Bikes of the Bunch: Primus Mootry titanium criterium racer
Say you were a lifelong road racer and had a master frame builder as a brother; what would you have him build? That’s the question Dan DePaemelaere asked himself a few years ago, and for him, the answer was simple: a no-nonsense TIG-welded titanium workhorse purpose-built for the kermesse-style race scene of the Colorado Front Range.
Sometimes it pays to be nice to your siblings.
Dan DePaemelaere dove into the Colorado road racing scene in 1985. Thirty-two years later, he’s still going strong — both figuratively and literally — and racing continues to flow through his veins. So when the opportunity came for him to get a new custom titanium frame, there was little question what he would ask for.
To add further incentive to the deal, it wouldn’t be just anyone building that frame, but rather his own brother, Joe, the sole proprietor of highly regarded local outfit Primus Mootry and one-time bike sponsor of American cyclocross legend Katie Compton.
Dan DePaemelaere had long ago settled on a geometry that worked well for him, one with slightly steeper angles, a taller bottom bracket, and generally twitchier handling that suits the type of racing he does in Colorado. Brother Joe had already built a scandium frame for him a few years prior, so it was mainly a matter of transferring those dimensions over to titanium, and then working out some of the details.
“I typically want something that’s a little bit quicker than something built for long [road] races,” he said. “I typically tighten up the wheelbase a little bit because I want it a little bit snappier. But otherwise, it’s just basic geometry that fits me. I think it’s 73 head, 73.5-degree seat [tube angle], a 54.5cm top tube because I am a little longer in the torso, and a 52.5cm seat tube.”
DePaemelaere also wanted a bit more stoutness than what is often found on titanium frames to better suit the bike’s target purpose. The 7/8″-diameter chainstays are bigger than usual, the down tube is slightly larger as well, and up front is an oversized head tube that envelopes an internal-cup headset. All of the tubing is straight-gauge, rather than butted.
“I wanted him to build it a little stiffer,” he said. “I like them lively, and I want them to go forward. I knew the instant I got on this thing and started to ride down my driveway and out to go for a ride that it was stiff, but I could also ride this thing all day long and it’s not going to punish me.”
DePaemelaere put that “all day” comfort to test last year at the Robidoux Quick and Dirty in Gering, Nebraska — a 75-mile-long event held primarily on unpaved road and populated almost exclusively by gravel bikes. Despite being distinctly outgunned with comparatively skinny 25c tires, DePaemelaere still finished 11th out of 73 starters.
“That race was one of the hardest I’d ever done, and I was the only person on a road bike,” he said. “And yeah, my back hurt a little bit, but if I had done it on any other bike, I never would have made it. This thing was just super comfortable.”
As a longtime industry insider — he’s been the sales and logistics manager for Wheels Manufacturing since 2006 — DePaemelaere has plenty of resources available when it came to procuring equipment for the build. Nevertheless, it’s a straightforward setup that reflects his workhorse ideals.
DePaemelaere had already hopped on the electronic groupset bandwagon with the original Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 7970 electronic groupset, so for this bike, a newer Dura-Ace Di2 9070 package was an easy choice. He kept his old externally mounted battery, however, and instead opted to just upgrade the wiring harness for more routing flexibility. Speaking of which, the internal routing arrangement is especially neat and tidy.
DePaemelaere — a meticulous mechanic who insists on doing all of his own work — recently upgraded to Shimano’s new handlebar-mounted junction box, which he had to source from the UK since they were still too rare in the U.S. From there, he fed the wire through a small hole he drilled near the end of the bar to the left-hand lever. Another wire joins the two levers together, and then a third goes from there to the port on the head tube. Meanwhile, the latest Shimano D-Fly wireless communication widget is secured underneath the saddle shell, where it’s not only readily accessible, but visually hidden.
One might think that, as a racer, DePaemelaere would prefer deep-section carbon fiber tubular wheels for racing. And though he has a set of older Edge Composites (not Enve Composites) wheels in his stable, he prefers Shimano’s C24 aluminum/carbon fiber hybrid clinchers for their bombproof toughness and tubeless compatibility.
“For me, it came down to price, availability, weight, and durability — and I like tubeless. I’ve converted everything over to tubeless. I miss riding on tubulars sometimes, but the older you get, the busier you get. I just don’t have the time anymore.”
As expected, DePaemelaere’s Primus Mootry isn’t the lightest machine in the world, but then again, it wasn’t supposed to be. Total weight as pictured is a very reasonable 8.00kg (17.64lb).
“I’ve never been that big of a weight guy,” he said. “I want to feel stuff. I want to feel what the road is doing underneath me.”
Nevertheless, the bike isn’t 100% business.
Although the finish has no paint to chip or scratch, the custom anodizing incorporates some deeply personal touches. An eight-ball on the head tube and sixteen dots on the top tube denote DePaemelaere’s birthday (August 16th), and the classic Lion of Flanders is but a slight downwards glance away any time he’s in the saddle.
“I grew up with the Coors Classic — right here — and my dad used to take us to watch the races. I saw Bernard Hinault, I saw Greg LeMond, I saw Phil Anderson, I saw Moreno Argentin. I saw all of those guys race their bikes. I could reach out and touch them. That’s what got me into racing; it was because of my dad.
“My dad’s side of the family is Belgian — my cousins live about 5km away from Oudenaarde — and I have to have the Lion of Flanders on there. My dad isn’t with me anymore, so it’s just my little gentle reminder that he’s always riding with me. It means a lot to me.”