No gears, no suspension, just a lithe titanium frame set with mismatched wheels — 27.5 up front, 26-inches on back — make up the backcountry franken-bike build by Idaho-based Contributing Editor Steve Graepel.
I have an eccentric relationship with cycling. My ideal ride is pedaling light with an overnight kit: Strap on a pack raft, maybe a climbing rack, and when the terrain gets too rough, get off and push, up talus or across a river, to get deep into the mountains or woods.
Alaskan adventurer Roman Dial coined this “hell-biking,” and cartographer/explorer Casey Greene dubs the style “pack-biking.” Here’s a breakdown of my backcountry bike, a low-tech, ultralight build that gets me far into the wilderness on any kind of terrain or trail.
(See page 2 for helmet, shoes and gloves from the kit)
Frame: Titus Hard Core Racer
I found this used 1996 titanium frame from Titus, the Hard Core Racer Singlespeed model, online for $700. The frame gave me the platform to build a simple and durable bike ideal for backcountry junkets. It’s a mechanical mullet, including a 27.5-inch wheel with a disc brake in front to roll over the crud and a 26-inch wheel with rim brakes on back. Final weight, all components included: Just under 20 pounds.
Waltworks Custom Steel Fork. $350
It’s no secret that there is an open market on used bike frames. Trolling through eBay or Craigslist can reveal hundreds of diamonds in the rough. For an authentic vintage upgrade, we pimped this titanium singlespeed with a custom fork by Waltworks. A $100 deposit will put you on the list and six weeks later will put a fork in your mailbox. You can choose any color you like (as long as you like black). The ride is delicious and the durability is for life (and warrantied so). And, best of all, the cost is a fraction of carbon or suspension.
Fabric Cell Saddle. $80
It’s not killer light, but it’s worth every ounce in padding. Fabric’s Cell saddle is constructed with two different densities: a stiff gel, interspersed with softer, hex-shaped “airsprung” cells that compress when weighted. The result is a comfortable saddle that you can navigate from for hours on end. I rehabbed a few saddle sores from a stiffer saddle through a week in the Cell and have kept it on the bike ever since.
Fabric Slim Grips. $25
Fabric bills its Slim grips as the lightest lock-on grips on the market. We haven’t weighed every grip on the market, but at 75 grams for the pair, we don’t doubt it. The thermoplastic grips are easy to install and have a sticky-rubber sleeve that slips over the grip, concealing the aluminum clamps. As you would expect, the grips are exceptionally thin. Our only gripe would be it’s not for those who prefer a thicker gauge grip for their monkey fingers. Both Fabric’s grips and saddle are offered in a bevy of candy store colors so you can get all matchy-matchy.
–Read on for the backcountry bike kit’s shoes, helmet and glove picks