It was to be an art project, a labor of love, an aesthetic expression on two wheels. Exorbitant expenses and common sense be darned. This was to be a svelte, solid, ultra-light, from-the-ground-up, custom-made Gear Junkie ubercycle.
Handpicking each and every component to create a custom bike is a dream shared universally in the fanatical fringes of the cycling demographic. Over the past four months, I chose to partake in such a project for the first and likely last time in my life, cherrypicking about two dozen components from several manufacturers to build a custom single-speed mountain bike beautiful enough to display in my living room as sculpture art.
Working with a mechanic at One on One Bicycle Studio (www.oneononebike.com), a shop in Minneapolis that specializes in such artful build-ups, I studied manufacturers’ parts catalogs and postings on esoteric Web message boards to start piecing together the puzzle. The whole project was based around a steel mountain-bike frame removed from one of my old and long-trusted iron horses. All other components — from the chainring to the saddle to the handlebar grips — were chosen individually by me and my gearhead bike mechanic.
At first glance, the bike appears to be a WTB/Race Face hybrid, as those two companies make the pieces I chose for the drivetrain, saddle, wheels and cockpit areas. A closer look reveals a Kona Project Two fork ($70), Avid Speed Dial SL brake levers ($68) and Speed Dial SL caliper brakes ($126), a Surly Singulator chain tensioner ($50) and graceful titanium Twin Ti Egg Beater clipless pedals ($300) that weigh a mere 109 grams apiece.
From WTB, I used the Pure V Stealth saddle ($130), a pair of Nano Raptor 2.1 Race tires ($90), Weirwolf Grips ($10), Dual Duty XC front wheel ($220), Dual Duty XC rear wheel ($300) and a Momentum Cartridge bearing headset ($50). From Race Face, the bike took the Evolve XC X-Type crankset ($199), DH Chainring ($42), Evolve XC handlebar ($49) and Evolve XC stem ($49).
Add all these together, sprinkle in some brake cables and gear spacers, pencil in the mechanic’s hourly fee, and the Gear Junkie ubercycle is running upwards of $1,700.
Is the bike worth that pretty penny? Well, it rides smooth and solid. It weighs right around a feathery 20 pounds. Its high-end components will take years and years of abuse. And it sure is pretty to look at.
But for the average Joe Singletrack, this kind of project is a bit over-the-top. The $1,700 spent on this custom bike could be applied toward a very spiffy new model from any one of a dozen top-tier bike companies. You’d get the same type of high-performance components at a much lower price, as manufacturers get parts at bulk wholesale pricing, passing the savings down to the customer who buys a complete bike.
But economics aside, a full custom job is something unique and special. It’s a one-of-a-kind model made by you, for you. And for people like me, this kind of bike truly can be a work of art.