Friday, February 3, 2017

A Bike Named Baxter

Routt 45 Derby Gravel Bike

At long last, a post. About a bike. Imagine that.

But not just any bike.

Let's first go back a bit. To a time when road bikes were road bikes, axles were 9mm, and brakes were rubber pads on a 622mm disc that also held the tire. (get it) These basic standards, QRs and rim brakes of one type or another, held true throughout decades of road riding. Combine that with the lasting strength and style of metal road bikes, which I've always had a penchant for and which Vecchio's specializes in, and you've got a genre of bike with a seriously long lifespan.

From the point of a bike shop, it was a sword with two edges. On one hand you have a product you can really stand behind. Buy a Moots now and I can promise you you'll still love it and ride it in 10 years. It's just that kind of bike. But on the other hand, once you've sold all your potential customers their Moots or Waterford, they're not going to be coming back for an upgrade very soon.

Even as drivetrains evolved, gaining sprockets, adding or shedding chainrings, moving derailleurs with the buzz buzz of electrical servos, you could still keep using your trusty old frame.

But then, somehow, at some point, riding a road bike on gravel and dirt roads became "a thing." Which basically meant that something which many of us had been doing for years, suddenly became a thing that bike companies started developing super cool new products for, fusing the most applicable elements of road, cross and mountain bikes.

And then, as a result of all this, we had a technological evolution in 'road' bikes. Most road bikes could barely squeeze a 28c tire, much less the 34c and above tires that this evolving breed of bikes rides best with. Combine this with the introduction of disc brakes coming over from mountain biking, and it was time to change the frame. Bike shops like Vecchio's had a whole new genre of road bike to build.

And I had a whole new kind of bike to covet.

I've been riding a titanium Kent Eriksen road bike with 28c tires, and an Ibis Hakkalugi with *ghasp rim brakes and 36c tires for the past 8 years. I also have both hardtail and full suspension mountain bike. You could say the spectrum is well covered. So this year when Moots wanted to build a frame for me, I felt like a had a pretty good baseline for making a decision on which model to go for.

I wanted something that would sort of replace the Hakkalugi (so that it could go live at my dad's house for when I visit him) but that would fit bigger rubber. The Hak is great but with 36s I'm within millimeters of rubbing on the chain stays. Since taking part in the second annual Grinduro in Northern California last year I was convinced I wanted something that could fit 40s, maybe bigger.

Which meant the obvious choice was the Routt 45 gravel bike, a version of the Routt with 450mm chain stays to fit up to around 45c tires. I just helped one of my very best friends build exactly that bike. Could run SRAM or Shimano compact road drivetrain with hydro brakes. Or even Campy with mechanical brakes and wait for their hydros. Cool wheels. Perfect. Easy choice.

Except it wasn't because last fall Moots introduced the Baxter, a bike that basically took the Routt 45 and used mountain bike drivetrain spacing to buy more rear wheel clearance while maintaining geometry roughly similar to that of the Routt 45. The drawback being that those wide stays and bottom bracket limit front chainring size to about 38, and you have to pick from a limited array of solutions to pair road shifters to mountain derailleurs.

Moots accomplishes this in their stock build through the electronic trickery of Di2. Shimano mechanical won't talk across disciplines, but the electric stuff will so they pair an XT 2x 38/26 front crankset with an 11speed Shimano cassette and mountain derailleur. While I appreciate the coolness of that setup, I wasn't looking for a bike to crawl up hills loaded with panniers going 5mph, I wanted something racy that fit huge tires, so I wasn't too interested in the 26 tooth small front chainring. I was most concerned about bigger gears, not smaller.

That led me toward SRAM and their Force 1x setups that I've seen quite a few friends running. Combining a 40 tooth front ring on a mountain crank with a 10-42 mountain cassette would still give me a gear that is significantly easier than what I have now on the Ibis (34-28) while keeping a top end that was at least in touch with a road bike's 50-12.

That math done, and considering I'll still have a dedicated skinny tire road bike for the really fast group rides, I pulled the trigger and decided to go all in on the Baxter. If the decision had been to choose one drop bar bike to do all things, I think I would have gone for the Routt 45 and it's faster gear range. B
ut with two bikes I couldn't resist the idea of a 'road' bike I could put 2.2 mountain tires and ride the White Rim in a day on, for example.

So that was the idea at least, and here's the result. To say I'm excited would be the understatement of the century.

titanium handmade

Moots Baxter XL (60cm TT)
Enve mtn fork custom blacked out by spectrum with gloss black Vecchio’s logos on lower legs. 
Derby 29er mtn rims, 30mm internal width, laced to DT 350s, tied and soldered. 
Triple ti king cages media blasted to match.
Thomson post and stem.
Salsa Cowbell 3 bar. 
King Headset. 
SRAM Force 1 and 22 1x shift brake levers.
SRAM Force hydro r brakes. 
SRAM XO-1 mtn crankset with 40t direct mount blackbox chainring.
SRAM Force long cage derailleur with 10-42 XO-1 mtn cassette.
Compass Snoqualmie Pass 44c tubeless tires. 

The hybrid road/mtn drivetrain, super curious to see how annoyed I get at the big gaps this cassette will create, or if I just end up loving it. 

Can't quite believe how good I think this looks. Being an XL kinda frame guy, I've always had road bikes with these donged out super tall steerer tubes. Part of my decision making process with the Baxter was that I knew it runs the Enve mountain fork, which is 100mm suspension corrected, meaning it is TALL, but at my size that front end height isn't an issue at all. Just means I get to have a normal looking medium length headtube for the first time. These are the kind of things you nerd out about if you're me. 

Finally, a proportional road bike for me.

Mini integrated fender from Enve. So silly you can't not put it on.

My good friends at Spectrum Paint and Powder works here in Boulder did a custom blackout job on the fork. I love how getting rid of the white logos and gloss stripes makes it look much more elegant than stock, and a much better match for the gloss black logos on the bike. We added gloss on matte Vecchio's logos to really set it off.

Trying out the Salsa Cowbell 3s on this bike. Moots specs the Cowchipper bar that has way more flair to it. I wanted something kinda classic but with a little flair. Will be interested to try them. The natural flair of the Sram levers kind of accentuates the look.
Gravel Bike