My Wild Love Cycles R001

How I got my dream bike

The unravel gravel travel My Wild Love R001

About two years ago now, I was looking at getting a new bicycle. My Specialized Secteur had served as a great introduction to road riding, but I was replacing many of the low-budget components and was really looking for the next step.

Here’s what I was looking for:

My selection criteria

Steel

Yes. It had to be steel. I can’t really explain what it is about this material, but there was something I loved about it. I also wanted this to be as close to a forever bike as possible, so the strength of steel was in line with that.

Flat top tube

There’s a certain look to bikes that just make them look awesome. Just like deep-section wheels can completely transform the look of a ride, getting that flat top tube was critical.

At this point, I was looking at a Standert Triebwerk. Steel and flat top tube. Done.

Go everywhere

Up until this point, I was looking at a bike I could ride roads with and race. Looking into the types of rides I wanted to do (everything!), something had to change. It was then that I started looking at gravel/travel bikes.

Gravel/travel bikes are the go-anywhere type. I started looking at the bikes riders were taking on the Transcontinental Race. These were rides that were comfortable, had bigger tyres and bags to take what you need for the adventure.

At this point, I was looking at the steel Mason Cycles. If it was good enough for Josh Ibbett to win the Transcontinental Race, then it would be good enough for me.

Travel

The UK is a weird place for transport. The railways haven’t fully embraced transporting bicycles and I knew I wanted to explore the UK and Europe with as little driving as possible. I wanted to take this bicycle everywhere.

This is where things really changed. I’d started learning about S&S couplers. These were small couplings that made it easy to split a frame in two, to make it easy to go travelling. As a designer, I know that when things are easy, they are more likely to get done.

The one bike that informed the rest of my decisions here were Jon Woodroof’s Six Eleven Bicycle. One bike to rule them all. Road, gravel, travel. It was also a chance to do something completely unique, so why wouldn’t you?

I spent weeks trying to find how I could get one. I’d have to get a custom bicycle.

Supporting the new

I sent so many emails to so many custom bike shops. Most came back saying they couldn’t do it with couplers. A couple came back with lead times of up to 2 years. One company however, came back with something more realistic.

My Wild Love Cycles is a new company based in Amsterdam, with frame building and painting done in Treviso, Italy. They’re the new upstarts, doing things like taking 30 new-old-stock SL(X) frames and painting them up as bright and wild as possible.

Paul and Dario are the nicest guys. We started an email thread and started talking about the things I wanted to achieve with the build.

  • Steel
  • Flat top tube
  • Couplers
  • Discs (had to be cable for coupling)
  • 1 x 11 gearing (for simplicity)
  • An utterly wild paint job

I knew from asking Jon about his coupler bike that it can take 20 or so minutes to build up from the split, so removing the front derailleur from the build seemed like a good option.

Couplers FTW

The paint job

Probably the most difficult piece of the whole frame build! Because this was a custom build, it needed an equally custom paint job. I like to base designs from stories, so mixing the story of Amsterdam and the couplers made a lot of sense. The coral and navy come from the colours used in the Dutch police vehicles and the pattern celebrates the coupling. Dario did a great job and suggest using an unravel pattern to mark the transition perfectly. Tony Spray did the work in Treviso and it looks so good!

The build

I was only going to do this once, so it had better be right. The components were really a wish list of products that I’d learned to love over the past two years.

Fork, Stem and headset

ENVE Gravel fork. When we started talking about the build, ENVE had just brought out the Gravel fork. I loved the shape of it, and having a thru-axle on the frame, made sense to go all thru! Also, how light is this fork?!

The fork tops out with a Chris King headset. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but I’ve had experiences with bad quality headsets and just didn’t want the hassle.

I only discovered this mid-way through the build, but Paul went to Lester Cycles to get him to mill a custom stem for the bike. Having appreciated Lester’s work at RIH Amsterdam and his new venture, it was just a perfect addition — checkout the custom holes — how Dutch!

ENVE Gravel Forks

Groupset

For 1 x 11 gearing, it had to be SRAM. This is a total experiment, as I’ve never used SRAM before, but I’ve heard good things. We went with a SRAM Rival1 175mm 42 Teeth Crankset GXP with 11–32 rear cassette. Again — total experiment and I’m interested to see whether it’s the right one with fast downhills and steep ascents.

The bottom bracket, like the headset, is built to last. I’ve been through about three bottom brackets on my last bike, so choosing a Wheels MFG should close that issue!

SRAM Rival and Wheels MFG bottom bracket

Wheels

These had to be Hunt Bike Wheels. A Brighton-based outfit, they’re making some of the best wheels around. Plus, they were on a Transcontinental Race winning bike. Tubeless? Another experiment!

Hunt Bike Wheels

Handlebar

My Wild Love recommended bars with flare, for comfortable all-day riding. The Salsa Cowchipper 2 looked like they would fit the bill.

Salsa Cowchipper 2

Saddle and bar tape

Brooks England Cambium C17. I’ve heard mixed things about the Cambium bar tape, but went with it anyway.

Brooks Cambium

Disc brakes

We went with a 160mm rotors on the front and 140mm on the back, with TRP Spyre flat mount brakes. I nearly went with Shimano Ice-tech rotors, but was worried about mixing brands on such a vital part of the bike.

TRP Spyres

The build up

I asked local independent bike shop Ride Ride to do the build. It’s not the most straightforward, what with the cables being cut in half, but they got there in the end.

The ride

What’s it like to ride? Follow this publication and find out, but in a word — awesome.

Joining the gravel crew from The Woods Cyclery

Thanks

I was lucky enough to work with some amazing people during this build. Going in completely unprepared, My Wild Love Cycles have made something that I couldn’t of imagined: A go everywhere custom forever bicycle. I can’t count the number of messages we’ve sent each other over the past few months, but they’ve been patient, expert and hilarious all at the same time. I can’t wait to ride with these boys. I’ve also got to thank Lester as well for the beautiful stem and Jon, who answered all my questions about his bike which really changed the course of what I wanted in a bike.

Now, who wants to ride?

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