I’ve spent years tinkering and experimenting with bikes. In high school, I bought a stock carbon frame from China and built it up with meticulously chosen parts -- albeit cost limited by my lawn-mowing summer job. This bike and I raced and trained for multiple national championships. Each time we set out together, I remembered this plastic steed had no crash warranty and if I needed to replace the frame, that would mean mowing significantly more lawns.
I hunkered into this mindset for years, riding carbon bikes and falling into their trap of cracked seat stays or top tubes more than once.
I figured this was part of the gig, experiment with components and bike fit, try not to break it.
My current bike, her name is Jane, turned this mentality to mush. I was lucky enough to work with the beautifully fastidious minds at Firefly Bicycles to create my first custom titanium bike. We talked on the phone, sent ride-fit videos back and forth, and exchanged emails about what felt like countless details.
When the bike arrived, I realized our emails had only covered a tiny portions of the attention to detail that Firefly had committed to.
The custom titanium stem and stem cap looked seamless, with a tiny Firefly logo anodized onto the side, the faceplate also wore the logo, barely visible, but intricately brandished.
The headtube is highlighted with a gold-anodized Firefly logo headbadge.
The brushed titanium top tube has my name anodized as well as TenSpeed Hero, the subtle gold letters have stopped more than one person on the street to ask about who built little Jane.
The custom titanium seatpost, held together with the Firefly seatpost clamp and Firefly’s seat attachment system makes the continuous titanium look of the bike feel thousands of miles away from mismatched carbon parts. Jane’s an elegant gal, she knows it.
We set the saddle-bar reach and drop slightly shorter than my previous bikes by shortening the top tube. Kevin recommended the Enve gravel fork for maximum clearance to reduce toe overlap with the front wheel. His recommendations have made this bike feel like a dream, we romp really really hard together.
One of the most impressively, yet easily overlooked components of the frame, is the 3D printed dropouts. Firefly has recently developed a completely custom dropout system. They look awesome, it feels like magic that they were once a strand of titanium thread.
Knowing these parts weren’t stamped out in a huge machine, but crafted by real hands made me feel like I was riding around on a piece of artwork, not a 1 of 10,000 mold.
The first day I rode Jane, making absolutely no adjustments to the fit, I ripped up one of Boulder’s canyons, then swerved off into a notoriously steep and loose fire escape route. My two-hour base ride plan was dead and gone at this point, I was just getting started though. On my way back down to town, I felt the allure of the trails and took Jane on the most technical in-town trail. She romped over rocks, skidded through corners, and was snappy on the climbs and out of corners. (The mountain biker in me is nervous to admit that I PRed some of the climbs that I’ve suffered through on my mountain bike many times/ This bike though! It's way too much fun!) We dropped down the super rocky and steep Link trail back to the road. I figured this last section of trail would be a push for the rigid bike, but with elbows and knees out, chest down, and eyes up, we made it smoothly down with lots of squealing and smiling. At three and half hours in, I couldn’t help but zip down to the bike park. We jumped and flew around berms. I came to the bottom of a flowy jump line and landed in a group of middle-aged men who were there for a jump clinic, they’d been filming each other, and I unintentionally snuck into the shot. They grumbled a bit about how I had done this in the drops, but I was already headed up for another run.
From the first contact, I felt the loyalty Firefly has to create things that last.
This bike was originally designed for a massive bikepacking trip in Euroland. Unfortunately, the trip fell through -- after buying flights without insurance, ahhhh -- due to my best friend and travel mate shattering her foot. Jane is itching at her tack weld seams to get out there and bikepack, and it will happen. As I said, she’s built to last, she has years (decades?) to keep on rolling and making riders smile. Stay tuned, for now, we will be racing cross, but bikepacking.com has been a permanent open tab for months and plans are brewing.