Lest we be accused of being stuck in the past, here is something that brings us right back to 2015! This as far as I know is the only one in existence (Hugh has steel fatbikes of course) but this one is unique because it's designed with a Rohloff XL / Gates drive in mind. I think the bike looks absolutely stunning. The cable routing is Rohloff friendly, the frame comes apart to allow the belt to be installed, the workmanship is beautiful and I know because I can compare with the Seven frame right next to it. It's got classic written all over it but if you look at the drivetrain, it's all 2015!
I initiated this project with Hugh late last year with the idea of building a fatbike with the XL hub and at the time Hugh said he didn't have a frame yet that has been stiffness tested for Gates drive but he was about to get one ready to be certified. He has other fatbikes of course using Gates drive but they are built with the standard Rohloff hub and so with the introduction of the XL hub from Rohloff, he had to prepare another frame to be sent for testing.
In the meantime, it was getting all the bits and pieces together and that included the Light Bicycle carbon fatbike rims, Hope Fatsno 150mm front hub, Avid BB7 brakes, Avid Ultimate Levers, Surly Nate tires, Race Face stem\fat cranks, and FSA SLK carbon bars. The beltline for Rohloff's XL hub is 72.25mm and 71.5mm for chain so it's important to get the right crank/sprocket combination right from the start.
The geometry was custom and designed with the local geography in mind. Hugh's fatbikes are literally everywhere! So he definitely has some experience with what works around the local trails and what people like and don't like. We tweaked it a bit to raise the BB height from the initial drawings but otherwise left it untouched. The fork is a steel fork and the geometry is such that if in the future a Bluto fork is used, it won't totally mess up the geometry so it's future proof. The rest was then just a matter of time. When I went to pick it up a few weeks ago at Hugh's workshop, it was a sight to behold. There is a reason why True North is so well regarded in these parts and everyone around here knows about Hugh and the work he does. Something about custom Ti frames really speak to me. I picked this up from a customer and friend of mine years ago and I've been afflicted with Ti disease ever since. Part of it is Titanium's uniqueness, it doesn't rust, light yet strong, beautiful unpainted, the simplicity that can be had with titanium makes it unique I think compared to other frame materials.
Part of any custom project for me is to come with something different to make it uniquely yours. It could be a colour combination or a favourite saddle, a custom frame, a Rohloff XL hub ;) The point is to always put your finger print on it so at the end of day, the whole is more than a sum of its parts. It certainly takes more time and sometimes things don't fit or go as planned but that's part of the challenge and fun of it. Often times you have to make changes along the way and timelines can go sideways. So my advice is to always plan early and don't assume things will just bolt together. Plan for mistakes because we're all human, parts not arriving and or sometimes missing. Custom projects are fun for me and while it takes more time and effort, it's well worth it in the end. Come check the bike out at the Toronto Bike Show this weekend and if all goes well (fingers crossed), it'll be rideable!