All Road Gravel Crusher

This all around gravel road crusher is the bike to do it all. The geometry is dialed for efficiency during long days in the saddle. Comfortable handling for rough stuff and singletrack lend themselves well to the all road position as well.

Don't be fooled by this bike's massive tire clearance though. Throw on the skinny tires (or dont) and take this thing to the race course for some fun weekend races during cyclocross season.

Photos by John Watson

Toffer's 27.5 plus Mountain Bike

This bike received Best Mountain Bike at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show 2017

Toffer approached me looking for a bike that he could use to explore the trails in his new home in Missoula Montana. He wanted a capable and versatile mountain bike that would not only perform well in Montana, but something that represented the culture of self reliance and Independence that attract so many folks to this state. We went with silver and gold components from a number of domestic companies like Paul, Industry Nine, and Chris King.

Much like myself when I moved to Montana, this bike is sold on single speed. That said, if the big mountains prove a little much, Toffer will have an easy switch to gears with stealthy internal routing and a simple Paragon slider swap. The suspension corrected fork can easily be swaped out for 130mm of suspension if that is desired as well.

Guest Review - Colin's B+ Adventure Bike

This is a review written by a Customer and friend, Colin, who's bike I built in the summer of 2016. I love hearing feedback, especially this kind. Enjoy!


Words By Colin Frazer

In 2015 I moved to Bozeman, Montana from Austin, TX for a job in academia.


Young academics tend to move a lot and the process of assembling a new community every few years is pretty tiresome. Luckily for me, I quickly found a bike shop in town that had a vibe that I immediately got along with: Alter Cycles is friendly, laid back but professional, community oriented, throws weekday rides and weekend parties, all in a small nicely designed warehouse space.

When I first walked in I had that overwhelming ‘these are my people’ kind of feeling. Not only that, but next door is Adam Sklar’s shop where he builds handmade steel frames, one at a time, day in and day out when he isn’t eating tacos.

 

 



What began as friendly conversation between Adam and I quickly turned into the sort of riding friendship that I luck into every now and again. He and I shared an exploration-oriented, ride-from-town kind of vision, plus it turned out that he could not only build bikes, but shreds pretty well too—we started to ride together fairly often.


As a long time MTB’er from Colorado and Oregon I’ve mostly gravitated towards hardtails in my time. I like the workingman’s efficiency of them, the grunting (or pushing) up steep stuff, charging climbs, picking precise lines down the tech stuff. I don’t mind limiting my speed a little bit on the descents for a bike that is simpler, requires less maintenance, and climbs efficiently. The more I got to know the local riding in Montana, the kernel of what I felt constituted the perfect Montana bike started to take shape, and it was watered by new technologies and trends in the industry including bigger tires and wider, stiffer wheels.

Custom steel plus bike

You see, the riding in Montana is crazy good, it basically has it all: from loam to desert, flow to tech, it’s not hard to find places to get stoked here and ride them from town, plus you're more likely to happen on wildlife or huckleberries than other people. The rumors are that the riding season is super short here due to snow, but (shhhh, don’t tell) there are plenty of low-elevation deserty places to get your fix, even in February. A lot of the riding (like most of the mountain West) involves long climbs (often steep) followed by really long descents that are often pretty chunky due to the lack of bodies to do much trail maintenance in a vast state with just over a million people. My ultimate Montana bike had to be efficient enough to get to and from some of the farther out of town trailheads, but burly enough to deal with the punchy, loose climbs and fast, steep, chunky descents. But I also wanted it to be great for the many options for overnighters here, and even multi-day tours. More than anything, the bike needed to take advantage of the B+ platform to make the shreddiest hardtail possible for all our variable conditions.

275 plus hardtail


So Adam and I started talking about this dream bike every now and again on our various rides because he'd been thinking about a similar bike. It would need to be slack and low, built around a big front end, and maximize front triangle space for bags. It would need to be stiff and long, but still nimble. Building it on a plus platform would give it the extra grip in muck of Spring and allow it to ride packed snow trails, all while providing some extra cush to the rear end while sending it through the mank.

I’ve now ridden this bike for several months and I think that Adam pretty much nailed it with the geometry. To say this bike shreds is an understatement. I’d venture that it descends faster than any hardtail you’ll find, it’s an absolute screamer through anything but the gnarliest of sections, and makes you question whether anyone *really* needs a full squish. In loose, flat corners the extra contact surface inspires confidence—it’s giggly fun in flowy fast sections. Like any bike with a longer wheelbase, it takes some getting used to on the climbs, but the amount of grip you have in the rear makes the thing feel like a rock-crawler! Having ridden this bike now in Montana, Washington, Oregon, Utah and California, it is clear that this bike is at home just about anywhere.

The details don’t hurt either: Boost spaced Industry Nine rear mountain hub, and a SON Dynamo front hub laced to 50mm wide Chinese carbon 27.5 rims mounted into slick custom anodized Syntace dropouts. An XO/XX1 drivetrain with a Wolf Tooth elliptical ring makes climbing a bit easier, and a stealth dropper with a Brooks Cambium saddle, wide Enve bar and a 50mm 26 Designs stem tighten up the cockpit. The front end is plenty plush with an Alter Cycles tuned 140mm Rockshox Pike taking the hits. The rear end is tucked and stiff: 425mm chain stays to a well-curved seat tube and a T-47 BB ensure this. After blowing through two WTB Ranger tires immediately on this thing (Can’t say enough good things about tire plugs for tubeless plus tires - get you some) I changed over to the newly released Maxxis 2.8 Minion DHF (best tire ever) in the front and a Chronicle in the rear and haven't flatted since.

Final verdict?

This is hands down the best mountain bike I've ever owned. The only problem is that now Adam can’t keep up with me…that is, until he builds one for himself! Hit Adam up for your best MTB ever or to get some details on the geometry.

Gravel Grinding - What to carry on your ride.

The popularity of gravel grinding or all-road riding has boomed as more folks find the pleasure of leaving pavement and high-traffic roads in favor of less-traveled dirt roads, trails and paths. For me these rides range from a day spent mostly on roads and even a mix of pavement and dirt, all the way to singletrack and the occasional full on mountain bike trail. Often times these rides are a combination of all those options.

With so much variety it can sometimes be difficult to decide what to bring along. In my experience I have found it best to plan for the worst and make a habit of consistently bringing a similar kit. You would certainly want more than the following for a longer ride, and I often par these things down if I am out for a quick spin, but here are the basics.

 

Frame Bag

Let's start of where we are going to keep all this stuff. For the last year I have been running my Porcelain Rocket half frame bag. Could I fit these things in a jersey pocket, or a fanny pack? Sure. But with the frame bag I can ride in whatever shirt and keep everything off my back, which is a huge plus. Also if I find myself wanting to stop at a gas station for a major snack restock or a road soda, I have lots of room to shove that all in there. I can also easily unzip the bag and grab things while riding, and there is just enough room for me to carry two bottles on the bike.

Gravel Grinding frame bag

Maintenance stuff

Don't be that person on the ride who needs to borrow their friends's tube and pump. Instead be the one who brags about how awesome tubeless is while your buddy pumps up another tube after their third pinch flat. 

Joking aside. I always carry a spare tube (sometimes two on super long rides if I am running tubeless), a pump and a multitool - I have been loving my pump and tool from Lezyne. I tend to carry a little bottle of chainlube as well. Water crossings or mud can lead to dry and break-prone chains - the last thing you wand when you are way out there. A patch kit is never a bad idea either, because why not if you have the room.

Gravel grinder what to carry

Snacks!

You're going to get hungry out there, eating is important on big rides so don't forget your snacks. and while you are at it, throw some cash in that bag, it could come in handy for an emergency burrito, or a stop by the brewery at the end of your ride. I don't often go for the "bike specific" nutrition, but I have been enjoying the Skratch Labs fruit drops as of late. Burritos are #1.

what to bring gravel grinding

Clothes

How to dress is going to depend on a lot of things, but the one extra layer I recommend everyone carry is a lightweight windbreaker. There are great options available like the Patagonia Houdini, Ringtail Breeze Breaker, or this one from Salomon, which has saved me on several occasions. They pack down super small, weigh practically nothing and can be the difference between mild discomfort and actually putting yourself in danger when the weather turns unexpectedly. 

windbreaker for bike riding

Camera

Not everyone wants to take photos of all their rides. I enjoy it, but even so I only drag this thing along on about half of the time. When I do want to GTS (Get the shot) though, my Sony A6000 with a 20mm lens has been awesome. It's compact and good enough quality to have taken many of the photos on this site.

camera for bike rides

Annnnd that's about it. Let me know what I missed in the comments. Happy Riding!

Richard's 29+ bike

I met Richard at NAHBS in Sacramento this past summer where he was really excited about Joey's 275 plus bike packing bike . A few months later Richard got in touch and we started working on something he could ride from his home to the trails near where he lives which are a handful of miles away on dirt roads. 

This all around CXer bike is going to be a blast to ride in CA! Cheers.

Joey's 275 plus bikepacking bike

Joey approached me last year interested in the ultimate touring bike/townie crusher. Specifically something he could easily strap his skis and camera gear on to and take him far away to crazy adventures. That, or cruise down the hill from his house to the bar with some friends.

Anyhow, we decided on a familiar fit. Many hours were spent dreaming up the custom rack system to hold any skis he would like, and a front rack for lots of gear. We decided on 275+ for the wheel size so that he could get some cushion while still benefiting from the efficiency of a rigid fork. He also had the option of a faster rolling 29" wheelset for more road-oriented adventures.

Other details like a custom bar-stem and some matching ano parts were added.

The bike made it's debut trip across Norway in one of Joey's latest projects - Pedal to Peaks