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44 Bikes Huntsman XXX : Builders’ Ride

Huntsman XXX : My Ride

Over the course of any given week, I get a lot of inquiries about custom bicycles. One of the build’s that typically gets a lot of attention is the Huntsman. Many come to me because the stock offerings just don’t quite fit what it is they’re looking for, sometimes figuratively and other times literally. No matter what it is they are looking for, one thing rings true: Riders want versatility. They want to run fenders when it rains, they might want the option of running something as large as a 40mm tire, like the 40mm WTB Nano for example. They want disk brakes. They want 2×11, maybe 1x something. They want to run it hard on gravel during the weekends, and get their commute on over the course of the week so that means custom racks. They want their components hand picked. I listen to the what the client wants, then I recommend and build them what they need. Above all, the builds are purpose built. Everything has purpose and reason. Anything in excess, gets cut or removed. To illustrate this purpose built nature, I thought I’d showcase my own personal Huntsman build and take the reader through step by step what it is I wanted, and what it is that needed to fit that purpose.

Huntsman XXX : My Ride

Editor’s Note: My terrain is Southern New Hampshire. With all of the well maintained dirt roads at my finger tips, a skinny tired road bike just does not make sense. A wonderful thing about dirt roads is they are less traveled here in NH. I MIGHT pass 1 car on my whole ride, most times nothing but the breeze and the occasional Baird Owl. So there is really no reason to even get on pavement unless it’s a connection between two dirt roads. The climbs can be short or long. Most are short, steep and really punchy. The kinds where you look up and do not see the top and know you’re in for it. There’s also a lot of 6th class roads or unmaintained roads (that means they don’t get plowed in the winter). 6th class is French for “used to be a road, but now it doesn’t get used so much…”. (not really, but that’s the gist). That’s where a large volume tire comes into play – not only does it just plain make sense for the rough stuff, if this were a race: I’m pedaling when others are braking with 32mm tires. I also ride by time and not necessarily by miles. 1-2 hours is all I have most days. Some weekends I might be able to get out for a longer 30-40 mile ride but that doesn’t happen too often. Most days during the week this is the scenario: I have a place I want to get with my work, I work till I hit that goal, and then look at the clock and realize I have 1-2 hours of good daylight left. Maybe only 30… With a dog who can’t see so well when the light begins to go away, I know some times it’s going to be a sprint and she has to stay home (she only can come along on mountain bike rides). The Huntsman gets pulled out and off I go. And I’ve been most likely riding like this for the past 15 years. Maybe that’s fortunate, but maybe that’s a bit unfortunate… “so it goes”. There are times of the year when the roads get rutted up (aka mud season…) and let me tell you those ruts can get deep. So deep you bottom out your pedals on the road surface if you find yourself in one of them. Basically I need something that gets me out there, is quick, has a little lower gearing for the short punchy climbs, is easy to maintain in the winter, and the geo is optimized for fast rides that is easily handled and at home when the going gets tough.

So let’s start with the picture above: My personal Huntsman. All of my bikes, with the exception of my fat bike, share the same front and rear axle width specification: 100mm front / 135mm rear. The reason for this is shared wheelsets in the event something happens to one wheel, it can easily be swapped out temporarily while I take some time with the repair. This one’s powder coated with a two stage powder for durability. (Not to mention the color is just stunning in all kinds of light).

Huntsman XXX : My Ride

Disk brakes are employed because they allow for a lighter / stronger rim and in turn a lighter/stronger wheel. These are tubeless compatible Industry 9 Ultralite Trail 24′s. You’ll note that is a 29″ mountain bike wheelset. Yes, a mountain bike wheelset on a “road” bike. Not only did I want the ability to run these on a race setup, but I also wanted the 3 degree’s of engagement (as opposed to I9′s road and CX wheelsets which sport only 3 of the 6 pawls to deliver 6 degree’s of engagement). The reason for this, be it on the road or on dirt… when I stomp on the pedals and “get after it”, I don’t want any lag between the gears engaging. These are relatively light and stiff, mated up with a wider inner rim width, those 40mm WTB Nano’s are a full width tire. I’m pedaling through the rough stuff when others are having to check their speed. The wider inner rim width spreads the tires casing, and the side walls are a tad more vertical, adding to that stability and “sure footedness” feel in the rough.

Huntsman XXX : My Ride

My drivetrain is a Force CX1 (1×11) but you’ll take note it is technically a 1×10. I9′s mountain wheelsets have the option to run an XD Driver for 11 speed mountain but are technically a 10 speed cassette, and their Road/CX hubs have a longer cassette body to make room for 11 speed road. So this wheelset won’t take all 11 speeds of the Force 22 cassette. I’ve removed one of the cogs and spaced out the cassette just a hair and adjusted the limit screws accordingly to make it all work. So this is a slightly modified 11/28t cassette with a Wolftooth 40t Dropstop chainring mated to Sram’s Force 22 Cranks (I’ve drilled out the hidden riveted chainring bolt on the spider to remove both stock chainrings – why Sram made that a fixed/riveted chainring bolt is beyond me). This is a perfect setup for the short, punchy climbs we have right from the shop doors. I’d say about 90% of my rides are by myself, and a good majority of them hover between 15-20 miles at a pop. Most times I have limited time, so a fast, fun ride is in order. This drivetrain is just a refinement of the type of riding I do, for my terrain. The added stability of those big tires makes hitting 6th class roads no problem and I can go most places someone on a set of 28′s or even 32′s would be hating. Or flatting. You’ll also note I’ve sealed off the entrance points with heat shrink tubing. This is done at all the cable stop/start points. This really keeps out any moisture and keeps those cables running smooth year round. Purpose built from the ground up.

Huntsman XXX : My Ride

This is the business end. The cockpit. You’ll note that I’ve not modified the left hand shifter. I want the option of being able to run a front derailleur if needed. I’ve left that intact. The top tube sports two bottle mounts to accept machined aluminum cable stops – you’ll note just below the seat stay/seat tube junction, there is a braze-on for the front derailleur. Two set screws are removed, the cable stops are attached and a front derailleur can be run with a little time to set it up. I’ve chosen ENVE Carbon Bars and ENVE’s CX Disk fork. Two places that carbon really shines (the 3rd being the seat post). Carbon has an uncanny knack for soaking up road chatter and a great place to start is the handlebars and in the fork. Two key contact points. The fork is tapered too – light and stiff. No brake chatter or fork flutter here. You rail into a turn, you’re holding your line. Those wider tires add that “sure footedness” to the equation. Cane Creek 40 Series head set. Light. Simple. It works.

Stem, Seatpost and collar are Thomson. Made in the USA, and some of the best. The seat post head uses two separate bolts for fore/aft adjustments. Setting the saddle up level is a snap. Fit and finish are second to none and Thomson offers great customer service. Brakes are Avid BB7 Road. These are a mechanical actuated disk brake (160mm Front and Rear rotors). Light, simple to set up and easy to maintain. In comparison to hydraulic disk brakes, they lack the modulation, but as they say “brake just slow you down”. These work “good enough”. They also allow for independent pad adjustment – that is key for any mechanical disk brake.

Huntsman XXX : My Ride

Geometry wise, I was looking for a fast, stable ride with room for 40mm tires, internal brake/derailleur lines to keep the top tube clean for shouldering/picking it up in techy sections, deeply formed and curved seat and chainstays for added heel and mud clearance and large diameter tubes to keep the bike stiff with the added resilience that steel is known for. That basically boils down to a 70.5 Degree head tube angle (sit up hands free in rough gravel, you’re not getting thrown for one thing…), 73 degree seat tube for a little extra tire clearance, 2.75″ of bottom bracket drop gets the bottom bracket low enough so you’re carving in turns and stable in the rough, but high enough so it’s not a pedal striker coming OUT of the turns, 16.5″ chainstays to deliver a quick handling ride but there’s plenty of room for a 40mm tire with something extra to spare. This delivers a fast, fun, stable ride. Extra slope to the top tube gives you a little extra room should you need to put a foot down. Paragon Machine Works Wright dropouts WITH A REPLACEABLE HANGER. Bend or snap it off, no problem. Your investment is easily fixed. (How builders build steel road bikes with non-replaceable hangers is beyond me.) Purpose Built. Nothing left to chance. Selle Italia saddle. Not the most padded saddle, but the shape fits me “just so”. Cinelli Gel Cork handlebar wrap, wrapped from bottom to top, nice and TIGHT and finished with black electricians tape. Salsa Flip OFf’s because they work. There’s bottle cages and then there’s King Cage. Chain Lube? NFS (NIX FRIX SHUN). Did I stutter? Hell no. That’s the best lube on the market. Hands down. Nothing left to chance.

Build comes in at 20lbs even (Although I question my scale sometimes – it feels more like 19 lbs but what do I know from the lift test). But I will say this: Too little weight, and the bike beneath you will start to get thrown around in the rough stuff. A little extra weight actually helps to ground the bike a bit more. Paragon Machine Works 44mm Head Tube, Dropouts, Braze-ons, Post Mount Disk Brake mount and bottom bracket. All made in the USA. Henry James / True Temper tubing front triangle (USA) with 4130 seamless aircraft tubing so I can get all the bends and forming exactly where I want (also USA sourced).

That’s it in a nutshell and it’s as best an outline of who, what, why I can put together. This is a purpose built “road” bike based on the majority of riding I do. Each component has been hand picked for the purpose and every angle, measurement and decision is based on the mantra of “Ride, Build, Repeat”. Hopefully this is a little insight into what one iteration of the Huntsman can be. Give me a shout and I’d be happy to put together a purpose built Huntsman just for you. Made to Shred. That’s Guaranteed.

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Fistful of Fat

It’s that time in the list. Fat bikes abound. In the next two weeks or so, two fat bikes should be done, 4 x 135mm unicrown steel forks should be finished and 3 different giant wheelsets should come in and out of the shop. 2 of which are HED Big Deal’s laced to I9 in 170 and 190mm spacing. There’s a 3rd secret bike happening in August. That’s all I’m saying on that one. You’ll just have to keep your nose to air for the internet scent to be picked up when the time comes. Here’s the start of Gordon’s Fat bike, 135mm front, 190mm rear.

Gordon's FAT getting FAT

I’m considering rebuilding my own around 190mm to make more room for those 5″ fatties. Race Face finally dialed in their game and offered the Turbine in their Cinch platform with both 170mm and 190mm specific spindle lengths. A true modular system that allows you to eliminate that damnable spider and crank arm bolts that always seem to creak eventually in the summer do to all the dry, dusty trails (I have to clean and grease my own cranks AGAIN). The 190mm spindle really allows for a lot of chainring/chainstay clearance which is the trouble spot on these types of bikes. I can build in all kinds of tire clearance, but those spindle lengths and the lack there of choice like we used to have with square taper just are not there anymore, but Race Face changed that. I was a devote Race Face crank guy until their X-Type stuff turned me off. Race Face is back baby. Here’s a few more of Gordon’s front triangle, internal cable routing and other odd’s and ends coming together:

Slotting a Seat Tube


Let's miter some Chainstays...

One note about 190mm: My tooling is beyond that spacing. I actually will rebuild my chainstay mitering jig in a while to be a bit beefier, but to accept that really WIDE 5″ stance and spread of the chainstays. Basically it will be a bigger, meatier version of what I have here with some new improvements. 170mm works thought, so I miter the 190mm set up using a 170mm dummy – just effectively moving everything a tad closer together, and then moving them back out again with the 190mm dummy when being tacked. Works like a charm, but it means I have to load/unload things from one dummy axle to the other. The way my system works is the dummy axle travels all the way from start to finish cutting down on time and increasing efficiency. Small but each little bit helps.

Chainstay Sub-assembly

You’ll also note I was tacking things together using a 135mm dummy. Moving them closer to the tool allows for a little more stiffness and rigidity. You’d be surprised just how much the tubes and parts pull on each other even with a small tack. So having a rigid setup is very important. IF any of you are building your own tools out there and just starting, I always recommend to OVERBUILD everything. The more mass the better-especially for tools that are used for tacking and cutting. For tools used to miter/cutting purposes, the mass of the jig/tool helps to soak up and dampen all of the cutting “noise”. A rigid setup also allows for the tool not to vibrate or subsequently resonate with the cutting action.

Back in the saddle

Back in the Saddle

Room for 5" tires

Almost a bike...

I hope to finish tacking the frame this monday and move on to the seat stays and final welding. Here’s Gordon’s HED Big Deal Wheelset. These are truly a work of art and incredibly light. These are another game changer in the Wide World of Fat.

Bring the Noise


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Finished and built up Ron’s Huntsman this past week – she ships out first thing Monday via Fedex. As I was wrapping the bars, which I always do last – just seems to put the lid on a build nicely – I was once again reminded of my old buddy Turbo. AKA TurboNerd…

Ron's Huntsman : Seek and Destroy Mode

This brings to mind a fond memory. Every time I wrap a set of road handlebars, I’m reminded of a coworker I had the pleasure of working with who had the nickname of “Turbo”. I was introduced to “Turbo” when he moved from the sister store of the bike shop I worked in. He introduced himself, which I can’t recall his name, but then stated “but just call me Turbo”. Ok. Good enough for me. I might have even added his real name in my reply… which might have been my undoing. Well it came down the pipeline that the FULL nickname actually was “Turbo-Nerd”. It seemed he had amended this nickname. So we had some fun with that one ribbing him. Well, he took particular offense to me for some reason and took it upon himself to be my Handlebar Wrap Nazi. Every road bike I built, no matter how tight and perfect those bar wraps were, he unwrapped them, and did it “his way”. Which ironically, from where I was standing, was exactly how I was doing it? But apparently mine was not to his specifications. (He also had a thing about tire pressure too…) So I’ll be damned if my shift didn’t end or I was just coming in for my shift to start and good old Turbo would be back in the shop rewrapping a set of bars I had wrapped the previous shift/build/repair et all.

Each time I wrap a set of road bars, I think of Turbo, those times gone by and I think to myself:”I wonder if these are to Turbo’s specifications?”

Ron’s bike is a mix of business and brute force. On the one side, it’s a smooth commuter, fenders and matching rear rack. Force 22 2×11 with Whiskey No. 7 fork. XT Pedals because nothing else matches their performance. Schwalbe Marathon tires for extra safety and protection – a full 28mm tire mounted on Stan’s Iron Cross Disk specific wheels. But then there’s that time when dirt calls. Roads that lead off the beaten path. This is when the sleeves get rolled up, the cap gets turned backwards, fenders off and 32mm tires go on. Conti Cyclo X-Kings do the job here. This then becomes a bike that comes at you like a knuckle sandwich. “Lead, follow or get out of the way” kind of knuckle sandwich. This is really a great illustration of the Huntsman and all that versatility in a smooth, visually balanced bicycle.

I hope this is to your spec’s Turbo. He’d probably scoff at the bobbed fender.

The Huntsman

There's room for 40's back there...

Ron's Huntsman with Fenders

Ron's Huntsman with Fenders

Ron's Matching Rack

Huntsman in Haul Mode

Huntsman w/ Rear Rack

Bobbed Fenders and Slicks

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Lynn’s Huntsman Di2

44lynnHuntsman XXX Ultegra Di2 + WTB

Been a while as things have been busy juggling some design projects, getting thing sorted for the new 44 Bikes online shop thanks to some Big Cartel muscle and a lot of time on the phone with clients and customers. Somewhere in all that, I’m also getting bikes built! I don’t know how, but it’s happening. Hopefully the things return to a little more normalcy in August so I can have more focused time building. So it goes with being a one man operation. I can’t complain! And I think everyone will be really stoked with what I have been working on and have in store for all of you. Things are coming together and I can’t wait to share what I’ve been working with. So stay tuned.

But back on topic: Lynn’s Huntsman Di2. Finished. Spit Shined. And ready to rumble. We’ve been out for a few rides together since it’s been finished. We scheduled this one months ago and when it was Lynn’s turn in the list, things went together smoothly and I’m really stoked for her to have such a special bike. I think this one will be at The New England Builders’ Ball later this fall / October. Build spec is Ultegra Di2 kit with Shimano’s Ultegra R785 Hydraulic disk brakes. ENVE Cross tapered disk fork. Thomson 110 headset, Thomson Road Bars, Thomson Stem, Thomson Seat Post and Thomson Collar. Crank Brothers Candy Pedals. 32mm WTB Cross Wolves (room for 40mm tires though) and WTB Rocket V SLT saddle. Here she is…

Huntsman XXX Ultegra Di2 + WTB

Let's get in close : Huntsman Di2

Huntsman XXX Ultegra Di2 + WTB

Let’s get in close…

Huntsman Di2 : Details

Huntsman Di2 : Details

And a parting shot.

Lynn's Huntsman Di2

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Huntsman Headed across the Pacific

This one’s headed to Japan. The client owns a bike shop there and specializes in distributing hand made bicycles from across the globe. Sounds like there’s going to be a bunch of 44′s headed over there in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled Tokyo…

Koh's Huntsman

Koh's Huntsman

Koh's Huntsman

Huntsman Headed to Japan

Huntsman Headed to Japan

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David’s Huntsman

David's Bike

Both Ron’s and David’s Huntsman builds are very similar. Both Force 22. Both Stan’s wheelsets and King and Thomson bits. Both sport racks and fenders. But Ron’s has a rear rack, David’s will have a front rack with a matching bag/tote. As I was waiting on fenders for both builds, I couldn’t finish up Ron’s until those came. The way fenders work, at least the ones I rely on, HONJO (IMO, these are THE best money can buy) they come un-drilled. So you can set them exactly where you want. But this also takes some care to make sure that the bridges are in the right locations balancing both tire clearance and fender balance visually. Form and function as they say.

With fenders in hand, I can then determine exactly where the chainstay bridge should be (I determine the seat stay bridge first on tire clearance, with an eye for room for the fender too). But fenders were on their way when I was completing Ron’s build, so chainstay bridge had to wait along with his rear rack. Rather than wait over a week, I decided to move ahead with the next in the list, David’s Huntsman. This is good because it allowed me to keep things moving, have no down time but also allowed me to do a little double duty on fenders and brazing when parts arrived for both of these builds. I have a handful of fatbikes come up next and even more 135mm spaced thru axle fat forks, so I’ll do the same here and maximize some time with setups. So here’s David’s build coming together, beginning with welding his bottom bracket sub-assembly:

Back in the Saddle

Tacking the hidden spot on the seat tube / bottom bracket junction. Weld the 4 points of the compass, then wrap that weld where the Down Tube overlaps the Seat Tube :


All tacked :

David's Huntsman all Tacked

Holding those seat stays :

Seat Stay Tacking Jig

Welding those Seat Stays

Just a few of the tools and equipment to ensure proper weld integrity. Heat syncs and purge fittings. To give you an idea, that’s over $400 worth of tooling…

Purge fittings

And then stitching it all together (my favorite part, albeit the shortest of the process in terms of time investment) :

Let's get in close...


Every start/stop of a weld requires a clean tip of the filler to be cut. No exceptions. The ends once finished, and cooled are contaminated (or can be). Thus a clean tip is snipped. Noticed they were lined up. Gives you an idea of time investment :

Ducks in a row

The work and the results :

Not too shabby...


Head Tube Weldery

Chuggin' Along...

Bottom Bracket Welds

Bottom Bracket Welds

David's Huntsman All Welded

A little brazing and wheel checks :

Brazing on all the small fussy bits

Room for 40mm tires in "attack" mode

David's Huntsman

And then of course, when the work is done and the torch has cooled, we need to suit up and head out to the trails for additional inspiration and a much need refresh of the soul.

Casalis State Forest Sweetness

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Ron’s Huntsman

A while back I received an enthusiastic email from Ron out in Portland, Oregon. Details were decided. Hands were shook. Specifications specified. His turn recently came up, so it was go time. Time to make some chips and build him his Huntsman. Room for 40mm tires if the desire should ever hit, it will live life mostly though with 32mm tires, fenders bobbed for a little flair when things get wet, a rear rack to carry heavy loads to and from work (or maybe for that beer run), Force 22 throughout with some Whisky No.7 up front for fork duties along with Thomson and King playing together nicely to round out this parts mix. Stan’s Iron Cross wheelset for the round bits to keep him running smooth. All flat black with gloss black decals. Fenders and rack painted to match. This is going to be one tough, versatile build. I shit you not. This is what the Huntsman’s all about: hard working, roads less traveled, get’s you outta any fix.. doesn’t talk back. Just does what she’s supposed to do: Shred’s. (There is no Z in Shreds by the way.)

Ron's Huntsman Ready to be Tacked

Down Tube Tacking

Huntsman Tacked

Welding those Seat Stays

Ron's Huntsman all Tacked


Not too shabby for this guy...

Head Tube Welds


Ron's Huntsman

And his rack came together nicely too…

That felt epic..

Ron's Rack + Fender Combo

Parting shot of the whole kit. Check out those transitions from front to back of the fender lines? They form a triangle. That’s negative space talking to us. That gives the form stance, feel and develops the form. These are some of the things that go into the build. It’s not just the build, but how it interacts with the space around it. That’s what industrial design is all about. Gotta play with the positive and negative shapes people. Till next time, enjoy!

Ron's Huntsman Ready for Powder