Aside from pristine days of riding, the GiRodeo was also a semi-nomadic bike show. The Service Course has long-term collaborative relationships with a number of builders, working together to pair builders and customers appropriately. I say “semi-nomadic” because the majority of builders rode their bikes, but also because the bikes that were not being ridden magically popped up in restaurants and breweries or wherever else events were held as part of the show. This is a rundown of my favorite bikes, many of which were part of the GiRodeo, and others were part of The Service Course’s furniture.
The GiRodeo was also the European launch of the Argonaut GR3. Since this GR3 came home with me for a long-term review, I was pretty cautious about trying to squeeze a worthwhile bike review into the weekend. Unless it’s a total pig, which very few bikes are at this level, obviously I’m going to enjoy being led around incredible routes in the sunshine on immaculate gravel, but that’s an emotional response rather than a meaningful critique. The GR3 is a bike that, on the face of it, I’m not immediately attracted to, however, like all good bikes, pictures don’t do it justice. For the sake of my review being as accurate as possible, the team at Argonaut built this to my geometry and the tubes were custom laid up for my body weight and use case as if I were a customer.
The first time I saw this thing in the flesh, it wildly surpassed my expectations. So, firstly, there are very few “raw” carbon frames that warrant talking about finish on. The only ones I’ve ever seen worth talking about are the Hope HB130, the Tsubasa crow and this thing. Firstly it’s not raw, it’s Cerakoted in a textural matte finish. The finish is tactile and luxurious, with the bare minimum of decals sprayed beneath it. The quality of finish is next-level showbike madness and comes as standard. While raw carbon is pretty far from my personal taste, I can fully get behind the finish on this bike. It does the ultimate aesthetic magic trick that few things do. Those things are mostly limited to fine art and high-grade design, which is to look effortlessly simple by being intricately complex.
So this isn’t a full review – that’s coming soon – but looking simple while being complex is potentially a great way to talk about how this bike is put together, and how it rides. See Josh’s coverage for a peak at the Argonaut process, but that aside I’d say this is a carbon frame for people who don’t like carbon frames. The approach is just so separate. Look at the top tube/head tube junction, for example. It’s not aero, there are no weird gusset shapes, and it’s not designed around strength-to-weight ratio. It’s designed around making the ride quality the best it can be using custom laid-up tubes and a tube-to-tube design, with in-house made “lugs,” using a unique process centered around patented tooling. While it is an out-and-out gravel race frame, and obviously it’s stiff where it should be and as light as any bike needs to be, the design priority is ride quality. Carbon used well is often one of two things: unobtainable, hyper-efficient shapes, or a material that can feel any way you want it to based on the layup. That’s where this bike is magic. Looking at the shapes and diameters used is an indication of the way it’s made, and (spoiler alert) why it feels good.
I can’t talk about this bike and not also point at the stem. What kind of absolute wildperson makes a fairly radically designed in-house UD carbon stem?! The stem, again, looks simple while being harrowingly complex. It was necessary for clean internal routing that works well with the frame, and also means that a proprietary in-house headset and spacers need to be used. With the little insight I have into the process I can’t imagine producing the stem and headset to be significantly less work than building a whole frame! At some point, I’m going to have to give this thing back, but I’m going to do everything I can to obfuscate that process!
The next bike I shot was this Scarab. Scarab is a Colombian trio: Nicolas, who’s in charge of the front end; Santiago (middle) that is on the geo and product development; and Alejandro Bustamante, who was at the show, developing all the creative, design, paint scheme and things. They take their name from the nickname given to Colombian cyclists because “they climb up everything.” We chatted briefly about what gravel looks like in Colombia while we were on the ride because Alejandro seemed as impressed by rolling and swaying the dusty trails as I was. He led me to the understanding that gravel in Columbia is mostly wide fire roads in the mountains that climb into steep hilly forests, with occasional logging trucks and buses passing at very close proximity. It sounded like hell, and I can’t wait to take him up on his offer of a visit!
There are a number of details on this bike, the most notable being the paint, which I was really impressed with on the level that it was a novel use of an old and out-of-fashion methodology. The graphics are complex and delicate so they were applied using one-off transfers, over a base color, which is carefully integrated into the transfer design, before being clear coated and flatted back to a perfect textureless finish. I also loved the explicitly Colombian narrative it depicts, because narrative is a rare bird in bicycle finishing.
The narrative is inspired by a journey Alejandro made, which not only gave birth to the paint scheme but was also the inspiration for the overall approach to the bicycle. The overall paint scheme is about a river named Magdalena. The Magdalena River in Colombia has been synonymous with development, exploration and discovery, and crosses the country from south to north with a length of 1540 kms. The Magdalena supports a bewildering array of wildlife and it’s the river that was implicit in the economic growth of Colombia as it was used as the first waterway for trade and transportation. For Scarab, the Magdalena is an ode to the river, its people, its fauna & flora, its culture and the stories that happen around it. It is an invitation to explore and discover; to navigate a country, to conquer its trails, nooks and crannies. Magdalena is a synonym for exploration and discovery; it is the meaning of freedom and ‘berraquera’! All of this is embodied in a bike with an indomitable desire to explore.
The design is a graphic tale about Colombia and its topography; its mountain ranges and lush, verdant valleys. It also symbolizes the struggles of the people that established Colombia and how they set about trying to stitch it all together. It embodies the demanding nature of exploration of the Andean landscapes, from the coast by the Caribbean Sea and into the heart of the land through the waters of the Magdalena. A network of dirt tracks once traversed by foot or mules during colonial times that meander into the mountains. Now disused, many have fallen into disrepair.
On a personal level as a Werner Herzog fan, the bike speaks to me through the mythologies set out by ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’, and his seminal work ‘Fitzcaralldo’. Alejandro sent this little video about the bike.
There were a pair of pretty lovely Rizzo 29er ADVenture gravel bikes floating around, which were made by self-taught Ruben Rizzo. Ruben is a frame builder based in Madrid who builds everything – from 23c road bikes with rim brakes, to 26” wheeled full suspension bikes. I chose this Toyota-themed build to photograph for Mr. John Watson. Ruben says it’s one half of a project for Fred’s Cycling Obsession. A couple of bikepacking travelers approached Ruben looking for new adventure machines.
Ruben built a couple of frames for them, each with unique, concept-driven paint designs. This one is clearly inspired by the 70’s Toyota graphics to embody “a roaming spirit,” as a perfect bike to go All the Way, as described in Bukowski’s poem. The bike features an INGRID crankset, color matched with the “Jeep green” base coat, an ENVE cockpit and ENVE M6 wheels. I also noted the inclusion of a SON dynamo, still waiting for its accompanying Sine Wave front light/charging device.
It was impossible not to love this Repete x David Krňanský x Breadfit store: Troll with LOL :). What a name! I was drawn in by the paint, specifically the abstraction of the main downtube logo; it’s the most anti-brand approach, in that you basically can’t read it even if you know what it says, which is great fun. It’s also such a confident design choice, an antidote to mainstream branding and design. I’d not seen anything from Repete before, in spite of their having been going since 2012 and so it was a great introduction to the brand. I also loved their made-in-house forged dropouts. While 3D printing can be used to great effect and is an integral part of the process for builders like Sturdy and Prova, within a normal build process that doesn’t rely on that level of integration of process in the design, forged components make a lot of sense. In this instance, a custom dropout means cleaner cable routing than a machined dropout would allow as well as desirable surface area for TIGed construction. It’s a mature and logical approach based on need without paying attention to printing as a trend in ordinary building.
The artist David Krňansky explains: “The pearl-silver paint is combined with signal yellow logos and overlaid with motifs originally drawn with a marker. Each motif’s hidden meaning takes a jab at the current moment. It’s an index of motifs that are randomly arranged one after the other. Words like, “CRISIS, LOL, FUCK, FAME, FAKE, and CASH,” are interspersed with simple geometric compositions and here and there a face or a smiley appears. The interconnected, complete set of images metaphorically represents our emotions in response to the current state of society and the world in which we live.”
Repete frames are produced in Prague with a large amount of handwork, and their creation is characterized by attention to detail. “Marker strokes were digitally converted and then painted onto the frame using cut templates. In this way, other production processes enter the execution of the artist’s vision–the art is connected with SW technology and industrial painting techniques,” says Repete co-founder Robin Fišer. “Krňanský’s painted signature is a symbol of close cooperation.”
Another highlight of this build was the Posedla ‘Joy’ seat – a custom 3D-printed saddle with a carbon base made in the Czech Republic that has a pretty different shape to a lot of saddles. It’s unusual in that it has a super rigid base that’s designed not to flex at all! I’d love to try one out!
I liked Mark Currie from Mosaic’s personal Mosaic GT1 so much I shot it twice. Not exactly new (and perhaps not the most visible Mosaic on the internet) it’s on its second paint which I love! It’s a bike that’s been reinterpreted many times over to mean and do different things. Listening to Mark wax lyrical about how much he loved it was great fun.
Essentially, it’s a handmade bike for a person fulfilling its function as the best bike ever for that person. Riding with Mark was also a highlight of the GiRodeo!
There were two offerings from open that caught my eye and for very different reasons- the new MUSA MIN.D. California. This bike is weird as hell in a number of ways, while managing to look much more normal than almost every other offering from open boasting “as little design as possible.” At a cigarette paper over a kilo for a frameset, the build on show was an “illegal” weight. I can’t really get behind weight weenerisum so that was neither here nor there. But what really stood out about this build for me was the continuous 25mm OD ISP which looked a little odd in the best way, but critically offerers a lot of flex and comfort on an otherwise race-stiff frame. The seat stays were small and spindly and while the chain stays look that way side-on, they’re pretty chunky laterally for power transfer and laid up to be super stiff in that orientation.
The raw carbon was fine, but I couldn’t un-see the Argonaut so my standards for aesthetics and finishing of a raw frame were unrealistically high at the time of writing. That said, thankfully raw isn’t the only option, I kind of see Open as the pioneer of the idea of selling “ready to paint” frames as an option. The other Open that I kept going back to was mechanic DD’s baller WIDE build, which was supplied ready to paint and marbled in Renaissance camo locally.
While ready to paint is on the table, Girodeo ’22 was also the European launch of the ENVE Custom Road. Made in Ogden, the new ENVE Custom Road is available in the US with a 1-year turnaround complete and supplied to shops in Europe ready to paint and build in just 4 months.
The frame is made to a custom geometry in-house in Ogden, Utah and has been wind tunnel tested and UCI certified. There were two examples on show at TCS, one ready to paint and the other custom complete, with the two assembled, ready to paint also looked pretty ready to ride!
Mechanic Rasmus’s Belle was for sure a favorite of the show. I noticed a trend every time I mentioned Belle at the Girodeo – someone would say “have you met Kiko? He’s such a nice guy” I had met Kiko on the ride and he was a really nice guy! Kiko worked as a welder, before building frames for a larger manufacturer before going full-time as Belle Custom Cycles in Barcelona. Something I find really interesting in handmade bikes (and that leads me to the idea that building frames is culture, like art or food or music) is that framebuilding is noticeably different all around the world. The bikes that builders build, paint and assemble are for sure affected by their locality. Of course, there are exceptions, but bikes built in Colorado look different than bikes built in London, which look different than bikes built in Italy. This is, in some ways, what first confused me about the Belle bikes on show. They were Italian but they also were very un-Italian builds.
This article isn’t where I’m going to vocalize the things that make a bicycle Italian or English or French or American. Looking at the two builds on display, I had to ask Kiko, as an Italian living and building in Barcelona: “Do you build Italian bikes as an Italian living in Spain or Spanish bikes?’” And he must have known what I meant, because without a moment’s hesitation he answered: “Definitely Spanish!”
And they are! I feel like there aren’t tons of Spanish builders working in steel but there are a few and I’d definitely identify Kiko as being among the best. I’d also say he’s one of a rare few, like Ted James or perhaps James Bleakly, who seems to have this strange ingrained tacit knowledge of materials. Like selecting tubes for a specific build is as instinctive to him as chewing food or scratching his butt. Rasmus is a pretty good case for a custom frame at 6′ 7” and his Belle Road Race R was about as light as a sensible steel road bike would want to be, with plenty of stiffness where it’s needed. Kiko also came up with the northern lights themed paint for the frame based on Rasmus’ Scandinavian roots, which extended to a matching custom Hexar helmet. Rasmus sanded and polished all of the ceramic speed and ENVE aluminum parts to a mirror finish by hand. I LOVED this build, as well as the other Belle on show, but for me this one was so spot on I couldn’t avoid it. A quietly understated, super minimal TIGed steel road bike where, like Catalan food, the stars of the show are the simple but high-quality local ingredients; nothing too flamboyant. This Belle was Catalan food served at an Italian restaurant though, with Kiko as the waiter, wielding a preposterously large and comedically phallic pepper mill. Tasty!
One last dirty bike that definitely deserved a mention was our route planner and guide, Peter Gaskill’s Officina Battaglin. An off-peg frameset in olive drab powder coat, but with a pretty wild build kit, especially relative to what everyone else was riding. I guess it was a comfort-centric 29er adventure build more than a “gravel” bike. The Vecnum/Jones cockpit was a great combo, which in combination with a Cane Creek eeSilk seatpost looks comfy as hell. Having replaced the mech hanger a number of times, Peter, who’s also a model airplane enthusiast who owns a 3D printer, designed and printed his own, more robust mech hanger, which he had translated into aluminum by a local machine shop.
I really liked this build because it was just super dialed for one specific user, on every level. Things rubbing on the frame weren’t a consideration, like a hammer rubbing against a spanner in a toolbox is not a consideration. I imagine under all the dust there’s a good amount of paint missing. I felt that including this build was important because it’s the build most of the place, the build that routes are planned on, the bike that rides everything over and over again, and grades the gravel for all the other bikes.