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by Nic Hanson
February 26, 2016
Photography by Matt Wikstrom
In this edition of Bikes of the Bunch, Nic Hanson tells us the story behind his titanium steed made by No. 22, a Canadian born and now U.S.-based company that takes its name from the atomic number for titanium.
I’m a relative newcomer to road cycling, having started just a couple of years ago with an entry-level Scott CR1. I was really enjoying the sport and had upgraded a few parts but I could see I was better off spending the money on a new bike.
I had been looking at all sorts of higher-end carbon frames, and chatting with Matt (Wikstrom, who happens to be a neighbour and my bike mechanic) about my options, when he suggested I take a ride on the Moots he was reviewing.
Up until then, I hadn’t considered titanium, but that one ride changed my mind. There was something in the way the bike felt that really appealed. It was smooth and comfortable and responsive, but there was something else that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. Looking back, I think it was that I felt more engaged in the experience, more at one with the bike.
Once I decided on a titanium bike, I started searching the hell out of it, and quickly discovered that they cost an absolute fortune. Plus, there is also quite a long wait-list with many of the reputable builders.
I’m quite thrifty and I like a bargain, but budget isn’t really a word that is associated with titanium. I didn’t want any of the titanium bikes coming out of Asia — I wanted some craftsmanship — so I kept on searching, figuring that if I looked hard enough, I’d find a decent, reputable builder that offered value.
No. 22 caught my eye with the award they won for the best CX bike at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) in 2015. From there, I discovered the Great Divide, and I couldn’t find a bad review about the bike.
It ticked all the boxes for me: I like the modern take on the design of the bike and the modest pricing (US$2,899/AU$4,000), plus the finish really appealed. I hate titanium bikes that are finished with vinyl stickers: it really seems a shame when so much work goes into constructing the frame.
The other thing that appealed to me was what I saw in a short video about the company. Everything just seemed to resonate with me, even the Labrador that was wandering around the workshop (my Labrador potters around the home office in the same kind of way).
I didn’t have the budget for a full custom frame so I spent some time with a physio (Star Physio) sorting out my bike fit, which not only gave me a clear idea of what frame size I needed, but also cleared up a few niggles. On paper, the geometry of the Great Divide wasn’t going to be a perfect fit, but it was quite well suited to my needs, so I was happy to order the frameset.
In the end, placing the order required a leap of faith because I couldn’t check the fit or take the bike for a spin. However, it makes for a bigger surprise in the end. Unboxing the frame after it arrived was very special, and I was completely blown away by the final product.
The whole ordering process was a pleasure. Dealing with one of the owners (Mike) was very easy and he was very knowledgeable. And once I placed the order, it was done within six weeks.
The rest of the bike was handpicked with some concession to expense. In the end, I don’t feel as if I was forced to make any compromises (though I have started to wonder what Enve’s cockpit would add to the bike):
Frameset: No. 22 Bikes Great Divide with Enve 2.0 carbon tapered forks
Headset: Chris King Inset 8
Headset cap: Kapz boltless titanium headset cap
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Wheels: H-Plus and Sons Archetype hard anodised rims, White Industries T11 hubs, Sapim CX-Ray spokes, Veloflex Corsa 23 tyres and latex tubes
Bars: 3T Ergonova Pro (440mm)
Stem: 3T ARX Team Alloy (100mm)
Seatpost: Enve Carbon 25mm offset seat post
Saddle: Fizik Antares R3 Saddle With K:IUM Rails
Pedals: Shimano Ultegra
Weight: 7.75kg complete
I was curious about Shimano’s Di2 system, but having no knowledge or experience with it, it was another leap of faith. But just like the frame, the Di2 has surpassed all my expectations.
Building up a bike allowed me to personalise parts of it, which is why I ordered a boltless titanium headset cap from Kapz. I was able to get it laser-etched with a Lancashire Rose as a nod to my roots (I emigrated from Preston, Lancashire to Perth, Australia 10 years ago).
The Great Divide has turned out to be a dream bike. I’m not bored with looking at it and I’m always excited to jump on it. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, and I don’t think it’s one that I’ll ever let go of (but there’s always room for one more in the shed).
The bike is quiet, smooth and responsive and is proving to be a great all-rounder. What I like is that it’s just as enjoyable sauntering along as it is going for a blast. There’s some toe overlap that has almost caught me out on a few occasions but I really like the short wheelbase because it makes it much more manoeuvrable. One other thing that really stands out for me is how memorable it is, the ride always seems to linger after I get off the bike.
Matt (Wikstrom) deserves a special mention. He built the bike and his expertise was invaluable. I would have made a couple of costly mistakes without his advice, so I would suggest that anyone considering a custom build should get some guidance from an experienced bike mechanic when selecting components. I’d also urge anyone thinking of upgrading or taking on a new build to consider titanium.