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by Garry Millburn
May 20, 2016
Photography by Jeff Curtes
In this week’s edition of Bikes of the Bunch we feature a custom steel frame belonging to Australian cyclocross racer Garry Millburn. Garry, who has represented Australia at the Cyclocross World Championships, recently started working with apparel brand MAAP and the bike you see below is the result of a collaboration between MAAP and The Vanilla Workshop, makers of Speedvagen bikes.
Here’s Garry’s story of how the bike came to be and how it rides, with photos from Jeff Curtes.
The first time I saw a Speedvagen was racing at a local cyclocross race. It was owned by legendary photographer and Speedvagen family racing team member Jeff Curtes. The bike was gold and vanilla blue with splatterings of mud from racing. It looked sharp, it was light; the detail, even at a quick glance, was impeccable — it was nothing I ever thought a steel bike would be and I was really impressed.
A year after meeting Jeff and his Speedvagen, I was training and racing in the USA in preparation for the European cyclocross season. I dropped into my local bike shop in Boulder and there, laid out on their build table, was a Mosaic. I started to think to myself how “one day” I would love to have a custom steel bike.
While in the USA, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Portland to spend a few days riding some of the less-ridden roads. Portland is a Mecca for hipsters, boutique bicycle products and great coffee. Jeff, a Portland expat sorted out a few cool places for us to check out including The Vanilla Workshop, the Chris King factory and Portland Bike studio.
Garry’s Speedvagen at Vanilla Workshop in Portland, Oregon.
The Vanilla Workshop Headquarters, owned by Sacha White, is pretty special. We got to see the guys engineering the frames, the paint shop in action, and even the bikes being packed into custom-made boxes. We were shown all of the frames built throughout the years, which are differentiated by colour schemes which change year on year.
Seeing the evolution of the Speedvagen from road bikes to ‘canti’ CX bikes to disc CX bikes was rad. Sacha and his team continue to keep up with modern advancements in technology and working out how to best integrate that with the beauty of a steel frame.
The Vanilla Workshop had just wrapped up its Speedvagen Fit Tour Down Under when I had gone to visit and perhaps my timing was fateful. Jeff and I had been keeping in touch and the idea of a collaboration began to grow organically. Sacha was looking to expand his reach into Asia Pacific and Ollie, part-owner of MAAP apparel, was looking to expand his brand’s reach internationally. It looked on the surface to be the perfect fit.
Being a part of the Speedvagen and MAAP families has been a unique experience. I have had the opportunity to work closely with both Sacha and Ollie and they’ve allowed me to be a huge part of the process, something that doesn’t often happen when you are an athlete.
One of the most rewarding aspects was to have input on the build of the bike in terms of the geometry and spec. As an athlete I know what I need out of my bike, I know how a bike should fit me, and Sacha as a bike designer and builder knows how to make this work to get the best result. He knows the limitations and advantages of the materials he uses and the way he engineers the bikes. The result was a killer bike!
The frame is True Temper and Columbus steel, paired with a carbon seat tube and Enve thru-axle fork with tapered steerer and integrated seat mast with custom Enve seat post assembly. The Enve carbon features aid in compliance and weight-saving.
The frame is also spec’d with their signature Berzerker rear dropouts. They don’t just look pretty special, they are a true piece of engineering. The Berzerker is cast from a super-strong alloy steel and incorporates a stainless steel inner and outer face plate, providing strength and also protection from wear and tear.
When we worked on the spec of the componentry, everything had to be ready for the rigours of CX racing in Australia and around the world. The frame is paired with a SRAM CX 1 groupset. I use CX1 as it’s a purpose-built groupset for cyclocross no matter what the conditions. It is also lightweight and eliminates unnecessary cables.
The build has an Enve custom-painted stem, Enve compact bars, and a selection of Enve CX Tubulars to race on or Enve clinchers for training. We used a Kogel Bearings Bottom Bracket which I have used in previous bikes and it really stands up to the Australian dust and the European mud. The Chris King headset is a nice bit of kit and after having the factory tour while we were in Portland I really couldn’t think of using anything else.
The collaboration between Speedvagen and MAAP allowed for a custom paint scheme. We kept it Speedvagen-esque however it’s a little special. It is a take on the brand’s horizon theme and we have incorporated a colour from the 2016 paint colour selection. I have to mention the paint shop at The Vanilla Workshop, it is second to none! The time they take and the skill they have is amazing. They spend around 10 hours painting each bike and you can see it.
In all honesty I was a little nervous about riding the Speedvagen. I had never actually ridden one, nor had I ridden anything like it before. Although it happened with relative ease and efficiency it did feel like it took a lifetime to finalise the details and the build. Mainly because there were days when I would be worried that the fit would be wrong, it wouldn’t ride smoothly and it just wouldn’t perform and respond like I needed it to. Then I had days where I thought if Jeff rides one like a demon then surely it should be fine.
My fears were allayed pretty quickly though. It arrived all beautifully packaged in its custom-made box with wooden frame. And from the minute I saw it I knew everything was going to be perfect. It is one thing to look at someone else’s Speedvagen, it’s totally different when it’s your own.
The ride of the Speedvagen Cyclocross bike is very direct and confidence inspiring. The level of comfort is something that you do not get from a carbon fibre bike. It really has a nice feel through the handlebars; it’s something I don’t know how to explain, but it feels really good.
I get so many comments from people when riding the bike, the majority of them frothing over how cool it is. But for some of them it’s about it being old school or not as good as riding a carbon fibre bike. But after years of riding carbon fibre mass-produced bikes I honestly find myself wondering why we moved away from steel in the first place.
The quality and craftsmanship that goes into a Speedvagen might be old school, but the way the bike rides and presents itself is anything but. Their logo is a unicorn for a reason, cause you feel like you are riding a one-of-a-kind and rare bike.