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6'6" Rider's Custom Gravel-Cross Bike Profile

by Alex Sinanan |

Backstory

I've had a few road bikes over the years. Riding the road is amazing. I love feeling every drop of energy turning into forward motion. It's hypnotic. It's surprising and amazing how much distance you can cover and how many spots in your city that were previously just dark spots on the map.

I've hated plenty of things about road bikes too. The bigger sizes fit tall riders so poorly. Super narrow high pressure tires complain at even the slightest hint of surface imperfection let alone riding on gravel or off a curb. The traditional roadyism love of long tedious slogs, the more uncomfortable the better. Though nothing is quite as uncomfortable as the silence in the elevator when your lycra covered junk is at someone's eye level.

All I have are mountain bikes. I wanted a bike for exploring the city but I didn't want a city bike. I wanted a bike capable of running the occasional errand but didn't want some hipster fixed gear bike. I also knew I wasn't interested in pure roadyism. I wanted something else. Something versatile that would be as good for quick rips around town as for putting in some big miles when I felt like it. I want to be able to go on adventures from my front door and be able to connect parks and gravel when required.

The first bike I though of was the Rapture, an inexpensive steel singlespeed cyclocross bike made by the good folks at Transition bikes in Bellingham. There is something pure about singlespeed on the road so I went down to Transition HQ in Bellingham and tried one out. I loved it and bought the very last one in XL.

I enjoyed the Rapture but it didn't fit well, its steel tubeset low quality, and singlespeeding proved interesting but limiting to what I really wanted the bike to do.

The Rapture was a good experiment, a positive proof of concept.
I was on to something: it was time for  something similar, but better.

I scoured the internet for cyclocross bikes and endurance road bikes and gravel bikes had just become a thing. It turns out that road bike companies are just like mountain bike companies in their disregard for tall people. I kept encountering virtually identical bikes with identical geometry and none of them suitable for someone over 6'4".

So I took the geometry from my Rapture and extrapolated to this custom titanium frame which I built up with parts of my choosing.

 

Alex Road Bike

 

Why This Bike?

Option 1. Bike manufacturers either have never encountered a tall person.

Option 2. Bike manufacturers realize that adjusting geometry for every size isn't cost effective since the bulk of bikes sold are Medium and Large. XS/S and XL+ can just make do with poorly fitting bikes because it's an inconvenience for bike companies to do otherwise. Smaller or taller riders are an inconvenience.

Custom was the only way to go. 

 

Alex Road Bike

Frame and Fork

  • Waltly Ti custom titanium road/gravel/cross frame 
    • 620mm top tube to allow a shorter stem
    • Lots of tire clearance
    • 71' head angle, 73' seat angle, like a mountain bike from 1992
    • Rocker dropouts so I could run it singlespeed
  • Whisky #9 carbon fork, 15mm through axle dropouts
  • Hylex hydraulic singlepeed-compatible disc brakes
  • SRAM X01 11spd drivetrain
  • Spank Vibrocore 46cm drop bar. It's not the widest bar in the world but it's still offers enough clearance in traffic and has these super wide platforms across the tops.
  • Tasis Fat Wrap - the positively thickest bar tape I could find, produced by a guy in Vancouver no less!

    Alex Road Bike Bars

    Why This is Good

    • It's long enough 
    • It's got a tall enough head tube to not have to run more than a few spacers
    • Slightly longer than average rear center and steep seat angle means I'm balanced on any terrain
    • Titanium offers a great compliant ride and the tubing diameters and wall thicknesses are sufficient to provide good torsional stiffness
    • Great off-road performance but still quick AF on the road
    • It's beautiful. XXL bikes are usually unnecessarily ugly. Bicycles should be a perfect blend of form and function.