Back To The Grind part 3: Blue Collar Cycles
All photos © John Watson at The Radavist
An honest bike from an honest builder. That’s what Robert Ives delivers with each and every Blue Collar frame he builds. While Robert’s bikes are no nonsense, made to take a beating, and are incredibly versatile, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Naming his Grinduro show bike the "Nigel CX" after Spinal Tap’s, Nigel Tufnel; Robert says his bike goes to 11, a reference to the 1x11 drivetrain. Just in case there was any remaining doubt to Robert's claim, in addition to the Force 1 drivetrain he imbued the bike with a healthy dose of glam rock via a glittery sky blue paint job accented with bright orange components.
This beauty was on display at the Grinduro "Meet Your Maker" event where riders could meet, greet, and ride with a number of the framebuilders showing their wares at Grinduro. We couldn’t keep our eyes off of this bike all weekend, so we pulled Robert aside to get the full scoop.
Tell me about this frame. What was the idea or theme behind it?
I don’t race, I’m not worried about aerodynamics. I want to make something you can mountain bike with, jump with… every bike I have is a trials bike. I will hop on whatever is coming by. So this is a lot more like a drop barred skinny tired mountain bike than a ‘cross bike.
Generally I like to run the bars higher, closer to the saddle, so you can sit in it all day for Grinduro or a Lost and Found type of thing, so some people would call it an old guy kind of bike. But whatever, I’m getting old and I like my bars level [with my saddle] on my personal bikes. So it’s really not a race bike. It’s an everything bike. You can slap racks on this thing and tour with it. You can ride all day and not have sore hands, a sore back, a sore ass; and if you want to go get rad, it's there.
A low bottom bracket, slack seat angle, 72.5 is what I use, 72 head angle so it’s still quick. Fun to ride.
Tapered headtube. This is actually my design that I did a couple of years ago with Solid BMX and made prototypes for. The guy at Solid had contacts with a swager and he produces the headtube. You’ll see a lot of guys using it now. It’s been ripped off a couple of times, but I’m ok with it. I just like the aesthetics of a tapered headtube verses a big 44mm headtube, on a cross bike especially.
The bike’s pretty much just for getting rad.
Tell me more about some of the details on your frame.
Everything comes from Paragon except for these new dropouts I’ve designed. These are two-piece dropouts so you can set the angle of the dropout. One thing that is a pet peeve for me is having a kink where the seatstay meets the dropout.
On small bikes and really big bikes you are limited. If you have to put a disc brake tab on it you are limited to what the dropout manufacturer has, and to me, it almost never works out in my favor, as far as the angle of where the stay comes into the dropout.
The disc mount is part of the dropout and both pieces of the dropout are concentric to the axle, so now when I build a bike I can put the lower piece of the dropout on there and then just change the angle of the dropout until I like how it looks. Then I tack it down and weld it into one piece. Then it eliminates the need for a disc brake brace. Those are kind of a pet peeve of mine. I’m not a fan of [disc brake braces]. With my dropout, no matter what angle I put it at, the caliper is in exactly the right spot.
Why build it with Force 1?
I want to build bikes that people can go have fun on. Force 1 is the only thing that got me off of a singlespeed. This is like riding a singlespeed with gears on it. It doesn’t make any noise, doesn’t cause any problems. Doesn’t give me any grief.
I noticed you went with a PF30 bottom bracket. They seem to be fading in popularity.
Not in my shop.
Why did you choose it?
The PF30 bottom bracket gives you the most options. I can run SRAM GXP with a 24mm spindle, I can run a SRAM BB30 crank, and there is a company in Sacramento that makes a single speed eccentric that will accept both of those axle sizes and it will fit right into a PF30 bottom bracket. So one bike can run four different configurations, and from a manufacturing standpoint, I hate tapping bottom brackets.
When it first came out people weren’t heat sinking the bottom brackets, especially in Asia, they didn’t have the process down yet, but I heat sink them, I have a Park ream and I’ve had zero problems with it. For me, that’s the standard right now until someone comes up with something better. I just like having all of those options especially the eccentric. Just pull the cables off and you have a singlespeed. So for me, PF30 is where it’s at.