It was about 10:30am when the text came through, "You might want to get down here!" The phrasing was a bit ambiguous but the meaning was clear. The delay in frame production only meant that the anticipation had been building for over a month. Grad school research was going to have to be put off one more day as this moment needed to be documented, if only for the two people involved. Joe Tincher and Matt Leo of IT&B were about to dive into the world of building their new Open Cycle U.P. gravel plus bikes. Open Cycle only sells frame sets, so each bike is unique to each persons vision of what they see themselves getting out of the bike and thus it was going to be a bit of an adventure as each bike took shape. The following is Joe Tinchers take on his experience leading up to that moment.
Photos: Joseph Kennedy
By Joe Tincher
I’m a roadie. Everything about me screams road cyclist – And then I fell in love with Paris Roubaix, which became a love affair with the idea of cyclocross. I wanted to ride gravel and cobbles and up grassy hills and explore places automobiles don’t fit and aren’t there to run me off the road, but I had no bike to do it. My road bike fits 28mm tires before it became cool to run wider than 25’s, but put that up a damp grassy hill and you’ll be ass over teakettle in a wink. Rubber side up is not my jam. Borrowing a cross bike was fun but it was still more road than I wanted with tires a tad too skinny. Looking through photos during the birth of mountain biking showed me the bike I imagined in dreams – a rigid road-looking frame with gigantic balloon tires and drop bars. That bike didn’t exist in production.
And then Interbike 2015 happened.
We were browsing around on the second day between conference and clinic sessions and walked past the HED booth. A bright orange frame caught my eye – the bike was shodden in 650b x 2.1 inch tires. It had drop bars. By changing the wheelset you could have a cross-legal bicycle. It used readily available axle standards and could be built any which way you wanted. It’s clean lines appealed to my appreciation of beautiful design, and by Dieter Rams’ principles it hit all the marks. It couldn’t be purchased as a complete bike so each bike is built and tuned to the rider’s preference. It looked like the ultimate gravel/adventure/any-road/exploration bike.
We passed the booth daily for the rest of that week but never stopped. Eventually we flew back to Hawaii. A month later I started talking with Andy Kessler, the co-founder of Open Cycles. Andy captained BMC of Switzerland and raced mountain bikes professionally in his past life. The other half of Open, Gerard Vroomen, is the genius behind the time trial and triathlon revolution of Cervelo as engineer and later running the show as CEO. The two men came together after leaving their respective companies after much success and formed Open with the intention to ‘work hard to stay small’ and be intimately connected to its dealer network and be Open to new ideas and suggestions.
As a novice off road rider I went with the widest tires possible with a diameter about the same as my road bike. The position is similar with the same reach, but a 3cm higher handlebar stack. It’s a comfortable position that I can ride all day in. Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting gets my gears going. I chose TRP Spyre brakes instead of going hydraulic because I can replace a cable in the field on a trip, but tracking down a bleed kit in a foreign country could prove problematic. Sometimes TSA does wonderful things and I would hate to be on the hook to bleed a brake if they removed the bleed block from a hydraulic brake and squeezed the lever down. Stainless steel Salsa water bottle cages complete the build. I use the under-downtube cage to hold a spare tube and inflation tools, just in case the tubeless tire and Stan’s sealant can’t close down a puncture.
This bike is not an easy build. The cable routing requires a pizza, a couple of beers, patience, and a good plan of attack, but the result will be visually striking and will be able to go anywhere and everywhere.