Hmm, I may have rashly promised you some ‘extra special’ news… While I’m still cooking that one up, how about we catch up with Sam and his Astomi fast Audax machine that Waltly built for him recently (it looks rather nice)?
Sam – let’s get the ball rolling, what started you on your frame building journey?
I’d been weighing up a custom Chinese build for a while and some prompting from a good friend, and a read of all the articles on your site, convinced me that it was the a cost effective way to create the perfect winter bike. The appeal of getting the geometry customised to fit me perfectly was a key point in persuading me away from off the peg options from Enigma, Kinesis, Dolan or J.Laverack.
Ideally I was looking for a bike that was comfortable for long days in the saddle (200 miles plus), could take big tyres, had provision for full guards and made the most of advances like thru axles and discs. After a bike fit at FORM Fit in London I had some basic data to work with and after taking inspiration from other bikes I liked, I was able to settle on a design that seemed to tick all the boxes.
Waltly and XACD were both on my shortlist and I sent them over some drawings and specifications. XACD were cheaper than Waltly by around $100 however they didn’t inspire confidence and just seemed to agree with everything I said rather than sticking to what they could deliver. The experience with Waltly was far more reassuring and professional and as a result I went with them.
The essential spec was:
44mm straight headtube
Double butted tubing (although I later had to compromise and do without that!)
142 x 12mm thru axle drop out
Flat mount disc brake
English treaded bottom bracket
Clearance for 38c tyres
‘Braze on’ derailleur mount (although my plans changed for that too!)
I’m 80kg and the bike will only be used for light touring so it didn’t need to be particularly overbuilt.
As I always suggest – it’s worth getting in touch with a few manufacturers to see who you ‘click’ with. XACD often turn out to be the more expensive option as they charge extra for additional features. It’s good to see they can still be competitive for more straightforward designs.
Throughout the process my point of contact at Waltly was Amy, she was fantastic, very patient, knowledgeable and prompt in her emails. It was incredibly simple going from my initial drawings to a signed off frame design. A few little tweaks here and there but by and large they could match the initial drawings. I opted for a tapered top tube for aesthetic reasons and sandblasted logos to add a smart look to the frame. I also went for external cables and a threaded bottom bracket for simplicity and ease of service (given the winter bike nature of the build)
Always reassuring to hear of good customer service. I do think that the people that work with our toing and froing during the design phase must have saintly patience!
The only detail with the frame that I wasn’t so sure about was the ‘braze on’ style front mech mount. GIven the variety of chainsets and front mechs it can be tricky to get everything lined up right. Sam took my advice and decided to go with a clamp on front mech instead.
The frame took about 8 weeks to arrive from the point I paid my first deposit. I was sent pictures of the finished frame for me to check before paying the final balance and getting the bike shipped out to me. The frame looked great when it arrived, the welding was neat, the dimensions exactly as asked and the sand blasting work really impressive. The bottom bracket and headset fitted with no problems. Although I encountered a few issues during the build none of these were related to the frame.
The only slight area of concern is the rear thru axle which seems a little cheap, the alloy thru axle skewer has started to round out. I will probably contact Waltly in the new year and see if they can post out a spare one just in case.
Sam went for a thru-axle which is an excellent choice as it gives a safer, stronger, connection for the rear wheel. Some designs have the thread in the dropout itself, others have a ‘captive nut’ held in with a grub screw. And, as I found out recently there are also two (or possibly three) different thread pitch standards for the axles!
Not all frame fabricators will supply the axle with the frame which means you have to be careful when ordering parts and speccing the frame thread. If you need one the Rock Shox ‘Maxle’ appears to be readily available in a wide variety of sizes.
Back to the plot – so Sam, how did things turn out for you in the end?
All in all the finished bike is pretty much exactly what I was looking for; a super practical winter bike that is stiff enough to keep up on a club run and comfortable enough to be ridden all day long. If I was to go through the build process again I would be tempted to get the frame Di2 compatible, to fully future proof it, but largely I’d do everything the same.
Although the bike cost me far less than If I had bought something off the peg it is worth noting that the current exchange rate makes a Chinese Titanium bike less of a bargain than it once was, especially when you get stung by customs charges!
Ahh, yes the old dollar/pound relationship isn’t too great at the moment. Also if you’re in the UK be prepared for a potential 15% import duty followed by a 20% VAT charge on top. And then a fee from your carrier for collecting the above!
I’d like to say a final thanks to Andrew for the fantastic blog, Peter Hobson for sending me on this project and helping with the build and Hans Lellelid for his advice and knowledge during the process.
Like ‘Columbo’ I had to have just one last question – where did the name Astomi come from Sam?
I got the name Astomi by trawling through Ancient Greek Mythical creatures on Wikipedia. The Astomi were a race of people who didn’t need to eat or drink to survive. I have the world’s slowest metabolism and can quite comfortably do a 100 miles on no food and water. It’s a running joke amongst my cycling friends that I’m not normal. Astomi thus seemed an appropriate name. It was also obscure enough to be unique!
Good works indeed – and I’m sure there are many more to come! There might be some changes around here soon but don’t worry – I’m still going to be featuring your inspirational frames and the blog will remain a unique resource where you can get your custom Chinese titanium fix!
Watch this space as they say…