Rie Sawada from Tokyo’s Sim Works is just about to complete a 5,000km journey on her custom ‘coffee bike’, specially built for her by Santa Cruz’s Rick Hunter. Designed to be a long distance tourer, her Hunter is also a cafe. She’s been serving fresh coffee from the rear rack at every stop. A good example of Rick’s flexibility and frame building skill, highlighted again by this ‘crosser, owned by Carl at San Francisco’s Box Dog Bikes.
Carl recently moved to the Bay Area from Lincoln, Nebraska, where he used to work at Monkey Wrench Cycles, fervent proponents of off-road riding and sellers of Rick Hunter’s frames. Carl has just taken ownership of a custom Hunter road bike but this ‘crosser is still his go-to bike and has ridden it on countless dirt and gravel back road centuries and races. It’s one of Hunter’s production models, a TIG-welded stock size that’s more affordable than a true custom frame.
Hunter has been building ‘cross racers for over twenty years and Carl has nothing but praise for his designs: “In my opinion, it is one of the most thoughtfully designed ‘cross frames on the market. Little details like full rear cable housing from the seat cluster keeps shifting dialed, in muddy conditions. The rear brake cable routing, which bypasses a piece of housing in favor of a ‘side-slinger’ routed around the seat cluster contributes to the rear brake’s incredibly light action and low housing compression.
“Rick’s wishbone rear end is incredibly comfortable, yet the frame is stiff where required, with beefy chainstays and an oversize downtube. Overall, it is a really elegant frame, every detail has a purpose and has been thought out and tested. This sort of purpose-built aesthetic is characteristic of all Hunter frames. Rick is a racer and has been for a long time, and I think that shows through in his frames.
Carl is a connoisseur of all groupsets, but he’s a DA aficionado, “I use Dura Ace 7800 on all my drop bar bikes, because I believe its the best shifting 10 speed group out there. To me, 6700 and 7900 were a bit of a disappointment and a lot more finicky than their previous iterations. 7800 is ideal for ‘cross, because it shifts great with basic cables without constant attention like other 10 speed groups.
“I run the magnesium TRPs because they’re light. They’re not adjustable, they don’t have much power, but they are super light. I switched my handlebar to the Salsa Cowbell over a year ago. The shape of this bar revolutionized the way I ride. The shallow drop extends further back towards the rider than most drops and is also significantly higher up. As a result, I spend way more time in the drops than I used to and have since replaced the bars on all of my cross bikes with Cowbells.”
I was reading about François Marie and his handmade FMB tires last week and was interested to hear Carl’s opinion, but he saves them for race day, preferring “to roll on my dependable King Classic Cross hubs laced to Mavic Open Pros.” The rest of the build is straight forward: “King headset, ENVE fork, Nitto stem and seatpost, Ritchey WCS Streem saddle—the rest of the bike is selected as a compromise between weight and what I think is mechanically superior and durable.”