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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.