Most folks in the cycling industry know Gunnar. If you don't, here's a brief introduction: In the early 1990's, Richard Schwinn (Great-Grandson of Ignaz Schwinn, founder of the Schwinn Bicycle Co. in 1896) and his partner, Marc Muller founded Waterford Precision Cycles, a small custom frame building operation in Waterford, Wisconsin. These frames were and still are, absolutely beautiful pieces of custom art. As with anything handmade in the USA with quality and care, the price reflected the workmanship. In an effort to expand the custom option to a wider audience, Gunnar Cycles was born, the company's name being shared with a beloved dog that embodied the spirit of the brand.
Despite the recent mainstream infusion of local, artisanal, handmade steel frames... steel always has been and probably always will be THE material of choice for purists of any cycling generation. Gunnar Cycles has made it easy to be a part of the "steel is real" movement, with their semi-custom to made-to-measure frames in a realistic price point (especially considering that this is an American handmade product) that doesn't skimp on the possibilities. Geometry tweaks and dream-scape color options abound, including special effects straight from the Waterford paint booth. Add to that a seemingly speedy production time (as little as 4 weeks compared to several YEARS for some other high end custom brands) and you can make your wildest custom steel bicycle dreams a near-instant reality. Can I have a new gravel road bike by the Holidays? Why, yes. Yes I can. And I will. Veloville just placed an order for a custom Roadie with a few geometry adjustments (always being "between sizes" finally pays off) and a much anticipated color scheme (battleship gray with a blue-green pearl finish as suggested by Johanna) that will be delivered in time to strut our stuff on the Braver Than The Elements ride.
First was a build for Donna. This bike turned out really special and the ease at which it came together was impressive considering the potential hurdles. Donna's Gunnar story actually started when she and her husband stopped into Veloville USA to inquire about a rental. Due to her unique stature and inseam, Donna had always found herself limited to extra small, step-through hybrid frames or kid's bikes. This was putting a real damper on her desire to train for and eventually compete in triathlon events. What she really wanted was a "real" bike, only on her scale, and that was proving to be a particular challenge no factory brand was able to meet. "What about custom?" was our first response when Donna posed the question to us. "Too expensive" was her first thought. Maybe not was the eventual consensus and we all agreed to give it some research. A quick phone call to Gunnar, whereby Scott and Richard discussed the specific needs of the customer, and a design was emailed in a matter of hours. A few revisions later, a frame (at least on paper) was born. Gunnar started with their popular Roadie frame, made some meticulous top-tube adjustments to allow for Donna's standover, a tweak here and there to allow for 650c wheels and voila...instant happiness. No, it is not a mixte. It is a true road bike, just a magically small one, in a delightfully lovely "milkshake" coat of paint.
The second build wasn't born of a special "need" but from an idea that started life on piece of paper and ended up a bike that dreams are made of. Kelli was inspired to join the SSCX ranks after a Velocross gravel ride. Several of her riding companions tackled the 70+ mile, 6,500 climbing feet of Loudoun's steepest, gnarliest roads with one gear. Not to be left out of all the single-speed fun, she got her mind's gears cranking and she and Scott came up with a list of bells and whistles any frame, geared or not, would be proud to sport. The bike started life as a CrossHairs, but after several custom geometry changes, morphed into the Ruffian. Add to that TRP Hylex disc brakes, HED Ardennes FR Plus wheels, FSA SLK Carbon cranks, color matching Chris King headset and an ENVY fork, and this black and orange single speed supermodel was ready for the runway. Kelli is stoked and is also fully aware that this bike could be life-altering. Like the Gunnar website states, "One note of caution – a lot of people buy a single speed as a second bike to complement their fully-geared bike. Next thing they know, the geared bike is gathering dust in the basement. Also, single-speeders tend to get weirder* the more they ride." True. So very, very true. Welcome to the club Kelli. *See SSCXWCKY14 coverage.