Moving further afield from the Göteborg scene, the next in the Bikes of the Bunch series is a hand-built creation from Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles. CX Sweden spoke to its owner Patch Hofweber after the Helsingborg round of the CX Cup.
>OK so how did you end up owning a bike hand-built and hand-painted from Portland, USA?
I’m born and raised in Northern California, so Portland wasn’t too far off. In 2010 a friend tipped me off that a racer from the original Speedvagen team was selling his bike from 2007. At this point Sacha White’s beautiful work was all over the internet and the pedigree of the bike was reassuring. It was a good deal, so I jumped at the chance to own one.
>Did you have any input into the geometry?
The idea behind Speedvagen is limited-run bicycles, with geometry and sizes predetermined, not even the factory team got anything custom. That being said, Sacha chose a lower bottom-bracket compared to traditional ’cross bikes, the idea is that it’s more stable when pedaling through turns. This works well for American ’cross courses, which have fewer hairpin turns than Europe.
>Did you have any input into the paint scheme?
The original paint-scheme was matched to the 2007 kits. After a crash in 2011, I took it back to Vanilla to get the downtube replaced. I picked out the colors I wanted, then worked with them and combined some of their established elements to get a custom scheme.
This is a purebred race bike, and rides as such. It’s stiff and responsive, but comfortable enough. Its limitations in handling lie solely with the rider, though I can at times see why a higher BB might be desirable. This was my first race bike (road or CX), but since then I’ve ridden modern production steel, aluminum and carbon road bikes, as well as a traditional aluminum cross bike. I feel that material defines what can then be done with the geometry and design of the bike. In the end all elements combine to determine ride quality. I wouldn’t claim there’s anything magic or special about the ride, more than what the rider projects on the bike.
In addition to CX, the ’vagen sees a lot of #sportgrus, but my summer touring has been done on the roadbike.
>A hand-built cyclocross bike is pretty specialist, does this mean you have a collection of exotic bikes?
I think the cross market, although growing, is under-served. Sacha made some specific design decisions that larger companies would never make; the seatmast allows for the rear brake cable to run straight through (which looks amazing) and the seatstays have custom cantilever posts for Paul Components brakes. Other than the ’vagen, my stable is unremarkable: I have a steel taiwanese singlespeed cross bike, a Canyon Ultimate AL. I’m plenty satisfied.
>Campy Chorus is a nice Euro touch, were you not tempted to use SRAM to keep the US feel?
The original SRAM Force cranks wore out, the Chorus cranks were what I had lying around. SRAM is a multinational corporation that undervalues keeping their product design in-house. Although this is sadly an American attribute, I don’t feel their products have an affinity with the USA on the level the privately owned components manufacturers have with their respective countries. That said, SRAM supports ’cross much more than its competitors, and I appreciate that.
Do you watch Portlandia?
It’s on SVT, so lot of Swedes have that show as their only reference to the city — that can be tiresome. I don’t think the creators envisioned that backwards equation. I watch it and have a laugh, and in turn often laugh at myself.