Whisky: What was the defining idea behind this build?
Curtis: I wanted to replace my ‘cross bike. I don’t race ‘cross all that much and the few things I wanted to accomplish with it, like a bit lower bottom bracket and the ability to run a bigger tire kind of put me in that all-road/gravel area. But that was basically it, I wanted another ‘cross bike that I could take on the road. The last ‘cross bike I built with a little bit lower bottom bracket didn’t have the clearance for a 43mm tire. So on this bike I wanted to be able to fit a 700c x 43mm tire but also run a 650b wheel set, so I made sure that tires in both of those realms would fit.
Whisky: Why did you want to try 650b tires?
Curtis: I wanted the ability to do that on this bike because I’ve had a few customers ask for that and I wanted to try it for myself. I’ve built quite a few bikes that could accommodate either 700c or 650b wheels, but I’ve never had one of my own. Everything else I do for customers; I’ve at least tried in some way so that I have an idea of what’s going on. It felt really weird to sell bikes to people when I had never done that before, so I wanted to ride a bike that could take either 700c of 650b wheels and get a better understanding of what people are expecting when they ask for it.
Whisky: Because it was made to fit you, this is a very big bike. Did that present any unique challenges or opportunities for you?
Curtis: Yeah, you know, the older I get, the more relaxed geometry bikes I keep building for myself. And the head tube has grown a lot over the last 25 years. But it makes sense that I wouldn’t want the same geometry that I had when I was 20. I just wanted to be more comfortable when riding super hard and doing the longer, more aggressive rides. And it’s amazing just how much more comfortable I am on this bike now.
I also wanted to make sure that I could carry a lot. I wanted the bike to be able to carry two full-size water bottles and as large of a bag as I could get. That space is so big on bikes my size, and the head tube is really tall, so there is a lot of room to fit a bag. I bounced back and forth between making the second top tube straight or curved. And I went with the straight tube because I wanted that bag to be as big as it could be. Somebody asked me about shouldering the bike, and the funny thing is, I never even thought about shouldering that bike when I was building it. All I cared about was that the frame fit correctly, the bag was as big as it could be and I could fit two bottles.
Whisky: Your frame bag was custom made by Outer Shell just for this bike. How was it working with them and how did that come to be?
Curtis: Kyle (at Outer Shell) has actually built a few bags for me before. The first bag he did for me was for my wife’s e-bike and he told me exactly how to do it: Take a straight on side shot of your bike with a ruler taped to the downtube and then he would scale that up on the computer and it would all fit perfectly. I didn’t believe him, so I drove down to San Francisco and HE did that with a ruler. Then he said, “You know I’m like… a computer guy, right?” And it was one of those funny moments. I just couldn’t fathom the idea of doing it all on a computer and having it actually work. But yeah, I built the bike knowing I was going to put a bag in there. So, before I had it painted, I emailed him a photo and a couple of weeks later, he sent the frame bag back down. And it’s perfect.
Whisky: What lead you to select the Whisky carbon parts for this build?
Curtis: A bike this size can get really heavy, so it seemed like a good idea to build around that. My last bike used a Whisky carbon fork as well, and I really liked it. So, I wanted to try one of your newer ones. I also had a pair of Whisky 700c wheels that were great, and the newer version is even lighter and more refined. So, I wanted to try those too. And it’s been great.
For the colors, I just really like the pink from White Industries. I think it’s a nice shade, and it’s such a nice combination with the gray. This year at NAHBS it really struck me that most of my bikes are single colors. Amongst this sea of $800-$2,000 paint jobs I had six bikes in my booth and I think four of them were single-color bikes. I hope it’s not a detriment to my business [laughs]. I just really enjoy a bike that’s meant to be used, and the ones that get used the most usually don’t have $1,000 paint jobs.
Thanks again to Curtis Inglis from Retrotec for sharing and congratulations again for 25 years of crafting great looking bikes. Curtis takes orders all year ‘round. If you missed Part 1 of our interview, you can find that here, or see the full photo gallery here. Then check back again soon for more!