This summer I had the pleasure of building up my dream bike. I settled on Independent Fabrications, a local (only 2 hours away from me near Boston) and employee owned company with a national reputation for building custom bicycles. I toured the shop mid summer and felt right at home – the best I can describe the company is as the love child of art school, indy rock, web design, tatoo art, an expert metal craftsman and a bicycle builder. The crew has a passion for bikes – mountain, road, touring, single speed and fixed. They work in steel, carbon, titanium and combinations of the three.
I envisioned the bike as a do all distance machine. I chose the ClubRacer frame as a platform – it is described as having the pedigree of a racing bike with the sensibility of a light touring bike. I wanted a ride specifically designed for brevets and randonneurring – being able to handle a long day (or days) in the saddle in comfort – perhaps with some lite luggage – and definitely with options for wider tires and fenders. I chose titanium as a go everywhere, do everything material – it doesn’t rust, is light, and a good designer can select tubing and geometry to tune a ride as stiff or as plush as you like. West Hill Shop (my former, most favorite LBS) helped me size the frame, and Matt from IF took over from there. On my tour of the shop we sat down in front of the computer and tweaked the design a bit – in real time using bike specific CAD software. 10 weeks later the frame showed up at West Hill and I built it up under the supervision of Daq, the WHS’s ace mechanic. I’ve tweaked the bike since – I had an intense, pro fit done at FitWerx, and finally installed the TA cranks about 6 weeks ago. I currently have the bike rigged for fall and nasty weather riding – fenders and some wide Schwalbe 28mm tires, along with my handlebar bag and lights.
The craftsmanship of the frame is incredible – the ti welds are the nicest I’ve seen – after researching Lightspeed, Seven, Moots, and Serrotta. The finish is natural Ti with a shot peen surface. I chose discreet graphics – and IF was very cool about having the bike look exactly as I wanted it. The sterling silver headbadge was “standard” on a Ti frame – and initially I was skeptical of the need or cost of the sterling – but it adds a very subtle touch to the overall fit and finish of the frame. The fork is steel – with fender eyelettes and lowrider rack mounts. I’m using the lowrider mounts for my E6 lights – and so far they are working perfectly in that location.
The bike rides like none I’ve ever owned. We designed it for the long haul – but chose the tubing and geometry to reflect my riding style – as I mix standed and seated climbing. The bike has a slightly relaxed road geometry – based on their Crown Jewel frame. The frame has wider clearance in the fork and the rear triangle for fenders and wider tires, and longer chainstays to allow heel strike clearance should I mount panniers. When rigged for brevets everything “works” – there are no temporary or rigged fixes – fenders and lights mount like they should – solidly to the frame and fork (no plastic knob fixes here!) and the bike handles well with my handlebar bag loaded with food, the digicam, and extra clothes. The day after my FitWerx appointment I tackled a century loop to Lake Placid and Mirror Lake in the Adirondacks and I was comfortable the ride through – something I cannot say for any other bike I owned. This was in part I’m sure do to sweating the fit, as well as having a frame designed for my body and riding style. The Ti ride quality feels like my steel touring bike – but is significantly stiffer in the drivetrain and bottom bracket than my previous steel and carbon road machine. Seated and standing climbing “feels” different than my previous rides – and with the TA cranks I have options to swap chainrings as I take on next season’s brevets – which are typically designed to showcase the North East’s terrian – in Massachussttes this means brutally steep little climbs with deteriorating road surfaces, and in Vermont it means mountain gaps and incredible scenery.
I really like the Jeckyll / Hyde nature of the bike. Through August I rode the bike in a minimal road configuration – riding my lighter wheels and forgoing the fenders, lights, and luggage. The bike feels every bit as snappy as my racier machine – and I really like how the bike takes to the road and handles unladen, as well as the simplicity of riding this way. As the seasons changed to fall I rigged the bike in a more typical long distance event setup – adding the lights, fenders, and luggage – and was pleasantly surprised at how the bike felt in motion. I’ve certainly added weight to the frame – but for the long haul (a 400k brevet is 248 miles) wider tires, fenders for foul weather (we always get some!), lights, and a place to carry warm clothes are a must. I like equally as much how the bike takes to the road in self sufficient – randonneurring mode. Both options “feel” right.
Campagnolo Record Ergolevers (10 speed)
Salsa Bell Lap Handlebars (46 cm wide)
Shimano Long Reach Brakes (for wider tire and fender clearance)
Campagnolo Chorus Rear Derailer
Campagnolo Chorus Front Derailer
Specialities TA Carmina 94 BCD Crankset
50,34 chainrings with 175mm cranks
Phil Wood bottom bracket
Look CX-6 Carbon pedals
Brooks Swallow leather saddle with titanium rails
VDO MC 1.0+ Cyclocomputer with Altimeter
Mavic Classics Ceramic
Mavic Hubs Front and Rear
Campagnolo 13-29 Cassette
Continental Grand Prix 4 Season 23mm tires
Mavic Open Pro with Schmidt Nabendynamo Hub 32 hole, black
Mavic Open Pro with Campagnolo Chorus 32 hole Hub and 13-29 Cassette
Currently testing Schwalbe Marathon Plus 28mm tires
Honjo Fenders, 35mm smooth