Walter Croll, framemaker from Minneapolis in the 90s, is a bit of an enigma in the bike building world. He’s well respected, his bikes are beloved, he mentored others to become fine bike builders. But do a Google search on the guy and you get a few anecdotes off a forum or two, the knowledge that he wasn’t in business long, an understanding that he helped launch others into the bike building field (think Erik Noren and Peacock Groove Bikes for one), and the surprise that he left the bike world to teach guitar (on which I can find no other info, so I can’t really verify that). You’d think, considering the respect this guy garnered, that there’d at least be a short Wikipedia article. Nada, zilch, zip.
Anyway, Jimmy Raggett, a mechanic at Two Wheel Tango, likes his Croll. He bought it used from Lew Kidder, an Ann Arbor sporting icon. Lew bought it new sometime in the mid-90s from Cycle Cellar, where Dennis Pontius (a Two-Wheel Tango owner since its inception) worked at the time. Who said the world didn’t go in circles? This is a Croll road bike. It doesn’t have any other name, like Dancing Fawn, or
Speedy Guy, or Pont-du-Gard. It is what it is.
This Croll is a beautiful example of a handmade road bicycle. It’s TIG welded 853 Reynolds steel. I know nothing more about welding than this: In college I took a class in it and set my jeans on fire. Otherwise, I learned little (my fault), and escaped with my leg and dignity slightly singed. But, here’s what they say at gowelding.org: “[This method] uses a gas to shield the weld metal. The gas keeps the metal being welded from being effected from natural elements in the environment, such as oxygen. This allows the welder to operate at a continuous rate, making the process fairly quick.” There you have it in a slightly butchered syntax. I do know that 853 is known for its durability. I also know that it doesn’t burn you.
Jimmy uses a heavy duty 28mm Armadillo Elite tire for both road and dirt. It has a road tread pattern, but this is one tough tire and handles both road and dirt well.
The Croll seatstays and fork are wide enough to accept large tires, much larger than 28mm, which makes the bike quite versatile for all seasons.
Jimmy’s dreaming mind is always bouncing from one bike to the next, but it always bounces in the realm of steel, particularly hand-made. Press him and he’ll get specific, a DeRosa Neo Primato. It’s a hand-made Italian steel bike…of course. Consider, here’s a guy who works on bikes daily. He has an eye for nice stuff.
Frame: Reynolds 853 Steel
Fork: Reynolds Steel
Bike Weight: 20lbs.
Gruppo: Shimano Dura Ace (brakes) and 105 (nearly everything else)
Shifters: Shimano 105 downtube friction levers
Brake Levers: Tektro
Cassette: 10 speed
Chain Rings: 53/42
Pedals: Shimano 105 Road
Tires: Armadillo Elite 700 x 28mm
Standard 1-1/8″ headtube
Bottom Bracket: Shimano Octalink
Bottom bracket shell: English 68mm
Saddle: Specialized ?
Color: Vibrant Blue