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This review, entitled Too Pretty To Get Dirty, originally appears in Road Bike Action Magazine and has been published with permission.
What do you get when you mix the talents of Canadian cycling enthusiasts (one an architect and one a lawyer) with a handful of soon-to-be-unemployed titanium artisans in upstate New York? A beautiful titanium bike, that’s what!
It was back in 2012 that the pair of Canadians were looking to have some titanium bikes built when a shop by the name of Saratoga Frameworks (that specialized in building titanium frames) was going out of business. One thing led to another, and soon enough the No. 22 brand (the atomic number of titanium on the periodic table) was born.
We’ve been running into the Mike and Bryce of No. 22 for the last few years at the North American Handmade Bike Show where we would stand in awe at the sheer beauty of the bike’s design and construction. Following this year’s NAHBS, we were finally able to cajole a dual-purpose Drifter out of them.
No. 22 makes two levels of frames— ready-made and made-to-order. Where the former takes three weeks for delivery, the latter takes about 12 weeks. In addition to the masterful welds, the bikes are available in 10 different, eye-catching, anodized color finishes (our test bike was done in the purple-gold fade). You also get three choices of stem/fork colors.
The front triangle uses size-specific, CNC-butted tubes with a bi-oval downtube and tapered chainstays. The 54cm frame (measured center to center) felt big, and the 101.5 cm wheelbase was definitely on the long side. The frame (with a claimed weight of 1375 grams) has ample room to run 40mm tires.
The Drifter frame is fronted with a No. 22 carbon fork, and only the rear brake cable is run internally. We’re not sure if the seatstay bridge adds any rigidity, but as with the rest of the bike, it’s more like a jeweled accessory. Available in seven sizes, the frame comes with a 10-year warranty.
As hard as it was to look at anything past the frame, as we all know, a frame needs parts in order to be ridden. The ready-made bike ships to you in a matter of three weeks built up with a Shimano Ultegra 8000 drivetrain, which, on the most objective cost/benefit ratio, remains our most favorite drivetrain in the world.
The bike is outfitted with a 3T carbon handlebar and a beautiful No. 22 titanium seatpost (with an Enve clamp) that carries through some of the anodized details. In the wheel department, the Drifter rolls on Reynolds ATR tubeless carbon clinchers mounted with 40mm Schwalbe G-One tires.
In addition to the option for a pair of color-matched titanium King cages (say yes and you’ll never need to buy cages again), there are moves afoot to off er the butted titanium Silca frame pump that also has the trick anodized treatment.
In accordance with the whiny naysayers who continue to complain that gravel bikes are not road bikes, we would defy any of them to take the Drifter out for an 80-mile ride and not come away thinking about replacing their old-school bike (with rim brakes and 23mm tires) for this modern dual-purpose bike.
Designed as a gravel bike, we nonetheless found three reasons to spend the majority of time aboard the Drifter pounding out paved miles: 1) Indeed, the bike is so pretty, no one relished getting it too dirty; 2) The 52/36 and 11-30 gearing was on the tall side for most of our steep SoCal gravel rides; and 3) it was simply a great-handling, compliant road bike.
• Beauty on two wheels
• Canadian/American hybrid
• Gravel, schmavel—a great road bike
Price: $7,499 (frame: $3,199)
Weight: 18 pounds
Would the Drifter be our first choice if we were entering a local criterium? No. Would it be our choice for everything else? Yes.
Thankfully, there is still a vibrant community of titanium (and steel) frame builders out there who know all about cycling’s black plastic monopoly but still prefer to bring something else to the table. As for the No. 22, what’s even more impressive is that beyond being just a titanium bike, they’ve upped the bargain with a level of enjoyable, artistic details seldom found these days.
As ironic as it is that their Reactor road bike (with an integrated seat mast) uses a carbon fiber seat tube to provide the feel of a titanium frame, the Drifter was as compliant as any of the best carbon bikes we’ve tested. No doubt the pillowy 40mm Schwalbe tires help, but this is a frame that best defines all the possible attributes of a titanium frame.
Yes, once again we are gloating about an expensive bike ($6,799 for the raw-framed version), but when you consider there are some frames on the market that sell for just as much, paying seven large for such a distinctive, durable, fine-riding steed makes all the sense in the world.
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