Repainted: Annie’s custom black and tan Kaffenback.

This is one of the most memorable builds we pieced together.  It’s a repainted Kaffenback, the do-it-all steed made by the UK brand Planet X.  Annie wanted to upgrade from her 2008 Giant Avail.  Although she had a friend with an industry discount for Diamondback bicycles, she was shopping around to see what was good.  She came to see us.  She was ready to drop up to $2000, pretty normal for a modern road bike.  We took some notes on what she wanted the bike for: road riding, a big tour coming up, the ability to go faster than her current road bike allowed.  She was speaking our language.  We love zippy touring bikes.  Or maybe versatile race bikes.


Several weeks past and we checked in to see if she had found anything.  Apparently she seemed to trust our intuition about the build, and wanted to see what we could come up with.  She had a busy schedule and wasn’t exactly in a rush, but would need the bike in a few months.  Perfect, I thought.

In that time, we kept busy on Craigslist and came upon a frame in San Bruno.  I had some used SRAM Force shifters and cranks that had been sitting on a shelf in the shop, needing new hoods, but otherwise ready to go.  We had some carbon DT Swiss carbon rims that I had scored from a factory visit while in Taiwan a few years ago (yes, some Swiss rims are made in Taiwan).   The biggest challenge would be the wheels.  I thought it would make a really beautiful machine to have carbon wheels on a steel disc road frame.  Finding 24-hole disc hubs that wouldn’t brake bank took some time.  Ultimately, I found some new Origin 8 hubs with very nice bearings, and steel hub body.  I then set aside some time to build them.


After a few months, I finally had time to do the initial assembly, to frame it all up so that Annie could ride it around the block, test the fit, check the handlebar angle, and try out a few fit set ups.   She even got the low gearing she wanted to be able to make it up all the hills.  We outfitted the bike with a 36-tooth rear gear, a monster of a cog that really makes pedaling easier.  With a little time, attention, and hex wrenches she felt it was just what she wanted.  Well, almost.  The last part was to remove all the brand decals.


Fair enough, we stripped the bike back down to bare an gave it, at her request a matte black, no-nonsense, paint job.  A week or so later it was all again rebuilt.  Annie chose Cinelli gel cork handlebar tape and was feeling the honey brown Brooks B17 saddle.  To give it shoes, we used the 700×25 Continental Gatorskin tires, one of the fastest bullet proof tires ever made.

In the end it was a wonderful collaboration and we couldn’t be happier with the result.  By the way, Annie spend just under $1800, well within her budget for the ultimate ride.

Thanks for letting us geek out on your build, Annie!

Annie Squint


Emile’s Soma rebuild: clean and buttery.

Emile grabbed this Double Cross off Craigslist knowing he wanted to tour with it. He brought it to us with complaints of the shifting, saddle, and fork variety. What we found was the Craigslist seller had created a Frankenstein out of the bike, and so we started the rebuild, to make this Soma run smooth again.

One of our values is thrift, and so this project was up our alley. The crux of this rebuild was using the existing parts, only buying new parts if we couldn’t make the parts he had work as well as new ones would.

The brakes were mismatched, road levers and mountain bike calipers – we used the Travel Agent, an often forgotten solution for that made by Problem Solvers. We replaced the carbon fork with the Soma’s lugged steel fork to match the intended geometry and make front rack-ready. The front derailleur didn’t match his road shifters, resolving this was bike surgery, but we were successful in correcting for the incompatibility. The drive train was exhausted, so the bike got a new cassette, chain, as well as cables and housing.

The beauty of this outcome was Emile had enough money left in his budget for ergonomics and aesthetic. He swapped his saddle for the Specialized Romin, added fizik handlebar tape, both in white. He rolled away with his bike, ready for a Seattle to Portland trip, and it looked damn good too.

Color inspiration is everywhere!

We are simply smitten by light, by color, by the way it awakens or calms, the way it speaks its wordless message.  We are often drawn to unbusy and lovely palettes, but color combinations that bring joy and meaning can come in all sorts of combinations.   It’s in us and around us all the time.  Like the Force.  We’re inspired by everywhere.