Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Custom Bicycle Build: All City Nature Boy


I love single speed bikes.  There is just something in the uncluttered simplicity offered by a bicycle with one gear and brakes.  When there's a hill you pedal harder.  On flats you spin as efficiently as you can.  Down hill you go as fast as you can spin, and as quick as your abilities allow.  The aesthetic appeal of a dedicated single speed is also hard to ignore.  There are fewer cables hanging around, no dangly derailleur bits hanging off anywhere. Simply put, it is a bicycle, uncluttered and not complicated.

The All City Nature Boy appealed to me for these and other reasons.  I wanted to build up a single speed cyclocross/gravel/mess around town bike.  I wanted a bike that felt like my Potts in terms of simplicity and clean lines.  I was looking for a bike that was a bit less than true race quick.  The Nature Boy fits all of these requirements.


I like svelte bikes.  Not necessarily light bikes as commonly thought of, but bikes that feel light under foot.  Sure handling, nimble, and easy to spin up to speed.  Part of that comes from a solid frame and fork with well designed geometry, but components factor into that as well.  This bike is a mix of light wheels, big tires, old parts, new parts, comfort and performance.  I am very pleased with how it turned out.

Geometry wise this bike could have been built for me.  It has a 565mm effective top tube with a traditional longer seat tube.  This makes for a bigger open triangle for shouldering when CX racing.  It fits my size foot, long legged frame perfectly.  The head tube on this bike is taller than say Surly's Cross check by quite a bit.  This works really well for me, and yet isn't so tall as to be too high for most folks.  The bottom bracket is lower on this bike than true race bikes, keeping the ride stable and  reducing the feeling of being on top of the bike.

A nice head badge and crowned fork really class this bike up a lot.  TRP mini v-brakes handle stopping nicely.  They are easy to set up, and offer nice modulation and power.  I like the aesthetic of the straight arms on this build.  I think the clean cable runs and fit and finish compliment the overall feel of the build.  Both the fork and the frame have plenty of clearance for the Continental Cyclocross Speed 42c tires I prefer.

Old Race Face I Beam road cranks really add a further touch of class to the bike.  I found these used a while ago and have been waiting for a project to use them on.  I love the unique look of them, and the offer a very narrow q factor which feels great.  Gearing on this bike is 42-20.  It is hard to get up the hardest hill around here, and spins nicely on the flats.

I used a 20t White Trials Freewheel on this bike because I had it laying around.  I love the way these sound, and the engagement is nice even on the road.  Stand up and crank and they wheels are instantly there.  It feels great on fast ride on this bike.  The All City Hennepin Bridge drop outs with built in tensioning screws work and look great.  The wheels on this bike are built around Paul Components bolt on, high flange hubs.  The roll forever and look amazing.  The wheels are laced with DT's ultralight Revolution spokes in a three cross pattern to some 440 gm Bontrager CX rims with black brass nipples.  They are light and plenty stiff.  Combined with these tires they spin up and roll like a dream.  

The color of this bike is listed as "Blackened Blue."  It is a black paint with a blue and purple metallic clear over the top.  It is quite hard to photograph well, but looks stunning in person.

To get the brake cable out of the way for shouldering All City chose to run the cable through the top tube.  I've had this done on custom bikes for myself in the past and I'm a huge fan of it.  It's clean and works very well.  The little lugs around entrance and exit holes are a classic touch.

This is a great bike.  It's stable, stiff, and lively feeling.  The components really match the intended use of the bike, and it's a blast to ride.  From around town bombing to gravel to single track this bike has proven to be a hell of a lot of fun.  I look forward to riding it for a long time to come.

I'll leave you with my favorite photo of this bike, and of any bike, I've seen in a long time.  It was taken by my good friend John Ebling on one of our town ride around Northfield.  Lit by bike light.  I love it.  Have a good one.


Head Honcho said...

so very nice Ben. I like this better than the Salsa. I think its the SS thing....And those tires...OH! those tires.

TGooz said...

Very nice, Ben!

Ben said...

It is a very clean bike. Man I love single speeds. It has a very solid, confidence inspiring feeling to it. It just makes me want to jump on and go. Gotta love that.

Jason said...

Sweet ride. How are the brakes? No need for any sort of brake booser like a Problem Solvers Travel Agent? Really like that build. Well done.

Ben said...


I like the brakes a lot. They require no Travel Adjusters as they are shorter brake arms designed for short pull road brake levers and STI levers.

Thank you for the compliments.

Jason said...

Thanks Ben, might look into those brakes for my cross bike, or should I say "gravel bike" since it sees no cross racing. ;)

Oscar said...

nice bike ,i ordered one myslef last monday in 52cm.
How tall are you Ben and whats youre inseem?

Ben Witt said...

I am 6' tall, and wear a 33" inseam pant. I have a short reach.

Oscar said...

thanks for the rep Ben, in the mean while i got my NB and i love it so much just like you said the only thing i wanne do is hop on and ride it all day .
the 52 fits me good im 5 10 have a 82 inseem and also a short reach .
i also would like to have the mini v's can i mount them on a complete or do i have to buy new brake levers?
im running now the original tektro levers on the bike.