Black Rainbow Divide Ride

Black Rainbow Divide Ride

Scott produces custom bags under the Black Rainbow Project name back in the UK. He approached me to help make reality his ideas for his ultimate bikepacking machine, with the intention to race it on the Great Divide.

We started with the geometry, which included a slight curve in the seattube to allow plenty of room for 29×2.4″ tires. The chainstays are fairly short at 17.3″ – to achieve this there was some  major shaping of the chainstays needed to allow for clearing the tire and the beltring with the inboard beltline required for the Alfine rear hub. Scott went with the 8spd version of the hub, as it is known to be super reliable. But, just in case something happens in the middle of the wilderness, the front fork is built to 135mm spacing, and the ‘front’ hub is a Chris King singlespeed with a second Gates cog installed. So in the event of an Alfine malfunction, the wheels can be swapped and riding can continue as a singlespeed. The fork is also wide enough to accomodate a 26×4″ tire if desired.

Having a custom bike with custom bags meant we could eliminate the usual straps by having additional braze-on bosses inside the triangle and on top of the toptube for the bags to bolt to. There is also a custom front rack, which mounts on the fork crown and is curved to match the dry bag.

There is a one-piece stem/steerer to keep the stem area very clean, and additionally this allows room for mounting the custom aerobar pads. These are on a machined aluminium tower that bolts on to the stem. There are then short extensions on the front of the Jones Loop bar. This not only keeps the handlebar very uncluttered but also allows for plenty of adjustment. Aerobars may look odd on a mountain bike, but these are more about comfort than aero – important for very long days in the saddle and many miles of dirt roads.

With Scott being in the UK, he will need to fly the bike over to the US for the race. So the frame incorporates the English folding system, which allows the rear triangle to be dismounted from the frame so that the whole bike can pack into a case. This also allows the belt to be installed without needing an additional split in the stays.

The finish is powdercoat for durability, half matte black and half gloss.

Scott very kindly let me show his bike at the 2013 North American Handbuilt Show in Denver, where it was awarded Best Belted Adventure Bike in the Gates Carbon Drive Design Contest.

Thanks as usual to Tina Buescher for the studio shots, and to Gates for the bagged up pictures from the show.

Hey Rob… I just wanted to say, that I absolutely LOVE this bike! Everything feels spot on! The position feels so perfect… I just seem to relax right into it. The handling is great… No funny twitchy, unstable handling quirks… Just really confidence inspiring. The ratios of the alfine have been perfect so far too. It rolls beautifully… With minimum effort… Even the weight is so well balanced. I can’t wait to get it out on some proper, long rides.

All the best! Scott



  1. I couldn’t be happier with how ‘Black Bess’ has turned out!
    You were a pleasure to work with Rob, and your willingness to accept every challenge sent your way, and then solve it in such an aesthetically pleasing, and functionally superb way is what makes you in my opinion,the best custom builder out there right now!

    I look forward to working with you again on another bike in the future! :]

  2. Great work! I like the curved front rack to cradle the bag, putting the anything cages up front and regular bottle cages on the rear of the fork.

    The Fargo fork I have on my Mosaic 29er only has Anything Cage mounts and no room for water!

    I rode the Alfine 8 and was not very impressed with it – crunchy shifts, wide ratios and the same problem with non-Rapid Rise derailleurs that it gets stuck in the hardest gear if anything happens to the shift cable 🙁

    I wouldn’t change anything with the bike except put a Rohloff in there.

    • Thanks Jason. That’s the beauty of custom – Scott had lots of ideas for details not available elsewhere. Personally I have been super happy with my Alfine 8 – 4 years and something like 25,000 miles so far. The 8 actually springs to low gear (the 11 springs to high gear). But yes, the Rohloff is better in this regard – you can shift with a wrench at the hub if it comes down to it. I’m happy to build with any of the hubs, just depends what the customer wants. Cheers, Rob.

  3. Stunning work Rob!
    Love the singlespeed option withnthe front wheel.

  4. Do you make these tri bars?

    • Yes, apart from the pads which are stock 3T parts.
      thanks, Rob.

  5. That bike looks amazing .. simple i want much how long to make ..hope hear back from you .. really nice setup

    • Thanks! Price depends on exact design and spec, but frame prices start at $2650. Currently my waiting list is over two years.
      Best regards, Rob.

  6. Lovely build, beautiful looking bike – and I really like the wheel swap idea.

    Wanted to ask what are the 3T items which fit the Jones bars? Look really great, and give even more flexibility to the Jones option. Very nice. Congrats 🙂

    • Thanks Scott. The custom aerobar has two sections – one that bolts onto the stem and holds the 3T elbow pads. And extensions that bolt onto the Jones loop.

  7. #beautifulcoolbike

  8. What size gates crank ring and rear cog did you use with this setup?

    • Scott’s bike has a 42T ring with 24T cog and 113T belt.

  9. Amazing design. I wonder if the “two rear wheels” like that bike would work on typical external gearing bikes. Maybe just need a custom fork?

  10. Beautiful! Might be the prettiest bike I’ve ever seen. Was stalking your site looking at your custom stems. What’s the benefit of clamping the steerer at the fork crown instead of the top of the headtube?

    • Thanks! Mainly just an aesthetic reason – plus nice for the knees to have no bolts around the back of the stem!

    • It was also to keep the fork length much shorter without the steerer for easier packing.


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