2010 Custom Cyclocross Sweetpea

This 2010 Sweetpea is NOT a vintage bicycle. But, it was custom made here in Portland by Natalie Ramsland, frame builder and owner of Sweetpea Bicycles.  It is a fillet brazed steel frame featuring curved rear stays and an 11 degree sloping top tube, with braze-ons for cantilever brakes and over the top tube cable routing, as well as fender and rack mounts.

I purchased this bike as a frame and fork in 2011, after it had been ridden for one season as a cyclocross racer by a team rider here in Portland.  The rider had been recruited to a new team with its own brand, so she wasn’t going to be competing on the Sweetpea any longer, which had been custom built for her cyclocross racing endeavors. So she listed the frame for sale and that’s when I snapped it up.  The original fork was carbon, shown above, painted to match the frame.  I rode the bike with the carbon fork for several hundred miles after building the bike up.  The feel of the carbon fork was very alarming to me. It felt dead and kind of strange. The fork had no control feel as compared to the precision and comfort provided by a steel fork.  Once removed from the frame, I examined the beautifully painted carbon fork only to discover tiny cracks around the fork crown.  My conclusion was that the carbon fork was failing.  I sourced an exact match in length and rake from Surly – a black lugged steel fork with cantilever braze-ons – and then removed the Surly logos once I had the new fork mounted.  What a difference that made to the handling and comfort of this bicycle.  And, I really like the contrast of the black fork against the cream colored frame paint.

Ramsland’s work on this frame is very nice and the custom paint job draws much attention.  For the rear brake hanger, I used a Problem Solver’s solution to accommodate the small space between the hanger and the straddle cable.

The rest of the build was done with some of my favorite components, as well as a few new ones that I wanted to try out:  Paul’s cantilevers, Shimano derailleurs, and a Velo Orange compact crankset.

I used  700c Mavic CXP 21 32 spoke rims on Shimano Ultegra hubs – a very beautiful and competent wheelset.

Here is the complete build list and frame geometry information:

Fillet brazed steel frame with lugged steel Surly fork, custom geometry. Shimano 8 speed bar-end shifters; Shimano levers, 105 front derailleur, Deore rear dear derailleur Shimano 11-30 8 speed cassette, Shimano cartridge sealed bottom bracket. Velo Orange Grand Cru crankset 48T/34T. Nitto Crystal Fellow seat post; B 115 bars, Selle Italia Lady Gel Flo leather saddle, 700c Mavic CXP 21 rims on Ultegra hubs, 32 spokes front and rear (built by Wheelsmith), Michelin Trans World Sprint cross tires, Velo Orange Headset and Stem, Wipperman chain, Paul Touring Cantilevers, Newbaum’s cloth bar tape, Gear inch range: 30 to 116.

Frame geometry:

Seat tube 49.5 cm (effective)

Top tube 52 cm


Wheelbase: 100cm

HT degrees 72 degrees

Fork rake:


Top tube slope 11 degrees

Seat tube degrees 71.5

Rear spacing 130 mm

Frame brazeons:

2 bottle cages, rear rack mounts, fender eyelets front and rear

The bike is for sale on my Store page. If you are interested in purchasing just the frame and fork, please get in touch.

Riding the ALAN on the Leif Erikson Trail

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I have been contemplating a road trip involving both urban and wildlife adventures, and wanted to take the “perfect bike” that would be suitable for both environs.  Could it be the ALAN?

Alan in cross modeALAN in city mode

When I first purchased the ALAN it was set up for Cyclocross.  Because the frame is very small (48×48), it uses 24 inch wheels and has way more standover height than I need.  The Cinelli stem combined with the small frame made the bars far too low for comfort, so I decided to build the ALAN into a city commuter.  Recently I decided to try out some mildly knobby tires to see how the bike performed on dirt and hard packed gravel.  The tires I originally ordered were out of stock so I swapped my order for these Vee Rubber micro knobbies  shown below.

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These tires come from Thailand, and since I have nothing against tires made there I thought I would give them a try.  I lowered my pressures to 45 in the back and 40 in the front.  In retrospect I could have run them a bit lower for more comfort and control over the wet rocks and muddy surfaces I encountered today.

ALAN on Leif Erikson ALAN on Leif Erikson

Leif Erikson Trail in Forest Park, Portland, Oregon, is just about the most gentle way you could introduce yourself to to off-road riding.  There is an easy climb to about 500 feet, and then for several miles the road flattens out, but it feels like you are coasting…uphill!  Along the way I was treated to mysterious and unknown bird calls, and a few darting chipmunks (rarely seen in Pdx).  The tires performed well.  I had already tried them out for commuting and, with pressures at about 65 in the back and 60 in the front, they worked really well and were very comfortable on the pavement.

ALAN with Dura Ace ALAN in the mud

Today was not the best day to do an off-road ride.  The weather fluctuated dramatically from overcast to sunny to outright downpours.  The trail surface was difficult for me to feel confidence on because I did not have clipless pedals, and with the wet and muddy conditions, my shoes slipped off the pedals disconcertingly on occasion.  I ended up riding slowly, and was worried about the descent and whether my shoes would keep contact with the pedals over the rocky surfaces.

ALAN CyclocrossALAN on Leif Erikson Trail

All turned out well, and I managed to escape the downpour of hail and rain that came a few minutes after I arrived at the Thurman Street gate.

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Leif Erikson Trail is really a runner’s trail, but bikes are allowed and I never felt unwelcome.  In fact, I often ran this trail back in the 1990’s when my offices were located nearby.  Today I encountered many runners and only a handful of cyclists.  What I learned was that the ALAN could handle off-road conditions, and that any climbs more serious than what I experienced today would mean installing a new cassette with some lower gears.  But, other than that I was very happy with its performance.  The flexible frame and perfectly decent tires made up for not having any fork suspension.  It was great to be out in nature – even if the weather did not cooperate.  So, yes, I have decided that the ALAN as equipped is going to be the perfect “do-it-all” bike for the road trip I have in mind.