Readers’ Rides: Mike From Brave New Wheel and His Integrated Bender Gravel Bike


Readers’ Rides: Mike From Brave New Wheel and His Integrated Bender Gravel Bike

This week, we’ve got a well-documented and thorough account from Mike at Brave New Wheel in Fort Collins, Colorado about his new integrated Bender Bicycle Company Gravel Bike. Let’s check it out!

I really wanted a fast, comfortable, clean-line gravel bike for long miles on the endless fast gravel roads and singletrack near my home. I am also lucky enough to live in Fort Collins, Colorado, and be good friends with one Willard Bender IV, or as we prefer to call him… Will.

Will is a craftsperson of the highest caliber, style virtuoso, sophisticated humorist, design maven, and all-around renaissance man of substance and gift to our town. His background in design and his talent for it has produced some of my favorite bnw designs and when he went into framebuilding I was zero percent surprised that he was immediately exceptional at it. His eye for building bicycles with classic silhouettes and modern twists convinced me pretty early on that I wanted him to build me a bike one day. Having been friends for years he would come by the shop, hang out, and we would talk about the world and the nuances of fancy bicycles.

One preference we talked a lot about and tend to share is our penchant for fancy steel tubing. I have been a professional bike mechanic for my entire life and have worked, and currently work, on just about every kind of bicycle you can imagine. I have also been lucky enough and privileged enough to own a bunch of very nice bicycles, and the ones that tend to be lifelong riding partners all have one thing in common: magnets will stick to them—they’re all made of steel.

At this point in my life, when I’m gonna add a bike to the forever collection, it’s gonna be ferrous as I prefer the ride quality of butted steel tubes to anything else in a traditional double triangle safety bicycle frame. One day at the shop, I asked Will if he would make me a steel gravel frame with a mix of lightweight Columbus tubing, UDH dropouts, and everyone’s favorite… full internal routing. Gasp! He said, “hell yeah,” and off to the Pinterest boards we went.

I already knew the geometry I was after and could give him a fit sheet so that he could design the frame to avoid needing stem spacers (per my preference) to create clean lines made to fit like a fine-tailored suit. We discussed a mix of Columbus Spirit and Life tubing to tune the ride with a stiffer and more robust down tube and chainstays while keeping the rest of the frame light and compliant. I also asked for UDH dropouts to future-proof and have the option for a big ol’ mullet transmission should my heart decide. So Will sourced some really clean dropouts from one of Europe’s finest frame builders, Ruben of Rizzo Cycles in Spain.

Now, I should mention that Will has done some amazing work designing 3D-printed pieces for a lot of his frames, but I am a bit old school and wanted straight tube-to-tube construction reminiscent of the steel Indy Fabs in my garage. This can be tricky sometimes when trying to run certain tire/chainring combos, so he asked what the largest tire and largest chainring I planned on running were; 45 and 44 were the answer, and he perfectly snaked the chainstays between them and into the T47 shell with dime stacked finesse… Swoon! A traditional seat collar and some clean flat mounts rounded out exactly what this frame looked like in my head.

What wasn’t in my head yet was color, and one thing that stands out with all of Will’s bikes is the paint jobs. His design background and keen eye allow him to really do an amazing job putting colors together in a timeless way. As a bit of a car nerd (that doesn’t own any cool cars) I really love the way Porsche put colors together on their old 911’s. I’ll never own an old 911, but they do publish every paint code they’ve ever made, and Will and I scoured the archives for shades of blue that made me feel funny inside. He expertly chose three blues and cream and combined them in lines that are somehow both smooth and sharp at the same time, reminiscent of old race car livery.

Chris at Flux Customs in Denver expertly and beautifully applied the layers of color with precision and after he matched the fork, stem, and the outside halves of the seatpost—I really could not have been happier with how the paint turned out. Our friend Hanson Little of Dark Realm bags is making a custom mini-frame bag that will bolt into the front of the triangle and match up with the colors and cut lines of the paint for carrying the essentials. Hot. Fire.

Next up were the parts. I wanted to take advantage of ENVE’s In-Route system using their fork, stem, and handlebar to run the hoses through the frame. I think ENVE make very high quality parts, and this also allowed the use of a In-Route compatible Chris King headset because well, they make the best headsets. I literally have 25-year-old King headsets in frames that have only needed service maybe twice? Thrice? Not often enough to even remember specifically.

I opted for Ergon contact points, including the CF All Road post that shines in its simplicity and effectiveness to smooth out the bumps, and my ol’ rumpty dumpty definitely approves of the function, while my peepers really appreciate the form. Wanting some spinny bling down low led me to go with Ingrid cranks because they not only look amazing, but they are very well-engineered and executed.

Silver Hope Pro 5 hubs laced to We Are One rims wrapped in Pirelli rubber give a lightweight, fast, and compliant ride quality to the wheels, complementing the high-tempo/smooth-jazz ride characteristics of the frame. The Hope RX4+ four piston flat mount stoppers are a shop fav and the braking performance, both in power and modulation, is rivaled by nothing else that will bolt to 34 mm mounts. They also look amazing and are aesthetically one of my favorite bits of kit on the bike because when you want a fast race car, put good brakes on it.

Also of note was the choice of Rival AXS shifters that come with an aluminum lever instead of carbon ones. I wanted silver levers to complement the classically modern vibe and polished them up myself to match the rest of the aesthetic. Very happy with how harmonious the build turned out in both form and function.

Now to quickly address what is bound to come up… I am very aware of the strong feelings surrounding fully internal cables on bicycles. As a professional, I work on these bikes almost daily and have strong opinions about them myself. Without going off on too much of a tangent (I literally did while writing this and had to cut out a rather long paragraph), not all applications and designs of these systems are super well thought out from an ownership and maintenance perspective.

That said, I think it looks super clean and this bike deals with those issues. I don’t care about the aero stuff, I just think it looks neat and compliments the aesthetics of certain types of pretty bicycles. This bike uses no cables or housing, it uses a headset design that won’t creak or need servicing any time soon and it only has hydraulic hoses that won’t wear out from use because they are protected by a liner and secured properly.

Will did an amazing job making sure the pathways inside the frame mated perfectly to the fork and being all too familiar with how much of a pain it can be to work on fully internal bikes, I can say with confidence that this one is easy peasy lemon squeezy.

The most important part of any bike is also the hardest to convey and that’s the quality of the ride. The symphony of pieces, measurements and execution that dictate the end user experience and what it evokes for that person. The best I can describe this one is light and fast on the endless expanse of dirt roads on tap in Northern Colorado. I can cover distance efficiently and comfortably and the handling is intuitive and responsive when linking fast braapy single track into my loop.

The inevitable pavement flies by with ease and for me, it perfectly suits the riding I use it for. It’s not my bikepacking bike, it’s not my road bike, it’s not my big-travel enduro bike or my rigid 26″ basket grav ripper. In a world of near infinite bicycle options, it’s my classic fast grav rally race car bike and Will Bender made it perfect.

A million hearts Will,

😘 – Mikey



We’d like to thank all of you who submitted Readers Rides builds to be shared here at The Radavist. 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!