Quadra Island is the largest of Canada’s Discovery Islands, an archipelago nestled in-between Vancouver Island and the mainland. One of the few that call it home is Sam Whittingham and Naked Bicycles — a multi-NAHBS award winner — and with work like this new 29+ MTB, it’s not hard to see why.
Naked Bicycles have probably won more Peoples Choice awards at the NAHBS than any other builder, but there’s also a couple of Best Mountain Bike ribbons in the cabinet. Naked have built plenty of road and cyclocross bikes as well, but it’s obvious their heart is dedicated to mountain bikes bikes and trail riding.
There’s even a few far-out commuters in the gallery, although one that isn’t listed is the winner of the 2007 NAHBS Best in Show award, resplendent with wooden rims, grips, eccentric dropouts, sculpted handlebars and lots of chrome — it was snapped up at the show by a Tour de France winner.
This fully-rigid custom commission may look like another show-stopper, but it’s trail-ready. Sam’s mountain bikes are known for their characteristic shapes; curved top tubes for instance, like this one. It’s obvious Sam isn’t afraid of bending steel to his will, as long as it results in the perfect bike for his customer.
The curved top tubes are functional as well as fashionable. That seat stay junction is not budging anytime soon. It also allows for a pretty straight internal line for the cables to the discs and rear mechs, resulting in smoother shifting and braking, and it allows for wider tyres. It’s also a lot more difficult to fabricate.
A custom rigid 29+ rig is a real lifer. You have to be pretty sure about your riding, geometry and local turf to get it right. Once you do, you have a bike you can blast down singletrail one weekend and take backpacking the next. Sure, there might be some technological sacrifices, it’s still sure to be a favourite bike twenty years later.
For this build, a beefy disc-specific Whisky Parts Co fork was utilised for front-end duties, while a Rohloff internally-geared hub brings up the rear — powered by a Gates Carbon belt drive. You won’t spot the required frame-break in these photos, but it’s hidden just above the rear dropout.
Race Face is another Canadian local, and they brought the handlebars and crankset to the party, and were married up with a Thomson stem and seat post. It’s good to see the Cambium saddle from Brooks England being recognised as suitable for off-road use as well as the long-distance touring it was designed for.
Sam does all the paint in house too, which is no small feat, considering how complicated some of them can be. They’re the final, highly personalised touch. The inspiration for this one was actually the customer’s cat. Sam says, “I wrestled a long time with how to make a mountain bike look like his cat without, you know, making it look like his cat…”
With a custom rear rack, painted to match, the latest Naked Bicycle to leave the Quadra Island workshop is ready for serious adventure and trail sledding. It’s gregarious, but even when the paint starts showing signs of use, it’ll start to look even better.