STEEL BIKES HANDMADE IN SPOKANE, WA

FAQ

Updated Dec 2017

The stock National Forest Explorer (NFE) is our main project right now. Glen isn’t picking up custom orders or other work until the NFE queue is manageable.

Glen builds batches of NFEs in small lots – about 2-3 at a time and in a single size.

Our list is finally settling down and we’re beginning to think about other stock bikes and add-on options for the NFE. We’re not quite there yet, but if you have suggestions, email them to us.

Wait time

If you are interested in getting on the waitlist, send us an email and we’ll put you on there. Wait time is about 2-3 months.

Do you have a build kit option?

Yes! We have two: a standard and a zoot.

The details change slightly as prices/components change, but this spreadsheet is mostly true all of the time.

Is this a touring bike?

For many, “touring” refers to fully loaded touring where bikes are loaded front and back with panniers and may be loaded over the rear rack and with a handlebar bag. Often, these loads exceed 50 pounds of gear. We think that the best bikes for this type of touring are high-trail bikes with a longer wheelbase and longer chain stays than the NFE. While we don’t want to discourage anyone from just riding what they got, we wouldn’t recommend buying an NFE if your primary goal is fully loaded touring.

The NFE is optimized more for bike packing loads than traditional touring loads. Specifically, the bike likes the bulk of the load weight on the front wheel. If a traditional touring bike is loaded 30/70 front-to-back, then the NFE is loaded more like 75/25, with the heaviest stuff going in the front low rider panniers, your daily convenience stuff in the rando/porteur bag, and your light and bulky stuff (down jackets, sleeping quilt, pad etc) in the rear.

The NFE has bosses for a rear rack. We like the Tubus Fly or Vega because they’re small. They’re good for lashing down light gear (sleeping pad, quilt, bivy, etc). For ultralight or endurance bike camping, we like the Revelate Designs Pika seatbag. The Pika is ideal for a down quilt vest and a siltarp.

I just want a fork. Can I buy one?

No. Our insurance says no to that. And that makes some sense. Sorry.

Can I have my NFE with the older lugged biplane fork?

No. We are pondering a braze-on centerpull version of the stock NFE that would use the old fork. But we like the unicrown for discs.

Can I get the stock NFE, except for this one change?

We get a lot of requests for one-off changes (canti instead of disc, taller/shorter headtube, downtube shifters, thru axle, extra braze-ons, etc). Until we catch up and get ahead of the stock backlog, we can’t consider any one-off changes, regardless of how trivial they may seem in isolation. Sorry about that.

Do you sell a coupled/traveler version of the NFE?

Not yet. But very soon we’ll offer couplers/breakaway as an option. If you’re burning for this let us know.

Can I have it in a different color? or bare?

We only sell the NFE powder-coated the NFE green with our decals applied. This is the only way we sell the stock bike. You can do whatever you like with it after we sell it to you.

What size am I?

We like to use stack and reach to determine sizing. To figure out sizing for a NFE, measure the stack and reach of your favorite bike and compare it to the NFE numbers. If you fall in between, then size according to your bar height or standover. If you like your bars level or higher than the saddle, you probably want to size down.

Knowing the seat tube length on this bike is not really useful for determining fit. The top tube slopes and this bike should show a couple-few fistfuls of post when set up properly. But people ask for seat tube measurement all the time. Measured from top of bb shell to the top of the seat tube: Small 49 cm; Medium 52 cm; Large 55 cm.

I’ve heard there’s an XS stock NFE. Is this true?

Yes! We built our first batch of XS NFE’s. The XS takes 26” (559mm) wheels and costs $1550. Here’s a picture of Pricilla’s XS NFE. Email us if you want more info on that.

Does it fit a ___ tire with a fender?

The stock NFE is designed for 650b wheels. With a fender, 650b x 42 is a comfortable fit. Without fenders, the Schwalbe Thunderburt 2.1” is a great fit. That’s about 53mm with a bit of room to spare.

That’s our official line.

But we know people want to run Compass Switchback Hills (48mm) with fenders. And we’ve seen customers do it. We don’t recommend that, but you can wedge that all together if you are motivated and are at peace with the risk of running fenders so close to the tire.

Other people run the 26” (559 iso) Compass Rat Trap Pass tires on the NFE. Those fit the NFE nicely under 559 x 60 fenders. We stand behind this specific 559x53 tire since the height of the Rat Traps effectively matches the 650bx42, and consequently does not affect bb height or increase pedal strike probability.

Which cranks fit?

The first batch of stock NFE frame sets had limited crank compatibility. Glen has done a lot of work to resolve the crank/plump tire cohabitation situation.

The optimal setup is a 46/30 or 44/28 super compact double.

However, most modern road compact cranks fit with outer rings as big as 50. Some bigger rings may fit on some older triple cranks, but they don’t really belong on this bike, so the design is not optimized for 50+ rings. Inner chainrings should be 34 tooth or smaller. We’re pretty comfortable saying that 130 bcd doubles should not be considered for this bike, as the inner ring won’t clear.

These fit without issue:

Retrogrouchery alert! If you can chose whatever crank you want – the old square taper forged alloy cranks are the bee’s knees. The holy grail would probably be the Ritchey Compact (94/58 bcd) or the equivalent Suntour cranks with 46/30 or thereabouts. Even if you can’t source the grail, the square taper cranks will fit great and you can monkey with spacers on either side to get the perfect chainline.

Do you framesaver the frames before they go out?

No. But you should when you get them. Especially if you ride a lot in cold and rain, then store your bike in a happy warm spot all night.


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