By Karen Brooks
When Dirt Rag editor Josh set up a group of singlespeeds for a future test, I drew the lucky straw for a custom bike by a notable framebuilder: Sam Whittington of Naked Bicycles. You may remember Sam from such displays of framebuilding prowess as NAHBS 2011, where he won the People’s Choice award for his almost unbelievably clean and simple titanium singlespeed.
There was not a whole lot of time for Sam to put together a bike, so he opted for steel. He asked a bunch of pertinent questions about my riding style, fit and parts preferences, and about the fit of my current personal bike, which is (still) the Moots singlespeed I tested for issue #132. A rather short time later a beautiful, gleaming white bike with black and gold accents (good call!) arrived on our doorstep.
But like all mountain bikes, it was destined to get muddy. Quickly.
My first Naked ride was a scouting trip on the trails for our Punk Bike Enduro, and this was the result:
It was a bit hard to tell much about the frame’s ride characteristics from that ride, and the subsequent Punk Bike itself, as it was pretty sloppy. I did, however, determine that Sam’s choice of 32×21 gear, one step lower than what I’d been using on the Moots, is not a bad idea for steep-and-sloppy trails.
The dropout is a “rocker” style from Paragon Machine Works. I have the sliding style on my Moots, and have never had a problem with them sliding when they’re not supposed to, but it will be interesting to try this alternate style.
I’ve also gotten in a couple rides on my “home” trails in Frick Park near Pittsburgh. Fortunately they were frozen for a while last weekend, although by the end of the ride on the wider gravel paths toward home, the mud was thawing enough to cover the Naked. Maybe mud has a Puritan streak… I’d have thought it was more of a Bacchanalian sort of thing.
One unusual detail I noticed right away is the top of the seat tube and the seat collar.
It’s basically an insert into the seat tube that narrows down to 27.2 for a common size of seatpost, then gets thicker again where the collar attaches. The process involves turning the piece on a lathe and boring it, then welding it into the frame. There are also two notches cut into it instead of just one (for the collar’s squeezing action to be possible), both facing away from where mud will fling itself toward the seat tube. Although as you can see, the mud has been trying mightily to get itself into every little crevice.
Sam shared a quick sketch of the seat collar:
It’s finding out about cool details such as this that makes my job interesting. The lengths to which framebuilders will go to make their frames as awesome as they can are amazing.
Here I must give a shoutout to Brian, Jason, Brett, and Timmy for showing me some of the trails at Kennerdell this past weekend. A fun ride on the Naked with like-minded singlespeeders. The best way to ride wet snow on top of wet leaves…