Thoughts about why I chose Steve Rex for the frame builder.
Rex Cycles (custom bikes)
PK Racing (custom bike fitting)
My thinking process about this bike began back in 1997 when my 1987 Trek 400T "Elance" was stolen from my garage. (Rufus wasn't doing his duty very well. Fortunately he was tossed into the shrubbery a block or two away and was found.)
Perhaps that was a fortuitous theft as I needed a mt. bike for that summer to begin the self-contained mt. bike route of the Great Divide. It was planned to be a 5 year saga (3 weeks or so per year), so I didn't need a steel road touring bike for a while. Instead, I replaced "The Blue Steed" with the current Trek 2120. And on that bike I began doing double centuries and the qualifying brevets for PBP, something I might not have done on the 400T. (Although I can't think of any good reason right now why I wouldn't have done those rides on the 400T.) However, "now" became the time for a road steel touring bike in order to begin the Lewis & Clark bike route with the Divide Ride Dogs this June.
I began to slowly slowly slowly research touring bikes. (I can be an inveterate researcher, having both a science research background and a market research background. A curse, really. ) I was pretty sure that I wanted a custom bike. As with many cycling women, it's very difficult to get a bike that really fits. The long legs/short torso/long arms problem. The Trek 520 didn't fit me at all. I thought about Mercian, Bob Johnson, Waterford, Rivendell, Belinky and others. And briefly, Bruce Gordon.
Gradually I narrowed down my choices to Waterford and Rivendell. Rex wasn't even in the picture. I gave up considering frame builders on the east coast (and England)...too far away. But I did look at what Thorn puts on his bikes (as I was in his shop during one particular trip to England). Rivendell is geographically close by, and there is a bike shop across the Bay that works very closely with Waterford. I know cyclists who ride each (Waterford and Riv) and I've only heard fantastic things about each.
But Rivendell takes way too long to build up a bike (from what I am told from people who have his bikes). And although I am a fan of Grant Peterson's "attitude" (for the most part), I didn't want to wait up to six months, or longer, for my bike. And at the time, Waterford wasn't doing a totally custom frame. (I believe that they do now.)
Eventually I heard of Steve Rex. My son is on a local racing team, and Steve built the team's bikes a couple of years ago. (Same shade of blue that I have...smilingly referred to by some local cyclists as "Steve Rex blue" or "Alto Velo blue" rather than its true name of "sovereign blue.") I'd met Steve on some of the PBP brevets in 1998 when he and his wife were riding one of his own tandems. But I didn't really "know" about him until about 2001 when I became more aware of his skill and his range of talents (e.g. not just building racing bikes).
Again, nothing clicked in my brain until last summer. I was on a club ride, struggling up a nasty hill to Skyline Blvd., riding alongside of "some guy." (Name still unknown.) I happened to look over at his bike and noticed that it was a Steve Rex (dark green...very pretty). I said something about, "Oh, you're riding a Steve Rex bike." That started a short conversation about how it was a touring bike built on 26" wheels. That got my attention, as by then I was pretty sure I wanted a bike on 26" wheels (too much influence by Josh Putnam, perhaps. :-) Josh has been to my house with his bike, and I've also seen it while on rides in Seattle, and am a fan of the 26" wheels). So I really began to pay attention to that Rex touring bike as we climbed the hill. This rider had been riding the bike for about a year, and was thrilled with it. It was that ride which turned the tide.
I talked further with my son about his own Rex bike, what he thought of it, how Steve is to work with (amazingly patient!! and helpful), etc. etc. etc. I also happened into a conversation by two bike mechanics (who were on a different club ride that I was on) talking about the outstanding quality of work that Steve does. That clinched it. I would start (and likely end) by talking with Steve about a custom bike. I never considered other local custom builders; I didn't feel that I needed to.
I had been compiling, over the years, a list of things that I wanted on this bike, both after conversations with Josh, Alex, my own touring experiences, things that I picked up from the touring group from folks like Peter Jon White, Sheldon Brown, a couple of Divide Ride Dogs, John Schubert (writes a column in the Adventure Cycling magazine) and my son Tracy (who is an aero/astro engineer working with composite materials and also has a degree in mechanical engineering...and is very knowledgeable [and opinionated] about bikes).
I emailed Steve about it all, and waited for his feedback. Basically, most everything that I wanted was do-able with the S&S couplings, which I also wanted. He said it would take 8-12 weeks to build. It took 11 weeks. One thing that Steve wanted to do, and I didn't want, was a sloping top tube. I don't like the look, and don't need it for sizing. He likes more seat post showing for easier bike-stand maintenance (which would happen with the sloping top tube). I didn't think it was a big deal. I mark the post so that if it has to be raised slightly for putting in a bike stand, it's easy to get back into position. He has somewhat strong opinions about this, but was gracious in designing the bike "my way." I also wanted the fork/stays wide enough to take 26 x 1.75 mildly knobby tires. I wanted a fair amount of flexibility, although in reality I may never use tires wider that 1.5. But, I don't know that for sure.
Prior to going to Steve, I went to a profession bike fitter (all Christopher Kautz of PK Racing does is fit people to bikes...mostly international racers, but he works with people like me as well) based on a recommendation from Tracy. This was one of the best things I did during the process. Steve also does very detailed measuring, but I think for some of the measurements he may have used Christopher's measurements to fine tune his own (since Steve had that information available to him, he took advantage of it). Christopher's setup includes computer assessment (power output per leg, evenness of pedal stroke, what changing the saddle height does [mm's, not just cm's, count, I've discovered], and also mechanical work and flexibility testing (apparently that is important for someone who is relatively non-flexible...I'm very flexibile through hips and legs, so it was a non-issue and therefore I didn't pay much attention to what would be different "if...").
After the fact, I've learned that some of the other local frame builders come from a racing background, but that Steve comes from a bit more of a touring background. I had no idea about this. (Guess I didn't do my research quite well enough...and I'm embarrassed to think about my question to Steve about "do you do much in the way of custom touring bikes? Do you know about the differences?" <smile> It turns out that about 10% of his business is building touring bikes.)
While I think that I did due diligence in figuring out my bike, I didn't spec the brakes more than the fact that I wanted "V-brakes or the equivalent." I have small hands so commented about levers with that in mind. I'm not sure that what I've got is going to be what stays on the bike over the long haul. (Travel Agent.) The brake setup may be the first (hopefully the only) modification somewhere down the road.
In riding my new bike, it seems "faster" or at least easier to pedal for the same speed compared to my 2120. It certainly cannot be lighter what with more "stuff" on it than the 2120 has. Both cyclometers seem to be in agreement with regard to mileages. I'm baffled, but thrilled. What a kick to have a bike which totally fits me!
New Steve Rex Bike
Now a Touring Bike
Speccing the Rex
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