The DiNucci

The DiNucci

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.

IMG_4112

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.

IMG_4125

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.

IMG_4082

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.

IMG_4091

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.

 


If you value independent media, please lend your support to RKP.

Subscriber Options


To learn more about our new subscription program, please read this.

, , ,

23 comments

  1. Wes

    You should really, REALLY try some Compass 32mm extralights on there. After the 38s completely transformed my AWOL I bought a set of 32s and put them on my DeSalvo (similarly built around long-reach calipers). Much supple! 🙂

  2. 32x20

    Love the bike. I’d be interested in a comparison with a similarly priced top-shelf carbon frame since you get to ride so many. The price point is (probably) similar and I’ve often wondered what the real world performance difference is when I’m playing the “if I had $$$ to spend on a bike” game. Custom steel sure wins on beauty.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      The moment anyone wants to talk performance and steel, my eyes start to glaze over. And I mean that as no disrespect to you. For me, it just means that the conversation will miss the point entirely. It’s easier to build a lighter bike with carbon, and one that will be more aerodynamic and stand up to sprint forces better. So by every metric, my Felt AR FRD is a better bike. It wins. But once you start to examine the ineffable qualities of the ride of steel, just the way the bike feels, the way it reacts over any surface that isn’t smooth, this bike kills. And then there’s the forehead-smacking joy of looking down at this thing. I get to ride this thing! Riding this thing makes me grin in a way few bikes ever have. I look forward to the day my sons fight over who is going to get it.

    2. 32x20

      I understand, no offense taken. There was a cyclingtips article about restoring (restomodding?) a classic steel bike. The conclusion was basically “It looks cool, but don’t be in a hurry.” I sometimes wonder if steel bikes feel slower because they’re smoother similar to how fatter tires feel slower, but are in fact faster, due to the lack of high frequency feedback.

      If you get dropped from a fast group ride on the DiNucci do you think “I could’ve held on if I had the Felt with Enve’s!”?


    3. Author
      Padraig

      When the group started to splinter on the Grasshopper last summer, I settled into my pace and kept plugging away. I might have held on to the group a bit longer on a different bike with better aerodynamics, but I’d never have gotten down the descents (both paved and unpaved as well, and in my head, the bottom line is experience and enjoyment. If I’m riding with really fit people, there’s going to come a point at which I’m going to come off on some climb. I’m faster than some, slower than others. Someone will drop me sooner or later, so I try to be relaxed about the inevitable. To your question: No, no regrets.

  3. Tom

    Between this and your Bishop, you have some beautiful steel steeds. I realize they serve different purchases, but simply based on beauty alone, I guess you must be hard-pressed to choose one over the other. That’s a nice problem to have — no snark intended — and I’m grateful we get your takes on modern steel builds (and their builders).


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Yeah, the bikes are different enough that I’m not faced with a challenge of which bike to ride when I head to the garage. They’ve got different pedals on them, so I need to know which I’m going to ride before I even get to the garage. That said, every time I’m heading out on a road ride where I don’t feel obligated to be on a review bike, I’m hoping that there will be some dirt, any dirt, so I can justify riding the DiNucci.

  4. hoshie99

    Beautiful; ride it in good health.

    Padraig, given it’s a roadish bike with some dirt tire room, wondering how you adjusted your position – did you go a little closer in on your reach on this one for those combo days?

    J


    1. Author
      Padraig

      As I mentioned, I have two stems to choose from on this bike, though only one was painted to match. If I’m going to be encountering a bunch of dirt, I put the 11 on there, but for a longer day on the road, I’ll swap that out for the 12. As it is, the frame with the 12 has a slightly shorter reach than the Bishop, though the difference is less than 1cm. So yes, the position is a little higher and shorter. The bike feels crazy nimble in technical terrain.

  5. Jeff

    Except with this bike, you’ll never grow tired of it, never want for the newest carbon lay up patten (or whatever marketing bs “they” come up with), never worry about your carbon wonder bike looking tired after it’s 3 years old. This bike has pedegree other bikes cannot touch.

    If you earn a 1099 for riding a bike, sure, worry you finished 30 seconds later on some (strava metric) climb.

    Else, ride it like you stole it!

  6. Dan Williams

    “I might have held on to the group a bit longer on a different bike with better aerodynamics, but I’d never have gotten down the descents (both paved and unpaved as well, and in my head, the bottom line is experience and enjoyment. If I’m riding with really fit people, there’s going to come a point at which I’m going to come off on some climb. I’m faster than some, slower than others. Someone will drop me sooner or later, so I try to be relaxed about the inevitable.”

    I’m currently reading “The Haywire Heart” and your comment here rhymes with what I’ve been thinking about how hard I push myself at the upper register of my capability – am I really going to add that much to my enjoyment by going into Zone 5 on that next climb to keep up with the front of the pack, or am I good with high Zone 3 and floating off the back a bit? If the latter keeps me healthy and riding into my 70s, that’s the one I’ll choose… My whole mindset is shifting these days even as I get into the best cycling shape of my life. I don’t know if my next bike will be a DiNucci, but I do know its going to be closer to yours than to a Venge ViAs.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      There’s a cardiologist who theorized a few years back that we, generally speaking, each have a billion beats in our heart, give or take. Use them accordingly.

  7. Ron

    Stunner! What a bike.

    My one personal change would be those cages. They seem the default for people putting together beautiful steel bikes. But, for me, the Arundel stainless cages are much, much nicer looking.

    Love the positioning of the pump. I refuse to put a framepump underneath the TT, as at some point, I’m going to want to pick the bike up and the pump is in the way. That’s a creative spot!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *