Walking the showroom aisle at NAHBS 2012 in Sacramento, you might notice that titanium seems to be making a comeback, and that the lightweight, fatigue-resistant, rust-proof material may be ideally suited to the adverse conditions of cyclocross. Companies including Independent Fabrication, Moots (see their winning Pscyhlo-X RSL here), Ericksen and Mosaic all had titanium cyclocross bikes on display. Perhaps the most eye-catching of the group was Independent Fabrication’s disc-brake equipped Ti Factory Lightweight Cyclocross bike.
The bike is the newest model of the company’s “Factory Lightweight” series that includes titanium and steel road, mountain and cyclocross bikes designed specifically to race. The series is what owner Gary Smith calls an “homage to the 60′s era muscle cars where you strip out all the unnecessary weight and get it down to a pure race machine.”
What that means on this eye-catching blue-and-titanium cyclocross bike is the lack of bottle braze-ons, stickers and seatpost clamp. Instead, you’ll find an integrated carbon ISP seat mast built and cut for the customer. The company’s Ti Topper seat cap offers 3cm of adjustment.
Purists could argue that the one feature that’s not minimalist would be the disc brakes, but the mechanical brakes are still simple cable pull actuated calipers — no hydraulic converters here — and one could argue the mud clearance offered by the brakes reduce the need for racers to bring a pit bike, making race-day packing a lot simpler.
Smith chose some of the latest cyclocross components for this build, including Shimano’s CX70 cyclocross crankset and top-pull front derailleur (reviewed in Issue 16, mailing now), Shimano Ultegra STI shifters, Shimano’s ICE Tech rotors, Hayes’ new CX5 cyclocross mechanical disc brake and a White Industries disc hubs (with 135mm rear spacing). To handle the steering and front braking, IF went with an ENVE Composites disc-only cyclocross fork, which features a tapered steerer that flares from 1.125″ to 1.5″. The bike is now a production model, but Independent Fabrication builds every bike to order. While standard geometry is available, every bike can be customized in terms of geometry, paint and optional features.
Video interview of Gary Smith of Independent Fabrication at NAHBS 2012:
The Evolution and Move of Independent Fabrication to New Hampshire
Independent Fabrication has long been building cyclocross bikes, ever since company was founded by former Fat City employees in 1995. They launched the steel Planet Cross just a year after the company was formed, and riders like Tim Johnson and Johs Huseby have ridden them to countless victories, including a National Championship by Johnson on a steel Planet Cross.
Gary Smith invested in the company in 2008 after a stint consulting with them in 2005 as part of CNN’s Turnaround TV show that pairs entrepreneurs with experienced, accomplished business executives. Smith was a Senior Vice President at clothing and shoe giant Timberland, and through the show, along with Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz, offered advice to President Matt Bracken and his team of owner/operators as they worked to remain viable and sustainable in spite of growing competition. After the show, Smith remained in touch, and in 2008 invested to take a majority interest in the company. Changes in both personnel and bikes have happened, perhaps the biggest being the company’s move in 2001 from its long-time home in Somerville, Massachusetts (in the old Fat City facility,) to Newmarket, New Hampshire, near Portsmouth.
Smith says the move was not to save costs but to grow the business and pair it with a new manufacturing facility and showroom. Some of the old employees joined Smith in the move, and a few of them even live in housing that Smith owns. The company has taken over an abandoned mill in Newmarket, New Hampshire, and now builds and paints its frames in the renovated facility — a significant capital investment over the company’s old facility in Somerville, according to Smith. Also in the facility are Smith’s other two ventures: BaileyWorks, a manufacturer of messenger bags, is right there in the same building, as is Bike Factory, a showroom and bike shop that displays the latest IF models and carries Ridley time trial and cyclocross models. From the showroom, visitors can peer into the factory and see bikes being built. These days, Smith says more titanium frames are being built than steel, and the company is enjoying some nice overseas growth, especially in countries like Japan.