Bespoked UK 2019: Stayer Cycles’ Dirt Drop MTB
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Basking in some well-deserved limelight at the 2019 Bespoked UK show, this sumptuous dirt drop mountain bike from London-based Stayer was quite the looker. Complete with custom porteur rack and a laser cut yoke for three-inch tires, its US-inspired aesthetic is complemented by a smattering of North American boutique parts. We find out more about the bike and the business behind it…
Sam Taylor, of London-based Stayer Cycles, had this exquisite drop-bar plus bike, complete with porteur rack and custom bag on show at this year’s Bespoked UK. If the bike looks a little different from the more UK-centric bikes you’ve seen, it’s probably because Sam cites US influences in his approach to framebuilding, mentioning Rick Hunter in particular. Not bad fabricator to draw inspiration from! Chatting to Sam and seeing Stayer’s other offerings on their stand, like the readymade Groadinger gravel bike, it’s clear that he aims to fuse his builds with a strong aesthetic sense without steering too far away real world efficacy or functionality. The drop-bar mountain bike that caught my eye may be a show bike, but it’s one that’s meant to be really ridden, too.
Fully custom bikes are often born from an alchemy of different tubing, and this particular steed is a mix of Columbus Zona, T45, and some Reynolds. According to Sam, “T45 is great for the wishbone and I work with it a lot. It’s so strong and consistent in thickness, you can’t go wrong really. Zona is a great tubeset for an off-road bike. Columbus are also the makers of the fine 1 1/8” unicrown fork blades that make me feel like I want to put Kona P2s on everything again. The fork blade is a new tube from Columbus and also comes in a tapered version. I predict I will be using it quite a lot.”
As for the rest of the bike, Sam says that his customer Raul is very into the look of big hooded dropouts. “We used Paragon Machine Works 1 1/2-inch rear QR dropouts on his last build from us, and he asked for them again on this. The fork was for sure asking for something similar in style, and as I am always looking for an opportunity to work with my good friend Mads Hulsroy (bike/furniture builder extraordinaire) on special projects, I asked if he could design and machine something gargantuan for the fork that would be QR and work with a disc brake. I am really pleased to have some of his work on this bike.” Sam says the rear chain stay yoke, made from laser cut steel by Konga Bicycles of Finland, “is super cool, uncomplicated design at its best, to my mind. Both of those pieces represent much of what I want a frame to be. I am not much for over complication and I have always favoured and become excited by bikes that have that approach to them.”
The bike was made for a repeat customer Raoul, a veteran of the bike trade, including frame building with Paul Donohue; his first Stayer was a low trail town bike. “Raoul has had a few custom bikes and has been pretty easy to work with, as he is happy to let me do my thing around a few specific requests, in this case the tyres and the front bag from Dan at Envelope Bagworks, and some more aesthetic bits like big hooded dropouts and the colour – which will invariably be RAL 5018 Yeti MTB desert turquoise.” As for the platform design, Sam says, “Dan at Envelope used a Fidlock magnet system to attach the bag to the rack, so my job with the rack was to provide the support and mounting points for the bag, i.e. a place for the Fidlocks to locate and attach to. I made the rack in as straightforward a way as possible, in a pizza rack style, to be strong and discrete and do its job.”
It sounds like Sam and Raoul were very much on the same page in terms of how to build the bike up. “I am very into White Industries, Paul, and anything that makes me think 90’s mountain biking style-wise to some extent. But also those bits just work. They don’t tend to be the lightest but for ‘middle of nowhere’ fixes you can’t beat it. Stuff I can mend for sure. It is nice that Raoul also has that perspective, with a bit of extra bling of course, but it made me pretty confident that he was going to come up with a bunch of good ideas for the build, without me having to make too many suggestions.”
There’s a set of Stayer own carbon 29’er rims on DT 350 hubs, light and strong enough for trail riding. The Thomson dropper is actuated via a neat bar end dropper lever from Wolf Tooth; Brooks tape and a Brooks saddle tie things in nicely. Shown with Teravail Coronado 29×2.8s, the bike was actually made for comfortable clearance for 3” Bontrager Chupacabras, which run generously in size.
It’s hard to put a final price on a bike like this. “Raoul’s 29’er consists of a full custom frame, fork and rack, custom Stayer wheelset, plus a whole bunch of somewhat mega bits to build it, as well as a custom made rack bag and saddle pouch from Envelope Bagworks. So I am not sure I know the price of the full bike. You would have to ask Raoul!” Still, full custom frames from Stayer start at £2000, with racks from £250. A carbon Stayer 29’er on DT 350 wheelset costs £1195. There’s also Stayer’s ready-made frames, that run at £1250-1500.
As for bikepacking, Sam and his partner Judith Roose – who is also Stayer’s wheelbuilder extraordinaire – have experience touring in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, as well enjoying more local campouts. “We live at the foot Epping Forest in Leytonstone. I don’t get out as much as I would like, but there are lots of opportunity for overnighters around here. I grew up in the countryside in Devon and camping out is what I would do two or three times a week at least. Setting up a tarp and building a fire pit was pretty much the only thing going. That lifestyle was pretty integral and is hard to lose. For sure it has stayed with me, and any chance to ride my bike and sit around a fire in the evening, get out with some friends, is what I want to be doing.”
And talking of riding loaded, how about that lovely custom porteur rack and bag? Any changes to the geometry required? “The geo for Raoul’s bike was fairly standard but I did take the bag into account. We decided not to go low trail, or at least not full-on, as the front end weight was going to be limited to lightweight stuff. Even though this is a bike very capable of long off-road tours it will be used mostly around the forest and for day trips, overnighters, etc., rather than packing for the zombie apocalypse or a week in the Catskills. The fork is 50mm offset, with a head tube angle of 72.5 degrees. The trail comes in at 66mm, which is fairly nippy for a 3″ tyre 29’er, though it doesn’t handle like it wants to throw you off at all, nor like a current off-the-shelf rigid MTB. Having this option for specificity is one of the major benefits of getting a bike from a custom builder. It really is down to what you want to use the bike for.”
Seems Raoul is as pleased with this bike as he was with his town bike, as there’s already talk of building another next year…