Operation Heart of Steel - Belle Cycles -
Each of the bikes for Operation Heart of Steel will embody one trait specifically, its not that they cannot share multiple traits but I was to focus each bike to a specific purpose to highlight the abilities of steel as a material. The first of these traits is strength. This one may need less convincing as I think when whew all think of steel we think of a level of hardness and strength but to highlight this even more we decided to build a gravel bike to push it to the limits, thrashing though the forest without reserve and for this build we worked with Enrico Belle (AKA Kiko) from Belle Cycles to build a 650b specific gravel bike around the Columbus Spirit and Life tubing and Futura Gravel fork. The geometry was balanced around a stable handling bike and something more nimble as I have history in mountain biking and don't mind railing a descent!
We decided to optimise the bike for 650b wheelsize as I quite like being able to run higher volume tubeless tires, like a 47c WTB Byway, at lower pressure for added grip but also a bit of a smoother ride when things get rough, without working so much about pinch flats. Another thing to keep in mind is that a 650b wheel set with 47c tires has a similar circumference as a 700c wheel with 30c tires, so rolling at high speeds will feel similar. Initially the bike is built on 700c but new wheels are on the way!
The paint job was taken on by Kilian Boy, a painter well know in Barcelona painting circles for his intricate paint jobs and master of the gradient, which is just what we needed. The idea for the paint is one that has inspired me for some time and this occasion seemed like the perfect time to apply it. Based of the sunset views typically seen from Girona and mixing it with the colours of the Catalan flag we have the Catalan sunset, with the bottom portion of the bike cutting through the frame as the Pyrenees on the horizon before giving way to the gradient from rich yellow to red to dark blue.
To finish the build new went with a mix of Ultegra and XT Di2 with a 1x chainring setup in the form of Easton SL90 crankset. We decided on this drivetrain for mix for a reason, we wanted to run Shimano but as Ultegra is limited in gear range and does not have a clutch system to keep chain tension higher for a single chainring setup, though it is possible to mix road and mountain bike drivetrain via an adaptor for the rear derailleur we wanted to avoid running a dead Ultegra left shifter as we have no front derailleur. The rest of the build is our standard around the shop and also fits perfectly with our theme of strength, Enve everything, SES 4.5 AR wheels, bars, stem and seat-post. WTB Exposure 34c tire, Fabric Scoop saddle, Supacaz bar tape and Arundel bottle cages are the icing on there cake!
Such a good looking bike can only have an equally good looking kit so we partnered up with Attaquer, with such adventurous designs it only seemed fitting for this collab. Black shorts, as they should be, with an impressive fade that matches the same philosophy of the Catalan sunset, the colours give you high visibility during hunting season in the woods. This kit will also be available to buy!
AND NOW FOR A WORD FROM THE BUILDER
I met Christian Meier in the best place and time: on the road, riding in a beautiful place last summer, thanks RIDE AMONG THE GIANTS, and at that time The Service Course was a young but already world renowned cycling project and epicenter in South Europe, it acts like a magnet for everybody looking for something different in the cycling scene .
Christian discovered the new generation of steel bikes and it was nice to hear from an experienced pro rider like him how fantastic they perform, and how it is necessary to spread this news, thanks man! I was also very pleased to hear his desire to learn more about the process, and now to be one of the builders between other amazing talents represented in The Service Course, it is such a pleasure and such a challenge .
When we talked about this particular machine as a part of a bigger project where TSC, Columbus and 3 builders join forces to create 3 different machine we suddenly decided that I would create a Gravel Grinder. YES!
He was fitted perfectly on his steel road Speedvagen so we started from there but I was free to create and develop a geometry with no compromises: racey with clearance for big volume tires big volume tires. The Columbus Futura Gravel fork was a must and tube selection was the perfect to me mix of Columbus Spirit and Life with not too oversize diameters.
Big volume tires, at the right pressure, are what make the difference in dirt riding but providing clearance can be challenging if you want a short rear end so manipulating the stays to create the space is necessary and I always try to follow function with a real nice form .
Because we chose to build with 1x transmission with no option for front derailleur I was able to offset the seat tube and give clearance for real big tires with only 415mm chainstays, the seat tube angle was calculated at the effective saddle height, ingredients for a reactive and nimble machine.
To add stability I lowered the BB more than normal also because I trust Meier´s technique and the offset seat tube effectively increases the reach few millimeters without changing riding position and togehter with a balanced trail it make for a ´ride everything´ bike.
The paintwork is another perfect example of what synergy can be, Meier gave the idea, I worked on it and Kilian Ramirez Caballero add his magic to make it real, and how unbelievable it is!
Time to ride it hard now, see you on the dirt roads Christian!