December 22, 2019

There’s nothing quite like building a bike for one, specific and grand project. So, when Didier Muller first heard of a group doing a bike trip across the Tibetan Himalayas, he went into his stable of bikes (he was then at seven) to see if anything quite fit the bill.

“I met these guys in the streets of Shanghai cycling, where I work part time,” says the New Jersey resident of how he found himself signing up for a cycling trip of a lifetime. “I ride with this local group, RNCC (which stands for Ridenow Cycling Club). They have a race team, about 1,000 members, and organize travel trips outside of Shanghai twice a year, plus the guys are really nice.” Their next adventure was a 12-day trek from Chengdu, in Eastern Tibet, to Everest Basecamp, putting the total journey at around 570 kilometres. The ride is designed for an intermediate athlete, and Didier says he put in a reasonable amount of training in preparation.

With plenty of time to prepare for his trip, Didier started to think about the ideal bike for the specific demands of the Himalayas: long daily rides (so custom geometry was a must), incredible climbs and, of course, breath-taking descents. Although the Himalayan region is extremely remote and at times sparsely populated, it’s also become a massive infrastructure project for the Chinese government. “ There would be some rough sections along the way, however, so Didier wanted to marry an aggressive geometry with the handling of a gravel bike.

Didier decided to build a bike specifically for this trip. “I didn’t want to deal with a carbon disaster,” he says of his choice to go with a titanium frame. “I have three friends who’ve had issues in China with the local airlines. A broken frame and your trip is done before it even begins.”

“Tibet has become a giant public works project. Building high speed trains, solar farms,” Didier says of the region. And although the roads are mostly super smooth and many of them just recently constructed, Didier wanted his custom ride to have a hint of gravel agility. “I wanted to run 36 mm tires, and have the crankshaft a little lower for good speeds and comfort,” he says of some of the specs he aimed for when building out his custom No. 22. “Sure, a ti frame is maybe a few hundred grams heavier than carbon, but I’m not going to notice that after a day or two in the mountains. For me, titanium is number one.”

The group broke a day’s worth of riding down into about 80-100K, with a few days front-loaded to acclimatize to the altitude. The region sits well above 12,000 ft, even at its lowest valleys. Didier had never ridden at altitude before, so he prepped put in the prerequisite work on the roads in order to get as fit as he could. “I’m an older cyclist, but pretty fit, so I raced a time trial and Fondo in preparation for the trip,” he says. The oxygen level at altitude is less than half of what you are breathing at sea level, so Didier also packed Diamox, which is used to combat altitude sickness. “You take it to make sure you don’t get migraines. I had zero issues,” he says. “The one thing to be careful with is to never push too hard too fast. Before pushing up a big climb, I would check my heart rate, and I would do all my climbs and keep my heart rate at zone three.”

Each day, Dider and a small group, including a Japanese couple on their honeymoon, would ride in mornings, including some serious efforts, “We did two hours of climbing, a lot of 6, 7 and 8 per cent,” Didier says, mitigating it by pointing out that it is nothing like the the Pyranese or Alps, which has 12-14 per cent climbs, but that the extreme altitude makes the aerobic effort punishing.

After each morning ride, the group would make a quick stop for lunch, and then try to get to a rest stop, or the group’s minibus, which ran support, would shuttle them to their accommodations for that evening. They also had a truck transporting bikes so that they didn’t need to disassemble them, and a translator. “It’s difficult to move around Tibet for foreigners,” Didier points out. “You need a guide and permitting to get through police checkpoints, but all of that was arranged for this trip. It was seamless.” The hotels varied, depending on how deep into the region they were—”everything from Hilton and the Shangrila, but closer to Everest the hotels of course are rougher.” Didier says.

Each day provided extraordinary vistas, but also some unexpected flora. “The trip varied wildly,” Didier says, “from a very lush environment in the east of Tibet, with wild peach trees, to a very harsh environment. Keep in mind that the geology in the area was once a sea floor that has been pushed up to 4,000m. The Indian Continent that started to move 65 million years ago.”

The food was a standout throughout the trip. “It’s a section that didn’t have rice until the Chinese showed up,” Didier indicates. “It’s a country of yak milk, and heavy Nepalese influence.” Another memorable constant was the kindness of the locals as they passed through each community. “There would often be little kids waving at you along the side of the road,” Didier says.

Another extraordinary moment came while they drove in order to get within range of riding to Everest Basecamp. “We stopped in the middle of the night en route to Everest,” he says. “We got out in order to look out into the night sky with zero light pollution. It’s incredible.”

The group targets early May and October in order to avoid dangerous conditions. “One day we had crappy weather,” Didier says. “But we actually had a bunch of fun. It was two degrees, and all these rollers in the mud and rain. I like that sort of thing.” He says his choice to go with a titanium bike was a wise one because of one near disaster. “The bike saved my butt. I misjudged a turn, and hit a bunch of ripples,” he says. “If I had a carbon frame, I would have been ejected at that speed. The ti absorbed it.”

On one of the final days of riding, Didier began a long descent into a valley, and just as he did so, the sky before him cleared. “It was exulting,” he says looking back at one of those perfect moments one encounters riding in a foreign land. I just went another mile and enjoyed the moment. It was a humbling experience.”

Didier’s ride in the Himalayas was also special because it’s no doubt the highest a No. 22 bike has ever been to. 5,250 m.

“This experience changed my focus on cycling,” he says of his ride in the mountains on his Tibet bike. “Now I’m going to do one big trip with this bike every year.”



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2019 Geometry Charts

Great Divide Rim Brake

Size 48cm 50cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Effective top tube length (mm) 495 510 525 545 560 580 600
Seat tube, center-center (mm) 445 462 490 518 540 565 590
Head tube length (mm) 90 100 120 140 160 180 200
Seat tube angle (deg) 75 74.5 74 73.5 73 73 72.5
Head tube angle (deg) 70.5 71.0 71.2 72.2 72.5 73 73
Front center (mm) 567 574 584 586 594 609 623
Chain stay length (mm) 412 412 412 415 415 415 418
BB drop (mm) 78 78 75 75 75 73 73
Reach (mm) 357 364 370 379 383 397 406
Stack (mm) 506 517 534 558 578 597 617
Standover (700x28mm tires) 730 743 767 793 813 836 858

 

Great Divide Disc

Size 48cm 50cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Effective top tube length (mm) 495 510 525 545 560 580 600
Seat tube, center-center (mm) 445 462 490 518 540 565 590
Head tube length (mm) 85 95 115 135 155 175 195
Seat tube angle (deg) 75 74.5 74 73.5 73 73 72.5
Head tube angle (deg) 70.5 71.0 71.2 72.2 72.5 73 73
Front center (mm) 567 574 584 586 594 609 623
Chain stay length (mm) 418 418 418 418 420 420 422
BB drop (mm) 78 78 75 75 75 73 73
Reach (mm) 356 364 369 378 382 397 405
Stack (mm) 508 520 536 560 580 599 619
Standover (700x28mm tires) 731 744 768 794 814 837 858

 

Drifter

Size 48cm 50cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Effective top tube length (mm) 502 510 526 545 560 575 595
Seat tube, center-center (mm) 460 478 503 520 535 552 577
Head tube length (mm) 105 115 130 150 165 185 205
Seat tube angle (deg) 74.5 74 74 73.5 73 73 72.5
Head tube angle (deg) 70.5 70.5 70.8 71 71.2 71.2 71.5
Front center (mm) 572 576 589 603 612 627 640
Chain stay length (mm) 430 430 430 430 432 435 435
BB drop (mm) 73 73 73 72 70 70 70
Reach (mm) 353 353 365 374 379 389 398
Stack (mm) 529 538 553 572 585 604 624
Standover (700x38mm tires) 762 775 795 813 828 845 861

 

Drifter X

Size 48cm 50cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Effective top tube length (mm) 502 511 525 545 560 575 595
Seat tube, center-center (mm) 460 478 502 520 535 552 576
Head tube length (mm) 110 120 135 155 170 190 210
Seat tube angle (deg) 74.5 74 74 73.5 73 73 72.5
Head tube angle (deg) 70.5 70.5 70.8 71 71.2 71.2 71.5
Front center (mm) 571 576 589 603 612 627 640
Chain stay length (mm) 427 427 427 427 430 432 432
BB drop (mm) 73 73 73 72 70 70 70
Reach (mm) 355 356 363 376 382 392 400
Stack (mm) 521 530 546 564 577 596 616
Standover (700x38mm tires) 758 772 790 809 824 842 863

 

Reactor

Size 50cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Effective top tube length (mm) 515 530 545 565 580 595
Seat tube, center-center (mm) 456 475 496 514 545 568
Head tube length (mm) 100 120 140 160 190 210
Seat tube angle (deg) 74.5 74 74 73.2 73 73
Head tube angle (deg) 72 72 72.8 73.2 73.2 73.2
Front center (mm) 571 582 586 595 608 623
Chain stay length (mm) 410 410 412 412 415 415
BB drop (mm) 72 72 72 70 68 68
Reach (mm) 374 379 388 395 400 409
Stack (mm) 503 522 545 564 590 609
Standover (700x25mm tires) 739 757 779 800 829 850

 

Aurora

Size 48cm 50cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Effective top tube length (mm) 495 510 525 545 560 580 600
Seat tube, center-center (mm) 445 462 490 518 540 562 588
Head tube length (mm) 100 110 130 150 170 190 210
Seat tube angle (deg) 75 74.5 74 73.5 73 73 72.5
Head tube angle (deg) 70.5 71 71.2 72.2 72.5 73 73
Front center (mm) 567 574 584 586 594 609 624
Chain stay length (mm) 415 415 415 418 418 418 420
BB drop (mm) 78 78 75 75 75 73 73
Reach (mm) 355 363 369 378 382 396 405
Stack (mm) 510 521 538 562 582 601 620
Standover (700x28mm tires) 731 745 770 795 814 838 859

 

Broken Arrow

Size 48cm 50cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Effective top tube length (mm) 505 510 525 545 560 575 590
Seat tube, center-center (mm) 467 490 510 533 545 567 590
Head tube length (mm) 90 100 120 140 150 160 180
Seat tube angle (deg) 74 74 73.5 73.3 73 73 72.5
Head tube angle (deg) 70.5 70.5 70.5 71.3 71.3 71.5 71.8
Front center (mm) 571 577 588 594 607 620 627
Chain stay length (mm) 425 425 425 425 425 425 425
BB drop (mm) 68 68 68 68 66 66 64
Reach (mm) 353 355 360 371 381 392 396
Stack (mm) 524 533 552 576 583 593 611
Standover (700x32mm tires) 763 778 797 820 830 846 867

 

Little Wing

Size 50cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Effective top tube length (mm) 515 525 540 555 575 590
Seat tube, center-center (mm) 477 499 524 552 575 596
Head tube length (mm) 100 120 140 160 180 200
Seat tube angle (deg) 75.5 75 74.5 74.5 74 74
Head tube angle (deg) 72.5 73 73 73.5 74 74
Front center (mm) 566 569 579 590 601 613
Chain stay length (mm) 393 393 393 396 396 396
BB drop (mm) 58 58 58 58 58 58
Reach (mm) 382 383 387 397 407 416
Stack (mm) 506 527 546 567 588 608
Standover (700x23mm tires) 765 785 806 830 851 871

 

Old King

Size Small Medium Large Extra Large
Effective top tube length (mm) 580 605 622 642
Seat tube, center-center (mm) 380 410 445 481
Head tube length (mm) 100 110 120 140
Seat tube angle (deg) 73.5 73.5 73.5 73.3
Head tube angle (deg) 70 70 70 70
Front center (mm) 655 680 698 719
Chain stay length (mm) 435 435 435 435
BB drop (mm) 58 58 58 58
Reach (mm) 401 423 437 451
Stack (mm) 599 609 619 637
Standover (29x2.3" tires) 799 816 838 863