Gunnar Bikes: the Accessible Waterford
Given the references to Waterford in a recent post, as well as the company's presence at Interbike (that's a briefcase full of head tube samples in the picture above), I wanted to bring readers' attention to a line of bicycles that I think is mighty nice: Gunnar Bikes. Made in Wisconsin, USA in the factory of Waterford Precision Cycles, Gunnar is the simpler, budget-conscious offspring of the famous custom manufacturer - named after a beloved pet dog.
Advances in steel tubing design led to the TIG-welded Gunnar line's 1998 launch, and Waterford has been producing them ever since. There are now 10 stock models available, including road, cyclocross, touring, and mountain bikes. The local-to-me Harris Cyclery is a Gunnar dealer, and recently I finally got around to test riding one of the bikes.
The Gunnar I rode is the CrossHairs model: a cyclocross bike with cantilever brakes, clearances for 38mm tires and provisions for fenders and racks. The colour is described as "burnt orange." The 54cm floor model was slightly too big for me, but doable as far as getting a sense of the bike over the course of the test ride. My interest was mainly in the CrossHairs' potential as a road-to-trail bike - for which its aggressive geometry, fairly light weight, and wide tire clearances made it look like a good candidate. Others might also be interested in it as a randonneuring bike or even a commuter, given the rack and fender possibilities.
Cantilever bosses and rack mounts.
The canti brakes are Avid Shorty, and they worked fairly well for me.
Riding the Gunnar CrossHairs I found the handling familiar and intuitive from the get-go: Fast to accelerate, responsive to pedaling efforts, stable. No twitchiness and nothing weird about the handling, just an easy, fast, fun ride. The finish on the Gunnar looks excellent: extremely smooth joints, precise braze-ons, nice paint (some attractive stock colour options, as well as custom choices). Geometry can be slightly tweaked from the stock options as well, particularly top tube length. If ordering a Gunnar bike from scratch, lead time is about 4 weeks.
The complete bicycle pictured here is currently for sale at Harris Cyclery (in West Newton, MA), retailing at under $2,500. Prices will vary depending on the components used. For a US-made, handbuilt bicycle with lightweight tubing, responsive but easy handling, clearance for wide tires and provisions for fenders and racks, the Gunnar CrossHairs is worth considering for road-to-trail riding. It's a handmade-on-demand, yet available and accessible bike - from the legendary builder Waterford.