Completely committed to the way of the singlespeed.
My Nature Boy project bike has been in the works for almost two months. That’s two months of commuting 50-60 miles per week on a Pugsley fatbike. Two months of staring at a bare frame, dreaming of speed. Two months of poring over cyclocross threads, hand-picking components and pulling extra hours at work to afford everything.
And today, I finally finished the bike!
I snagged the Nature Boy frame on clearance through my local shop. The geometry compares well to my Soma Double Cross, but I went for it without ever having ridden the complete bike, which was a little risky. I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into; Tyler, a local cross racer, just picked up the same frame and loved his, and I’ve seen and ridden several All-City bikes over the past two years.
The build started in a MTBR thread, where I waxed and waned on component choices so many times, my head was spinning. The singlespeed MTB forum clydesdales helped me pick a bombproof hub combo. Like all my bike builds, I put durability on a pedestal and then went from there.
The final build lives in the gray area between racer, randonneur, commuter, and explorer. It’s not a perfect match in any category. It lacks the rack mounts of a touring bike and the lightness of a racing bike. It’s a bit of a contradictory build. But, I spend so much time on my bikes, and I know exactly what I want them to do, and exactly what components suit my riding the best. The resulting bike is pretty weird, but for me, it’s totally dialed in.
Here’s the build list. The only thing I’m missing is the rear brake rotor; I’ll have a matchy one on there real soon.
- Frame: All-City Nature Boy 853, 58cm
- Fork: Whisky No. 7
- Headset: Cane Creek 40 ZS44/EC40
- Crankset: SRAM Rival 1x
- Bottom Bracket: Wheels Mfg. SRAM Road
- Chainring: SRAM 42T Narrow/Wide
- Cog: Endless Bike Co. 20T
- Hub Spacers: Surly
- Chain: KMC Ti Nitride 10SP
- Brakes: Paul Klamper, Short Pull
- Levers: SRAM S500 Alloy Lever
- Housing: Jagwire Mountain Pro
- Handlebars: Salsa Cowbell 3, 46cm
- Stem: Thomson Elite X2 Road Stem, 70mm
- Seatpost: Thomson Elite Seatpost 27.2
- Seat: Brooks Cambium C17, No Cutout
- Pedals: Crank Brothers Doubleshot Pedals
- Rear Wheel: Hope Pro 4 Trials Rear SS Hub, Stan’s Notubes Grail Rim, DT Swiss Champion spokes, brass nipples.
- Front Wheel: Surly Ultra New Disc Hub, Stan’s Notubes Grail Rim, DT Swiss Champion spokes, brass nipples.
- Rotors: Shimano
- Bar Tape: Brooks Cambium Rubber
I took a perfectly light racing frame and made it boat-anchor heavy with a Brooks saddle, Paul Klamper disc brakes, and portly pedals. The rest of the build is pretty light; the Thomson kit is very minimal and the crankset is pretty lightweight for an alloy crank. I could have lost a lot more weight on the build, but I made pretty specific choices for my intended use.
Reynolds 853 is an air-hardening, heat-treated steel tubing. Most frames weaken at the joints once heat is applied at the welds. Reynolds 853 uses a special treating process so that the steel hardens fully after heat is applied one last time. When the joints are welded together, the seams become even stronger.
A Reynolds 853 frame is super stiff, super light, very strong, and can last a lifetime. I’ve never ridden a frame this nice before.
The fork is not an All-City fork; it comes from Whisky Parts Co., another QBP brand. This is the No. 7, which still uses QR dropouts (my hubs are bolt-on). The Whisky carbon fork is very strong and very modern; Parker at Laughing Dog says he’s never seen a fork from this generation fail. Modern carbon-fiber is a head above the progenitor forks from the 90’s and early 2000’s. Still, if I do manage to break it, I’ll happily throw a steel fork on there and keep rolling.
The Paul Klamper brakes were the culmination of a year and a half of lust, and are one of my favorite parts about the build. I really liked the look of these brakes, and have considered buying them several times, for my Juice and then my Pugsley. I never did.
I still have a lot of love for the Avid BB7 disc brake, and that was originally in my build list, but I ended up splurging on these instead. The Klampers are made in the USA and are only about 15g heavier than the BB7’s, and these brakes modulate perfectly and stop on a dime. The built-in barrel adjuster makes tuning them a joy. Once I cleared the extra grease out of the Jagwire housing, there was absolutely no brake mush. If I were pickier, I’d go with Yokozuna housing.
I went with SRAM Rival over SRAM Force because I anticipated slamming my crank arms on rocks… a lot. I’m not gentle on cranks, and so a little extra durability seemed worth the weight penalty. This may be a future upgrade, especially since I’ve been eyeing the White Industries cranks. But for now, this works!
I was originally going to go with a Dinglespeed setup, but the SRAM chainrings are huge, and I didn’t have bolts that were long enough. Instead of a 40/20 and 42/18 split, I went with 42/20 and it turned out to be a perfect in-between ratio for commuting, trail riding, and occasional sprints. The second I see a significant hill off-road, I’ll probably be walking, but everything else is rideable.
I went with a Brooks Cambium saddle mostly for aesthetics. There, I said it! It also feels great, so that works out nicely. It’s definitely not light… but I know it will last for a long time, and it’ll keep me happy on long rides, and it’s weather-resistant.
I matched up my bar tape with Brooks Cambium Rubber, too, since the shop had some laying around for a long time. It feels great, but it’s not significantly different from something like Lizard Skins tape. The rubber bar ends look fantastic, though. Sram alloy brake levers round out my cockpit.
The handlebars are wider than I’m used to. Instead of 42’s, I went with 46’s. I was skeptical at first, but the wide bar / short stem combo makes the bike handle much more confidently on singletrack. I only have a short ride under my belt, but the difference was immediately noticeable.
The wheels are built with a classic aesthetic, interrupted violently by the Stan’s Notubes branding. I’ll probably peel the labels off. I went with a very nice Hope Pro 4 Trials rear hub so I could get goofy with dinglespeed setups without messing up my chainline. The front hub is a Surly hub, bringing my total front wheels with this hub to 3. I like this hub a lot; it’s inexpensive, classic looking, has cartridge bearings, and is easy to service. I could have gone nicer, but this does the job.
The rims are Grails, so that I can run road tires and road pressures sometimes (I doubt I’ll ever go narrower than 32’s). The tires I have on there are Teravail Cannonballs, and they are phenomenal! Tubeless, flat-proof, fast-rolling, grippy, and great in the corners. Not a supple tire, but otherwise, they check all my boxes. The tread is the same as the wider Sparwood, a tire I loved and used for most of the spring.
Finally, I went with hybrid pedals. I’m sure a lot of people are collectively cringing here. I had a pair of hybrid pedals on my Soma, with 20,000 miles on them from two previous bikes. Hybrid pedals let me run clipless shoes when I’m really out to ride, but I can still hop on my bike for a beer run or a work commute with my regular shoes using the flat side. These pedals weigh an absolute ton, but whatever- I’ll get stronger, faster.
The Test Ride
Kelley and I went hunting for the Golden Hour for a bike photo-shoot. We consider ourselves very lucky; we live in an area with trails in almost every direction. Just a five minute ride from our house feels like stepping into rural Vermont. We had a gorgeous sunset, giving Kelley the opportunity to test out her new camera.
Westover Meadow Conservation Area is a real gem in Amherst. We took the Ken Cuddleback Trail to get there, which has plenty of swamp crossings. Between the rolling, grassy trails, wet roots and leaves, and more than a bit of mud, it was the perfect test-ride for the new bike.
So, how does the Nature Boy ride?
The geometry of the Nature Boy is not that different from the Soma Double Cross. It has a slightly shorter top tube, which suits my short torso, and so I felt immediately comfortable on the Nature Boy. The biggest difference was the wider drop bar, but I think I like that, too. I nailed the ratio; the gearing was high enough that I could really get some speed going without spinning out, but low enough that I could climb. It was perfect. I’ll be pushing the limits of singlespeed riding this coming year, in the hopes that I never have to shift again. My knees are strong and my mind is ready.
As for the Nature Boy, I’m probably biased. I love my Pugsley, but riding it exclusively for two months while I put this thing together gave me a serious longing for speed. When I opened up the bike in the center of town, minutes after finishing the bar tape, I had one of those formative moments that keeps us all on bicycles 365 days out of the year.
Is it infatuation? I don’t care. The feeling is warm and beautiful, and I’m relishing it. It’s new bike day!
P.S. Wondering what happened to the Double Cross Disc? Another reader of this blog, Alec, bought it from me about two months ago and is now riding it daily. It lives on, ready to shred another day.