The Tour Divide on Fabric Spokes: Brian and His Rare Earth Cycle Craft Touring Bike

For framebuilders, there’s no better test for their product than a long bike tour. When I last saw Brian, he had just completed the Baja Divide on a bike he built. At the time, he had just left the outdoor industry and hoped to transition into building frames full-time under the Rare Earth Cycle Craft banner.

His hardtail was one of my favorite bikes I documented this year until I saw his Tour Divide bike…

While Brian opted for and lauded the use of a boost spacing hardtail MTB on the Baja Divide, he went with a non-boost, flat bar touring chassis for the Tour Divide. Wagering that the terrain would be smoother on the TDR than the double track he traversed in Mexico, instead of a suspension fork, he made a truss fork that was arguably more complex than the frame itself, requiring more brazing in tighter spots. The truss fork is the standout feature of the bike, so let’s look at the front end first.

Front End

The truss fork was sculpted with chromoly tubing and fillet-brazed connections. By building a fork with smaller diameter tubing and increasing its strength by passing the dynamic load across the primary and secondary structural members, the ride quality is smooth like a steel fork and is engineered to withstand any aberrant load from impact, even under the extra weight of a handlebar bag.

When we spoke about this piece, Brian added the following note about why he chose the truss fork design over a traditional fork:

“One of the other advantages of the truss fork I forgot to mention is that it uses a removable steerer tube clamped into place above and below the head tube. Because it isn’t brazed in, I can use a much lighter material for the steerer, in this case, an aluminum tapered steerer, which keeps the weight much lower than a steel steerer.”

It would be very hard to break a truss fork. Yet there are more benefits, aside from durability, to incorporating one on a touring bike.

One such benefit is integrating a cargo rack into the front member of the truss. Brian used this platform to hold his handlebar bag and sleeping kit stuff sack, freeing up more space from an already crowded cockpit. Here, he mounted an older generation kLite dynamo light. His cables for the kLite lamp were protected behind the front truss, keeping his bags from doing long-term damage throughout the 2,700+ mile route.

The kLite lamp and his USB charger are powered by a SON hub, and utilize the SON Self-Connecting System in the fork. This system made it super easy to take off the wheel in case he needed to clear excessive mud (which was a theme this year) or needed to fix a flat. The outer flange of the hub axle rests against a diode connecter soldered inside the dropout of the fork blade. This connector-less system proved valuable to Brian as he dealt with mud and tire damage along the route.

Running the rear Supernova light wiring internally through the frame ensured that there would be no damage from bags, mud, or body rub. I love seeing this sort of ingenuity on a touring bike: it really illustrates the lengths to which Brian went to protect his bike, equipment, and power while traveling from Canada to the US/Mexico border.

Brian encountered horrible mud throughout Wyoming, which rubbed his rear triangle raw, exposing the steel to the elements and forming oxidation.

Evidence of beausage (or, beauty through usage), is found throughout the frame, most notably anywhere a bag or cable rubbed along Brian’s 28-day race-timed run down the divide. He and his riding mates finished four hours ahead of the digital sweep, making them the Lantern Rouge for this year’s Tour Divide Race.


For his cockpit, Brian relied upon flexy DOOM bars, mated with a PAUL Boxcar 22.2 stem and Profile Designs clamp-on aero bars with SQ Labs Inner Bar Ends to make for as many riding positions as possible. He had to mill down a shim to enable the aero bars to clamp to the 22.2-diameter DOOM bars.

Brian remarked that he was skeptical of aero bars, but after the Great Plains and the horrible headwinds, he’s sold on their use for long-distance tours. While in the aero position, he could easily access his bladder’s drinking spout or a fork-mounted water bottle while charging his peripherals through the kLite USB charging nodule.


At first, I assumed Brian built a boosted chassis, but instead, he chose a 142mm rear/100mm front spaced frame, resulting in a non-boost chainline, and landing it in the “road/gravel/tourer” category of hub spacing, rather than a proper mountain bike. The rims have an 25mm internal width, and he was able to get plenty of clearance in the rear by shaping the stays.

Using lightweight, smaller diameter Reynolds 853 tubing, Brian created a nimble-feeling ride quality while damping the rough terrain. In particular, using smaller-diameter seat stays bent to a slight s-curve created a springboard across corrugated and rutted roadways. The Portage handle–inspired by Meriwether Cycle’s work–is another of Rare Earth Cycle Craft’s touring bike options.

An integrated binder bolt would shed some grams, and his bolt-on Alpine Luddites frame bag and Dispersed Bikepacking feed bag kept the frame relatively wear-free across the trans-continental trip. The flattened top tube allows for the use of a smaller-diamter tube, without sacrificing lateral stiffness. The downtube has a slight kink in it at the bottom bracket cluster to allow for a larger frame bag.

The clamp mounted to the seatpost is for the Rockgeist saddle packcheck out this photo of his bike all loaded up.


Initially, Brian had this bike setup as a singlespeed, but after riding from Montana to the start of the Tour Divide, he quickly changed to a geared setup. Luckily a local shop in Canada had an 11-speed Deore kit he could quickly swap on. His chainring was chosen for a 2:1 singlespeed setup, and Brian noted that he could have opted for a smaller ring in hindsight for the extra gear inches while climbing.

His entire drivetrain is pretty cooked from the mud and rain, but it got him down the route without issue. The Fleecer Ridge Endurance casing tires are well-worn from the trip but gave him very few problems along the way. In hindsight, Brian noted that while they offered the right amount of puncture protection and reduced rolling resistance, he wished he had gone with the Endurance Plus casing as the flats he did encounter were on the front tire from sharp rock impacts in the Gila.

As you might imagine, if your gear is going to break, it’ll break on the Tour Divide. Yet, Brian had very few mechanical issues, save for the Yokozuna calipers, which required a lot of maintenance on the road. At one point, the front caliper had gotten so contaminated with dirt, mud, water, and grime, that it seized up on a descent, dragging his front wheel to a halt. He said his main regret was not running Paul Klampers on this bike.

The eeSilk+ post provided just enough cushion for all-day pushin’, yet his rear end didn’t agree with the new saddle choice. He thought the SQ Lab saddle would work for him, but after the first week, he regretted swapping it out for his regular saddle of choice, the Ergon SMC Core. Perhaps one of my favorite trailside hacks he had to do was remove the Wolf Tooth pins from his pedals, as his ultralight trail running shoes were so thin in the soles that he could feel the pins pushing on the bottom of his feet.

Fabric Spokes for 2,700+ Miles

Perhaps one of his favorite product choices for the Tour Divide was the Berd Spokes. Brian noted that he saw a lot of wheel damage on the course, with many people busting spokes. Meanwhile, he noted a subtle softening of the ride quality in his wheels and the fact that he barely had to maintain them over the course of entire route. While documenting the bike, I noticed but one spoke head that had been backed off and one that had been turned in. Meanwhile, the UHMwPE fabric spokes barely look worn and would honestly be good for another Tour Divide!

If you’re interested in a long-form review of Berd, written by Kyle Klain and Dr. Kim Klain, check out our review here: Spoke Too Soon: An In-Depth Review of BERD Spokes

Once again, if something lasts the length of the TDR, it’s probably stout enough for anything you’ll ride on a day-to-day basis!

Cyclotourist Portraits

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, bike touring changes people. It hones your equipment and sharpens one’s personality. While routes like the Tour Divide might not be for everyone, there’s something to be said for self-contained travel by bicycle. Whether an overnighter or a weekender, strapping all your stuff to your stuff and pedaling off into the forest, desert, or plains is liberating and soul-shaping.

Catching up with Brian, less than 24 hours after his completed Tour Divide, has been a highlight of this summer and perhaps next time he rolls through town, he’ll have some fresh legs for some of our day rides here. So far I’ve only hung out with him after painfully long efforts! I wish Brian and his family safe travels and a speedy recovery.

Keep an eye on Rare Earth Cycle Craft for a build queue. Brian’s your guy if you have an interesting proposition for a unique bike that requires problem-solving and creativity.

Build Specs:

Frame: Rare Earth Cycle Craft Touring Bike
Fork: Rare Earth Cycle Craft Truss fork
Post: eeSilk+
Handlebars: DOOM
Stem: Paul Boxcar
Brake Levers: PAUL Love
Brake Calipers: Yokozuna
Grips: Wolf Tooth Fat Paw
Bar ends: Cane Creek
Inner Bar Ends: SQ Lab
Shifter: Deore 11 speed
Derailleur: Deore 11 speed
Cassette: Deore 11 speed
Rear Hub: DT Swiss
Front Hub: SON
Rims: Light Bicycle carbon
Spokes: Berd
Light: kLite
Tires: Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge Endurance 700x55mm
Cranks: Shimano XTR
Chainring: Absolute Black
Pedals: Wolf Tooth
Saddle: SMC Core
Framebag: Alpine Luddites
Top Tube Bag: Dispersed