Micheal van den Ham’s (MVDH) custom painted Giant TCX Advanced by Painthouse Designs takes inspiration from the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow, often known as the Avro Arrow aircraft of the mid-1950s.
Canadian engineers built the Avro CF-105 to be an interceptor – one of the fasted aircraft of the era. Experts say the Avro could reach Mach 2 speeds (twice the speed of sound!) and planned to serve as the Royal Canadian Airforces primary interceptor. Only five planes were made in total, the design was highly secret and mythical to those not in a direct workstream.
In a weird series of events, Canada halted production on February 20, 1959, and two months later, the assembly line, tooling, plans, airframes, and engines were ordered to be destroyed. The cancellation was a topic of considerable political controversy, and it remains a topic for debate among historians and industry professionals.
Folklore and tall tales help make this plane even more appealing to Canadians like Van Dem Ham, stating “My favorite of all the models is RL-202” The history is cryptic though, rumors surround the Avro, with possibilities that a single plane was taken to the UK and the technology survived.
Van den Ham explains,” There are only four planes in the photos documenting the disassembly – missing is the RL-202.” Rumors in the Canadian aviation world speculate the plane left Canada the day all were to be disassembled and landed somewhere in the UK. Canadian journalist June Callwood, (a pilot herself) wrote a piece for Maclean’s magazine remarking she heard the unmistakable sound of an Arrow flying over Toronto, the day after it was announced the jets were to be destroyed.
The conspiracy theory and dot-connecting are as addicting as racing cyclocross – and that’s where this plane finally lands.
Van den Ham is the Canadian 2018, 2019, and 2020 National Cyclocross Champion, and proud owner of this uniquely inspired paint job. Not totally an aviation buff, he loves the lure of the Avro story, filled with intrigue and perseverance – where the Canadian aviation industry was competing with the best in the world.
“I always liked weird bits of history,” he says, “and this is an elegant bit of Canadian history…This plane made Canada a prominent voice in aviation history.”
The design of the original plane is mostly white, similar to Van den Ham’s 2021 Giant TCX. The distinct inspirational pieces are notable in the head tubes’ geometric lines and shapes. These lines mimic the wings and the front of the Avro plane. The red nose and tail echo the plane near identically – and is iconic among most warplanes of the era. The symbol of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the “MDVH logo” is a spin-off and pays tribute to the Avro logo.
MVDH: “I like to think this paint job pulls Canada up as a real force in the cycling world just like this plane” As Van den Ham leaves this month to take on the cyclocross world in Europe, this paint job is very fitting.
Updates to the Giant 2021 TCX
Roundabout 2016, the Giant TCX made the switch to being a gravel bike, with some of the raciness of its cyclocross pedigree carrying over. Except that now it had proper thru-axles, much wider tire clearance, and a nod to long-distance comfort.
For 2021, the TCX received an overhauled carbon platform, weight reduction, more compliance, and larger tire clearance to not only clear mud but to fit larger gravel tires as well. Check out the full tech story on the new TCX here.
The 2021 Giant TCX Advanced Prototype that Van den Ham rode to victory in the 2019 Canadian National championships offers nearly the exact angles, reach, and stack figures of the previous version. MVDH rides a medium frame that has a 71.5º head angle and 50mm fork offset. The seat tube of the TCX remains the same at a reasonably traditional 73º, the same as the 2016 model.
The frame and fork clearance offer a crazy-for-cyclocross 45mm of tire clearance (very close to the Giant Revolt). The bottom bracket drop of 60mm and 430mm chainstay lengths remain unchanged from the 2016 model. As a touch of the modern and learning towards quicker tight handling – the 2021 models of the Giant TXC arrive with stems 10-20mm shorter than previous years, with Giants 1-1/4 proprietary steerer tube sizing.
Seatpost and Binder Changes
The previous generation TCX Advanced used Giant’s D-shaped D-fuse carbon seatpost, a flexible piece that makes a noticeable difference in seated pedaling on cross courses. The design limited those looking to run dropper posts or other manufacturers’ designs. The new TCX Advanced Pro updates this but still uses the D-Fuse concept – moving to a totally new seat post clamp design that can also be used with a regular 30.9 mm seat post.
One of the most significant changes to the frame; Giant has moved the seat post clamp binder from the top of the top tube and placed it down at the seat stay junction. This effectively lengthened the seat post’s flexible length, offering more compliance and stability over bumpy terrain.
Michael van den Ham’s race setup
The canvas for Van den Ham’s race machine is a medium Giant Advanced TCX Pro, with Robert Axel Project thru-axles and an Easton BB86 bottom bracket. Van den Ham runs a Giant D-Fuse post that comes standard on the Advanced TCX frameset.
Van den Ham is rolling a 170mm Easton EC90 crankset with 42T chainring for most races. The SRAM Force ETAP drivetrain and 10×33 cassette gives him the best mix of high-end for start/road sections and enough low-end to climb the punchy rollers of Baal.
The cockpit mates Easton carbon EC90 SL 44cm bars and a no longer produced 110mm/ -8º stem (newer Giant stems are -10º). Van den Ham prefers a lower spacer stack and position of the -8º stem and is something he’s run for years.
Wheels match the cockpit precisely, Easton EC90 SL tubular paired with Vittoria tires (tread is course dependent). The top-end Easton tubulars roll on Vault road disc hubs, sealed cartridge bearings, and set up with 12mm front and 12 x 142mm rear thru-axle. A setup light for quick bursts of power, excellent engagement, and resistance to a pressure washer day in and out.
Crankbrothers Candy 11 pedals take care of easy entry and exit for the Canadian National Champion and have been a fixture on Van den Ham’s bikes for years. The saddle is an SDG Duster Carbon – a similar shape to most short nose saddles with less of a relief channel through the middle. The carbon shell keeps the bike light and is resilient enough for daily mount and re-mount practice.
Catch Michael van den Ham in Europe on his sweet new ride at the following events;
- December 13 – Gavere
- December 20 – Namur World Cup
- December 22 – Ess
- December 23 – Azencross
- December 26 – Zolder
- Dec 27 – Dendermonde World Cup
- December 30 – Bredene
- January 1 – Baal
- January 3 – Hulst World Cup