This bike, which I’ve affectionately dubbed “Project: World’s Funnest Bike” has been a long, long time in the making. Last summer, Van Dessel revised the finish on the WTF (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), their double butted steel do-it-all bike frameset that can be built into anything from a flat bar commuter to a cyclocross racer to an adventure/gravel/ultra-cross cruiser with 29er tires.
Shortly after posting about the latest version and just before Interbike, Van Dessel sent us the $699 frameset (frame, fork, headset and seat collar) to review. I had some loose plans for it, but one thing led to another, some parts didn’t work out as planned and, well, tradeshow and other travel conspired to keep the frame hanging on the workstand for far, far too long.
The upside? When things finally did come together, it was glorious. Some parts were things that had been lightly used on other bikes and fit the bill. Others were new and sent in specifically to make this project even better. Others were actually earmarked for a different project road bike but ended up being so perfectly matched to this frame that I just couldn’t resist.
The result is nothing short of a phenomenal bike, but it all starts with the frame…
The current WTF has a tinted clear coat that shows the bare metal through, yet protects the frame inside and out from corrosion. Some of the discoloration from welding the mounting points on shows through, providing depth and character.
This is a steel frame, and not a light one. At 2,395g (5.28lb) without hardware, it’s more than double today’s carbon wonder bikes.
The fork comes in at 1,284g (2.83lb), about 3x what a good carbon cyclocross fork weighs.
Still with me? Good. These weights mean the bike can take a beating like a tank, but it sure doesn’t ride like one.
The seat tube is made for 27.2 posts, which generally provide a more compliant ride than their more rotund siblings. The headtube is made for an inset headset, but sticks with a classic 1-1/8″ straight steerer.
The bottom bracket is a bit more modern with its Pressfit 30 shell. The frame is literally ready for anything with Di2 battery mounts on the downtube, though wire ports are hard to come by (ie. nonexistent), so wiring would have to get a little creative
The frame (and fork) are cleared for 29×2.1 mountain bike tires. This design does limit the size of the chainrings you can use, which I’ll detail in Part 2.
The frame’s cable and hose guides are all optional since you can set it up as fully geared, a 1x or singlespeed/fixed. So, only use the guides you need…but my hunch is most folks will have a rear brake, so fixed guides for those would have been nice. For singlespeed/fixed builds you’ll need to use a PF30EBB (eccentric bottom bracket) to adjust chain tension.
The dropouts are refreshingly simple (shown here without the derailleur hanger). Two rack/fender mounts are on the back side, and the frame is made to handle fully loaded touring. The disc brake mounts will take any size IS adapter, but some calipers may not clear the frame when using 140mm rotors (again, wait for Part 2), so plan on 160s.
A frame break above the driveside dropout allows for belt drives to be used.
The nice thing about these flat dropouts is they’ll work with the Topeak Journey Trailer, something I’ve had for a long time but whose mounting axle won’t fit on any frame with a Breezer-style hooded dropout. Now, finally, that trailer will come back down out of the attic!
Moving back to the front of the house: The fork, like the frame, is disc brake only. Steel legs are welded to the steerer tube and taper slightly as they move toward the dropout.
Tire clearance with my 29×2.1 leaves 4-5mm between the tire and fork on the sides, more on top.
Fender and rack mounts are on the sides and front/back of the dropout. The forward facing dropouts have some healthy lawyer tabs to keep the wheel from falling out unless your skewer gets really, really lose. Note the indent on the brake side for better rotor clearance.
The disc brake tabs are IS upfront, too, so you’ll need to dig a couple of adapters out of your old parts bin. They are shaped rather nicely, though. If you’re in the market, check out VanDesselCycles.com and peruse the huge selection of complete bike builds, too. Everything from Dura-Ace Di2 or SRAM Red with hydraulic brakes to a single speed road build with mechanical discs is on offer, and you specify cockpit and wheels options and sizes, too.
Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I reveal the full parts selection and the reasons behind each component…