension fork was the way to go, particularly when he would be waiting for his riding mates to descend a chunky bit of doubletrack that he flew down effortlessly.

We talked about this a bit while I picked my footing carefully in the fresh, 1″ of sticky caliche mud in the locale where I shot his bike. I have a rule: dirt bikes get shot on dirt. And I wasn’t going to let some freshly melted snow get in the way of my aesthetic standard. Personally, I like a rigid fork on my 29+ tourer, but there is nothing like riding a hardtail or a full suspension on a tour. Still, watching a steel fork flex over washboard corrugations is a real treat!

Crystal FX

While Brian’s brazing is impressive for it being his third frame ever, it’s the frame finish that caught my eye. At first, I thought it had been torched, or “blued”, with his brazing torch, clear coated and then oxidized by the salt air. That’s when Brian lit up in the conversation. He follows this guy on YouTube, who does a technique called Crystal FX.


This technique relies on Urea prill and distilled water to create “crystals” of urea on the frame, which are then painted over and candy-coated. Brian followed the directions in this video to paint his bike, and the final product is impressive. I tried my best to document the final product in the gallery.

The Build Kit

Brian’s eye for detail carried over to the build kit on his affectionately referred to “Horse with No Name.” The components he chose are outlined below but I wanted to call to attention the semi-rack he made for the steerer tube. This operated as a guard to keep his bag from smashing his cables.

The semi-rack, along with the hold handle at the seat tube cluster and a rear rack he made for the travel were all prototypes for his six week jaunt down the Baja Peninsula. Along the way, he broke his rear rack but was able to splint it with a tent pole he had in his kit. This hack got him to a town where he spliced in a bolt from a hardware store and continued onward.

Before the trip, all that was left to figure out was a framebag, which he pinged Andrew from Dispersed to make. After a quick back-and-forth on Instagram, Brian and Andrew happened to be in Tucson simultaneously, so Andrew built him a bag on the spot in his van. Talk about serendipity!

It can be hard to motivate during the winter months, but I always try to bide by a personal rule: never say no to a meet-up! Thanks to Brian for hitting me up and for the time it took for me to document this stunning bike! Safe travels, man.

Build Specs:

Frame: Self Made “Horse with no name”
Fork: RockShox Pike 130mm
Post: Wolftooth 200mm
Handlebars: SQ Lab
Stem: ENVE
Brake Levers: PAUL Love
Brake Calipers: PAUL Klamper
Grips: Ergon
Shifter: SRAM Eagle GX
Derailleur: SRAM Eagle
Cassette: SRAM Eagle
Rear Hub: DT Swiss
Front Hub: SON
Rims: Hunt
Spokes: Berd
Tires: Teravail Honcho 29×2.6″
Cranks: Engin “Light Duty”
Chainring: 44RN
Pedals: Yoshimura
Saddle: Ergon
Framebag: Dispersed