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I can’t remember the last time I technically “owned” a bike that I’ve chosen myself. That’s not to say I haven’t ridden some beautiful bikes in my day and I’ve always been thankful to sponsors, but I’ve always looked forward to the process to custom building a bike. So being able to direct the design and build of my own dream bike was a great opportunity.
I tend to travel with my bike quite often and while I don’t mind dragging a bike bag through airports, I hate lugging it into taxis and trains. I knew if I was going to undertake a dream bike project, dealing with this problem was going to be a priority.
Darren Baum has always been on my shortlist of builders to approach if I were to build my dream bike. But even with Darren’s expertise there were a few compromises I’d have to live with if my dream bike was also going to be a travel bike.
I had heard lots of great things about the S&S coupler system that allows you to break a frame in half in order to collapse it into a suitcase. The couplers are said to be stronger that the tubing itself, so no compromise in the ride quality would be apparent. However, what I couldn’t do is select the exact paint job I wanted since the couplers would break the clean lines (and let’s face it, the couplers don’t look that great either).
Even with a limited range of paint jobs available, choosing one felt like the biggest decision of my life. I must have gone through 20 different schemes before I landed on one I was happy with. For a bike I’ll be collapsing all the time and taking around the world, I figured that a minimalist paint job with the natural Ti finish would be the most practical. Check out some of the paint schemes that the folks at Baum have come out with in the past and you’ll see why it was such a difficult decision.
The next big decision was the groupset. This was another practical consideration, but I also wanted something that suited the bike aesthetically, as well as something that worked well. I had been using the Di2 11-speed for the past couple months and absolutely love it. Imperfect shifting is a thing of the past with this stuff.
Plus, on the practical side, the derailleur wires simply need to be plugged/unplugged from the junction box when building/collapsing the bike. There’s no messing around with cables or adjusting derailleurs. Plug and play. That said, I’m still learning about this process and I can’t honestly say that it’s been a joy to go through. It took me two hours to pack it into the bag and was still less that ideal. I’m told that the process is reduced to only 20 minutes after some practice though. However, the ease of negotiating the bike through taxis and trains in Hong Kong over the past couple days makes it all worthwhile.
So how does it ride? Like my dream bike should. It’s my first titanium bike and it has a unique feel. It’s very stiff and feels solid, but you can ride it all day. A carbon bike has this hollow feel to it (which is not a bad thing, in fact I quite like it) which dampens the vibrations better. But the titanium has this buttery “feel” to it. The geometry was fitted and built exactly how I wanted it — fast steering and aggressive — which means it rides exactly how I want it to.
Thank you to the folks at Baum for their time, effort and patience in helping me choose the colour scheme, and for building a bike that I’ll have for the rest of my life. And thanks to Shimano for the Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 groupset that completes the project so nicely.
Have a look at the photos from start to finish.