Friday, January 10, 2014

Bina's Africa Bike

Bina is taking some time away from the shop for a few months to undertake a pretty awesome journey - she's working as part of the support crew for the 2014 Tour d'Afrique overland ride that goes all the way from Khartoum to Cape Town, a 12,000km journey through some of the most amazing places in the world.

She'll be riding for much of the time and a special trip demands a special bike - so here's a rundown on the custom bike that Bina ordered and is now riding in Africa. A cross between an agile mountain bike and a traditional touring bike. Already officially named Le Petit Graveleur. Of course, it's a Signature Bilenky - literally:

Built from lightweight steel to a very special design:

- True Temper heat-treated downtube with an ovalized profile - stronger, lighter and with a small-radius curve behind the headtube, to be more resistant to buckle-failure. A rigid bike takes a lot of front-impact - so rather than a heavy tube we used a different shape to get the same strength.

- Undersized thin-wall toptube - a 7/8 diameter tube, smaller than most production bikes, increasing the lightness and comfort of the bike to match the weight of the rider. Not every mountain bike has to have oversized tubing. We build bikes that match the uniqueness of every rider. That means we choose tubing that matches the rider and where and how they're going to ride.

Check out those curves. Custom top-tube kept low to allow an easy standover clearance. Large tire capacity to allow 2" of rubber to tackle any kind of terrain. Wide curved stays and a special bi-plane fork crown. Fork blades are lightweight - again tuned to match the rider and absorb bumps.

Comfortable geometry to allow for all day riding.

The custom cable-run on the toptube allows us to go between the seatstays (a benefit for smaller bikes) and visually follows the curve of the toptubes and compliments the lines of the frame. Attention to detail. Intelligent design.

The finished bike all built up and ready to ride. Components as follows:

  • Cantilever bikes allow mud-clearance with simplicity of repair in a touring situation. We thought about disc brakes but they just weren't necessary.
  • Brooks B17 Narrow Imperial, a comfortable saddle for many women riders.
  • A hand-picked groupset that combines high-end road parts for lightness with a 2x10 mountain range - simple front-shifting but lightweight and practical. Remember that three-quarters of the weight of most bikes is components. Here we're able to balance durability and quality and weight - it's possible.
  • White Industries hubs - light, durable, made in the USA. We love'em. Free spinning, we've been putting them on Bilenky custom bikes for 20 years and will probably continue to do so for another 20. Laced to DT Rims, our rim of choice.
  • Panaracer Protek tires to protect against thorns and rocks. A lightweight version of a big tire for a suspension-like ride.
  • Chris King headset - the industry standard.
  • Cross levers for extra comfort and variety of riding position.

And here it is on location in another continent, complete with a Berthoud saddlebag ideal for a supported tour or credit-card touring:

All of these options that go into making this bike unique and appropriate for Bina's journey are available to build into all of our custom bikes. But of course, you'll have all your own requirements. For us that is one the pleasures of being a custom builder. You can change any component on a production bike, but with custom everything about the frame is changeable. You're unique and your bike should be too.

You can follow Bina's trip at the Tour D'Afrique blog. We'll be asking her again later on how she's getting on with the bike.

Check out the Philadelphia Inquirer article on Bina's trip.


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