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by Dave Rome
February 2, 2018
Photography by David Rome
CyclingTips’ Bikes of the Bunch series has long shown some of the nicest custom bikes in the world, often accompanied by a story of how the passionate owner long-dreamed of such a ride and lost sleep over countless minor details that went into its creation. This isn’t that. Instead, tech writer Dave Rome shares a look at a bike custom built in Ireland that’s soon to become the property and training tool of current UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) lightweight champion Conor McGregor.
Yes, that Conor McGregor.
FiftyOne bikes is a brand I first came across at Eurobike in 2016. In what was the company’s first public appearance, owner Aidan Duff was hanging around the Enve booth with a couple of bikes showcasing the American brand’s carbon components. As Duff explained then, “(the) company was founded about four years ago, and only started delivering frames about 24 months ago.”
So how have the Irish-made custom carbon frames of FiftyOne changed since launch? According to Duff, the layups have been refined, and weights have come down. The brand have made the shift to exclusively offering T47 threaded bottom brackets only, and a new disc brake model sees a flat-mount rear stay that’s designed and made entirely in-house. As Duff says, “the frame we started with two years ago has evolved, but it hasn’t changed wildly.”
Duff, a former Irish bike racer himself, told us while doing promotional rounds at the Santos Tour Down Under of how the Conor McGregor bike came to be.
“Ironically, his gym where he works out is only about a kilometre from where our workshop is, but the actual link is his trainer and doctor, [Dr.] Julian Dalby. Julian has some impressive records on the track, he won the [Irish national] road race in 1993. When he hung up the wheels, he eventually became a doctor, involved in sports medicine.”
“Cycling is quite a big part of their training routine, and we’d started to work on a build for Julian, and I think when Conor found out that there was a whole world of deep custom that he didn’t know about, he was like, well, you know, I want some of that too. That’s how it came about,“ told Duff.
While FiftyOne typically specialize in traditional race bikes, every one made is unique in its geometry, build, and paint. And certainly, this machine decorated with 24K gold-leaf bike and the words, “Notorious McGregor”, ghosted across it is no different.
When asked about how much of a part McGregor had in the creation of this bike, Duff revealed it was a surprising amount. “What we tried to do is build it within his character, I would say. Obviously, when you’re dealing with gold leaf, it’s a balancing act between making it look distinguished and classy, and looking tacky. Hopefully, we’ve achieved that. We’ll find out for sure when he gets it. He requested the gold leaf.”
“The (paint) details are something we tried to do to balance the gold; the gold leaf is very in your face,” Duff explained of the incredibly detailed, yet somewhat subtle paintwork. “The other details are subliminal and play very well in the sunlight. Inside, you can hardly see them.”
“The whole frame is hand painted; there are no stickers here. It’s all masked, painted, dried, peeled off, and the process repeated again and again. The labour intensity involved is absolutely crazy, but that’s what drove us to do this. We wanted to break away from the normal rules and regulations of not doing things because they take too long or cost too much. Our mantra is build the best bikes, regardless of the cost or whether it takes too long.”
The painter is someone FiftyOne bikes have been partnered with since day one, Duff explained. “It’s about as close as we can get without having it in-house. He’s phenomenal. We started out this journey together and he knows where we are and want to go, and he’s rowing the boat with us.”
The Zipp SL-70 Aero handlebar is painted black and decorated with gold leaf.
Certainly this is one bike that’ll never require a name decal, and the details extend beyond the frameset. The paint theme continues onto the Zipp SL Speed stem and seatpost, and gold leaf is applied there as well. Helping to finish things off are a matched custom pair of Crankbrothers Stamp 11 flat pedals, with “Notorious” etched on the right, and “McGregor” on the left. Naturally, they’re built with gold-coloured pins and titanium axles.
“He gets a lot of stick for his use of flat pedals,” Duff explained, “but there is a logical basis behind it. He damaged his ACL a number of years ago and had a remarkable comeback. It’s not because he’s some sort of super fred and doesn’t know about clipless pedals, but he doesn’t do anything that may hamper or inflame that old injury. He’s also not likely to go do 200km, but rather 30-40km on a regular basis.”
Fizik provides a special Antares saddle with matched gold panels. The rest of the build is from the house of SRAM, with Red eTap wireless shifting and Zipp 454 NSW wheels. The bike features a 53/39T crank and 11-28T cassette.
It would be safe to assume the full SRAM build is there as part of a promotional deal, but as Duff explained, that’s not entirely true. “The SRAM gear is something Julian had on his bike. Conor hadn’t seen the eTap stuff before and so that’s something he wanted to do.”
So when will McGregor get his new ride? “We’re hoping to take the bike with us to NAHBS, and then after that it’s over to Conor,” Duff said. “By that time, there should be a date announced for his next fight. Once that happens, they typically work back on 120 days and then it’s full-on focus.”