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In this week’s edition of Bikes of the Bunch we feature Adrian Goh’s Vanilla Workshop Speedvagen. As Adrian explains, the process of getting a bike custom designed and built can take a bit of time and energy, but the results are almost always worth it.
Having owned bikes in all materials except steel, I thought it was time to see what the hype was about modern steel. I already have three custom bikes and it’s not that I don’t like them, I just wanted to ride a steel bike.
Friends and fellow cyclists had been raving about the quality of modern steel but being aware that the bike can be ‘heavier’ I sourced out the best custom builders and in many a forum the name “Sacha White” from Vanilla Cycles appeared.
Sacha started building bicycles in the winter of 1999. His fame for building kick-arse frames and great riding bikes soon spread far and wide. Long queues formed, with rumours of a waiting list as long as five years. Hence Speedvagen was born, to produce no fuss, custom-built race bikes with continuing input from Sacha.
Although there was a short wait to get on to the list, as they only make limited numbers, the process was simple enough. I contacted Jenn Levo at Vanilla Cycles and after providing the measurements of my current favourite bike (more than 30-40 measurements, including body dimensions) and after a few emails with Sacha, we came to the final geometry.
I chose dependable and not overly lightweight components. I decided to replace the standard Enve stem with a slimmer Deda Superleggera stem that fit the profile of the narrow steel tubes better. I went for Campagnolo Super Record 11-speed because it’s the best (EPS was a consideration, but for a classic steel bike cable shifting would fit better). I then opted for Enve low-profile tubulars with custom painted DT hubs to finish off the frame.
I included a carbon seat tube for that cool ‘lugged’ look and slight weight savings, and I chose a SLR Kit Carbonio saddle. The bike weighs 6.6kg with the Enve wheelset, or 6.7kg with the Lightweight Gipfelsturm wheelset you can see in the photos.
The only thing I would have done differently, in hindsight, would be to make the toptube slightly longer and the headtube slightly shorter.
I’ve ridden this bike almost exclusively for the last four months. Rides include hors categorie climbs in Malaysia — Jerai, which is 12km at 10%, and Genting Highlands which is 7km at 12-15% — the cobbles of Flanders and the cotes of Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The bike performs well on asphalt and cobbled climbs. It’s light enough for long climbs and comfortable enough for cobbles. Just great.