Back To The Grind part 2: Black Cat Cycles
All photos © John Watson at The Radavist
Producing functional art in Aptos, California, is what Todd Ingermanson is known for. Although his bikes are undeniably alluring in every respect, from their flowing lines to the custom paint that accentuates them, one thing that is equally undeniable is that his bikes are made to be ridden… hard. A Black Cat is a bike with supermodel looks and the attitude of a punk rocker. The example Todd brought to Grinduro was no exception.
Todd's Black Cat was one of seven handmade bikes from seven different Northern California frame builders on display in the main hall at Grinduro. The day after the race, Grinduro hosted the free "Meet Your Maker" ride where the builders themselves turned out to ride with potential customers while they bounced questions off of them about their build philosophy.
We asked Todd to tell us more about his show submission in order to understand the decision-making process that produced such a beautiful machine, that also appeared to be the perfect weapon for slaying Grinduro.
Tell me about the concept behind this bike.
The general theme or concept is - a ‘cross bike. There are a lot of folks that are building gravel grinder specific bikes, but I generally don’t do that unless they want a tire larger than a 45. Most of the time just making a ‘cross bike with an eye on wider tires is good enough. I typically shoot to build bikes for something that is usable on a day-to-day basis rather than building it for one event that may or may not happen. I’m shooting for the everyday quality ride as opposed that one gravel race I do a year where I need this particular tire. So that’s kind of what that is. It’s built basically to be a ‘cross bike.
Any special considerations when you were building the bike to make it 1x11 specific?
No. Typically the chainring is small enough that you don’t have to worry. Especially with the chainline out as far as it is [the chainline for SRAM 1x drivetrains is right in between where a small and big chainring would line up on a 2x system], unless you are dealing with a 50-tooth chainring scenario.
How about the drivetrain selection?
The SRAM Force 1 group is good. It definitely smoothes things out for shifting performance and makes it a lot easier to deal with. With all of the cassette options out there I feel it works pretty well. To be able to set it up just super clean and easy to deal with.
It looks like you’ve bucked some trends going with an 1 1/8” straight steerer.
Yeah, I think those ride a lot better than tapered steerers.
And QR axles…
Well, that’s another story. [laughs] Let’s just say that there are two bikes. One built with through axles and one built with quick releases. The bike with the through axles stayed home.
What I’d like to do is I have a set of wheels that are compatible with both bikes that are identical other than their axles, so I can take both bikes out and really compare them. Then I’m not like, ‘Oh this one is a little stiffer, I think.’
That’s interesting that you think that the 1 1/8” steerer rides better. How does it do under braking?
Fine. There’s no chatter at all. That’s a problem that comes with cantilever cable hangers and straddle cables. With a well designed disc fork, it isn’t a problem at all. I’ve been building with these Ritchey straight steerer forks for three years now and they’ve never been a problem. And I feel they ride better. Plus it lets you build a lighter frame.
With a lighter headtube and headset?
And a lighter top tube and downtube… OK, here’s where the eyes gloss over for everybody… typically the fork has always been the fuse in frame design. If you are going to have something fail, I know it sounds awful, but if you are going to have something fail you want it to be the fork because that is the easiest and cheapest thing to replace. With aftermarket forks these days nobody wants their fork to break. So everyone makes these unbreakable forks and that just moves the weakest link from the fork to the frame. So now you have to beef up your frame to be able to take the forces that the tapered steerers inflict on the frame. So with the straight steerer you can make a lighter, more lively frame, and I think it rides better. The new 1 1/8” to 1 1/4” I think is a great compromise and those are definitely coming out, so I’m really excited about those. But as for right now, with the bikes I’m building, I prefer the straight steerers.
Is that a custom headtube or a stock item?
It’s a stock item. There’s a guy in Sacramento that builds bikes under the name Solid BMX and he has those swaged and they are really nice. He’s a bike guy as well as a metal guy so he knows what we are dealing with.
How about the paint? Was that gold section all masked off?
Yeah. Like one million pieces of masking tape and some gold spray paint and off we go!