Another good find in Vienna was the creations of small German builder Unique Handmade Cycles. Based in Saxony, near Leipzig, framebuilder Sören Marx isn’t afraid to dive into some of the more complicated fabrication challenges. Whether it is a full custom geometry steel and aluminum downhill bike, a tubular steel external bearing crankset, or just a new look for a kid’s steel bike, Unique has something to offer. While the road bike that this crank was on and the deep blue DH bike next to it (more on that after the jump) had their finishes dialed, it was actually the rough steel arms of these prototype cranks that drew us in…
With more than 20 years of frame building experience, and having apprenticed under both respected East German & French frame builders, Marx can surely braze you up a classic steel frame, and there are plenty of nice looking randonné, all-road style, and hardtail mountain bikes in their build history. But what stood out to me were his more unique builds, and that of course is where the company name comes from.
Like you’ll find on a set of Campagnolo cranks, Unique’s latest tubular chromoloy, external BB cup crank arms are bound together with a Hirth coupler in the center of their integrated axle. This prototype crankset is the most recent in more than 6 years of building steel cranksets, but is apparently marked by a big drop in weight both due to the new coupler and lighter arms. Paired with a removable, machined aluminum spider, Unique can build cranks to any length you wish, for any chainrings you can dream up, and pretty much any style of riding. We’ve seen finished cranks with powdercoat or, just cleaned up and clearcoated to let the steel shine through.
Unique’s DH bike is certainly a looker as well. Not a lot of small builders ever venture into full-suspension mountain bikes due to the added complexity of all those moving parts. And even fewer delve into downhill territory where the stresses go up pretty quick too. Uniques’s DH bike starts with a large diameter steel toptube which forms the backbone of the bike, connecting the gussetted 44mm tapered (or straight 1.5″) front end to the single-pivot rear. A flattened downtube is offset a bit forward of the BB to allow space in the front triangle for the piggy-back shock, while a triangulated seat mast rounds out the steel front end.
The suspension design is a fairly straightforward high single pivot, disguised by what at first looks to be a rocker arm, but is really an extension of the swingarm. The main pivot is hidden behind the carbon cover over an idler pulley, and the rigid aluminum rear end then drives the Cane Creek Double Barrel air shock in one of two positions to alter travel and bottom bracket height.
Total rear wheel travel on the bike is 205mm in its longer setting, and it’s built around a long reach & 63° head angle. This blue version is rolling on 26″ wheels with up to 2.7″ tire clearance and tipped the scales at about 16.5kg (36.4lb) with a pretty affordable build, but Unique says it will also work with 27.5″ wheels as well.
And if you don’t need an overly complicated new bike, someone with an attention to details like Unique can still put out something special. This 20″ bike gets the Unique treatment to turn it into a Spiderbike for some happy kid.
A welded chromoly frame and proper single speed fork ends form the basis of a light and solid build, then some trick webs were crafted in between the seatstays and behind the headtube give it a one-of-a-kind look. A quick blast of blue and red paint gives is a subtle look to please the young comic fan, topped off by those silver spider webs.
And Unique apparently doesn’t limit their crank works to new tubular steel. One of the benefits of solid aluminum cranks; it’s relatively simple to chop them down, redrill & tap some fresh pedal threads in and you can have a set of 155mm kid-sized cranks in no time.