by Greg Evans
Hunter Cycles frames have come from the woods of the Santa Cruz Mountains for quite some time now. Rick Hunter, the man behind the brand, has personally welded and brazed every one of these frames since 1993.
Rick is no stranger to the world of cyclocross. In addition to being a longtime competitor in the sport, Rick also sponsors a Bay Area cyclocross team called Fresh Air Hunter, which is the shop team of San Francisco-based Fresh Air Bicycles.
Rick began his career as a frame builder with the practice of fillet brazing. He has since moved on to tig welding, a process he now prefers due to fillet brazing's painstaking time commitments. Rick also machines many of his own parts, including dropouts, chainstay yokes and disc brake mounts, to name a few.
Hunter Cycles had this 650b gravel bike on display at this year's NAHBS and to say it drew a lot of attention is an understatement.
Rick brought this bike to the show because he wanted something to display that had drop bars and was more in line with his 'cross bikes rather than his fat-tire mountain rigs. While he hadn’t really come up with a permanent name for the bike yet, the most common title for a bike of this style is "road plus." Other names are being tossed around as well, for example Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly has taken to calling it an “Enduro Allroad” bike. We’ll throw our own name in the ring, dubbing it the "Hardpack Hero."
The first thing that struck us about the bike is its bright orange color. We can't help but wonder if the color choice was inspired by the same sunsets we see off the California coast. Aiding the smooth application of the powdercoat is the clean fillet brazing that melds each tube. The frame has several noteworthy features including a subtly curved top tube, a continuous wishbone seatstay and the in-house machined 142 x 12 rear dropouts.
Another staple of many of Hunter Cycles’ frames is the "Supercrown" fork. Featured on this bike, the Supercrown fork has a slight rake, with house-made 12mm thru axle dropouts at the end of each leg. The segmented fork can be identified as a Supercrown based on the arched metal plate that is brazed between the fork legs, just above the tire. The fork includes a braze-on cable guide as well.
The bike is built with an interesting mix of components, both foreign and domestic. The drivetrain begins with a Praxis Works Zayante M30 road crank, with Time ATAC XC pedals threaded into each arm. The front and rear derailleurs are Shimano Ultegra 6800, and are controlled by a set of RS-685 levers. The bike makes use of the new BR-RS505 flat-mount calipers, with the rear caliper being bolted to a bespoke Hunter Cycles-made brake mount.
The cockpit is assembled with several Sim Works components, including their Beatnik seatpost and all-new Wonderer Bar. Sim Works is a co-sponsor of the Fresh Air Hunter team, an their components have come to be a common pairing with Hunter’s frames. For those unfamiliar with Sim Works, be sure to check out our recent NAHBS spotlight on the brand here.
The stem is made by Hunter cycles, and the machined faceplate is courtesy of Paragon Machine Works out of Richmond, California. The leather saddlebag was made by Strawfoot Handmade, a bag and accessory maker also based in the Santa Cruz area.
The bike’s tires drew nearly as much attention as the bike itself. WTB used this Hunter, as well as another bike from Soulcraft, to launch their new 650x47c Horizon tires at NAHBS. The tires are set up tubeless to a set of WTB Ci24 carbon mountain bike wheels—the "24" represents the rim’s internal width. The wheels are laced to White Industries hubs, which add a bit more American-made flair to this eclectic bike.
A comparable fillet brazed Hunter Cycles frame runs about $2300.oo USD. The fork and stem add anther $450.00 USD and $250.OO USD respectively. Add that together for a frameset price of around $3000.00 USD including powder coat. Rick also offers a myriad of add-ons that are sure to fulfill any customer’s needs.
Wait time on a frame is around one year, but for those who want their own piece of Hunter-made steel a bit sooner, Rick also makes batches of slingshots that have been spotted in several Bay Area bike shops including MASH Transit and Fresh Air Bicycles.
Hunter Cycle’s 650b Gravel Bike Spec Highlights:
Frame: Hunter Cycles custom steel, fillet brazed
Fork: Hunter Cycles custom Supercrown steel, 100x12 thru axle
Headset: Chris King NoThreadSet
Shifter/brake levers: Shimano RS-685
Brake calipers: Shimano BR-RS505 flat mount
Rotors: Shimano RT-99
Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra 6800
Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra 6800
Crankset: Praxis Works Zayante M30 Road
Chainrings: Praxis Works
Pedals: Time ATAC XC
Stem: Hunter Cycles custom
Handlebar: Sim Works Wonderer
Bar Tape: Sim Works Sim Roll
Seatpost: Sim Works Beatnik
Saddle: WTB SL8 carbon
Wheels: WTB Ci24 carbon
Hubs: White Industries
Tires: WTB Horizon 650x47c
More info: huntercycles.com