On the East side of Boulder, nestled between Alchemist Headquarters and the golf course, there lives a salty ole bike maker. His bikes are works art, but he’d cringe if you called him an artist. In his own words, his bikes are “utilitarian”. His workshop ain’t luxurious (or modern, or clean, but hey, look who’s talking), but it’s filled to the brim with heavy equipment and pyrotechnical doodads. He’s probably built more 29ers with his own hands than anyone on Earth, or maybe even the universe. And one of those 29ers, is mine.
A while back, I decided to clean up my Yeti ASR and hock it on Craigslist. The Yeti is a great bike, but Ryn had recently switched to a Gary Fisher Superfly 29er, and Ken had just purchased a Superfly 29er. I was green with bike envy, and I needed an edge to keep up with Dan at the Breck Epic. So I strolled over to Walt’s to see if he could help me out. Walt is the brains and brawn behind Walt Works custom bicycles. Carbon is light and sexy, but I’m still a steel kind of guy. I brought my 1996 Bontrager SS because that bike feels just right. I told Walt I wanted him to make me the same bike with bigger wheels. So we measured up the Bontrager, and he plugged in the numbers into his Excel program. Walt doesn’t use fancy CADD programs. He created a series of formulas in Excel that would boggle an ordinary man’s mind. I have an ordinary mind, so I just tried to stay out of the way and let him do his thing. It’s an Excel program on dope. It’s got all kinds of wacky formulas.
As it turns out, my bike measured up remarkably close to his wife’s bike, which makes sense, since I ride like a girl. Except for a slightly higher and longer top tube, I could be riding Sarah’s bike. Walt does a clever thing with the positioning of the seat tube. Instead of welding it to the back of the bottom bracket shell, he moves the position forward so that it abuts the downtube. This allows for enough wheel clearance to effectively shorten the chainstay and the wheelbase. In fact, the wheelbase is one inch shorter than my 26er Yeti. The shorter wheelbase allows for quicker, more nimble turns. The shorter chainstay allows for easier wheelies and manuals, which would be great if I knew how to do one.
I sprung for the Walt Works Blue powder coat with wrap-around decal. It looked quite blingy until we rode Super Hall the other day. Walt doesn’t include all the dirt in his price. That costs extra.
One would think a custom ride would put you in the hole way more than an off-the-rack bike. But after you factor in the big savings from getting industry pricing on the parts through Walt, you actually come out ahead. AND you get a bike that fits you juuuust right. Here’s how mine is spec’d out:
Frame: WW custom steel. I forget the fancy steel he uses, but it seems to ride nice.
Fork: Fox 120mm. Waiting for the 100mm to come in.
Drivetrain: Mix of FSA carbon cranks, Shimano XT front and SRAM XO rear with grip shifters. Set up 2×9 with 44/29 front and 12-34 rear.
Brakes: Avid Elixir 7
Wheels: Stan’s 355 rims on the back and Arch on the front. DT swiss 240 rear hub.
Tires: Kenda Small Block 29er 2.1. Set up tubeless with sealant.
Headset: Chris King
Handlebar: Ritchey WCS Alloy. Straight.
Seatpost: Thomson Elite 27.2
Stem: Race Face Deus
Seat: Ritchey PRO, though I might switch back to my WTB Rocket
Bell: Incredibell black
Misc: unmatching bottle cages. It was what was in my garage. 991 cassette.
The bike is super delicious to ride. The descent down the front side of Hall was a breeze, since I wasn’t so worried about augering in my front wheel and going ass over applebucket. It climbs beautifully, and I can pedal out of the saddle with no bob. I’ve gotten used to standing up having ridden single speed most of the time.
You may have noticed the giant, phallic spleen buster sticking up from the steering column. I’m borrowing Ken’s fork until the Fox folks send my 2012 fork, which I’m told is still not ready for public consumption yet. I’m more than happy riding a 2011, but Fox won’t send that one either. So I’ll just have to try not to impale myself for now. It’s not too bad as long as you don’t fall right on to it. Plus it makes a great bagel holder.
Here’s a couple pics of the bike in assembly: