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Old 03-05-2013, 12:27 AM
yetitotheheady yetitotheheady is offline
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Black Mountain Cycles: Road Review

Black Mountain Cycles Road Frameset

Inspiration:

I was inspired to build this bike after a few years of seeing a change in the bike industry towards endurance, plush, all-road, rough road, gravel bike, sport touring, club racer, strada bianca, ect type road bike. Pick whatever name you like. The common thread being slightly more relaxed geometry, longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, longer headtube, clearance for larger tires, and sometimes fenders/rack braze-ons.

After attending NAHBS in Sacramento, seeing all the great custom bikes on this forum, and hearing about D2R2 or similar rides, I began looking daily for the right frame. I drooled over custom or semi-custom frames but had to be honest with myself; the only way I would afford one was second had. So I checked daily in the classifieds, ebay ect. for something, for an untold amount of hours. Either price was still too high for me or size was wrong for me.

Finally in one of my endless searches I came across Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes Station, CA. Its a one man operation run by Mike Varley. He has a great reputation as a mechanic, and has 10+ years of experience as a bicycle designer for Masi and Haro. He knows the ins and outs of the bike industry in Taiwan. So it made sense for him to revisit his friends overseas to start making frames under the name, Black Mountain Cycles, that reflect his type of design and riding style. He offers two frames currently, a road frameset, and cross frameset. These are not simply a generic frame that decals are thrown on. Mike has the tubing custom made to his spec, he tested frameset built with different butted tubesets looking for the ride quality his was looking for and finalized the geometry. What he came up with is a tig-welded, double butted, heat treated tubeset with 0.8mm/0.5mm/0.8mm wall thicknesses. He orders them in small batches 50 or so, in two colors, in these sizes and once they're gone he puts in for a new order for more. Since his cross frames have been a big hit, he is finishing up the details on a USA produced frame as you read this review. However, I will always be a road cyclist at heart so that's what I purchased. The following is how Mike Varley describes his road frameset.

"Superb handling, quick, capable of riding on dirt paths (why limit where you can ride), and all-day comfort. Key features of the frame design include clearance for 33.3mm tires (or 28mm with mud guards), stretched chain stay length for all-day comfort, slightly lower bottom bracket height (compared to contemporary road frames) to accommodate larger tires and lower the center of gravity for better descending manners. Included with the frame is a threadless fork with sloping design crown."

I would like to add that Rivendell Jack Brown tires easily fit (see last pic) in this frameset and the frameset has the necessary braze-ons for direct mounted fenders, to be clear, it has a threaded hole at the chainstay bridge, rear brake bridge, and using a daruma at the fork crown to make for a very tidy fender install. Mike said, "that the fender mounts at the chainstay bridge and rear brake bridge are equidistant from the rear dropouts/hub, this makes for a very nice fender line." Oh and the frame comes with all the hardware, seatpost collar, cable guides under bottom bracket ect.

So finally one day I met a forum member in the Berkeley, and bought a low mile, used Sram Force group, then made the drive to Point Reyes Station to check out the frame in person, I liked what I saw, so I bought it. By the way MIke's shop is a vintage MTB museum of sorts, I'm sure some of you guys would love his collection.

So I built it up, my first build, with some help from mechanics at my workplace (REI).

Frameset...................... 56cm
Headset................... PRO by shimano R-11
Handlebar................. PRO plt compact II
Stem......................... PRO plt +/- 10 degree 110mm
Seatpost................... Thomson Masterpiece set back
Shifters...................Sram Force
Front derailleur.........Sram Force, with problem solvers braze on adapter
Rear derailleur..........Sram Force short cage
Chain.......................Sram pc1071
Cassette...................Sram Force 11-26
Saddle...................... Specialized Toupe 143mm
Crankset................... Sram Force gxp 53/39
Tape.........................Fizik Microtex
Wheelset.................. Shimano rs-80 and soon to be velocity a23/duraace 7800/7850
Brakes...................... Tektro 539 standard reach 47-59 reach
Tires....................Rivendell Jack Brown (green label) and Schwalbe Ultremo zx 28's
Pedals.......................Shimano 105
Cables.......................jagwire
Cages.......................cannodale gt40

Future plans: compact crankset, fenders sks chromopastic p35 or velo orange 36mm. High output lights, If Enve ever makes a fork for 47/57 standard reach brakes i might consider one.

Weight with Jack Browns 19.6lbs as it sits in the photos, 19.2lbs with the schwalbe's and 18.6lbs with continental attack/force.

Ride:

I've got about 200 miles in so far with several dirt/gravel road exploring trips on it. It rides great, its comfortable, stable, looks great imho. Its is a ton of fun having a bike that I know I can ride really rough country roads, dirt, or fine gravel. When its raining I'll put fenders on and ride it year round. I own a sweet 54cm Cannodale Caad 10 thats sub 16lbs and its a rocket but with 8.5cm of saddle to handlebar drop its aggressive. For long rides, with mixed surfaces, the B.M.C. road frame is fantastic, same reach but only 4cm of drop make it a great century type bike. I can't wait to explore more back roads with this new rig. How do I know this is the right bike for me, I knew when I felt no need to get online and search for bikes any longer. Saddle height is 74.5cm and tip of saddle to center of handlebar is 54.5cm.

Tires:

Having a bike that excepts larger tires is awesome, the Jack Browns are a ton faster than I expected, compared to 23's I'm used to, JB's are so cushy its nuts, I feel like they might just stay on the bike 99% of the time. I've done a few rides on rough washboard and gravel roads and they have preformed great. The Schwalbe's feel nearly as fast as my Continental attack/force but with more comfort. But the Schwalbe's would never be as smooth and cushy as the JB's because the 33.3 has so much more air volume. The American River Parkway has a great paved bike path 62mile round trip, with pea-gravel jogging path next to it, for fun I will transition back and forth between pavement and pea-gravel with the JB's and it barely feels like a different surface, almost no loss of speed.

In all my searching, IMHO, I do not think there is any sub $1000 frame/frameset that can compete with this Mike's frames, they come close but they fall short in a couple of areas, again imho. Considering these frameset (yes frame and fork) retail for $595, I believe Mike Varley's Black Mountain Frames to be an incredible value, and are very well thought out.

that's all for now: I'll update this post with more info if things change, feel free to ask any questions, but for now I will be out exploring with my new bike.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg DSC02071 (2).jpg (130.2 KB, 2558 views)
File Type: jpg DSC02072 (2).jpg (148.0 KB, 2529 views)
File Type: jpg DSC02073 (2).jpg (147.7 KB, 2532 views)
File Type: jpg DSC02075 (2).jpg (78.8 KB, 2514 views)

Last edited by yetitotheheady; 03-05-2013 at 02:58 AM. Reason: sp
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  #2  
Old 03-05-2013, 12:47 AM
thirdgenbird thirdgenbird is offline
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I dig it. The frameset seems like a great value! I already know how I would build mine
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  #3  
Old 03-05-2013, 12:55 AM
efuentes efuentes is offline
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My next frame
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  #4  
Old 03-05-2013, 01:20 AM
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modernfuturist modernfuturist is offline
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I know these don't have the BLING factor compared to other bikes but it's a solid road frame that is under 600 dollars and accepts fenders and has clearance for Jack Browns. What's not to like? I would seriously consider one if I end up really not liking my 650b frame I'm in queue for.

Also, Mike Varley is an awesome dude. I stopped by during an SFR Brevet because I neglected to change my brake pads before the ride. He happily took care of me and gave me a receipt for my control point!
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Old 03-05-2013, 02:28 AM
yetitotheheady yetitotheheady is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by modernfuturist View Post
I know these don't have the BLING factor compared to other bikes but it's a solid road frame that is under 600 dollars and accepts fenders and has clearance for Jack Browns. What's not to like? I would seriously consider one if I end up really not liking my 650b frame I'm in queue for.

Also, Mike Varley is an awesome dude. I stopped by during an SFR Brevet because I neglected to change my brake pads before the ride. He happily took care of me and gave me a receipt for my control point!
You are right it doesn't have as much bling factor as lets say a Cielo Sportif, Signal Saltzman or IF Club Racer. It does however look sharp and is just as functional. You can also treat it like a tool and not a jewel.

It was a pleasure to deal with Mike, he was very helpful and provided great incite.

Last edited by yetitotheheady; 03-05-2013 at 02:41 AM. Reason: sp
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  #6  
Old 03-05-2013, 08:00 AM
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vav vav is offline
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Black Mountain

Love the bike! I stumbled upon a cross/touring frame from them on Ebay and made an offer and got it. Can't wait to finish it and I am glad to know/hear from your experience so far. I have D2R2 in mind for this summer so the build is oriented to that type of riding Road/off road. The cross frame have clearance for 700 x 45 tires w/out fenders or 700 x 40 with fenders.
And your are right. The frame looks awesome and well built. Congrats!
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  #7  
Old 03-05-2013, 12:47 PM
yetitotheheady yetitotheheady is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vav View Post
Love the bike! I stumbled upon a cross/touring frame from them on Ebay and made an offer and got it. Can't wait to finish it and I am glad to know/hear from your experience so far. I have D2R2 in mind for this summer so the build is oriented to that type of riding Road/off road. The cross frame have clearance for 700 x 45 tires w/out fenders or 700 x 40 with fenders.
And your are right. The frame looks awesome and well built. Congrats!
The cross frame is very cool, its kinda tempting to have both I guess there are few of Mike's customers that do.

I love to see how the cross frame rides with the Bruce Gordon rock n road tires

Though I have never done d2r2. I would imagine the cross frame is more than enough to handle it.

Looking forward to seeing your cross frame built up.
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Old 03-06-2013, 03:43 PM
evo111@comcast.net evo111@comcast.net is offline
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Congratulations on the bike and for sharing your thoughts - well done. Fat tires do make for a cushy ride!

He has an informative website and blog. He shares his years of knowledge and opinions. The number of historic norcal mtn bikes that come through his shop is amazing to see and read about some of the neat details designed and built into the bikes.
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Old 03-06-2013, 10:26 PM
yetitotheheady yetitotheheady is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evo111@comcast.net View Post
Congratulations on the bike and for sharing your thoughts - well done. Fat tires do make for a cushy ride!

He has an informative website and blog. He shares his years of knowledge and opinions. The number of historic norcal mtn bikes that come through his shop is amazing to see and read about some of the neat details designed and built into the bikes.
Yeah Mike is pretty cool, I check his blog almost daily.
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:35 AM
51mondays 51mondays is offline
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Yeah I was interested in their cross/gravel grinding frame. Seems like a super thoughtful product in a growing niche. And great value.
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  #11  
Old 03-07-2013, 08:51 AM
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firerescuefin firerescuefin is offline
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Thanks for taking the time to post the entire story w/pics. This type of bike will be my next build...and BMC looks to be great option!
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Old 03-08-2013, 03:32 PM
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sc53 sc53 is offline
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Thanks for the write-up and pics! I found Mike and his "Monster Cross" frame while googling around for a road frame that would fit my Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road 700 x 43 tires! I have since spoken with him several times, really friendly and helpful guy. He knows his stuff. His blog is great, I picked up some pointers about adjusting my canti brakes this week.
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:42 PM
yetitotheheady yetitotheheady is offline
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Thanks for all of the comments, and I'm glad this post has been helpful to a few of you. I'd say as long as the geometry seems like it would fit go for it. You end up with either a versatile road bike or with the cross frame, a sweet gravel grinder. Can't go wrong either way.
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Old 03-09-2013, 11:08 AM
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vav vav is offline
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Black Mountain

Here is mine almost finished.





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Old 03-09-2013, 05:26 PM
beeatnik beeatnik is offline
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But, Vav, you didn't write 2000 words of copy on your bike. Did you have to pay retail for it?

I keed. I keed.

Love the gravel bikas.
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