It’s steel, it’s relatively light, and it’s just what he envisioned. Tom Pilutti decided on the Gunnar Crosshairs frame on which to build his dirt road wanderer after months of careful deliberation. I know, because I’d often get emails from him asking about what his frame options were, or asking what was the best gruppo. He wanted to build it up himself and once he’d zeroed in on the frame he had some questions about frame size, paint, and the right fork to match the geometry. For this he went with someone with all kinds of bike building experience. He called Gunnar Cycles and got Richard Schwinn, owner of Gunnar, on the phone. Richard himself helped Tom with his concerns. That’s service!
Richard, out of Waterford, Wisconsin, is a descendant of the Schwinn legacy, though he’s not with the Schwinn company these days. The Schwinn brand is owned by Dorel Industries, “A World Class Juvenile Products And Bicycle Company,” according to their website. Dorel also owns the Cannondale, GT and Mongoose brands.
Richard’s companies, Waterford Precision Cycles and Gunnar Cycles, make steel bikes. I’m not going to get into a lengthy description of his process or his philosophy, but if you’re interested, there is a good podcast interview by Diane Lees on the Outspoken Cyclist here. (Find the Outspoken Cyclist on Facebook here.)
Gunnar bikes are the “bargain” bikes compared to Waterford. Waterford is the upscale premium brand. That doesn’t mean that Gunnar is sub-par, but while the Waterford frames are lugged, the Gunnars are tig-welded. Though you can get a custom Gunnar, their focus is production bikes, whereas Waterford is strictly a custom shop.
The company compares the Gunnar to their faithful pet (Gunnar, the dog, was born in 1998 and died this past summer): reliability, discipline, speed, strength, friendliness, and simplicity.
In these days of bikes now built overseas, Tom’s main criteria were to get a steel bike and components built in the USA, and if that wasn’t possible with every component, to get as many of those components from a US company even if they were made elsewhere. The carbon water bottle cages, for instance, are made by Arundel, a company out of Fort Worth, Texas (Tom knows the owner).
Another of Tom’s objectives was to keep the bike as light as possible. There are those who think that steel is the antithesis of light weight, but fully tricked out, this bike weighs in at about 18.5 lbs., a respectable weight for a cyclocross bike. It does help that it’s a small frame at about 53cm.
Tom could have purchased a steel fork from Gunnar, but he opted for a carbon fork from Pedal Force, the CHKO2 cyclocross with cantilever brake mounts. It’s light weight, reasonably priced, it adds an interesting visual dimension with its black diamond pattern that shimmers in the sunlight, and its geometry matches the frame requirements. The brakes are Avid cantilever and the fork crown bearings are the nearly indestructible Chris King.
Why did Tom need a special bike that rides well on dirt roads? After all, he also has a mountain bike that he has used out there in the gritty world of macadam. He’s one of the early mountain bike crew in the area who rode with the local riders in the 90’s on the infamous Loop of Pain, part of what is now known as the Local Loop. He’s still a master of single track mountain bike riding (I know all to well…I’ve suffered trying to keep up with him).
So, why the dirt roads on this new cross bike? Because, he says, “I was motivated by the book,” (what else!), “Dirt Road Washtenaw!” He liked the mountain bike, which is great for trails, but the Gunnar just rides better (and faster) on the back roads. Tom’s a road biker as well. Building this bike from scratch has been a careful, deliberative process, but now that he’s ridden it for the past month he said he hasn’t even touched his road bike. With more places to explore and fewer cars to contend with, it’s made his rides a lot of fun.
Frame: 2011 Gunnar Crosshairs steel
(either Reynolds 853 or True Temper OX Platinum tubing)
Fork: Pedal Force CHKO2 cyclocross
Bike Weight: 18.5lbs.
Shifters: Sram Force
Front Brakes: Avid Cantilever
Rear Brakes: Avid Cantilever
Cassette: 10 speed
Rear Derailleur: Sram Force
Front Derailleur: Sram Force
Chain Rings: 50/34
Cranks: Sram Carbon
Pedals: Shimano XTR
Tires: Ritchey Speedmax 700c x 32
Wheels: Mavic Ksyrium
Saddle: Fi’zi:k Arione
Seatpost: Ritchey Carbon
Handlebars: Ritchey Carbon
Headset: Chris King
Color: Dusty Orange
Cost: The frame base price (no fork) is $900.