Chris Hall Gravel bike collaboration for WyndyMilla
So, when Wyndy Milla asked me if I could design a bike for Chris to take to Australia on his latest epic - a month long tour across Australia with his buddy Francis Cade - I couldn’t say no. It would bear the WyndyMilla name and we’d paint and finish the bike together, but Spoon Customs would design and produce the bike.
With the Spoon Customs Finestre gravel bike platform out in the wild and recent experience at Grinduro with the Spoon Customs Monster Cross, it seemed like a natural extension of that exploratory work and a great opportunity to get some serious development riding and feedback out of Chris Hall’s experienced legs which would then feed into future Spoon Customs own label work, so despite the need to turn the whole project around from design to build in less than a month at our busiest time of year, I agreed to help out and we went for it.
Chris and I spent a few evenings going over ideas on the telephone, exchanging emails and discussing the ride ahead in the context of experiences both on the Isle of Arran with the Grinduro build and Chris’s own efforts on the Silk Road to get to something we were both comfortable would meet his needs and do the job.
One of the considerations was the Lauf Fork which he wanted to incorporate. This gives some spring at the front end and we we were both keen to combine it with some sensibly slack frame geometry. Chris wanted no toe overlap with good manners and control over loose descents, but still wanted the bike to behave sensibly on the road, with light and responsive handling back on tarmac.
We opted for a flat mount disc set up for reliable braking, running internal-external cables so they were accessible in case of any problems with the hydraulics on the 4000km ride. We called on Shimano’s Ultegra components for ease of set up and maintenance. Info Cranks from Jam Cycling provided reliable power readings, and Shimano pro components finished the set up with a flared bar. Extra bottle bosses were essential but with custom bags from the brilliantly named Skin Grows Back and accessories from Tail Fin we could save on any extra braze on mounts to get overall frame weight down.
I asked Sam at WM Paintworks if he could find anything reflective to give Chris some visibility on the dark outback roads at night, and as usual Sam called on his massive experience to find us a suitable product in time. He then designed and executed the paint scheme, as he would for any other Wyndy Milla bike. We weren’t sure if the reflective product would work, but we’re pleased with both the effect and the way it’s held up after more than 3000km of riding.
Chris has been checking in almost daily with feedback on the bike from different surfaces and conditions, and its been a really useful exercise from a design and development point of view. It’s also been pretty cool to be part of such a massive expedition. Getting that sort of live feedback, and for him to have so much back-to-back time on the bike has been really valuable and I can’t wait to get together with him face to face for a beer and proper discussion about it. We’re both really stoked with how it’s performed and it’s given us both a lot of confidence in the ideas that went into it.
It’s not all been plain sailing. Trying to develop and build a bike and get it right inside a month did throw up a couple of problems. For example, we made the bike for a new shimano GRX groupset with the clearances that affords but then thanks to poor timing (Shimano’s main man was away at the Tour De France!) we ended up with a standard Di2 from Chris’s spares bin, so Chris has had to manage with some pretty tight clearance between the front mech and that GravelKing tyre, but to have the bike not just delivered and working but performing really well without major issues was rad.
One of the highlights was when he told me that the bike - made of a mix of Columbus Zona and Life tubing and fillet brazed - is actually a lighter build than Francis Cade’s carbon Willier which he’s been running along side the bike for the whole trip. No mean feat given that massive fork.
If you want one once we’ve finished the development work, with a rigid or Lauf fork in your own spec’, give me a shout and we can get started on your own full blown Spoon Customs version, based on Chris’s WyndyMilla commissioned development frame.
To view video of their trip check out Francis Cade’s channel on you tube. https://www.youtube.com/user/franciscccccc