Dear 11-speed friends,
Baby the hell out of your chain, because it’ll be the only one you’ll have this year. The ETA for 11 speed chains is for 2022!
Oil your baby. Keep your baby clean. Downshift when you come to a stop to avoid applying excessive torque to the cranks once you get going again.
With that said, wow, the timing of my bike frame’s arrival was fortunate. I got the last 11-speed chain that was available in the bike shop at the time. There were only two components that I wanted that I could not get. I was fairly flexible on the rest of the build.
And this leads us to Ponyboy’s grand reveal!
It is one of the nicest bikes I’ve ever seen, AND IT BELONGS TO ME. It took more than a year from the time I put down the deposit to finally getting it, and it is currently the only Horse you’ll find on the island. I can’t register this bike with a serial number because it doesn’t have one!
Paint job aside, there are a couple of things that set Ponyboy apart from other frames:
#1. The seat stays.
2. The custom machined and butted tapered head tube.
Excuse the tape: I plan on trimming the brake hose a centimeter shorter so that it doesn’t rub the paint off.
3. The positioning of the seat tube bottle mounts.
I had Thomas (the frame builder) place the mounts as low as possible as I always swap the bottle from the downtube mount when empty instead of awkwardly reaching for the bottle from the seat tube cage. Having the bottle cage positioned lower down the seat tube makes more room for a partial frame pack should I want to use a bikepacking setup rather than going old school with panniers. Although, I also got Thomas to add bosses to the seat stays so that I can revert to panniers.
My body’s faulty thermoregulation capabilities mean I often need to bring more layers than what is typically reasonable when cycle touring. Anyway, panniers are also way more convenient for cycle commuting.
I got extra mounts under the downtube too!
4. The 3D printed stainless steel dropouts with the Horse logo on the non-drive side.
For a cleaner look, I requested that the brake and shifter cables enter through the left side of the down tube. Fancy!
At 166cm, I’m a bit taller than the average lady (appallingly runty for someone of Dutch descendant, though!), yet, there are fewer bike options for someone my height or shorter. The geometry of smaller frames is often severely compromised to make them fit, such as a steeper seat tube and a more slack head angle.
My proportions aren’t unusual enough for this to be a real issue; I decided that I’d sooner splurge for a bike that fit me that I could use for commuting, gravel riding, touring, and randonneuring than own multiple bikes with stock geometry. Sodapop remains my dedicated road bike.
I also have had the perk of spending the past few years surrounded by bike nerds, particularly the Baron of Bike Nerds, Yann. And in the UK, the King of Bike Nerds, Ed. Both guys were a massive help when it came to explaining frame geometry and making recommendations.
The first and only time I’d seen a Horse (three of them!) before getting my own was in… Hartford, Connecticut. How the devil did I end up in… Hartford? Yann and I made a trip there for the North American Handmade Bike Show (NAHBS) in 2018.
It was Yann’s idea, of course: but it doesn’t take much to convince me to go somewhere new. Had the reason for going to Hartford be to see the Mark Twain house, I’d have still said yes. Anyway, seeing all these one-of-a-kind builds at NAHBS dazzled me.
The frame itself weighed in at 1.8kg.
Ponyboy’s tech specs:
Fork: Enve Adventure, which I chose over the Enve G series for its cargo-hauling options and internal dynamo routing.
Stem: Easton EA70. Yann had an extra stem that was close to the size I needed. It’s a nice-looking stem, and so far, the length/rise (70mm/0º) is working out for me. I wouldn’t be saving much weight if I were to swap it for a carbon one.
Handlebars: Easton EC90 SLX (40cm). Yup, I splurged for carbon bars (190g). When I upgraded to the Easton EC70 Aero bars from the stock 4ZA alu bars on Sodapop, I noticed how much warmer to the touch it was on chilly days. Carbon bars are also better at absorbing vibration than aluminum bars. So, while I’ve saved at least 100 grams by going with carbon, my choice was based on carbon being more Raynaud-friendly. I went with Easton because they have a generous pro-deal for those who work in the industry.
Crankset: Easton EC90 SL (170mm). This is the #1 crankset among mechanics where I work. I got an even better deal on this crankset as I bought it secondhand from Yann, whose finicky knees demanded a shorter crank arm length.
Chainring: Raceface 42T direct mount. Another part I bought off Yann. Thankfully, I also bought his 32T Wolf Tooth chainring, which is going to save me on hilly routes as I couldn’t source an 11-speed cassette larger than 11-34T.
Pedals: Shimano Deore XT M8000 SPD. A relic from the Masi!
Cassette: 11-speed Shimano Ultegra 11-34T. I wanted an 11-42T, but it’s not going to happen this year. At least I’ll get to eventually install this on Sodapop (currently 11-32T) and move the 11-32T onto the smart trainer (currently 11-28T and starting to be worn.) I begrudgingly paid MSRP on this backup choice.
Chain: 11-speed Shimano HG701. Even though it was my only option, it happened to be the one I’d have chosen anyway.
Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra R8000. This was the other compromise I had to make as Shimano’s 11-speed GRX rear derailleur isn’t likely to be available until the end of the summer, if this year at all. It’ll be an eventual upgrade for Sodapop, which currently has the 105 6800 derailleur.
Front derailleur: Invisible like the headset I wear at work! I don’t have one as Ponyboy is a 1x setup.
Bottom bracket: WheelsMfg T47 Outboard Angular Contact.
Headset: Wolf Tooth external cup. I couldn’t be swayed to spring for a Chris King headset. See, I don’t envision myself turning my handlebars so aggressively that I’ll wear out the bearings. Chris King headsets are indeed so well-made that they may never have to be serviced, but I work in a bike shop. My bikes get regular cleaning and maintenance.
Let’s see if the decision to go with the more affordable (but not cheap) Wolf Tooth will come back to bite me in the butt.
Shifters: Ultegra R8025 hydraulic levers. This was somewhat a compromise that turned out to be the best option. This is the short-reach version of the R8000 series, designed for people with wee hands.
Don’t let the carrot fool you, I do not have small hands:
…for a lady.
The reach is 4mm closer to the bar than on the standard version. Not a huge difference, but let me say that I love the newer lever shape.
Brake calipers: Shimano 8070 flat mount hydraulic disc brakes. I had to decide between mechanical or hydraulic brakes. Unlike Ed, I am a fan of the TRP Spyre and don’t like the Avid BB5 mechanical brakes, but Ed, who spent two days riding in France and Catalonia with me, knew that I had trouble with my fingers locking up braking on descents, and recommended that I go for hydraulic brakes. He pointed out that they take less effort for equal braking power compared to mechanical brakes. Yann argued that mechanical brakes require less maintenance, but you still need to replace the cable/housing and make adjustments regularly. Ed won this round.
If I come to regret my decision, I’ll let you all know!
Seatpost: MEC carbon with 15mm offset. It’s one-third the cost of Zipp’s carbon seatpost and only weighs twelve grams more, and not even that anymore since I’ve shortened the post.
Saddle: Specialized Romin Evo Expert Gel. Yann found a saddle he liked better and let me test this one, which then found a permanent home on Sodapop. I liked it enough to buy the same for Ponyboy.
And now for the wheels! This is the first wheelset I’ve built… for myself. I’d watched a few documentaries on long-distance cycling and noticed how many riders were powering their devices with a dynamo hub.
Front hub: I went with the Schmidt SON28, one of the more expensive dynamo hubs, for a few reasons. The number one reason being superficial: it’s the best-looking dynamo hub. I might’ve been unwilling to splurge for a Chris King headset, but I was happy to drop extra for the Schmidt hub. It also has the least drag of all the dynamo hubs when switched off. I could build a second front wheel with a regular hub when I don’t need to charge a device (frankly, most of the time), but I’d only be saving 1-2 watts.
Go here for more technical information on dynamo hubs.
Rear hub: RaceFace Vault J-bend hub. This is a chunky hub that pairs well aesthetically with the Schmidt dynamo. How is its performance? I’ll find out.
Rims: RaceFace Arc Offset rims with the decals stripped off. 27.5″ diameter/25mm width.
Spokes: Sapim Race.
Rotors: TRP 160mm two-piece six bolt rotors. Good thing I didn’t have a strong preference because there were barely any options for 6-bolt 160mm rotors. 160mm should be enough for a small rider like me, but I do wonder if it’ll be enough for when I carry an additional 20kg of cargo.
Tires: Panaracer Gravel King 27.5″x1.9″. This is the widest size I can pair with fenders. Without fenders, I should be able to fit up to 2.25″ wide tires.
Misc: Boring, cheap black cork bartape until the world gets cooler ones back in stock; Thomson seatpost collar; Velo Orange smooth fenders in silver (58mm); 3x King Cage ss bottle cages (not many silver bottle cages available at the moment); and Axiom Journey Uni-Fit rack.
It cost me… not too much because cycling is one of my passions. It is an object that enables me to have adventures. The parts will need replacing eventually, but the frame should be forever.
As Ed would say, “Happy tailwinds!”