In fall of 2009 SSWC was held in Durango, Colorado, 10 years after the inaugural event in Rancho Cucamonga. That first SSWC I drove out from Boulder to meet Travis and race the event. It was my first time witnessing the CA singlespeed scene and the Amigos in orange jumpsuits. It wasn’t until recently that I met Stevil of AHTBM and Robert of Blue Collar Bikes but they were the CA version of the Intergalactic Pilots of Boulder, and the Minnesota Mafia of course in MN. I’ll admit the Pilots were formed more or less in response to the others, but we were the fastest and probably the most sober. I vividly remember talking to Stevil at the afterparty and him saying that singlespeeding is dead and fixed gear mountain bikes are the new thing. (I am pretty sure he was messing with me.) So when SSWC was coming to Travis’ home town i was certainly going to go and ride there to boot.
I left early from my house in Nederland and rode down to Boulder, got on the bus to Denver. I missed the Amtrak train unfortunately so i scrambled to get on the Greyhound to Grand Junction. From GJ i rode out of town to the Tabequache trail, up to Grand Mesa, along Divide Road, up and over Last Dollar road to Telluride, up Galloping Goose trail to Lizard Head Pass, over and up to Bolam Pass via East Fork trail, and down Hermosa Creek to Durango in about 4 days time. I was riding my first real custom bike – a rigid Hunter 29er with sliding dropouts set up with a relatively easy 32×20.
After a night’s rest we went to the town park where people were hanging out and came across James and his swoopy-tubed Ti Blacksheep 36er that was being raffled off for $5 a ticket. That’s the first either of us had seen a 36er. Riding it around the park was eye opening. Travis being the big wheel fanboy that he is instantly fell in love with it and HAD to have it. He bought at least $100 worth of raffle tickets and hoped that would seal the deal. Unfortunately for him it didn’t, and some other lucky soul rode away with that beautiful big-wheeled bike.
Over the years of learning to build frames I had planned to build him a 36er. I bought a set of tires that Waltworks had made (by Vee Rubber) before Vee made em themselves. But I was waiting for a lighter wheel option than using unicycle rims. I also knew it would be a bit of a challenge to make with my existing fixtures since they’re not made to accommodate the extremes that a 36er frame presents. But having made a new chainstay attachment on my Anvil Journeyman 3.1 for a longtail fatbike last year i had no reason to stall any longer. It was also T’s 50th this year and he was putting the old band back together for a Colorado Trail tour. All I had to do was make the damn bike i’d been wanting to make for 10 years. Oh and in Titanium — my 3rd Ti frame ever. NBD.
I rolled the 35mm diameter seat tube to get the seat tube bent enough to clear the tire. This is one of the first hurdles of building a 36er with as short chainstays as possible (still not short at 510mm) – the seat tube has to have a LOT of bend, or join the downtube instead of at the BB. I used a T47 BB shell, 44mm downtube, 35mm top tube, 22mm chainstays, and 19mm seatstays cut and welded at a 25 degree angle to get the needed tire clearance so close to the seat tube. The fork is steel with 98mm of offset, 515mm axle to crown using externally butted True Temper seat tubes as legs and 0.058″ wall crown segments and a Nova tapered steerer. It’s Boost spaced with hooded Paragon dropouts. I added a brazed gusset at the post-mount caliper junction to spread out the forces of the rotor attached this very big wheel. The wall at the dropout end of the fork blades is 0.9mm so I believe this gusset is a good idea and it looks nice. Brother Wolfe built up the wheels to 36h Chris King hubs, the rear being their singlespeed hub and 20t King cog. The build parts were stuff I had or swiped from other bikes in the shop including XT brakes, Thomson stem and collar, Cane Creek pink ano headset, White Industries T47 BB, SRAM GX Eagle DUB crankset with a 28t ring, Race Face Turbine post, Bontrager saddle that came on my Trek 69er that Travis was behind.
After getting back from the tour we settled in to eating a lot while I waited for him to head down to the shop and stumble upon the bike. It didn’t happen, he avoided his “office” so we had to force the introduction. It was a total surprise, nobody had a clue least of which Travis. The funny thing was on the trail he was riding a rigid 29×3″ bike and brought up 36ers a handful of times saying how he’d love to test that platform on this type of trip – bikepacking with a rigid fork 36er. I just nodded and agreed that yes, that’d be pretty cool to try 🙂
The good (and not so good) thing about giving Travis a bike is he’ll test the hell out of it and find several ways it could be improved. That’s his job after all, and he’s very good at it. So after a couple weeks i have useful feedback on how to improve upon the design, stuff that i’ll incorporate in future builds, if anyone ever orders a 36er. But until then, it is a bike i really do want to try for myself. It’s not a quiver-killer bike by any means but it rides way more normal than one would think. Cornering becomes a new sport, you just want to weave down the road and trail feeling the pull of these huge wheels…the ride is seriously captivating.