Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Luscious ANT Truss Bike

A little while ago I finally test rode an ANT Truss Bicycle for the first time, and the memory now seems like a dream. I cannot describe how much I love this frame design, specifically as executed by ANT. I have a separate post about truss frames, so I won't go into it again here. But something about that truss, in combination with the double plated fork crown, just "hits the spot" for me visually, and I've fantasised about riding one more times than I care to admit.

Luckily, I know Jim A. - a great mechanic at Harris Cyclery - who owns a glorious truss frame ANT, which I was able to ride. In retrospect, I can just kick myself for not taking the pictures before lowering the saddle, because the bike looks better with more seatpost showing. But in my excitement I was not thinking clearly and I hope you can overlook this aesthetic blunder.

Jim's ANT was built in 2007. It is a 53cm frame with 700C wheels, built for fixed gear.

The paint is liquid coat and the colour is a shade of dark cherry that appears to drip seductively as it catches the light.

Photographing this part felt a little wrong, but I decided an invasion of privacy was in order here to show the full darlingness of this sexy creature.

As I've written before, the truss frame is one design that I actually prefer to be TIG-welded (or fillet-brazed) as opposed to lugged, because lugs - to my eye - would look too busy here. The key for me is that these welds to be cleanly done, and this frame does not disappoint in that respect.

Jim A. set up this bicycle very similarly to the way I would have done. The upside-down Nitto Albatross handlebars strike the perfect balance between aggressive positioning and comfort. The single front caliper brake and the fixed gear rear wheel are uncluttered, simple to operate, and in keeping with a vintage look. I would put the brake lever on the right handlebar, but otherwise would set everything up just the same.

The copper rails and rivets on this Brooks B17 complement the frame beautifully. Those are Jim's initials carved into the toptube, in case you spotted them.

Rear brake(less) bridge. Though I have seen some truss frame bicycles equipped with fenders, racks and all sorts of extras, I think it looks best without - pathracer style.

The Sugino 75 is a really nice track crankset that the Co-Habitant thinks I ought to get, should I ever upgrade my fixed gear roadbike. Truthfully, I kind of don't get what the big deal is with this particular crankset, but sure - it looks nice enough.

These Paul dropouts are beyond "nice" though: I'm afraid I will salivate if I look at these for too long. Mmmm!

I wasn't especially attracted to Phil hubs until I saw this on Jim's bike. Gosh, this just looks so perfect.

And from another angle...

I rode Jim's truss bike briefly and slowly - It was in such perfect condition, that I was scared to death to let anything happen to it. Sadly, there was no one around to photograph me, as Jim was working and the Co-Habitant was busy buying components. But just imagine me looking both ecstatic and terrified as I pedaled this graceful machine along West Newton side streets, past pensioners and mothers with baby carriages... Of course they all wanted to ride it. As their eyes followed the glistening Phil hubs with longing and admiration, I felt like the luckiest girl in town.

I don't know how useful it is to review a custom-built bicycle, and one ANT truss frame may not necessarily feel or handle like another. But in case you are curious...

The first thing I noted, was that the bicycle felt significantly lighter than I expected it to. I guess because of the truss construction, I assumed that it would be on the heavier, clunkier side - more like a roadster. But this truss was whippet-sleek, lightweight, elegant and compact.

I got on and was surprised at how far forward I had to lean in order to reach the handlebars - Jim must have used a long stem to compensate for the swept-back Albatross bars. The aggressive posture made it easy to accelerate once I began riding and to go faster than I had intended. It was at this point that I realised how unaccustomed I'd gotten to riding fixed gear without foot retention, and also to the brake being mounted on the left. Thankfully, I figured it out in time to stop for the next red light - but after that I slowed down and was more careful. The ride was comfortable - nothing hurt and there was no excessive strain or pressure on any part of my body. For a bicycle with 28mm tires, it did not feel harsh over bumps. It felt stable, but then I tend to feel more stable on fixed gear bikes in general, so I don't know how telling that feedback is. Having never ridden a vintage pathracer, I cannot compare it to one - but I am fairly certain that the geometry of the ANT truss frame is modern and does not emulate actual vintage pathracers.  If I had to categorise the handling, more than anything it felt like a light and fast "casual" bicycle for those who are used to roadbikes but want something a bit gentler and more upright for Sunday afternoon rides with friends.

While some might question the practicality of a vintage-styled pathracer in an era when racing is done with dropbars and commuting is done with fenders and racks, I think that's beside the point. The classic truss frame pathracer is an idealised examplar of what ANT can create, and I find that appealing. Not all bicycles need to be versatile and practical in every respect. When I get my ANT, it will be almost exactly like this one - just because I want to support and celebrate what I believe to be Mike Flanigan's craftsmanship at its best.

Though I only managed to take this shabby picture of Jim A. with his bike, some day I will meet him outside of work and take a nicer portrait. Until then, I thank him for entrusting me with his Truss. This is truly one of my favourite bicycles.

45 comments:

  1. Beautiful bike! I agree, Veloria, that is one of the prettiest bikes I've ever seen. I don't think I could ride it, because of the racing posture, but I can sure oggle it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Veloria... you're going to make me spend money!!!! That has to be one of the sexiest bikes I've ever seen... perfect color, magnificent drop outs. It's just....

    Now my collection seems quite incomplete. :(

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mike's creations are the only TIG'ed bicycles I would really consider owning... his workmanship is superlative and his designs are both functional and timeless... long-time admirer of ANT bicycles... thanks for reminding me.

    The Grouch

    ReplyDelete
  4. You have no idea about how much you can dream about a bike, I ordered mine last August and it should only be a few weeks now. I wish I knew how to email you photos to you when I get mine.

    ReplyDelete
  5. A beautiul machine indeed. My steel (Primate Frames) SS CX bike has Sugino 75s and Phil Wood hubs. I wouldn't be without them or their bottom brackets. Simply the best in the business!! Engineering at it's finest!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Here is a functional work of art. The tube work, the paint, the clarity of design.......splendid.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very nice! The paint job looks great. I especially like the color!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Una gran bici...Saludos desde Sevilla (España)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I would love to try thoser handlebars...But nothing even close comes to my bike shop. Not that I can afford it anyway, just saying. But I would love to give them a try.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh baby.

    Oh baby.

    Draw the shades, dim the lights. This is the most lecherous post to date.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It really is lovely the way the handlebars echo the arc of the truss frame.

    ReplyDelete
  12. If you love truss work, you should check out this beautiful Malvern Star ladies frame, up for sale at the moment on the Bay: http://tinyurl.com/3mrfkob

    ReplyDelete
  13. Very beautiful! A work of functional art, for sure. I love those knurled dropout adjusters!!! There is something almost steampunk about them, but very subtle, and completely functional. They complement the bike very well.

    I'm curious what the bike weighs as shown?

    ReplyDelete
  14. "As their eyes followed the glistening Phil hubs with longing and admiration, I felt like the luckiest girl in town."

    You were, Velouria, you were!

    From all of the teasers, I was wondering if you'd managed to buy or trade your way into this bike. I could see you picking a color similar to it for your own truss frame. I look forward to seeing what confection you end up concocting.

    This is on the list as a modern holy grail bike for me.

    Dave Talsma- congratulations! Now you need to figure out how to do a truss-frame-themed uke.

    Corey K

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm generally not a red/burgundy gal, but that paint really is beautiful. Does it actually have that perpetually "wet" look even in person? It's like liquid in motion. Really something.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Do your other bikes know what you're up to on your unsupervised trips to town?

    My singlespeed mountainbike, "Brandeen" would absolutely thrash me if she ever caught me leering at some bikes seat cluster like that(and from such an immodest angle...). Of course you run around with all those "City Bikes" and their "anything goes", cosmopolitan approach to relationships. Brandeen's just a simple country girl with one gear and a simple heart, not like some of those tramp Tri-athlon bikes with their weird get-ups and skintight fairings, or the disturbing Mixtes you see running around in mens saddles and "catch me, ride me" white tires.

    I guess we shouldn't be surprised after you dumped your nice, stable(and LOYAL!) Pashley Princess(I wonder, do you still remember her name?) for a never ending stream of ever faster, skinnier tired vixens( that vulgar Eyetalian fixed gear for example, A bike to run fast and loose with if I ever saw one).

    Rev. Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
  17. snarkypup - If you can ride your roadbike with dropbars, this is easier. It's just more leaned over than an upright bike.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I rode out to Holliston a couple of weeks ago to talk to Mike about a low trail fork for the Club Racer and happened to see one of his new truss frames with those Paul dropouts, and agree they are quite h0tt.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Nice. The bubblegum pink spot between the truss and TT is funny. Definitely modern geo.

    Looks like someone at the Dutch bike factory got a bit cheeky, took a loop frame and inverted it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. dave talsma - filigreevelo[at]yahoo

    Nanseikan- Good Lord! I am trying to imagine that Malvern Star frame as a complete bike. So what was the front truss for?...

    ReplyDelete
  21. @Velouria - a little more digging reveals that it was the "Coronation" model, made to commemorate the coronation of QEII, so not quite the same amount of history behind it as your beloved truss bike. Methinks those extra fork stays were probably aesthetic, to make it look more like the coronation carriage. b

    ReplyDelete
  22. Corey K - I am getting one, just not sure when, so don't want to tease too explicitly lest it happen later rather than sooner. I have an arrangement with Mike whereby we are trading truss frame for equal value's worth of photography services.

    While I like the cherry colour on someone else's bike, it is not my thing. I do have a colour picked out already, but don't want to jinx it : )

    ReplyDelete
  23. Veloria, I can't ride the Panasonic with the road bars anymore and I've given up pretending. Hence the purchase of the Creme Caferacer mixte (which should arrive this week). The Bicycle of the Gods will be sold to someone who appreciates it, unicrown fork and all. It's all on rideblog, cataloging my decision to sell, as well as buy (I know you know about the buy part).

    So I couldn't ride the Truss. Much to my sadness.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oooooohh! The other half would be green with envy, except he just finished building something similar -- a lugged Raleigh Supercourse done in maroon with creme paneling and pinstriping, including the rims.

    The only thing we've not finished is the handlebars -- we're trying to dye twine maroon by various methods. When it's done, we'll send pictures. Have to say though, I prefer the truss frame.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Rev Spindizzy - My bikes are not permitted to access the internet precisely for that reason. I guess it's clear that I am a velo-polygamist... Eustacia is better off with the velo-monogamist who appreciates her for what she is.

    I can only imagine your wrath when you learn that I've been fondling Seven cycles today...

    ReplyDelete
  26. snarkypup - I know, I follow the rideblog with interest : ) But what I mean is that this isn't anywhere near the position of drop bars, but more like a mixte. Albatross bars are extremely upright and swept back, but here they are installed in a way that makes them more sporty. Still, they are essentially upright Albatross bars. If you can ride the mixte, you can ride this bike. Not that I am encouraging you to spend yet more money...

    ReplyDelete
  27. ^ There are some additional ones here : ))

    ReplyDelete
  28. It's definitely a beautiful bike. Actually, it's elegant. The more I look at those truss frames, the more I think of bridges. Perhaps the lines and curves of the frame make them graceful in a similar way to the cables that stretch between the towers of a suspension bridge or the arches of a bridge like the Pont Neuf.

    The reason why Sugino 75 cranks are so popular is that, for one, they are probably the least expensive NJS-certified cranks. NJS is the body that governs Keirin racing in Japan, where there is a system for betting that is similar to the pari-mutuel system the US and other countries have for horse-racing. All of the racers are licensed, and none are allowed to use equipment that isn't approved. Nearly all of the approved equipment is Japanese. Also, only silver, gold and champagne-colored equipment is approved; racers can't components that are black or other colors. (Hipster fixies need not apply!)

    Another reason for the 75's popularity is that it's stiff and it takes the same chainring size as Campagnolo and Shimano Dura-Ace track cranks. Plus, it is pretty.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Justine - Wow. That is the sort of thing I absolutely do not know but love to learn. Thanks so much.

    When you say that "only silver, gold and champagne-colored equipment is approved," do you mean including bikes, or just components?

    ReplyDelete
  30. I am appalled but not surprised. I've even been informed that there are frame builders who will convert a diamond frame into a step-thru and vice versa.

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
  31. The bike is drop-dead gorgeous.
    Just curious: Is the truss a purely aesthetic design element, or does it also serve as a frame stiffener?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Justine,

    I know a little about Keirin Racing but wasn't aware that only those colors of componants were allowed. I thought it was just tradition or something. The bikes themselves are very traditional and extremely well made.

    Racing bikes are very often finished in a sort of haphazard way(or at least they used to way back when) but Keirin bikes have always been so well finished. I've been told that it was that way because you had to use only the approved stuff and everyone making the approved stuff realized there was a rare opportunity to make real money, so only very high end parts were supplied. There is so much money involved in the sport that the cost of even really fine bikes is negligible. Doe's that sound right to you?

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
  33. What a graceful bike! It looks like it would just glide along the road, silent and neat. Thanks for the great photos ... and thanks too for the awesome blog. I just discovered it and am enjoying reading through your posts.

    Jason (Bike Ride Rambles)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Gorgeous bike and thorough review, as always, of what works visually and mechanically, and why. That colour is to die for by the way. Just glorious, and enhances that elegant frame so well.

    ReplyDelete
  35. MT cyclist - I am pretty sure that originally they were designed as frame stiffeners, but since this isn't actually necessary I consider them decorative.

    ReplyDelete
  36. A very beautiful and elegant bike to be sure. Thank you for sharing, Velouria. Can't wait to see your version, whenever it materializes. I'm not tempted because I tried the single-speed format and it wasn't for me. It somehow doesn't seem right that this bike would be anything but a a fixie or ss. Interesting that the new SimpleOne starts at 56cm and that's too large for me. Anyway, digressions. BTW, the color of this gorgeous bike is very similar to the color that I had my Ti road bike painted...the one I retired, and don't ride anymore......Steve in MD

    ReplyDelete
  37. Nice. Really beautiful bike. Love the paint too. Not keen on the truss thing though, but I could live with it just because the bike otherwise rocks.

    ReplyDelete
  38. islaysteve said...
    "Interesting that the new SimpleOne starts at 56cm and that's too large for me."


    Keep in mind though that Rivendell measures their frames C-T. So what they call a 56cm is what I would call a 54cm. My Bianchi is that size and I can ride it at 5'7".

    ReplyDelete
  39. this bike is soooooooooo gorgeous. it makes me dream of riding it down long, country lanes....hey! this is an aside, but have you seen these bike helmets? http://bellehelmets.com/index.html they are incredible!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Dang... you mean I could ride that? I really wish I didn't know that. It was better to believe I could never do it.

    Must let Creme Caferacer satisfy bike lust...

    And I know you read rideblog, and I love you for it, but I know not everyone reads every post all of the time (that was rather Lincoln-esque).

    ReplyDelete
  41. Spindizzy: Your explanation sounds right. At one time, Keirin racing was a huge money-maker; as I understand, it still is. So the incentive is certainly there to make nicely finished bikes and parts.

    Velouria: The silver/gold/champagne restriction applies only to components. I don't know that there's any reason other than tradition. So, if you were to buy, for example, a black Sugino 75 crank or chainring, it wouldn't be stamped "NJS Approved" even though, save for the color, it's exactly the same as the approved silver/gold/champagne items.

    Back in my racing days, we all had to wear white socks. That is an old UCI rule for which no one seemed to know the origin or reason. And nearly all local cycling federations (the ones regarding road racing, anyway) follow the UCI's lead.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I remember we also had to WEAR socks, I had to borrow some when I showed up for a crit in Richmond and had forgotten mine. I thought it was a little funny that they didn't consider me presentably dressed to go out and join a 10 bike crash in a filthy gutter without some nice white socks to help soak up the blood.

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
  43. Oh yay. What a beautiful bike. And Jim's my favorite Mechanic at Harris ( has helped me with a flat or two). Nice to see his bike.

    ReplyDelete