Bikes of the (staff) Bunch: Matt Wikstrom’s Baum x779
In this edition of Bikes of the Bunch, our Australian tech editor, Matt Wikstrom, shares the details of his new bike, a custom-built Baum Corretto.
One of the first conversations I had with CyclingTips founder Wade Wallace when I joined the site was about the bikes we wanted to own. Baum was at the top of both our lists.
This was back in 2011 and I had already been following Baum for a few years. Having spent over 15 years on two steel frames from Australian craftsmen — one from Geoff Scott, the other from Paul Hillbrick — I already knew something about the value of a custom-built frame.
The individuality of a custom-built frame has always had enormous appeal, but why Baum? My reasons were threefold: first, there was Darren’s ideology (e.g. a preference for longer chainstays and steering from the saddle) which resonated with me; second, after plenty of experience with steel, I was intrigued by titanium; and third, the exquisite quality of Baum’s paintwork, which demonstrated for the first time that I could have a titanium frame and paint it.
Four years would pass before I acted on the urge, and it was Wade that set me in motion. Having taken delivery of his own Baum a couple of years earlier, he knew what was waiting for me. I didn’t need much urging, though, and the time was right. After reviewing dozens of the latest bikes on the market, I was keenly aware of how outdated my Ridley Damocles and 10-speed Chorus groupset had become.
My wife deserves special mention for her support for the new bike. Not only did I have her blessing, she wanted me to ignore any budgetary constraints and indulge my every desire. “You’re a bike-rider,” she said, “and that’s not going to change, so get the bike you really want.”
A few weeks later, I was stepping off the train outside of Geelong (having flown in from Perth) and making the short ride to Baum’s factory. Ryan Moody met me at the factory door, and for the next five hours, he took me through the entire process of sorting out the new frame, dubbed x779 according to Baum’s ordering system.
Those hours were perhaps the most indulgent of my life. Ryan wanted to look at me on the bike, talk to me about my riding, show me the factory, learn about my desires for the new bike, and ultimately, show me what my new bike would look like.
Perhaps the most important part of the visit was spent on Baum’s stationary bike. Ryan spent close to two hours gently overhauling my position — a legacy from the ’90s — to capitalise on the length of my legs and, much to my surprise, make use of the core strength that I had underestimated.
In the past, a 56cm top tube and 120mm stem had been used to accommodate my long arms. Ryan’s approach was to reduce the frame size and drop the handlebars considerably. At the same time, he raised the saddle and recommended longer cranks. The stem length remained unchanged, but now I was on the equivalent of a 54cm frame.
If Ryan had shown me the final dimensions for the frame when I first walked into the factory, I might have turned around and abandoned the whole project. I told him as much after the fit session and remained dubious until I started testing the new position out on the road.
It turned out that I only needed a few days to get accustomed to it and the difference it made was immense. I had been putting up with tight shoulders and some neck stiffness for years; there was also tightness in my right hip, yet all subsided within a week. With about 100 frames in front of my order, I was looking at a lengthy wait for my new Baum, however I was able to enjoy my new position straight away.
Aside from a new position, I left the Baum factory with a couple of other things that day. In one hand, I had the geometry of my new bike, and in the other, two ideas for the finish of the bike. For the latter, I could have spent days deliberating the possibilities. However, I decided to choose just three colours — the first to hold my attention — and let Ryan come up with his suggestions.
As for the design of the bike, I considered a range of possibilities including an electronic transmission, disc brakes, and a road-oriented CX bike. Nothing was off-limits, and indeed, Ryan encouraged me to keep an open mind as we explored the options.
In the end, a traditional road bike design held the greatest appeal, and since I really wanted to make the most of Darren’s experience with titanium, I selected a Corretto. The rest of the brief was simple: a race-oriented bike with extra tyre clearance (I enjoy riding unpaved roads) and the smallest tube-set to suit my weight.
Frame: Baum Corretto
Fork: Enve 2.0
Headset: Chris King with Wolftooth cap
Stem: 3T Arx Team, 120mm
Handlebars: FSA Energy Pro, 440mm
Handlebar tape: Busyman custom leather
Handlebar plugs: Fetha custom
Groupset: Campagnolo Super Record, 175mm 50/34T crankset, 11-23 cassette, BSA bottom bracket, dual-pivot front calliper, single-pivot rear calliper, braze-on front derailleur with 35mm adapter
Seatpost: Enve, 31.8mm, zero setback
Saddle: Fizik Aliante, kium rails with Busyman custom leather
Seatpost clamp: DKG
Hubs: DT 240s with Campagnolo Record skewers (c1998)
Rims: Pacenti SL23 (V2)
Spokes: Sapim CX-Ray
Nipples: Sapim 14mm brass
Tyres: Schwalbe Tubeless One 23mm
Tubeless setup: Stan’s 22mm rim tape, 35mm tubeless valve stems, Stan’s sealant (~45ml/tyre)
Pedals: Speedplay Zero Stainless
Bidon cages: King titanium
I left the geometry of the bike in Ryan’s hands, though we talked a lot about the kind of handling and steering that I liked. This was the kind of information that would make up my “profile” and Ryan would use it to make decisions about tube sizes and butting profiles but he wouldn’t go into any of the details.
There were two decisions on the final geometry that were left up to me. I was free to designate how much space I wanted under the stem — I opted for nil — and the seat tube angle would be adjusted according to whether I wanted a straight or offset seatpost. My first inclination was for the latter, but I eventually went with the former after looking at a lot of photos in Baum’s Flickr feed.
There was one desire that went unfulfilled that day. I was hoping to veer outside the mould that has come to define Baum’s bikes — as beautiful as they are, I was hoping for some extra freedom in terms of parts selection — but Ryan would not be moved on any point. The company only works with forks, stems and seatposts from a couple of suppliers because they know they won’t have any problems with the reliability of the parts or the finish once painted in their workshop.
After I returned from Geelong, I went on to fiddle with the paint scheme for a couple of months. Burnt Orange held the strongest appeal, so it was just a matter of finding a combination of secondary and tertiary colours that satisfied my eye. I discovered Sky Blue in Baum’s Flickr feed, and once I added it to the GTB scheme, I found satisfaction. Nevertheless, I packed it away for a month — to rest my eye, as it were — so when I found I was still excited by it, I was ready to give Ryan the go-ahead.
I had a long wait for the bike (~15 months) but the time passed pretty easily, given that I had plenty of new bikes to review for CT. In the past, all of my new bikes came together in a matter of weeks, and that often meant one or two compromises. In this instance, I had plenty of time to decide each part of the bike.
The new bike gave me a good reason to get in touch with Busyman Bicycles. I sent him a copy of the paint scheme and some examples of his work that appealed and left the rest in his hands. He gave me nearly a dozen options to choose from for the saddle and bar tape, and I’ve come to cherish the results that celebrate the year I became a bike rider.
As for the rest of the components, the groupset honours my ongoing loyalty to Campagnolo; the hubs may have been in service since 2011 but I couldn’t see a reason to retire them, so all that I needed was some custom-printed decals to suit the new colour scheme; I opted for Pacenti’s SL23 rims to satisfy my devotion to both alloy rims and tubeless tyres; and after auditioning a variety of bars, I went back to the FSA compact shape that I’ve been using for years.
The day the frameset arrived was a joyous one to say the least, and with all of the parts waiting, I had the bike built by the end of the day. I don’t get many opportunities to build a new bike for myself, so I was torn between making the experience last and getting the job done so I could go for a ride.
The first ride was amazing, the fit of the bike was exquisite, and the handling was a real surprise. However, there was a lot of emotion and expectation surrounding the new bike, so I needed a couple of weeks for that to subside before I could really judge how it performed.
In short, the Corretto is like a ninja: it treads softly, evading the senses, but its intentions are clear and purposeful. It’s the first bike I’ve encountered that steers and handles so well, I haven’t been able to find its limits. I can cut corners at high speed and still have room to tighten my line; I can lean back and take my hands off the bars without any risk of a wobble, regardless of how fast I’m travelling; and I’ve learnt I can carry more speed without the need to keep a finger on the brakes.
As to the nature of the bike, my Corretto is a stiff race bike at its core (just as I requested), but any sense of it is fleeting. That is, until I start riding the bike aggressively, and then I get to enjoy a bike that seems to keep an extra gear in reserve until my lactate levels start to rise.
The bike has already been dirty and wet a few times, and the bike seems to get better as the conditions and/or terrain become more demanding. This was never part of my brief, so I count it as a pretty good surprise. I can’t think of a place where I’d want to ride where I’d hesitate to reach for the Corretto.
Needless to say, I’ve developed a deep love for the Corretto. All of the parts have come together in a way that satisfies the body, mind, and the heart. The only disappointment has been Pacenti’s rims, a nice lightweight rim that offered a great ride, but they couldn’t offer the durability I was hoping for, so I’m replacing them with HED Belgium C2 Plus rims for a small weight penalty (~120g).
There are times now when I’ll take a day off from a bike review to get on the Corretto, and I feel like I’m wagging school. Riding the Baum is a delicious indulgence, and I don’t expect that feeling to subside for quite some time.