This week’s Reader’s Rig comes from cinematographer Zac Sprague in Austin, Texas, who shares his new Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross and the story of growing his love of cycling through meeting his spouse. Learn more about Zac and his highly considered all-rounder here…

Words and photos by Zac Sprague (@z.w.sprague)

Hi, I’m Zac. I’m a cinematographer living in Austin, Texas, with my wife, our son, and our cat. I was born and raised in Texas, and if you want know what that’s like, just try to ride a bicycle across the state in August. It’s not an entirely bad place, but it’s a lot.

Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross

I came up in the film industry working in commercials after getting my start in documentaries. That still sums up the majority of my work. I’m lucky to travel within the US and internationally alongside directors and other crew members who I very nearly consider family. So, I like my job. I got into cycling once I met Erin, my spouse, and on our second date, she took me up one of the steepest and most infamous climbs in Austin, Mt. Bonnell Road. I was instantly hooked, and now we’re married.

I’ve also gotten really into bicycles. Since then, I’ve acquired seven bicycles and sold three, making for a nice and neat four, which I’m comfortably settling into. I’ve done a little touring, some singletrack shenanigans, a lot of road riding, broken several bones, been hit by three drivers in their automobiles, and I’ve never spent a moment racing. When I’m not riding with Erin and our two-year-old on our weekend coffee dates to Flitch, cycling is mostly a solitary endeavor for me.

  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross
  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross

I love that the bicycle can turn grocery runs, evening excursions, and commutes into adventures for both body and mind. I love to climb hills, and I love to add weight to any one of my bicycles. Every bike seems to get better with bags and luggage, no? I’m known to ride 98 miles in 104-degree Fahrenheit weather. Okay, I only did that once, and it was dumb.

  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross
  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross
  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross

I rode a 2015 Cinelli Hobootleg incessantly for nearly seven years. Once I broke its third (but not final) fork, I immediately sought to purchase a Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross from Mike Varley. I think the readers of this site are familiar with his frames. They’re great. Buying a Monster Cross was about more than just swapping in one compatible frame for another, though. I’m a sucker for 700c steel canti frames with too much rubber. They just always look great to me, and I love how timeless they feel.

Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross
  • Frame/Fork 2022 Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross
  • Rims Velocity Cliffhanger 700c
  • Hubs SON 28 up front, DT Swiss 350 out back
  • Tires Soma Cazadero 700x50mm set up tubeless
  • Handlebars Ritchey WCS Butano 44s
  • Handlebar tape Fi’zik:k bondcush
  • Headset Chris King No Threadset
  • Crankset White Industries R30 170mm
  • Pedals Shimano XTR PD-M9100
  • Cassette Shimano 9-Speed numbers something something numbers
  • Derailleur Shimano Deore
  • Brakes Paul Minimoto
  • Shifter(s) Shimano Dura-Ace bar ends
  • Saddle Gilles Berthoud Galibier Cork
  • Seatpost Thomson Elite 27.2
  • Stem Thomson MTB
  • Front bags Swift Industries Peregrine
  • Rack Rawland RaidoVerks Rando Rack, Velo Orange decaleur
  • Rear bags Outer Shell Mini Saddlebag
  • Lights Supernova E3 Pure Headlight, Supernova Airstream taillight
  • Other accessories Silca Impero frame pump, Spurcycle compact bell, SimWorks John Cage bottle cages

The MC is sort of the farthest you can push the concept before things go all squiggly. This bicycle represents the first time I’ve hand-picked every part on a bike (with a lot of help and advice from Russell and crew at Cycleast). I wanted a bicycle to replace my do-all bike, and the MC is that and more. You’ll notice from the wear and tear on certain parts, such as the levers, that I did swap a lot of things over from the old build. Stem, levers, hoods, one brake, front rack, rando bag, dyno hub, and pedals. But, this thing is also sort of my dream build, so there are a lot of parts on it, such as the saddle, that I’ve fancied for years.

  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross
  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross

Once my broken scapula is healed (more on that below), I plan on doing everything with it that I used to do with the Hobootleg. Brevets. Joy rides. Groceries. Beer runs. Singletrack. Commutes. Gravel rides. Overnighters. Dates with Erin. Maybe some shortish tours.

During my first ride on the MC, I wiped out on a slippery bridge and broke my scapula. Still healing. The bicycle is fine. I hate index shifting, so this thing is friction all the way. I never take my rando bag off. I’m a never nude for rando bags. *Shrug*. The Cinelli Hobootleg (which the MC replaced) is now living a new life as my cargo bike with a Crust Clydesdale fork (thanks, Pete!). I’d like to emphasize how crucial Cycleast was to this build. Russell and everyone there (as well as Jerod up in Chattanooga) are the best. Thanks to Mike Varley for continuing to offer the world an amazing 700c steel canti frame.

  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross
  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross
  • Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross

All of the photos you see here were shot on Kodak Porta 160 pushed two stops with a Canon T90 and some very old lenses. Finally, you might not have guessed this or even care, but I’m listening to Death Metal. All. The. Time.

You can follow along with Zach on Instagram @z.w.sprague.

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