What We Ride (Part 2): 333fab Titanium Randonneur

In this mini-series, we’re looking at the bikes that the BQ Team rides. These are the bikes we’ve bought with our own money (or built with our own hands). These are the bikes we ride most of the time, whether we’re heading for a quick 2-hour spin or a multi-day adventure in the Cascade Mountains. These are the bikes we think work best for us and our style of riding.

Ryan’s custom titanium bike was built by 333fab as a modern interpretation of a randonneur bike. Like the rest of the team, Ryan’s bike rolls on the 650B x 42 mm tires, it’s got aluminum fenders, generator lighting and compact cranks. That is where the similarities end: Ryan’s bike is a reminder that there are many different ways to build a fast long-distance bike.

Ryan tells the story: “As background, I’m 6’4” and I’ve cracked the frame of every road bike I’ve owned since 1980 — Motobecane, Gitane, Pinarello, 2 Cannondales, 3 Lemonds, and Boulder Bicycle. For this bike, I wanted a titanium bike that could accommodate 42 mm tires with fenders, and had the same riding position as the most recent Lemond. I chose a local builder, Max Kullaway, and he quickly came up with a design that has become my current – and favorite – bike.”

Ryan decided to forego a rack and mounts his bag with a bracket on the handlebars. This leaves room underneath not only for the headlight, but also for his GoPro camera.

The titanium frame includes S&S couplers for travel. Max from 333fab made a custom titanium mount for the Rene Herse taillight. There’s a reinforcement for the rear fender to compensate for the lack of a direct fender mount.

Ryan’s bike uses a T47 bottom bracket, and he runs a Rotor crank. Ryan’s rear fender attaches to the back of the seat tube (there is no chainstay bridge), so he fashioned a neat rubber mudflap to extend the fender downward and prevent his legs getting sprayed from behind.

There’s a Whisky carbon fork up front and disc brakes in another nod to modernity. Ryan reports: “There were a few tradeoffs. The S&S couplers make traveling with the bike easier, but preclude using butted tubing which might have been nice. The bike is heavier than many bikes because I prioritized reliability and longevity over weight. These have been worthwhile tradeoffs.”

“Most of the parts have been completely reliable, but the original carbon fork started to rattle when the threaded insert for the thru-axle detached from the carbon. An identical replacement fork has recently come loose in the same place. The Velocity Blunt rim on the rear failed with cracks where the spokes attach. A replacement quickly developed cracks in the same manner. The original front Blunt is pristine, and the HED Belgium replacement on the rear is going strong.”

The 333fab is a neat bike. It took a while to make it all work, but now it’s a competent machine that can handle even the most challenging rides. Ryan’s conclusion: “I’ve had this bike for 3.5 years, and I’ve ridden it 20,000 miles (32,000 km). I’m always happy on this bike, and it has transported me on countless adventures, mixed-surface rides, errands, afternoon rides, and Paris-Brest-Paris. I enjoy riding this bike day or night, rain or shine, gravel or pavement. I also really like the way it looks.”

  • Frame: 333Fab Custom Titanium with S&S Couplers, low mount disc, OS headtube
  • Fork: Whisky No9 Carbon.
  • Cranks: Rotor Rex double 175 mm; Sugino Compact Plus 46/30
  • Derailleurs: Shimano Dura Ace FD-9000/RD-9000
  • Pedals: Shimano PD-M780
  • Front hub: SON 15TA
  • Rear hub: White Industries CLD
  • Cassette: Ultegra CS-R8000 11-28.  11 speed.
  • Rims: Velocity Blunt (front); HED Belgium (rear)
  • Tires: Rene Herse 650B x 42 mm Babyshoe Pass Extralight
  • Tubes: Schwalbe SV14A Extralight
  • Brakes: Shimano BR-R785
  • Brake levers: Shimano Ultegra R8000
  • Headset: Chris King i7
  • Stem/decaleur: Thompson X4
  • Handlebars: Deda Zero 100
  • Seatpost: Thompson Elite
  • Saddle: Brooks C17
  • Headlight: Schmidt Edelux 2
  • Taillight: Rene Herse
  • Fenders: Honjo 58 mm
  • Pump: Silca Impero Ultimate
  • Handlebar bag: Swift Paloma
  • Bottom Bracket: T47 30mm Chris King

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42 Responses to What We Ride (Part 2): 333fab Titanium Randonneur

  1. Benjamin Van Orsdol April 7, 2020 at 8:00 am #

    I was excited to hear about Ryan’s bike when this series was announced. As a fellow tall guy (also 1,930 mm.) I’m not sure about choosing thin tubing on tall frames and it sounds like Ryan can shed some light on the subject. Since reading BQ I’ve been intrigued to try the ultra thin tubes of kaisei. Have you? If so, does it feel wobbly? Were your cracked frames due to a powerful stroke over time? Although I’m tall, I’m not as powerful not as heavy, so maybe that has as much or more to do with the stresses on the frame. I recall a test performed by BQ back in the B&W days of frame stiffness where a frame was attached to an alignment table by both dropouts. A weight was hung from the bottom bracket and the deflection of the frame was measured. Is this an indication of longevity?
    Also, love the extra mudflap!
    So many questions!

    • Jan Heine April 7, 2020 at 8:27 am #

      Having ridden with Ryan for 10,000s of miles, it’s obvious that his pedal stroke is very forceful, and he tends to stress equipment. His last frame cracked in a TIG weld… The 333fab is Ryan’s first frame that was made by a small custom builder known for his welding skills – all the others came out of production shops. Hopefully the better workmanship will prevent the weak points that may be fine for most riders, but not for Ryan.

      Ryan’s previous bike was steel, using an oversize 7-4-7 tubeset (not Kaisei). From my vantage point, it seemed to climb and descend as well as any of Ryan’s bikes, but the position was a bit too short – we had thought that moving from racing to long-distance riding would require a more upright position, but it turned out not to be ideal. The bike also had a shimmy originally that was cured when we built a new fork for it – so again nothing inherent in the materials used. Most of all, Ryan fell in love with another local rider’s 333fab and decided to get his own. It’s been a good choice!

    • Josiah Anderson April 7, 2020 at 10:22 am #

      I’m not Ryan, but I’m the same height as both of you and recently got an XL Crust Canti Lightning Bolt. The actual tubing gauges used will remain a mystery until we can get one to Reed to measure, but it supposedly uses the same wall thicknesses as the René Herse Mule tubeset. It does not feel wobbly at all to me, just light and springy, and it is very fast uphill. The bike it replaced was a 1982 Nishiki with a straight-gauge 0.9 dt and 9-6-9 tt. That bike, strangely enough, actually was more wobbly-feeling in general than the Crust, and shimmied much worse. The Nishiki’s shimmy was bad enough that it was usually impossible to ride no-hands. I would take this to mean that geometry, alignment, and probably some other factors have a much bigger effect on handling than the tubing does, and that thinwall tubing can work well for big bikes.

      • Chris Jarrett April 7, 2020 at 11:19 am #

        I’m at 194 cm and have been interested in the lightening bolt. It’s good to hear that you’ve enjoyed it.

      • Reed Idlewild April 8, 2020 at 11:24 am #

        I haven’t measured one of the larger Crust Canti Lightning Bolts yet, but I just added measurements from a size Small to my tubing measurement spreadsheet. It also has measurement from the frames I’ve measured at the Un-Meetings over the years, including Josiah’s Nishiki:
        https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1XeS2nJhBPSDRbqgG1-F2VOI_vK1QZnZmysARDJWyGps/edit?usp=sharing

        • Josiah Anderson April 8, 2020 at 6:54 pm #

          Thanks for posting that! Sorry for any confusion I may have caused by mis-remembering the wall thicknesses on the Nishiki- the dt is closer to 0.8 than 0.9.

  2. Conrad April 7, 2020 at 9:03 am #

    Man I can’t believe you broke that many frames. I am 180 lbs, cat 2 on my racing license. With the exception of the track bike I have crashed all of my bikes hard at some point. I have not destroyed any of them. My Bianchi Volpe has around 175 k on it. My fast bike is a Boulder Brevet. Waterford has built a lot of bikes… I’m curious where yours failed. And also with your track record, why on Earth a carbon fork 😀

    • Ryan Hamilton April 7, 2020 at 9:55 am #

      The previous frames mostly all failed due to long term fatigue after about 4 or 5 years. I weigh 190 pounds and every one of the bikes provided thousands of miles of good service. There have been different types of breaks—the bottom bracket on the Reynolds 531 Motobecane cracked, the Gitane cracked at the bottom bracket as well, the dropout broke on the Pinarrello. The first Lemond, which was titanium, developed a 1 inch crack near a braze-on for the shifter cable. There are some exceptions on the list. One of the Cannondale bikes sawed through where a piece of grit found its way underneath the front derailleur clamp. One of the Lemond bikes was operator error related to a dropped chain (this was a very sad day). The carbon Lemond is still slightly functional but has several cracks on the seat tube. The Boulder cracked on the seat tube near the seat post. I’m impressed that you have 175K on a bike—that’s fantastic!

      > And also with your track record, why on Earth a carbon fork?
      Funny—that’s was the first thing Hahn, Jan, Mark, and Steve each separately asked when they first saw my bike. I still have no good answer 😊.

    • Jan Heine April 7, 2020 at 10:59 am #

      There seem to be some tall riders who are especially hard on equipment. Roger Baumann, the winner of the 1956 Paris-Brest-Paris, was one of them. Lysiane Breuil of TA said: “Where others put all the power on the road, he seems to have left some in the bike.” ‘Le Grand Roger’ broke so many cranks from all makers that he rode a steel Stronglight crank during that PBP.

      When we interviewed Lennard Zinn about bikes for tall riders, he pointed out that small animals can move their legs at much faster cadences than large ones. A mouse scurries along, its legs turning to a blur even at moderate speeds. A giraffe gallops with huge, slow strides. Zinn believes that taller riders should pedal at lower cadences and use much-longer cranks – something like 190 or 200 mm – to compensate. When you think about it, Ryan’s legs are about 6% longer than mine, but his cranks are just 2% longer. I found Zinn’s thoughts quite interesting – the full story is in Bicycle Quarterly 39.

      • Korina April 7, 2020 at 12:33 pm #

        Hey, my pet peeve!

        I’m 5’4″ with a 29″/73cm standover. Both of my classic steel bikes have 170 and 175mm cranks, despite being 17″ and 18″ frames. Sheldon Brown, in one of his rare failures, aptly compares it to us all climbing the same stairs, but doesn’t think about doing it for 30 miles. My knees and hips can tell you, it’s not fun. I have searched high and low, and only one mfr. makes anything shorter than 165mm, and that’s a youth mtb. set (which appears to be discontinued); fine for mountain bikes, not so much for my road bike.

        Is there a manufacturer who makes cranks for us outliers? Is crank length even something people discuss? Here’s an interesting article from a pt/bike fitter:

        https://bikedynamics.co.uk/FitGuidecranks.htm#1

        • Jan Heine April 7, 2020 at 12:45 pm #

          TA used to make 150 mm cranks, and you can find them used from time to time. Otherwise, like you say, 165 is about the limit. We wanted to make shorter 160s, but when we asked our customers, there was as strong preference for 165s.

          One bike fitter I spoke to recently said that the bigger issue for smaller people is Q factor – how wide the cranks are. With shorter legs, you have to spread them at a more acute angle if the Q factor is wider than is ideal for you. Riders who are running ultra-wide mtb triples may find a big improvement by switching to a low-Q compact double.

          • Korina April 7, 2020 at 3:46 pm #

            I live on Humboldt Bay Cal., a thin strip of flat surrounded by crazy steep hills, so I like my mtb gearing. My heart bike, a ’92 RockHopper, has a triple, 42/32/22, and I only use the two smaller rings. I’ve always been more interested in exploring than going fast. Again, outlier. 🙂

            Thanks for your time. I look forward to seeing the rest of the fleet.

          • Jan Heine April 7, 2020 at 5:37 pm #

            Totally understand your situation. Natsuko here on the BQ team runs a 42×24 compact double…

        • John C. Wilson April 7, 2020 at 3:06 pm #

          Sugino XD is available in 150, 152, 155, 160mm lengths. Short TA can still be found. Short Campagnolo can be found with luck and determination. There are a good variety of cheaper cranks such as Origin 8 that can be used to give short a try. BMX cranks can be adapted, it will be some work.

          I am fine with normal length cranks but have put four shorter riders on short cranks and so far am batting 1000. None of the four is unusually short and none would ever go back to normal cranks. All have found that there is no need to change gear ratios. All have been completely sold in first seconds of the test ride and never find any problems.

          At 5’4” the chances of doing well with short cranks are very high. Think of it as an experiment and report back.

          • Mark April 8, 2020 at 12:29 am #

            If I remember properly, I think Rotor did extra short crank arms too. Maybe in the last generation model? Perhaps you could hunt down them. I may be wrong, of course.

          • John C. Wilson April 8, 2020 at 7:52 am #

            At risk of too much information but smaller riders are horribly neglected. When making a big change in crank length, make a small change in saddle height. Saddle goes up, pedal is still closer at bottom of stroke. Of course it is possible you never had a good position with long cranks so you may wish to re-position from scratch.

            All of my short crank riders report hills are much easier with a more effective pedal stroke, extra low gears are not used so often. For example the wife previously had a bottom gear of 30×28 and was ready to go even lower with advancing age. On same hills she now gets up easily in 36×28.

            The short (150 or 160mm) Campy crank was the 3320 Gran Sport. Othon Ochsner, Sr. informed me that 1049 cranks existed in 160, have never personally seen one. This is interesting if you are trying to keep your classic bikes classic.

            Small frames work better when low to the ground. Neither pedal strike nor fender clearance is likely to be a problem with very short cranks. Best designed small frame I have seen is the wife’s 1973 Colnago in 51cm (c-t) which has a stand over of 28-1/2”. How a 17” frame stands taller is beyond me. The Colnago as originally equipped with 165 cranks would easily take 700×28 and fenders with toe clearance. This was of course a pure race bike. Insist on something at least as good for your next frame.

          • Jan Heine April 8, 2020 at 8:51 am #

            It’s getting better. Natsuko, our Bicycle Quarterly editor, is 5′ (153 cm) tall, and she recently tested a Trek Checkpoint that fit her. OPEN also offers their WI.DE. in a small size. The cranks may be longer than is ideal, but that can be changed…

          • Korina April 9, 2020 at 12:54 pm #

            Thanks for the leads, John. Will check them out!

          • Korina April 9, 2020 at 1:27 pm #

            John, my next frame is a 1994 Trek Multitrack 750, i.e. a 520 without the cachet and price tag. It’s fresh from the powder coater, now a beautiful green. 😊

            I totally agree about shorter riders being under served; one of my favorite YouTubers, Seth’s Bike Hacks, is a 5’4″ mountain biker having to use 175mm cranks on his fancy size small bikes, so it’s not just women. The industry is only interested in the middle, the average size male; everyone else is an outlier, and there’s just not enough profit for them. Even Liv, a Giant brand that’s supposedly all about women, uses 170-175mm cranks and 700c wheels on even their extra small bikes. 🙄 Extra tall riders have the exact same issue, and I feel for them.

            I’ve discovered the joys of 26″ wheels, and wish that others could too; my only regret is that it took so long. When I first rode my newly spruced up 1992 RockHopper, all I could think was ‘Finally, a bike that feels proportional!’

        • ZigaK April 8, 2020 at 3:43 am #

          I have recently read or watched, not sure, a detailed bike tear down. The bike was encrusted with top of the line components, the one thing that wasn’t top of the line was the crankset. The bike was made for a kid, so they drilled an additional hole bellow the regular one, to get to 150mm-ish crank length. The crank was chosen from the lower tier for the reason it didn’t have crank arms with hollow section, hence the drilling of the new hole was doable.

        • Wilson Wilson April 8, 2020 at 7:32 am #

          I am right there with you in height and inseam. Take a look at BMX cranksets or if you are feeling really nutty the unicycle community is a great source. When mentioning BMX cranks checkout Profile Racing they offer the better offset solutioning hardware. The Box cranks are a bit of a pain to get the offset right. I have found 150 cranks can cause quite a scene when riding with folks into a corner (wink).

      • Francisco April 8, 2020 at 5:46 am #

        Lennard Zinn is almost certainly right that tall riders fare better with longer cranks and slower cadences but his explanation based on the running of large and small animals is weak. The center of gravity of a running animal – or person – bobs up and down at a frequency that is mathematically tied to its gait and to characteristic lengths of its limbs. The center of gravity of a cyclist on the other hand is kept at a fixed height by the saddle and has no effect on cadence (except for out-of-saddle pedalling). The lower limbs themselves, being mechanically constrained by the cranks, are also much less affected by inertia than they are in the case of a walking or running subject. Leg length certainly has some effect on the muscle firing patterns at any given cadence but it will not be the strong cadence determiner that it is for running.
        Anyone interested may google “dimensional analysis” to learn more about the effects of scale on animal locomotion.

        • Sam K April 8, 2020 at 5:30 pm #

          Can you explain a little more why taller riders fare better with longer cranks and slower cadences? I’m 6’1 and ride 170s, simply because that’s what I’ve always had, but I wonder about longer cranks.

  3. Tim Cupery April 7, 2020 at 9:53 am #

    As a 6’5″, 200 lb (196 cm, 91 kg) writer, I’m very interested in this post. I’m particularly curious about Ryan’s weight, as an important factor in breaking frames. Like other commenters, I’ve never cracked a frame, although I bent every threaded freewheel axle I’ve ever seen (excluding single speeds, but including on a wheel with a 5-speed freewheel, re-spaced to minimize dish). I’m guessing, for whatever combination of weight and pedal stroke style, Ryan would be way harder on that than I am.

    • Tony Hunt April 8, 2020 at 2:59 pm #

      I’m 6’2 and 200lb as well. My current bike is an old Raleigh Competition converted for 650b. So standard diameter tubes, 8/5/8 tt and 9/6/9 dt (presumably). It is a bit flexy but I’ve adjusted quickly to it. Plus the flex could just as well be the butted spokes, which I’ve used for the first time. So far it rides really well, though it’s a bit small.

      I’ve always wanted to know if an OS 7/4/7 tubeset would work for a person of my size but BQ is a bit shy of saying yes or not to this (probably for good reason). But if, say, such a bike had a 1″ ht, would it ride like my current bike, but be lighter? The mysteries!

  4. Koyote April 7, 2020 at 10:52 am #

    I posted this Q on the ig post, too: Please discuss the headlight mount. Is that a front fender strut? And if so, shouldn’t it be closer to the fender’s front edge?

    • Jan Heine April 7, 2020 at 11:35 am #

      That is a front fender strut. For the fender (and a headlight) alone, I would have mounted it further forward as well, but Ryan also uses it to attach his GoPro camera. And that is heavy enough that it may be better mounted closer to the fork crown…

    • Ryan Hamilton April 7, 2020 at 1:33 pm #

      Here is a better view of the mount.

      https://1drv.ms/u/s!Aves5ga-1iCv5VQz5n8bpzZGTjgn?e=IPPa9i

      • Koyote April 7, 2020 at 5:49 pm #

        Ah, now I see. Very cool setup, especially useful since it appears that the light could not be mounted to the fork. That is a very well thought-out bike!

  5. Owen April 7, 2020 at 10:52 am #

    I’m about the same height and a little heavier than Ryan. One thing I’ve really come to appreciate is OC rims for rear wheels, especially for 130-135mm spaced frames. These low dish wheels are a real improvement for both of strength and durability.

    • Conrad April 7, 2020 at 12:46 pm #

      Agreed. Which is your favorite OC rim?

      • Owen April 7, 2020 at 1:48 pm #

        Velocity A23 OC. The regular model may now be considered “last generation,” but the OCs are well made, tubeless compatible, and readily available.

  6. Corbin Hines April 7, 2020 at 1:52 pm #

    Korina, I am a tall 6’3″ longer crank rider, but I remembered seeing some short cranks currently manufactured when I was researching longer crank availability. Check out Soma Micro Crank 44/34 140 mm which are apparently designed for a ‘child’ sized bike. Also look for John Cobb Speed and Comfort Short Cranks. In addition to 165 mm they also make those in 160, 155, and 145. I have no experience with them so can’t speak to manufacturing quality or reliability, but I would assume they are of same quality as other products manufactured in Far East and would also assume they have to pass standards testing to be sold in the U.S. Hope that helps!

  7. Scott F April 7, 2020 at 2:21 pm #

    Just checked Peter White Cycles and he lists TA Carmina arms down to 155mm. The full crank w/spider and rings is a bit $$$ but if it’s what you need…

  8. Michael April 7, 2020 at 8:37 pm #

    It has been interesting to see the specs on the team’s personaI bikes. I am curious why there seems to be a splice at the top of the seat tube on Ryan’s frame. Just a comment on carbon forks, given your history I would not plan on a long life for that fork. I wish there was a way to analyze the composite binding those fibers together so you could tell when it has lost all its VOCs and is too brittle to ride (as in descending a Cascade gravel road)!

    • Matt April 7, 2020 at 11:57 pm #

      You can test for delamination in carbon fibre by several methods but VOC evaporation doesn’t make it brittle. You don’t even need VOCs to cure epoxy.

      • Baloontire April 8, 2020 at 9:03 am #

        VOC, plasticizers, etc. whatever it is that epoxies evolve and continue to evolve with time and exposure. They loose weight and get brittle. see: Degradation of Carbon Fiber-reinforcedEpoxy Composites by Ultraviolet Radiation and Condensation. State University of New York.

    • a April 8, 2020 at 11:31 pm #

      @michael

      the piece welded to the top of the seat tube is a collar.

      a machined piece of tube that is more round and maybe slightly thicker than the frame tube. it makes the seat cluster and clamp stronger and more reliable.

      i know this, because i have cracked a frame that did not have a reinforced seat cluster!

  9. Jim Nachlin April 8, 2020 at 7:15 am #

    What is the story with the front light wire? Seems to run along some sort of strut from the dropout area, and the strut joins the light mount at the top of the fork.

  10. Ray M April 9, 2020 at 4:51 am #

    I’m curious about Ryan’s biomechanics.
    Has his pedal stroke been analyzed using a power meter with strain gauges?
    Does he ride with his legs and arms serving to absorb some of the stress from impacts over irregular surfaces?

  11. Tim Sharp April 9, 2020 at 6:33 pm #

    What is the blue (second photo) at the interface of seat post and seat tube(or clamp)?
    and what is it for?

  12. Michael Wilson April 9, 2020 at 10:43 pm #

    Mark Stonich of BikeSmithDesign.com at least used to make short cranks.

    I have seen relatively inexpensive triple junior cranks in 152 and 160 lengths on Amazon and ebay, probably some overstock. Based on these remarks I should get a set for a friend who is something like 4 feet 11 inches riding 170s.