What's Cool In Road Cycling

BEST of PEZ ’06: Crumpton Custom Carbon

Right on the heels of back to back “Best Carbon Bike” winners at the increasingly well attended North American Hand Made Show, we pull the winner right off the show floor and get rolling on Nick Crumpton’s Full Custom fit, Full Carbon SL…

The Best of PEZ – To help make brighter these darkest winter days, we’ve selected for your viewing pleasure some of our Best Stories of the year. Who decided which of our 900-odd stories were the best? – we did of course. Through the next week we’ll present for your consideration some of the work we’re most proud of, and hope you enjoy one more look as much we do. Sometimes a glance back helps clear the path ahead.

What’s worse than waiting for a custom fit bike to come your way? Try actually getting it sent to you, building it up with high end gear from Zipp, Nokon, Tiso, Zero Gravity, FSA and others and then watching it sit for a bit… Then having to pack it all up and send it away before getting to wail on it (so we didn’t risk crashing it out…)!

That cruel, horrible scenario played it’s self out with a made to my measure Crumpton SL… We had been working with a few select vendors to get this all ready, and simply couldn’t refuse Nick Crumpton’s request to use it as an NAHBS bike that would need to stand along side some of the best custom cycles available any place in the world. Nick loved the build kit and we sure as hell loved the idea of getting a full custom carbon bike, so we built up this baby and waived a tearful good bye…

click the Thumbnail at the top for a sweet big view

We did find it nice though that at least we’d helped put together a bike that would wind up being shown by the good guys at Cyclingnews and a few other places, as it meant that we got to ride Nick’s coat tails a bit and think our build had anything at all to do with his winning the show as Best Custom Carbon! And we knew that after the lights went out at the show, we would get our baby back (actually it was more of a hope and pray thing). The fun really started in the week after the show, as riding this bike was more fun than the build, and this was certainly a high end build.

Getting Started

We took our choice of FSA’s three versions of set back posts… Using the middle of their range of set back…

We had a bit of sweetness dripping from down low in Zipp cranks that are, to date, the best aftermarket crank available when the measure is stiffness, Q factor and light weight combined… And topped it with a super light front Mech from Tiso.

[Tech Ed note: Yes we’ve seen the Aussie bike magazine test, and it tested (strange angle) side load rather than testing down force or twist resistance (once a pedal is mounted and you push down, it’s more about twist), which are more important indicators of crank stiffnes than bottom center side load…]

I’m not sure if they were both tweaked or both happy, but we stuck a one piece Calfee bar stem combo on board, as it was perfect (and is the best one-piece bar stem combo available, as you can order it set up for you with lots of bars…)

Zero Gravity nailed us another custom etched set of Pez Tech brakes…

And if the brakes were not light enough the Bottle Cages from M2 Racer sure as hell are…

And I decided to get a little funky with Nokon Cables, using two bikes worth to re-string red and black sets to accent the colors of the Crumpton Graphics (but mostly to annoy the crap out of one of my buddies who babbled at a ride “ I have Nokon’s and Mr. Pez Tech doesn’t!”).

And we ran Jagwire’s Teflon coated fire wire inside the Nokon’s standard housing, making for the slickest shifting (and probably most expensive) set of cables around…

Now To The Good(er) Stuff…
Nick Crumpton is standing among a few very good builders that do full custom Carbon. And he stands alone in his Austin Texas shop, as the only man that will touch your bike from start to finish.

He started building in the early 90’s on his own, and actually started a long while back learning the welding trade at Bike Friday of all places. It was probably an excellent place to learn about the stresses applied to a frame though, as Bike Friday don’t exactly build standard geometry… Nick actually got the bug a couple of decades ago, as he had completely stripped the finish from his Waterford and realized after looking at the silver glint from the lugs and joints and the overall finish work that lies beneath paint (on SOME bikes), that bikes were not just a bunch of tubes thrown together.

He’s been working strictly with Carbon for the past few years and has developed a build process for using tube sets and raw material that allows for what he feels is both exceptional durability and ride tuning… As I look around the bike done for me, it takes all of 2 seconds to know that this is a special process.

The Tube set gets first comment.
Nick selects and orders tubes specific to the customer. Very small stock, then a couture selection if needs be, as thickness, wind up / lay-up direction, density, etc are all considered.

The top and down tubes are a bit like those found on my custom Seven Elium Race. The same producer provides Crumpton his tubes as well as providing Seven theirs, so the similarity makes sense, and I know that these tubes are designed well for resisting twist. They also look extremely cool compared to the standard checkerboard carbon on lots of bikes…

A marked contrast is in the seat tube, and that makes perfect sense, as the tube it’s self performs a bit different job than the others… You’ll notice a spiral pattern and it’s a thickness that will give some stability against bending (different than twisting), but also do a good job of absorbing vibration. The large diameter of the seat tube (requiring a 31.6 seat post) also helps in the bending resistance. The difference in look (sideways stripes) makes more sense with this in mind…

The Seat stays are Easton EC90 wishbone. It’s pretty straight from a side view but a slight steady curve visible from the back.

The Chain stays are also an Easton product and are, in effect, also a wishbone. It’s just a far larger box section profile at the bottom bracket shell for stability.

Nick goes for the Easton Product on his SL frames, as they are a bit lighter than the Deda product selected for his “standard” custom frame.

Another difference from the standard custom to the upgraded SL for Crumpton is the use of Easton’s EC90 SLX fork, rather than the standard Easton SL version.

A bit of weight savings, and the SLX fork is a better match for the character of the SL frame. And Nick makes sure to match the finish of the fork to a gloss clear (the SLX is a matte finish as standard from Easton). And it’s carbon stem to stern, er eh drop…

OK, so Parts and Tubes are covered…
The special part of Nick’s bikes lies in his joining the tubes… He of course starts with an extremely accurate tube cut and finish that lets him basically call out angles down to fractions of degrees. This allows for geometry with true nuance as I was able to spec very slight changes to the Geometry that I have used on the past two or three other custom frames in just the past year (rough life, but some one has to…). I specified angles down to the hundredth of degree and Nick knocked em out using some fairly expensive gear…

1. is the tube clamped in place 2. is the cutting bit

Once cut and placed together, you can see basically perfect cuts with nearly 100% contact surface.

It’s after the cut and fit check that the real “Crumtonation” takes place… You may have heard this bike described as “Lugless” and at a glance that’s how it appears.

Nick uses a wallaceandgrommet as well as a Flux Capacitor (see: proprietary) process to join the tubes. It’s a fairly straight forward process that involves a lot of hand work and layers of carbon wrapped around a bonded joint. But “straight forward” doesn’t mean simple, easy, quick or without thought. I guess what I mean is the process works after a whole hell of a lot of effort to get it right..

It would be easy to think that the joint is bonded and just gets a layer of carbon tossed on when you look at intersections like the bottom bracket area.

The wrapping takes a bit more subtle shape around another complex joint at the top tune / seat tube / seat stay joint…

What is interesting is that this frame would hold together and be fairly strong with just the initial fastening of the joint, without the carbon wrapping second step. In fact, Nick has tested his initial joint before wrapping, using a lever on lever, prying attached tubes apart, and the tubes will fail (break) before the joint does.

The Carbon wrapping process is how Crumpton further tunes and focuses the ride…

The extra layers of Carbon can be very slight (a process like the Scott CR-1 uses) or can be more substantial, depending on the rider and his / her desires.

A heavy rider wanting a stiff frame will not only have more layers of carbon around the joint (extra thickness) but those layers will also travel further up the tubes away from the joint area… Nick could make the Bottom bracket look like a bowling ball if he wanted…

The Bottom end of our bike has a medium amount in thickness and it travels up the tubes not too far, as well as reinforcing the box section stays.

Add a few pounds to the rider, or some length to the tubes (or both) and you would see a different wrap.

All of the joints are minimal… And all are wrapped with not just size, but function in mind, a bit like wrapping an ankle for a sporting event (to keep it from twisting to the sides but allow freedom of movement vertically. Meaning the wrap will resist twist more, but allow for some vertical compliance. Roughly translated, that’s stiff for power, but soft for ride…

The same thing holds true with this bike as has a few of the other customs we have had. The handling is as I had ordered. A bit quick.

I used a slight geometry tweak of just a few hundredths of a degree, coupled with a fork choice that make this bike more of a think and turn thing than requiring any steering. That’s very close to what I had on the last Serotta and Seven I had built. I believe that the slightly lower weight on Crumpton’s SL also adds to the quickness in handling. That’s not to say that either the Seven or Serotta were heavy, they were damn light in fact. But the SL goes a step further in reduced weight with quick geometry.

The Frame and Fork combination for the Crumpton is almost 200+ grams lighter than any other full custom fame and fork I have had. And that is in comparison to an extremely impressive list of very light bikes…

All the superlatives we’ve used on other frames apply to the Crumpton, with the possible exception of name the well earned name recognition that comes with benchmark brands like those listed above.

The Crumpton is stiff enough to cost you no power loss. The acceleration is what you would expect from a very light very stiff bike. The road holding during rougher surface turns is extremely impressive as the frame and fork will flex well enough to not cause the tires to skip and chatter the way some of the overly stiff newer bikes can.

Those compliments seem to knock each other off, but the twist control (providing the stiffness) is, to some degree, done in a way that doesn’t prevent some of the bounce that is lacking in some carbon bikes today.

When we first decided to move forward with this project (even with calling in sponsors and favors these reviews costs a lot because we sweat the details, which is why you don’t see a whole slew of tests like Pez get in most places and also why you don’t hear us doing the euro-pissing and moaning over a stem length or a wheel set on bikes like this) one of the things we heard from a couple of folks in the industry was “Crumpton has a big mountain to climb if they want to compete with some of the larger custom builders!”

With that in mind, Crumpton couldn’t care less about wasting time climbing anything that doesn’t help them to make a better bike.

Nick Crumpton is decidedly small in production, and really has no desire to “add headache for the sake of popularity…” In his words, “I don’t care how many bikes someone else sells… I just worry about the bike in front of me and the person I am working for. If the bikes are nice enough, the customers will be there…”

And so Nick has decided to double the number of frame models available to two… He’s also stressed himself just long enough with “image and marketing” to name them: “Standard” and “SL”. When asked what goes into the two, Nick says

“One’s lighter”.

Fair enough…

Actually there’s a bit more to the models as the Standard bike uses a bit more stout chain stay and seat stay combo from Deda as well as the standard Easton SL fork. Overall it’s just a bit more stout and is also leans a bit too standard geometry where the SL has a slight slope, but that can change as you wish.

The SL bike uses the Easton rear end and SLX fork.

When it’s all said and done, there’s about 200 grams in it meaning the Standard is still lighter than lots of other custom bikes on the market.

The cost is $3000 for the standard and $3,700 for the “SL”. Both can be built in geometry and tube set to suite.

Nick can make a bike based on what you have now and what you would like your new bike to perform like. He can also work with your local fitter to get your geometry dialed in, but will want to see pictures and know what you’re on now no matter what. “This is nobody’s first bike and we would be foolish not to use a customer’s history help dictate the future…”

Ordering these is pretty damn simple.

Call Nick…

You can find his information at The Crumpton Web Site.

Oh, And…

Nick can also do repairs on quite a few other Carbon Bikes out there… If you have done the deed to a carbon frame (within reason) there is a good chance He can get you patched up. I know, I know… You probably told the company you bought it from “I was just riding along when the tube exploded!” In the case they knew you were full of sh!t and didn’t give you a new frame, you might wanna give Nick a call…

Have Fun.
Charles Manantan

Note: if you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limits that may limit their use.

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