Update: Hailey’s True Love Cycles Heart Breaker With Rigid Whisky No. 9 Fork


Update: Hailey’s True Love Cycles Heart Breaker With Rigid Whisky No. 9 Fork

Earlier this year, Hailey Moore reviewed her True Love Cycles Heart Breaker—a steel-tubed drop-bar mountain bike made in Warsaw, Poland. The original build spec saw the Heart Breaker outfitted with a short-travel color-matched and refurbished RockShox RS-1 but, after a long review period with this setup, Hailey was keen to shave a little weight and see how a rigid fork paired with the frame. Read on for her update on riding the Heart Breaker with Whisky’s No. 9 MTN Boost fork.

Getting up to speed

The “problem” with getting to test-drive a lot of nice bikes is the ensuing urge to then own a lot of nice bikes. In a way, I see being in the business of writing about bikes as akin to being a food critic that gets wined-and-dined by Michelin-starred restaurants; you develop high-brow taste on the job that is much harder to sustain or rationalize on your own dime (and, my intent with this analogy is—hopefully—to pay respect to small builders, rather than elicit eye-rolls about industry “problems”). A key difference is that—thank goodness—enjoying a bike is a lasting pleasure, versus the ephemeral fulfillment of a fine meal. After an already generous review period aboard True Love Cycles Heart Breaker, I decided that keeping this bike around was a splurge that I was willing to make. In short, since publishing my initial review, I bought the frame but then had a few more decisions to make about the components.

A friend of mine recently built a bike from the frame up for the first time; listening to him recount navigating the hoops of clashing component standards made me nod along in shared commiseration. Of course, he was—deservedly—super proud of the finished product, but I think the lack of universality in parts serves as both a barrier to entry and an outlet for creativity for would-be bike tinkerers. All of this to say: after deciding to purchase the Heart Breaker frame specced with a rebuilt RS-1 fork and a custom-built front Dandy Horse wheel, I had to do a bit of my own noodling.

Due to the RS-1’s sub-par torsional stiffness, and to reduce overall maintenance demands, I decided that I’d forgo the fork (though, that color-matching was hard to part with!). However, after being impressed with the Dandy Horse Hyperion 30 GRX wheelset, there was no way I was sending those back to Warsaw. My partner, Tony, and I already had Whisky’s No. 9 carbon mountain bike fork waiting in the wings and, given it’s boost spacing and three pack mounts, it seemed like a ready alternative to the RS-1. Plus, it would automatically shave some ~800 grams off the build weight. I’m not an obsessive gram-counter, but if there’s an easy option for saving myself nearly two pounds, I’ll certainly take it.

“Bikes—so tech!”

During one particularly head-scratching bike build moment, my friend Ronnie exclaimed, “Bikes—so tech!” That’s now become a sort of catch-phrase that Tony and I use anytime we stumble upon a compatibility issue with a given project. Getting the Dandy Horse front wheel, with oversized RS-1 endcaps, originally built for my Heart Breaker to play along with the v2-Whisky-fork iteration was, indeed, a “so tech!” moment.

Though both forks share the same 15 x 110-millimeter spacing, the 27-millimeter endcaps necessitated by the RS-1 would require a wheel rebuild. We had an outdated, but otherwise brand-new, DT Swiss 240 front hub with 15 x 100 spacing (never ridden and scavenged off a wheel with dynamo lighting in its future) that I had my mechanic re-lace to the Heart Breaker’s front wheel. Paired with Problem Solvers’ Front Hub Spacing Kit (six-bolt) and Halo’s 15 to 12 mm Adapter Sleeve, I’d be able to use the wheel with the boost-spaced Whisky fork, or with a 12 x 100 mm spaced gravel fork.

Ride feel

One of the most enjoyable characteristics I found in the v1 Heart Breaker was its willingness to climb. I attributed this to its below-average (for the drop-bar MTB category) stack of 610 mm, which was, in part, a result of the RS-1’s 476-millimeter axle-to-crown. No matter how slight of an adjustment, my main trepidation with transforming the bike into a fully rigid rig was sacrificing some of that climbing agility on straightforward steeps by raising the front end.

On the flip side, my primary critic of the Heart Breaker’s original iteration was that it felt too tall, or “tippy” on sinewy descents. With a stable wheelbase of 1128 mm, I could really only chalk up that sensation to the combination of the head tube angle, stack, and bottom-bracket height, and—possibly—the RS-1’s flexier nature. I was curious to see if I could feel a significant difference with the No. 9, which would slightly slacken the HTA (and seat tube angle).

I’ve spent the past week riding the gloriously green mixed terrain of western North Carolina—machine-built flow trails, overgrown chunk, gravel switchbacks and Blue Ridge Parkway rollers—on the Heart Breaker in v2 mode. And, while the results of the fork swap have been largely predictable, they’ve also been (mostly) welcome.

First off, the bike does feel notably lighter, which I think compliments its refined tube set and is a real benefit on the precipitous local terrain. If I’m being picky, I will say that the Whisky fork feels a tad harsh, but it’s something I can live with for the weight savings. On the first couple of rides, I did notice the change in the front end. I feel like I’m sitting up a bit more—akin to past time spent on Otso’s Fenrir—which isn’t just a feeling but a fact; the front end is nearly an inch taller as the RS-1’s 476 mm axle-to-crown has been replaced with the No. 9’s 500 mm fork (each with a 46 mm and 51 mm offset, respectively).

Again, this is also a change I can live with for this bike’s multi-purpose use case. Finally, and most happily, the fork swap has completely eliminated that “tippy” feeling I had on the v1 build. Ironically—though not really the factor at play—going from suspension to rigid in this case has the Heart Breaker feeling more like a drop-bar MTB; whereas the 85 mm of travel on the RS-1 had made it feel like a more supple, gravel-focused tourer.

However minor, the changes in the bike’s geo make me feel like I can now actually take advantage of the modest side knobs on the Rene Herse 55c Fleecer’s that I’m running—praise be! And, feeling more confident leaning into the bike makes me realize that this bike might best be enjoyed with a proper fast-rolling MTB tire… and even a flat bar…

In its current iteration, I see the Heart Breaker as my continuing attempt to get as close to the MTB line as I can without fully committing to the extra faff and weight and maintenance that moving parts like droppers and suspension impart. Call it this rider’s bias, I just call it the most fun way to ride.