Sometimes it pays to be the boss. In the case of SaltAir Cycles’ Matthew Nelson, being the owner of a custom frame building company means you get to design your bike to your liking.
Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nelson’s SaltAir Cycles builds steel bikes for roads rough and smooth. In 2017, SaltAir won the “Best New Builder” award at the North American Handmade Bike Show in 2017 for its Road Racer bike, and in 2018, SaltAir won Best City/Utility bike for its Gearbox / Belt-Drive Utility bike.
At the 2018 Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, Nelson tackled the gravel course on steel cyclocross/gravel bike he built for himself. Today we close out our series of Lost and Found and Dirty Kanza 200 gravel bike profiles with a look at Nelson’s steel steed he built to his liking.
Matthew Nelson’s Steel SaltAir Cyclocross/Gravel Bike
SaltAir builds only with steel, and Nelson’s personal cyclocross/gravel bike is no different. He built his steel frame with internal cable routing and welded the tubes using a smooth fillet brazing. The frame sports a multi-blue-hued frame reminiscent of the one Meredith Miller rode to a win at Singlespeed Nationals in Reno.
Nelson designed his frame to pull double duty as a cyclocross racer and occasional gravel bike. “In designing this bike, the goal was to create an updated version of my last ’cross bike, which was circa 2013, knowing that it would serve dual purpose outside of ’cross season for doing mixed terrain events such as Lost and Found, Crusher in the Tushar and Grinduro,” Nelson said. “This meant two sets of water bottle bosses instead of 0, a tapered headtube for tapered steerer fork, lower axle-to-crown fork model, lower bottom bracket, hydraulic flat-mount disc brake ports for internal Di2 wiring and the token more tire clearance.”
Like many steel frame builders, Nelson used a carbon fork on the bike. In the case of this bike, he chose the Columbus Futura Gravel fork. The frame was ready for the Lost and Found gravel adventure with clearance for 42mm tires. Interestingly, even though Columbus lists 40mm as the fork’s max tire width, Nelson fit 700c x 42mm tan wall WTB Resolute tires front and rear.
Nelson kept it local for his wheels with M1 Alloy Clincher Disc wheels from Ogden, Utah’s Mercury Wheels.
Nelson mixed and matched his drivetrain to suit his needs. He attached a 42t Rotor QCX1 chain ring to the company’s 3D crankset. In the rear, he used a Di2 Shimano XT rear derailleur with an 11-42t Shimano XT cassette.
Nelson stopped his bike using flat mount TRP Hylex brakes attached to singlespeed Hylex RS brake levers. He used the Hylex Di2 Adapter Kit to attach Shimano R600 “sprint” shifters to control the rear derailleur.
The head tube features the company’s logo that was inspired by the historic Saltair Resort on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. He ran a Chris King headset and added a matchy-matchy stem that holds a handlebar wrapped in black tape.
Nelson said if he is going to change anything on the setup, it might be the handlebar. “The only change I have considered since putting some miles on it is changing to a handlebar with a little less reach,” he said. “The extra length in the hoods of these hydraulic brake levers—versus mechanical brake/shifter hoods—has me stretched slightly in the cockpit.”
Overall, Nelson was happy with his Lost and Found ride. “The bike performed great at Lost and Found,” he said. It’s a little stiffer than what I’ve been used too due to the Columbus MAX top and down tubes, but the off-road descending capabilities with the lower center of gravity and extra mass of the tapered steerer fork are a plus for this type of riding. I love this bike and look forward to putting it through the paces this fall.”
For more on Nelson’s Steel SaltAir bike, see the specs below.
For more bikes from Lost and Found and Dirty Kanza, see our gravel bikes archive.
Matthew Nelson’s Steel SaltAir Cyclocross/Gravel Bike Specs
Frame: SaltAir hand-built steel, fillet brazing, internally routed cables
Fork: Columbus Futura Gravel, carbon, flat mount
Brake Levers: TRP Hylex RS
Shifters: Shimano R600 “sprint” shifters
Brake Calipers: TRP Hylex, flat mount
Crankset: Rotor 3D
Chain Ring: Rotor QCX1, 42t
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT Di2
Cassette: Shimano XT, 11-42t
Wheels: Mercury M1 Alloy Clincher Disc, tubeless ready
Tires: WTB Resolute, 42mm
Headset: Chris King
More Info: saltaircycles.com