Ron "Ultraromance" Romance was on site at the Roval press event for the launch of the Terra CLX and CLX Evo wheels earlier this fall. Although the man who goes by the personae Ultraromance was affiliated with Specialized in the past, he was simply there as a friend of the brand and brought his own uniquely styled equipment.
Ultraromance was riding a pre-production frame from Crust Bikes, a New Jersey company that specializes in steel frames designed for touring and randonneuring. In addition to Ultraromance, Crust sponsors the Team Brooks Gravel Gliders, of which Ultraromance is a member. While he completed Grinduro the following day on the team’s Bombora frame, which has disc brakes, Ultraromance’s daily ride is this bike.
The frame is a pre-production Lightning Bolt frame from Crust, which is a lightweight 650b bike. “It’s not necessarily a gravel bike,” he told Cyclocross Magazine. “It’s a bike that was meant to be ridden with 650b x 42mm or 38mm [tire] with fenders. It’s meant to be really light.”
How light? While we didn’t weigh the bike, Ultraromance told us that Matt Whitehead, the “High Powered CEO” of Crust Bikes, had to sign a waiver before the factory could use the top tube he demanded.
The frame uses an old-school fork, with a threaded 1" steerer tube and cantilever brakes. “Too many builders of steel bikes just throw [a carbon fork on the frame],” Ultraromance said. “The fork is the most important part of the frame. If you’re not building the fork then I don’t quite understand. And those carbon forks are so harsh.”
His frame had a Chris King headset installed upside down, something Ultraromance picked up from Whitehead. According to Whitehead, New York City bike messengers would install secondhand Chris King headsets upside down.
Ultraromance’s build stayed true to his brand, with a smattering of vintage components and touring components. The drivetrain started with vintage Simplex friction shifters.
He paired them to a Suntour Cyclone front derailleur and a Shimano Ultegra R6500 rear derailleur acquired at a bike co-op for $18.
Although he used a Shimano part, Ultraromance would have preferred to use a Suntour out back as well. “I love Suntour stuff,” explained Ultraromance, “because it’s obscure and because it was, in my opinion, way more high quality than Shimano and Campy.”
The crank, while perfectly at home among Suntour and Simplex, is also a modern part. The Rene Herse crankset is available in a variety of wide chain ring combinations such as Ultraromance’s 46/30t example. While the bottom bracket is a Shimano cartridge, Ultraromance has been experimenting with cup and cone bottom brackets he acquired at bike co-ops.
Stopping came care of Suntour Superbe aero brake levers mated to Paul brakes. Who needs rubber hoods? Not Ultraromance.
In the front Romance used a blue anodized Paul Mini Moto V brake and a Paul Neo-Retro cantilever in the back. “These brakes feel beautiful,” he said. “I almost feel like I have an advantage going downhill because I’m able to modulate them so well.”
His wheels were an older set built using Campagnolo Record and Chorus hubs, although he no longer recalls which is which. The rims, by his admission, have proven remarkably durable. “These are Pacenti P23s,” he said. “It’s a very light rim, I think it had a 160lb weight limit. I had them built up about eight years ago.”
The P23 rim was ultimately recalled by Pacenti after an extreme number of failures, but Ultraromance’s have held up over the years. He affixed a 10 speed 11-27t SRAM cassette and set up the wheels with his own Ultradynamico tires.
The Ultradynamico line is manufactured in Japan by Panaracer for Ultraromance and contains two tires. The Rose, which Ultraromance used as his front tire, is available to the public. It uses a triangular center tread and cornering lug, with a file tread midsection.
The rear tire is the not yet released Cava, which is a file tread with no cornering lugs and a far less pronounced triangular centerline.
Both tires are 650b only and use a gray rubber compound on a gumwall casing which intentionally recalls the infamous Specialized UmmaGumma tires of the 1980s and 90s.
Ultraromance sat upon a Brooks leather saddle mounted to an aluminum seatpost.
Up front, a Nitto stem held a Crust Towel Rack handlebar, which Whitehead and Romance designed. Available in three sizes, Romance used the narrowest 61cm version. He wrapped his bar in blue cloth tape, which darkened impressively with a week of use before he shellacked it.
Also present was Ultraromance’s own Ultra Swift handlebar bag. Part of a complete line in collaboration with Swift Industries, Romance designed the bag as a bikepacking and rackless randonneuring bag and can expand to carry more than its footprint would suggest.
For a closer look at Ultraromance's Crust Bikes Lightning, see the photo gallery and specs below.