Bike Camping Gear Made, Tested In America

A-Train stainless steel gravel bike

For the past eight years, Alex Cook has been building lugged steel and stainless steel bicycles in Minneapolis. A year and a half ago I decided to get in line for an A-Train stainless gravel frame, and Cook didn’t disappoint.

Alex Cook of A-Train Cycles with his creation
Alex Cook of A-Train Cycles with his creation

The KVA MS3 stainless frame has the unmatched ride quality of steel, with the corrosion resistance of titanium. During the trip, my ride partner Hank and I rode everything from pavement on Highway 1 in Big Sur to bootleg dirt trails near Santa Cruz and unmaintained mountain gravel in Los Padres National Forest. The A-Train passed over it all like a knife through butter. The frames don’t come cheap at $3,200 a pop, but given Cook’s painstaking attention to detail and the scarcity of hand built, lugged stainless frames, there’s no shortage of demand.

Mr. A-Train at work
Mr. A-Train at work

The frame is nicer than any I’ve ridden, and an assortment of American made and assembled components only add to the ride quality. An ENVE cross fork (made in Ogden, UT) and HED Adrennes Plus LT wheels (assembled in Minnesota) lend serious stiffness, which comes in handy when it’s time to ratchet things up.

Paul MiniMoto brakes (made in Chico, CA) slow things down in a hurry. If a better set of rim brakes exist, I’ve never ridden them.

The rig is rounded out with a Thomson Elite Seatpost (made in Macon, GA) and a Chris King headset and bottom bracket (made in Portland, OR).

Riding through Los Padres National Forest
Riding through Los Padres National Forest