In Part 1, I discussed the reasoning behind buying a custom bike. In this installment, I’ll discuss the process of building the frame into what you see here, the Philly Bike Expo build.
When we left off, I was off in Portland, riding my naked Peacock Groove around in the rain.
Riding a custom bike that is literally rusting beneath you can be an intense experience. On one hand, I think corrosion is beautiful, and there is something kind of poetic about riding a bike that is constantly morphing through chemical change beneath you. It really only looks the way it does at that exact moment. A day later, there will be new or different rust. Your legs polish the top tube as you ride it. It develops a patina that shows where the frame has been impacted by your body or the elements.
On the other hand, you know that tubing is pretty gosh-darned thin… and you’re basically hurting it by riding it this way.
I was pretty relieved to hand it back to Erik at the end of the week. The finish is half the fun with Erik Noren. Whereas other framebuilders might focus on the frame and then hang a standard cockpit or gruppo on it, one of the things that is most attractive to me about Peacock Groove is the holistic approach he takes with his big project bikes. He modifies and paints components along with the frame. The anodized parts are often similarly flamboyant and follow the theme. He goes deep.
Plus, we benefit from having some pretty outstanding component companies in the US who love to show off what they can do- especially for a cool project. As I’ve said, Prince was always pulling other talent into the picture- this bike was always going to be an opportunity to showcase component rockstar talent. When I called around and talked about the theme of the bike, people were stoked.
The first call was to PAUL Components. As a fan of colorful ano and clever, domestically machined components, I’ve always had a big soft spot for PAUL. It’s like bike candy- really classes up the place. I shared the bike theme with Travis, PAUL’s fantastic customer service king. Rather than zany ano, he suggested a full polish Klamper brake set with purple knobs. I’m already partial to the brake- since it became available, it has been the only disc caliper I’ve had on any of my bikes. Sure, hydraulic systems are cool and compact. There’s just something romantic about mechanical brakes for me, something about the mechanism in motion. Plus, on the off chance you have issues with them out in the field, you can usually figure something out in a pinch (let’s just say I’ve had one too many instances of leaky hydro calipers draining on my way down a mountain).
When I pulled the calipers out of the PAUL box… just wow. Easily the most stunning set of brakes in the history of the world. I had to hide them in my office because I was losing paying hours of my life just staring at them and daydreaming. They were a game changer- we had initially looked at a black build for the bike to highlight the frame, but the polished Klampers really dictated a shinier, more labor intensive direction. You’ll notice here that Erik polished the brake adapters to match.
Next came the hubs. I have wanted a set of Chris King hubs for twelve years. It was on a rainy, cold group ride with my college team in the Fall of 2004. I thought I was hot shit with my brand new Ultegra 10-speed gruppo… until my brand new plastic shifter housing exploded reducing my drivetrain from twenty to two speeds. A nice guy from the ride offered to pull me back home while the rest of the group went ahead. I sat on his Chris King-hubbed wheel all the way home. They were gold anodized. Despite being in the depths of misery and bummed out about my equipment failure, I was totally mesmerized by how these hubs looked, how they built into a wheel, and the spooky sound they made. It was like alien technology. Also, after recently touring Chris King for a piece for this publication (coming soon!) and understanding the level of precision involved and the attention to detail… I am totally stoked.
The hubset would be a simple silver anodize. I don’t like mixing ano colors. The Chris King purple, while totally rad, was too far off of the purple of the Klamper knobs and the nipples we were using on the wheel build. While not the most exciting color direction, it was the appropriate one. And Chris King hubs in silver are still a total thing of beauty.
The Whisky No. 9 cross fork was an easy choice- I designed the very first version of the fork on a dare during my past life as a bike engineer. While it’s not something I’m crazy proud of, it’s mine- I put a lot of time into getting it into production. The only thing I’m miffy about is at some point (my face is scrunched up even typing about it), during a revision of the product after I left the brand, the cable guide was moved from the rear of the non-drive blade where I put it to the front of the blade. This makes the most mechanically appropriate routing configuration across the outside of the fork- which is pretty sloppy from a visual standpoint. Especially on this build. I hate sacrificing performance for a good visual when you should be able to have both. Reluctantly, the routing would be on the inside of the blade.
When thinking about rotors, I started to get some anxiety. I wasn’t looking for light. I was looking for appropriate. Nothing was floating my boat. When talking about them, Erik said, “Weren’t you a bike designer? Just go draw some.” So I sketched up a few concepts. What should they say? “‘Baby, you’re much too fast.’ Obviously.” This is why the guy is a genius.
Then, a few weeks before the Philly Bike Expo, Erik Noren landed in the hospital with pneumonia. He was benched- still with so much work to do. He lost a quick 25 pounds, and was down for the count for a week or so. This put a damper on a few of the things we were planning for the bike. Also, this would mean that I would throw a silver Ritchey cockpit on rather than going the much more labor intensive route we were planning on. The Ritchey looks great. No complaints.
I chose Gevenalle shifters because they are very simple, mechanically interesting, and extremely reliable. I love that I can glance at my grip and see what gear I’m in by how the shifter lever is oriented. It’s fun to actuate them. I’ve snapped carbon levers and broken shifters before. For this bike, I wanted something that I could service and keep going- I want to ride this bike in this form for decades to come. The only rub is that the set I worked with Adam Clement at Gevenalle to produce would not be ready for Philly. Erik polished the levers of a pink set I already had to hang on the show build.
The the Race Face narrow wide chainring (which came out resembling a skip-tooth sprocket- totally rad) was chosen because it was easily sourced and had an interesting shape to buff up. Also polished was the Wheels Threaded PF30 bottom bracket (which works fantastically). Erik buffed up one of his Peacock Groove headsets, which pulls the whole front end together beautifully.
Last but certainly not least, I’ve been wanting to get my paws on a Silca frame pump for years. Always, always wanted a bike with a matching frame pump. I love the speed of CO2, but once again, you can’t beat a reliable mechanism when you’re a flat magnet. Erik put in some aggressive time with the buffing wheel and the result is breathtaking.
And then paint. Erik’s ace in the hole is his talented painter, Brad at Dirt Designs Graphic. He’s responsible for the airbrushing on Peacock Groove’s Voltron bike, the blood and masking on the Evil Dead bike, all the pinstripes. I really just left all of this in Erik and Brad’s capable hands- all I knew is that the bike would probably be purple and metallic, like the motorcycle in Purple Rain. I’ve never seen the motorcycle in person, but I have had beers on the floor of the warehouse where it was painted- where the concrete was still covered in drips of its metallic purple. See, Minneapolis apparel brand Twin Six used to be located in that space. Prince is everywhere in this city.
When I went with Erik to pick up the bike from Dirt Designs Graphic, I was totally blown away. They made the decision to paint it a purple with a really subtle pearl. It isn’t a large fleck metallic bassboat scheme for the show floor, it’s something meant to pop and dance in the sun while I’m riding the bike- which is what I really wanted but didn’t understand at the outset of the project. Painted to match were the bands on the Silca pump, the SRAM Red crank, and Whisky fork.
The real masterpiece were the rims. Brad masked into the rim sides the lyrics to Purple Rain. All of them. I can’t imagine what a pain in the ass that was.
I had to leave town a few days prior to the show, so I only saw the bike for the first time during the set up. Watching Erik pull the bike out of the Trash Bag coupler case… jeez. I haven’t been that excited to watch something get unwrapped since I was a little kid at Christmas. It was so perfect. When I was walking the show, I would take laps back so I could see it. Erik would helpfully point out that I was the one the bike was intended for. I couldn’t explain the bike without tearing up a little bit- the second bike in my life that has made me cry without crashing it.
And then, the cherry on top of everything, Eric Baar of Ground Up Speed Shop pinstriped the fork in lavender, different designs on each blade, before it was boxed home to come home.
This bike has been almost a year in the making- and it still isn’t done. There are things in the works to take the build even further. I don’t even know about all of them. The few that I am privy too are pretty gosh darned cool. And I love it. I love that there is a terminal build and that the craft that will have gone into it will make people excited about the possibilities of bicycles.
And that’s the point. This bike wants you to go crazy, get nuts. It’s a party ambassador.
The thing about the final build that really struck me was that while the bike was detailed to death, it was designed for me and every way I would experience it. The subtle metallic is for me to enjoy during rides and in the sun. The little Artist symbols sit where really only I will see them, either while riding or installing a seatpost- where they are water bottle boss reinforcements, they will one day hide under cages (sorry Rich Dillen). The little seven dots machined into the rear brake mount (for the song Seven) are small and subtle where I will see them. I love that the symbols are a part of the metal body so that even naked, you can see exactly what this bike is and what it’s about. The components are all the things I’ve really wanting for a long time because of how I ride, where I ride, and their meaningfulness to me. I’m so excited to be in love with this bike, and I’m so excited to take my party ambassador on the road.
And with that, I’m going to take it for one more ride before it snows here in Minneapolis.
See you at NAHBS.