by Uncle Crusty
With middle age (and the mandatory mid-life crisis) rapidly approaching, I had choices to make. How to compensate for my thinning hair, growing waistline and need for speed. Hookers? Blow? Sports car? Nah, that’s amateur stuff, plus, I love my wife, and she can have the sports car.
What I wanted was something I’ve lusted after for a long time- a REAL bicycle. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had lots of bikes, but they were usually of the mail order, no-brand variety. I started buying cheap-ass mail order bikes in high school, racking up my first SuperGo before Performance bought the company.
My current fatbike is a Motobecane from BikesDirect. On one of my mail-order steeds, I even had a replica “Next” decal printed on it. It got some great looks at El Tour de Tucson one year as I finished in the Platinum category on my “Walmart” bike.
The big 5-0 was approaching, and I actually had some cash hidden in a dog poop bag in the garage. It’s a good hiding place, but you have to be careful when you throw out the used bags. No one in the family will touch it, so it’s reasonably safe.
So what to do? A friend of mine who competes head-to-head with me in the category of crustiness suggested I look at Breadwinner Bicycles. He raved about these handmade beauties from the Pacific Northwest; Portland to be specific. Having lived in Portland for 13 years, a connection to my former home was an appealing idea. I wanted a bike with something all of my other road bikes lacked- a soul. Those mail-order jalopies were light, stiff, had a cool carbon weave, but utterly lacking in any character. I wanted something that gave zero fucks about the latest trends, something that would be timeless, something that rode great today and ten years from today. All that, and disc brakes. I’m not a total Luddite.
I spoke at length with Breadwinner co-founder Ira Ryan about what I was looking for, and what kind of riding I like to do. He listened, asked questions, seemed to genuinely care about me and the bike he was going to build for me. Drawings of the frame were sent, we agreed on the spec, and off we went. At some point I was going to have to tell my wife, but that can wait. It’s now been in the house for almost two years, and she still hasn’t noticed it.
The joy that filled my heart when I saw the Bike Flights box on my porch was immense. The bike was packaged superbly- just pop the wheels on and ready to go (and make sure the Di2 was charged) The build is as follows:
Frame- Columbus Life tubing, ENVE carbon road fork
Gruppo- Shimano Ultegra Di2 8070 Hydro (Never SRAM!)
Headset/Bottom bracket- Chris King
Wheels- HED Ardennes SL plus
Seatpost, Stem, Bars – Thomson Elite
Frame pump- Silca Impero, painted to match
Bar tape- Mythical State Of, Space Tape
Saddle- Specialized S-Works Phenom Carbon (Note- I wanted a white Specialized saddle. Like a good pair of ski boots, you stick with what works, and for me and my tush, it’s a Spesh. Problem being, the one I wanted was discontinued. Tony Pereira, the other half of Breadwinner, searched high and low trying to find a white Specialized saddle, but to his credit, he found one, and I think it weighs about 2 grams!)
Weight- don’t know, never weighed it. Don’t really care, but probably 18-19 lbs.
One thing that got my attention when I took it out of the box was the size of the tubes- especially the head tube. These pipes are big! My last experience with a steel bike was an early eighties Peugeot, so basically going from the outhouse to the penthouse.
First ride was my go-to 19 mile “I only have an hour to ride”, ride. What a revelation! This bike sings- not loud, but almost under your breath, a song you sing while you’re doing something you love. I ingested more than a few bugs on the way home as I laughed and giggled.
Gone were the harsh vibes of mail-order carbon, replaced by the subtle feel of the road- and the roads in Colorado are far from subtle. One of my favorite rides is re-surfaced with airport runway asphalt that transitions to Paris-Roubaix level dirt/rock/gravel at points. The Lolo handles everything with aplomb. It’s steady, confident, ready for whatever Hell of the North, South, East or West you throw at it.
Braking performance is superb- the Shimano Ice rotors let me approach corners at a far higher speed than I ever dared with caliper brakes. The custom geometry of my Lolo also lends a very comforting stability at speed, or as the proprietor of this blog termed it, ‘it’s a GS ski, not a slalom ski.’ Well, I skied a GS ski all my life, so it’s perfect! This is an all-day bike, meaning you can spend all day on it and feel great at the end.
This is also a beautiful bike to look at. I get a ton of compliments on it. Going with white paint was another way of bucking the latest trends that fuel the bike industry. I saw another white bike on the Breadwinner website, and something about that color just spoke to me. I dressed it up with a red Chris King headset and bottom bracket to give a hint of color. I replaced the original white bar tape with a super cool MC Escher-like design from Mythical State Of. (Yes, that’s the name). I see that it’s back in stock on their website, so I highly recommend you get some!
At the end of the day, I could not be happier with this bike. The ride quality and build quality are absolutely first rate, and Ira and Tony are genuinely nice, cool people who love what they do, and really want you to have the best riding experience possible.
As I continue to ride the Lolo, I have found new ways to utilize this phenomenal bike. Being a MAMIL, free time is a fleeting, precious commodity. What with a wife, kid, job, etc., time to ride often gets pushed aside for other, more mundane activities, like shopping for groceries. Blah! Perhaps there is way to combine some activities, to get things done AND ride my bike?
Colorado is known for recreation, and skiing is probably the first thing that comes to mind. However, hunting is a huge part of the tourism economy here, and even as a cyclist, I’m certainly aware of its impact on our local community and economy. I’ve even considered a bit of hunting myself, if only because the damned deer and turkeys are constantly pooping in my yard.
There is a company in my hometown that makes e-mountain bikes dedicated to getting hunters out into the woods, places where your normal wilderness wheelchair, er, ATV couldn’t go. These bikes have enough juice to get you deep into the forest, bag your deer, dress it, and haul it out. Bike hunting instead of bike packing. Which seems like fun, but time consuming. I don’t have that kind of leisure time to get fresh food. I live close enough to a Costco that actual foraging is not really worth the effort.
Having snuck the Breadwinner past my wife, the odds of buying an e-bike for chasing Bambi are passingly slim. Then, there’s the whole time thing. My work schedule permits me to have Fridays off, which I devote to riding. Basically, having the time and resources to devote to hunting isn’t realistic. That said, on one particular Friday, I had enough time before a parent-teacher conference to ride one of my favorite climbs.
The climb comes after a nice 10 mile warm up, but the climb itself is a brute, aptly named “Bellyache Road”. It’s only 5 miles, but it’s steep with ramps well into the double-digits. Beautiful views await you at the top, and a super fun descent rewards your efforts. Speeds of 50 mph are easily within reach, and the super smooth Lolo hits that easily. Towards the bottom is a tight, blind right hand turn, to which I usually take at 30ish just to be safe. Coming out of that turn I had clear sailing into the next set of curves, when out of my right eye, I catch a flash of movement. I look over and see 3 deer running alongside me, out of nowhere.
A doe and two fawns, still speckled with their spots, trotted towards the edge of the road. Cute, you may think. Suddenly, fawn number one decides to cut in front of me, giving me no time to brake. Let me tell you, those cute little fawns look soft and fuzzy, but in fact, they are solid as rocks. I had enough time while airborne to think, “I’m fucked, this is going to really hurt.” I landed square on my back and the back of my head, completing a full flip. A couple of rolls on the ground brought me to a stop, still conscious, and not particularly happy about it.
The triage begins: hands, check. Feet, check. Breathing, check. Car coming at me from around the corner, check! I gingerly raise my hand up to wave at the approaching car, which fortunately sees me and stops. Driver hops out asking, “You Ok?”
I replied, “I’m not sure”.
The driver said, “Did you hit those deer?”
I look up and all three deer are loitering just over the guard rail looking at me, chewing their mouthfuls of grass and Lycra. “Yes. Yes, I did.”
My next thought is of my bike. Panic grips me, thinking my beautiful Breadwinner is toast. I sit up and see it some 20 feet past me. By now, multiple cars have stopped, and another driver picks up my bike and brings it over. Time for bike triage. Frame: unscratched! Rear derailleur: scratched but intact. Shifters and hood scratched but intact. Front wheel: tacoed. Saddle- scuffed, but not bad. Fork looked fine. (Later inspection reveals bent steerer tube, which ENVE replaced at no cost!) Oddly, all the laces on my left shoe were torn open, but there was no other damage to the shoes or pedals. Helmet: well-used.
A kind motorist asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. No thanks- I work in the OR at that hospital, and it’s my day off. No way in hell I’m dropping in. She drives me and the bike home instead. The kindness of humans was in full force that day. Deer, not so much. I swear they were laughing as we drove away.
Once I got home and the shock wore off, I realized that yes, a trip to my place of employ was in order. My hospital has some of the best orthopedic surgeons in the world, who I know well. Once they stopped laughing at my story, I had the shoulder guy look at my shoulder, and the foot and ankle guy look at my ankle, which somehow fared the worst. Amazingly, I managed to not break anything except my helmet (a Catlike Whisper, which I now highly recommend). I did need crutches for a week or so but considering the alternate outcome that was presented to me by our spine surgeon, I got out lucky.
With wounds to heal and a new wheel needed, I retired the Lolo to the basement until spring, Colorado winters not being conducive to road riding. Plus, I have a fat bike, and I’m not afraid to use it.
With spring having sprung, and a new front wheel in hand, (and fork), I was happy to take the Lolo out for a spin. After a few miles I could tell something was amiss- the smooth stability was gone, replaced by a twitchiness I hadn’t felt before. That twitchiness becoming a terrifying speed wobble at anything over 30 mph. What the hell? I tightened every bolt, reseated the wheels, still wobbling like the town drunk. After numerous rides trying to figure out the problem, I pulled the fork and set it upright against a wall. While not seeing any telltale signs of cracks, from a distance I did notice the steerer tube looked a hair off- maybe just a few degrees. Who knew carbon could bend – I thought it would have just cracked. I called Ira at Breadwinner and he said to send in the fork since ENVE has a crash replacement warranty.
One month later, a freshly painted new fork arrived and voila, wobbles be gone. Interesting how something so barely perceptible can make such difference. You couldn’t see it while the fork was in the frame, but I’m glad I caught it. I’m also thankful for ENVE’s replacement warranty and Breadwinner’s quick paint turnaround. Customer service at its finest- one of the benefits of going custom. Many miles later, the Lolo is still amazing.
The only thing I didn’t get out of the whole thing was dinner, or to be specific, venison. Obviously my aim was off and it was a gut shot, not a head shot. I blame this on the new trend of wide wheels and tires. The force of impact was dispersed over too wide an area. If I’m going to try bike-hunting again, I need my old skinny American Classics with the 21mm tires at 110PSI- they would slice like a hot knife through butter! I do think there is merit to the idea of bike-hunting, and with some fine tuning (and body armor), this could revolutionize both sports, purely from an efficient time-management aspect.