It started in the summer of 2019 when Matt from Crust picked up the phone in the old Belmar NJ shop. I was waffling, and not in that wonderful weekend brunch way, but in that “I really want a bike that planes, but getting one in 2019 is a PITA” kind of way, especially one with rim brakes. Matt patiently consumed my waffles and invited me to come test ride whatever was around the shop, but then added an amazing sentence, Ya know, I’ve got a frame in development that sounds like you might like it, it’s the same geo as the lightning bolt but it’s got canti brakes. I think it’s going to end up lighter than the disc version. Violins! Angels signing! Looks like my “me” budget for the year was good as spent.
As if that weren’t enough, Matt continues, I have a test bike in your size, but it’s in Seattle right now for review. You can give it a try when it comes back. As I guessed the significance of this, I hope Matt didn’t hear the thumping of my heart through the phone. Silly, of course. But these are important internet bike people we’re talking about. I immediately texted a bike friend so we could squee together.
Nope, I did not end up testing the bike. My mind got more sure about the purchase as the frames got closer to shipping. Plus, a 60 mile round trip form NYC to Belmar with ferries and two small kids at home would be difficult. I just worked hard and saved up for the parts. Self love is healthy right?
After asking this question on the bicycles StackExchange, I ended up going with very small RH cranks in 42/26. Along with a 10 speed 11-28 Ultegra cassette, this gives a very nice sub 1:1 climbing gear and close spacing. It hits 26 mph for me at 90 RPM and spins out at 30 mph or so. Perfect for exploring, and far lighter than any other option on my spreadsheet, including 1x options.
So… yeah, it doesn’t have lugs. Guess you gotta leave something for the custom framebuilders? I got over it quicker than expected. Actually, it kinda helps make the bike feel less precious and less of a museum piece. It’s still darn near perfect as a first hit of the BQ kool-aide.
To be honest, I had planned to paint the bike. I wasn’t crazy about the production color, and thought a nice British racing green paint job with tan saddle and tan bar tape would certainly be in the bike’s future. But with COVID-19 making logistics difficult, and paint shops nearby me not responding to inquiries, I figured it could wait a year or two. And, honestly, the color is growing on me.
Going 10 speed was a good way to save money on silver components and even saves a bit of weight on the cassette. I’ve been wanting to try Campagnolo Ergopower shifters, and the 10 speed Veloce groupset fit the bill. Making this work with a Shimano cassette required a Jtek ShiftMate 1. The ShiftMate color doesn’t match, but hey, it’s an experiment! Maybe I’ll get the motivation to strip off the anodization if this bike gets a repaint.
Let’s be honest, those Rene Herse canti brakes are beautiful and the lightest in the business, but they are damn expensive. I’d really like to try them, but Tektro CR720s work great and don’t look horrible with VO anti-squeal pads.
These wheels pleasantly surprised me. I used the Pacenti Brevet wheelset in 650b, which are quite pretty and fairly light at a nominal 1540 grams. My set was within tolerance with tight spokes. We’ll see how the hubs hold up. At the time I got them, the set was $399 and Pacenti accepted Apple Pay, letting me spend down some rewards points. They probably have caught onto the value of this set, because the price is now $50 higher.
So, how does it ride? I might not be the best person to ask, since this is my first BQ style bike. However, I think I understand now what planing is! Particularly when I get up out of the saddle, this bike seems to respond pleasantly to power strokes, and the whole thing feels like you’re kinda walking on a set of bowstrings up the hill. None of my other bikes feel like this, and I’m very happy with this aspect of the bike. I don’t think it is really any faster, but it sure makes climbing more fun.
What don’t I like? Besides the color, which seems to be taking care of itself, I do think this bike is slightly larger than I was initially comfortable with. It’s a very Crusty thing to size-up and use a short stem, and I think I’m now OK with this. I’m 5”11’ with an 82 cm PBH, and may be right between the Medium and Large. I wonder if the oversize downtube makes this bike less “planey” than it could otherwise be. I’ll actually get a chance to answer that question, because I’ve purchased the Single Speed version of this frame in Medium, and will build it up as an adventure / travel fixie.
I’ve since built a new front wheel with a SON hub and the “rando obligatory” Edelux II headlight along with a Sinewave Revolution USB charger (I regularly forget to charge my GPS and have it run out of battery). This is also the first bike I’ve been able to consistently ride no-hands. Though whether this is due to the trail (unlikely, as I have another low trail 650b bike), or headset tuning, or weight distribution, or rider position, I can’t tell you. The saddle, a B17, is a mistake given my riding position, and needs to be replaced. The Xpeedo M-Force 8 Ti pedals are a splurge and a weight-weenie part, and I love them.
As pictured, the bike weighs a little over 23 lbs with lights and generator, light pedals and heavy saddle. I’m pretty hopeful that it will remain at about 23lbs with fenders with a few parts swaps: saddle, handlebars, brakes, maybe stem, and maybe downtube shifters. Maybe I can get it to 22 lbs. I’m still very happy with the weight. It’s heavier than light road bikes, but lighter than many gravel bikes, and competitive with my less-capable 700c steel CX bike.
Overall, this bike is exactly what I wanted it to be: A capable explorer that’s as fast as my road / CX bike and as well-equipped as my porteur. It’s also satisfied my curiosity about Rene Herse inspired low-trail rando bikes and Campagnolo Ergopower shifters. It is certainly the favorite bike in my stable. I plan to continue to do longer rides on it, paved and unpaved, and maybe work my way up to some long rando events in the future. □
- Crust Lightning Bolt Canti Frame, Large
- Wheelset: Pacenti Brevet 650b, 28 spoke
- Generator Wheel: Pacenti Brevet 650b rim, Sapim Laser spokes, 28h SON Deluxe Widebody hub
- Tires: Panaracer Pacenti Parimoto 650b, 42mm
- Crankset: Rene Herse 9-12 Speed Double, 42/26
- Bottom Bracket: SKF Square Taper Stainless Steel, 110mm
- Shifters: Campagnolo Veloce Ergopower 10 Speed
- Cassette: Shimano Ultegra CS-6700 10 Speed 11-28
- Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Veloce 10 Speed, Jtek ShiftMate 1
- Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Veloce 10 Speed + some random adaptor to fit the seat tube
- Handlebars: 42mm Grand Bois Randonneur (from my neighbor)
- Stem: 60mm quill stem from my 80s Schwinn World that my 4 year old daughter helped me restore
- Headset: Velo Orange Sealed Bearing 1” Threaded
- Pedals: Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti (I know, right? They’re silver!)
- Brakes: Tektro CR720 in Silver, VO anti-squeal shoes and pads
- Seatpost: Velo Orange Zero Offset
- Saddle: Brooks B17
- Chain: Ultegra 10s
- Headlight: SON Edelux II
- Custom Handlebar Bag from Dill Pickle, handmade by Emily O’Brien, the second woman to ever ride PBP fixed. She is an inspiration for wanting to build a fixed version of this rando bike.