Why, after touting the comfortable qualities of his beautiful bamboo bikes, Craig Calfee decided to go and create a high calibre soft tail road bike, is hard to fathom. Probably because he can’t leave well enough alone. But there it is: the Calfee Manta, one of the most revolutionary carbon fibre frames to emerge from the Northern California factory in recent years.
Greg LeMond was onto a good thing when he test-rode one of Calfee’s early frames, realising carbon composites were the future of performance bikes. The alliance between LeMond and Calfee was forged when 18 frames were ordered for LeMond’s Team Z and eventuated with Calfee manufacturing carbon frames for LeMond Bicycles.
A Calfee frame is certainly distinctive, robust tubes joined by webbed lugs, and the Manta is no different. Look closely at the seat stays, however, and you’ll see an interesting conjunction that houses a centimetre’s worth of elastomer — enough to increase traction, making descents faster and safer — and delivering a cyclist that’s less fatiqued at the end of each ride.
The Manta design has already been perfected on Calfee’s disc-specific Adventure and Cyclocross frames, so it wasn’t a far stretch of the imagination to translate it into a tarmac version, especially with the Shimano R785 levers which flawlessly integrate their Di2 and disc brake technologies. There’s also a 65mm bottom bracket shell and LOOK’s one-piece Zed 2 crank set down there.
This Manta was to be a NAHBS show bike, a collaboration between Calfee and Tucson’s Fairwheel Bikes, before it was shipped home to be built up for a customer. It’s a striking machine, but it’s strong and light as well. ENVE’s disc-specific 3.4 rims and Tune’s new disc hub make for a heavenly wheelset — more grams were shaved by the proprietary bonded bar / stem combo.