If the name Asylum sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In its first go round, Asylum Cycles was building one of the first full-suspension 29er mountain bikes, peddled by Chris Currie and his shop Speedgoat Cycles.
In the past decade, both Asylum and Speedgoat have faded from the scene, but when Currie moved to Portland, it was an opportunity to resurrect his brand. The Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of cyclocross and he knew his latest project would be a great fit.
Enter the Meuse, named for the mighty river that flows through the French Ardennes, on to Liege in Belgium and finally into the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea. It’s a part of the world that lives and breathes cyclocross, just like its Pacific Northwest counterpart.
I didn’t get to race the Meuse in Europe, or even Portland, but I did race it through some pretty inhospitable terrain, including a junkyard. That’s right, the Bilenky Junkyard ‘Cross race in Philadelphia, to be exact. An annual tradition in the Keystone State, this year the junkyard was even more boisterous than usual, thanks to a pairing with the Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championship held the next day.
If you’re not familiar, here’s a primer: the Bilenky race requires you to crawl through an Econoline rather than leap barriers, and the SSCXWC race is as much a costume party as it is a race. Perhaps not ideal testing grounds for a carbon fiber race bike, but the Meuse’s stiff down tube and PF30 bottom bracket helped acceleration out of the whiskey-hand-up shortcut and its feathery 16.6 lbs. weight was appreciated when portaging over a rusted Buick.
Naturally my test bike was built up as a singlespeed, thanks to the Problem Solvers eccentric bottom bracket adapter. It is simple to use and gives a surpassing amount of fore/aft adjustment. As fat as the down tube and chainstays are, the top tube slenders to an astonishing degree. I’ve never seen a waist like that outside of a corset factory. As for the fork, it’s full carbon and made by Columbus. No, not Ohio—the famed Italian tubing manufacturer that does carbon just as well as steel or aluminum.
Key frame specs include 135mm rear spacing, post-mount brakes on the chainstay with replaceable inserts, and a replaceable derailleur hanger. It also features internal cable routing for the shift cables and a full-length housing for the rear brake under the downtube. The big down tube and cable can be a lot to grasp when you lift the bike to shoulder it, but it makes installing hydraulic lines a lot easier or keeps gunk from getting in your mechanical housing. It’s also makes it easier to remove the brakes when they are recalled, as were the TRP Sprye brakes on my test bike and have other new offerings from Shimano and SRAM. Luckily the stock Meuse complete bikes ship with SRAM BB7 or BB5 brakes that have been around forever and shouldn’t let you down.
Aside from a frame and fork option for $1,400, you can purchase a Meuse with a 10-speed SRAM Force and FSA kit with Stan’s NoTubes IronCross wheels for $2,895 or as a singlespeed with the same wheels and a mostly FSA kit for $2,350. As I write this, both models are on sale for few hundred dollars off.
While the bike’s name looks east, its source lies even further. Currie had made plenty of industry connections in his career, and when he chose carbon for his cyclocross bike, he started looking into Asian production facilities. But even for a small brand like Asylum, there are minimum orders to fill before a factory fires up a batch of bikes, so Asylum turned to a new method of raising capital: crowdfunding.
Asylum partnered with Crowdsupply, an online resource that helps designers and engineers bring their projects to market. By collecting input (and cash) from prospective customers, they raised awareness for their brand and some seed money at the same time. “It was a great way to cover our butts for the first production run,” said Brand Manager Patrick Croasdaile. “We learned some interesting lessons.”
By offering discounts on the first round of production bikes, Asylum has sold and shipped the last of its crowdfunded bikes and is looking towards the future. It was Crowdsupply’s “first magnificently successful product,” Croasdaile said, but in the future the brand would likely only consider crowdfunding specific parts of a production run, rather than a whole bicycle concept.
So where to buy a Meuse today? Point your mouse over to cyclocross.com or westernbikeworks.com, the exclusive online dealers. They have bikes ready to ship. Croasdaile says they are going to expand their brick and mortar dealer base, but that process may take a while.
The other option is to apply to join the Asylum Demon Sponsorship program. You don’t have to be standing on the top of any podiums to nab this deal, but you have to have a passion for racing, an outgoing personality, and an interest in sharing your stories. It helps to be a little bit off-center, too. One of the questions in the application is “If you were a perfume/cologne/eau de toilette, what would it be called?”
So what’s next for Asylum? It’s no secret that Currie has been working on a new full-suspension mountain bike platform for some time, nicknamed Project Danzig. We hear ridable prototypes exist, but stay tuned for details as soon as we get them.
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