Readers’ Rides: Ben’s Larkin Cycles Nightmare Hardtail


Readers’ Rides: Ben’s Larkin Cycles Nightmare Hardtail

This week’s Readers’ Rides comes from Ben, aka Bushtrucker here on the site, from down in Australia. He shared with us his custom Larkin Cycles “Nightmare,” the opposite of his Larkin/Crust “Dreamer” tourer. Let’s check out the bike and build kit below!

Submitting my custom Larkin as a Readers Ride. This bike has been heavily inspired by some of the bikes/content featured on this site so figured it’d be a nice one to share. Here’s what I have say about it.

In late 2019 I contacted Darren Larkin to see if he could build me a custom frame. I had been riding a Crust Dreamer he built for a few years and I loved it but wanted something a little more off-road capable. I sent Darren a description of what I wanted along with a sketch and he drew up a bike for me. After a little back and forth we had a design nailed down.Then Covid hit and the project was put on hold.

By the time I was ready to recommit my idea for what I wanted had changed. I’d been riding a lot more trail during Covid and figured I wouldn’t be touring as much for a while so I was now after something a little more trail oriented than what we’d initially planned. Darren tweaked the design accordingly and I sent him a deposit. A few months passed before I received a picture of the frame, ready for paint. Some rear rack mounts were added last minute, it was powdered a deep blood red, boxed up and sent across the pacific. The frame finally arrived by late 2020, just as things were opening up here post-pandemic. I assembled it in my mates garage on new years eve and we hit the local trails the next day. I rode well over 1000km in the first month and it’s one of my favorite bikes ever since.

There are a few points of difference with this design compared to what was available off the shelf at the time. First is the relatively upright riding position, with the 155mm heatube giving a stack height of 660mm! I’m a leggy rider (6’0, 35″ inseam) and have found a more upright position means that I can do longer (100km+) days without fatigue. Next are the longish chainstays (440mm min, 460 max) which make for a really stable feeling ride and gives me enough heel clearance that I can run panniers when I set out on overnight trips. Then there’s the high BB (320mm). This means I can pedal through most rock gardens and my foot positioning is less of a concern if I hit any rough stuff at the end of a long day. Another bonus of the taller geo and higher BB is a massive triangle for a frame bag. Even with an 800ml water bottle the custom Hungry rolltop is big enough to fit my tent and makes for a pretty streamlined setup.

The rest of the design was fairly conservative. The bike has a 67 degree HTA (sagged) which with the 140 fork and 2.6″ rubber gives me plenty of confidence on rougher trails. The Onyx wheelset I built myself for maximum durability. I’ve found Stans Alu rims to be really reliable with the best tubeless interface I’ve experienced, no need for a compressor yet. I now run a Tannus Tubeless insert in the rear though after wrecking a couple rear tyres and a rim in the first year of riding though. The Wheels T47 bottom bracket has been great after I had some previous issues with 30mm cranks and BSA shells. The Paragon Sliders are easy to set up and future proof the frame for various drivetrains. For the past year the bike has been set up single speed which has been a great way to mix things up. I find the simplicity of the SS drivetrain, along with the set and forget combo of Paul Klampers and a Coil Helm mean this bike is usually only a squirt of lube away from being ready to ride.

So yeah, it’s been a bloody great bike! And the current build is as close to perfect as I feel like we could have gotten on the first go. The only thing I’d potentially change right now is the STA. The relatively slack 73 degrees we went with was a holdover from the more touring oriented geo we started with. Darren did suggest steepening it a touch but against his better judgement I kept it where I knew I’d be comfy on long rides. Since this bike has seen more use on trail than anything else I can appreciate that it’d be nice to have the saddle a little further forward to get over the front end a bit more when climbing. However, since moving the bike to a single speed setup that’s been less of a concern.

Oh and lastly, I nicknamed the bike the ‘Nightmare’ because it kinda feels like it’s the opposite build to my Dreamer. Heavy and slow vs light and fast. And also 2020 was such a shit year that it seemed a fitting name for a bike built then. Cheers!

Build Spec:

  • Larkin Cycles Custom Frame (Prismatic Claret Powdercoat)
  • Cane Creek Helm MKII Coil Fork (140mm)
  • Cane Creek 110 Headset
  • Paul Boxcar Stem (35mm)
  • Hunter Smooth Move Low Rise Bars
  • Paul Canti Levers
  • Paul Klampers w/ SRAM Rotors
  • Bike Yoke Revive (213mm)
  • Paul Dropper Trigger
  • Wheels MFG T47 Bottom Bracket
  • Race Face Turbine Cranks (175mm)
  • Blackspire Chainring (30t)
  • Wolftooth Aluminium Cog (19t)
  • Onyx Boost IS Hubs
  • Stans Baron MKIII Rims
  • DT Swiss Competition Spokes
  • Pirelli Scorpion Tyres w/ Rear Tannus Insert
  • Reserve Fillmore Valves
  • King Cage Iris w/ Klean Kanteen
  • WTB Original Trail Grips
  • Chromag Trailmaster LTD Saddle
  • DMR Vault Pedals
  • Custom Hungry Rolltop Framebag


Ben (@bushtrucker)

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which I live, the Girai Wurrung people, and I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.



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!