The frame Mark DiNucci built for me isn’t your usual road frame. It was built to speak to a specific kind of riding in a specific place. I can’t imagine I’d have asked him to build a frame quite like this were I living anywhere other than Sonoma County.
What I requested was a road bike that would be at home on dirt roads, but not a bike that was a dedicated dirt-road shredder. It is, in my terminology, a ‘Hopper killer. That is, I wanted this bike to be suited to the Grasshopper Adventure Series, events that are mostly road, but with some dirt roads to make things, uh, lively.
In our initial conversation I asked for the following:
- His Allez 2.0 tubeset and lugs
- Thinned points and fillets
- A low bottom bracket for great descending
- Clearance for at least 32mm tires
- Handling that was cool under pressure
- Disc brakes
I got each of those items, save one—the disc brakes. After giving him a couple of weeks to mull it over, we got on the phone and he told me that he didn’t think the tubeset would stand up to the forces that disc brakes would subject the fork and rear triangle to. He said the bike would be fine at first, but he wasn’t sure it would last 10 years under hard riding. And then he sucked in his breath, waiting for me to start arguing.
I told him, “Okay. Asked and answered. I came to you for your experience. So how do we stop the bike?”
He recommended long-reach calipers and after making a case for the Velo Orange units, I gave him the green light.
The frame he built measures out:
- 56cm top tube (on horizontal)
- 54cm seat tube (due to sloping top tube)
- 7.8cm BB drop
- 72.5-degree head tube angle
- 74-degree seat tube angle (I have long legs but short femurs)
- 4.4cm fork rake
- 43.5cm chainstays
- 60.2cm front center
- 6.1cm of trail
The bike has an incredible about of clearance even with 35mm tires. That required long fork blades and chainstays, the upshot being more metal. Despite that, the frame weighs just 3 lbs., 15 oz., which is stunning, again, due to all that extra tubing.
Of the handling, he said it would steer like a truck, but that I’d be able to get it around any turn so long as I leaned it. I’ve only ridden one, maybe two bikes with that much trail. I could ride it no-handed through a scree field at 8 mph.
The build I went with is:
- SRAM Red Etap group
- 50/34 crank
- 11-28 cassette (since updated to a WiFLi rear derailleur and 11-32 cassette)
- Velo Orange long-reach calipers
- Yokozuna compressionless housing
- Zipp 30 wheels
- Zipp bar and stem (I’ve got both 11 and 12cm stems depending on how much unpaved riding I’ll be doing)
- Zipp 0-offset seatpost
- Fi’zi:k Aliante saddle
I’ve run several different tires on the bike, from 28mm Zipp Tangente Course to 32mm Continental Gatorskin, but my favorite tire for mixed surface riding on this bike (so far) has been the 35mm Continental Cyclocross.
There was one detail that DiNucci was absolutely insistent upon: that I use a Cane Creek Headset. He said he’d been over the technical specs of every headset on the market and there wasn’t a single headset made with their standards for precision. I went with a 110-series headset.
The inspiration for the paint came from The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine in specific, though also more broadly pop art and the work of Peter Max. I’d had a dream in which I’d received the bike and the paint was an homage to the film, but I recalled little other than the fact that the bike was mostly yellow. But the idea stuck. I collected a half dozen images through a search of images on the web and forwarded those to Joe Bell, along with a copy of Wes Wilson’s eponymous font made famous by the Haight Ashbury scene during the Summer of Love. Those images and that font were the total input I had on the frame’s appearance, but when I pulled the finished frame from the box my jaw dropped. It was exactly the sort of result I was hoping for. It’s a head turner everywhere I go.
That’s what what of the frame. Next is the who.
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