Not the rider, the mechanic. Baltimore-born Mr. Michael Webber, Above Category's service manager. He's seen it - and touched it - all. In that sense, this bike is special. We'll let Michael take it from here to tell the readership why.
The mechanic has likely the most intimate relationship with your bicycle and the intricacies of its components. The mechanic will know what works with what. This mechanic knows what you’ve been doing with your bike. Sometimes, but not always, the bike mechanic chooses the build components. My bike was one of those opportunities. I hand-picked each piece of this build. I was given full-reign and carte blanche on the selection. This isn't entirely rare, as I have a lot of input in most builds, but this one was special. This one is mine—and I must say, it is the finest bicycle ever created.
Our readers may notice some not-frequently-used brands and labels with this particular assemblage. Throughout the process: the planning phase, during acquisition, even during the scheduling and building phases (and I'm sure well into this bicycle's existence) I've been asked why this or, why that, choice of component? Why? WHY? We wanna know, why?!
The most frequently heard question is, "Why those wheels?", so let’s start there.
Mavic Open Pro UST rims laced to Tune hubs. I oftentimes go for parts that I've not had much opportunity to work with in my history as a wrench; or I look for "new" tech to try or test out. That’s either new to me, or maybe somewhat new to market. Like most mechanics I would imagine, experience with the Open Pro rim is... colorful. Mavic recently released a new wider and tubeless version of its old hand-built faithful. I've built more HED Belgiums than I can remember, love that rim, but there's suddenly this alternative. Why not try it?
Betwixt la jante et le moyeu reside the spokes (les rayons). I opted for our wonderful stand-by the Sapim CX-Ray. Why? (No one at all asked). Because while they’re my go-to spoke, and I haven’t built my own wheels with them yet. And what of les moyeux? Tune hubs? Why? This decision was strictly based on novelty; it was solidified by the Tune tag line that’s etched onto the headset, “Born in the Black Forest, Built to Enjoy Nature”. When I first inspected these unbuilt hubs, I began getting really excited about this build, these seemed just the right amount of experimental for my taste. To me, this was New and Different. All together, we're looking at a 1300g wheelset. Not too shab. Time will tell how well they ride, so far, I’m loving their nimbleness with climbing, and the ratchet has a elegant and delicate metallic sound while coasting, it’s really pleasing to hear. Oh, can't forget the skewers - giving Chico-based Paul Components, a nod to the locals making stuff in our backyard.
Didn't I just mention the headset? Yep, Tune here too. At one point, Baums used to have an option for a Tune headset, I was certainly hesitant to take the step away from the ever reliable Chris King NoThreadset, but again, I'm willing to experiment with my bike and the complementary bearing aesthetic appealed to me. Bonus: it's a stupid lightweight headset. That brand-matching aesthetic bled over to the Tune Schraubwurger seat collar, despite it being ill-advised by the makers that be—Baum.
BRAKESee Cycleworks, why? Because I haven't come across a better, as lightweight, or amazing feeling rim brake caliper in all my travels.
Vitoria Corsa G+, why? Corsas because they are the most comfortable and performance driven tire I have ridden to date and they also have that classic look that seemed necessary. And why not tubeless, what with your UST rims? Tubeless is an option I'll try, I'm certain. Give me time.
NO ELECTRONIC SHIFTING?
Nope, SRAM Red 22, mechanical. But whyfor? Admittedly, I'm a sucker for the tactile feel of quality shifting, feeling the tension of the cable releasing, clacking up to smaller cogs — the deliberate and delicate force of adding back tension on the downshift. Love it. And yes, I am running a front derailleur, having that dexterous control of rapidly launching that chain to the big ring. Yaw-daddy! SRAM, in my opinion, delivers that sensation the best—not new to me, but rather extremely familiar.
A Force cassette? Isn't this Above Category?
Because they're damned shiny when they're clean, and cleaning them is a treat. Remember I'm a mechanic, a dentist per se, I like the ability to clean between teeth easier and more thoroughly.
Wait, a powermeter! What are you training for? I'm trying out something new, gaining familiarity with something about my fitness, in turn to be able to speak to you more about powermeters. The more I ride something and gain that intimacy with a component the more I can help you with yours. The Red Quarq was the obvious choice given the SRAM build. La puissance, ooh-la-la!
The CeramicSpeed BB between those crank arms; need I mention why? Have you seen these bearings spin? I just thought I deserved it. You know: treat yo’self! Swapping out the pulleys for Kogel’s ceramic offering just rounds out the upgrades.
LA POMPEI also went with a frame pump. The paint-matched Silca Impero Ultimate frame pump. I can just imagine hearing them reflect to themselves as I roll by, chouette! I think it goes nicely with the build.
Not to downplay the other pertinent question of the rationale of this build, but saving the best for last: why the paint? If it hasn’t been hinted at enough already, there’s a French air to this build. I have a fondness in my heart for the French, le Tour, and amazing memories of a significant birthday trip to France recently. This frame is a gift for the subsequent personal holiday and I thought, what better way to commemorate the experience than by pairing it with a gray Parisian day and visions of le Tricolore.
And why Baum? Like I mentioned earlier, it is the finest bicycle ever created. That’s why.