Group bikes (personal): Serk A30 All-Road by Andy van Bergen
Someone asked me the other day what I would choose if I could replace my quiver with just one bike. It was a difficult question to answer. For me the pleasure of riding comes from swinging one leg over it different bikes.
There is nothing more exciting than riding the same piece of road, track or single track on a new bike. Everything is familiar, but very different, letting you paint a completely different picture than what you thought you knew. That tight turn? The sharp rise? This fluid and fast section? They all feel new on a different bike.
While I couldn’t (even in my mind) engage in a quiver killer, I could answer what a ‘bike for life’ looks like.
A heritage bike
With all the bikes I’ve owned, loaned, borrowed or tested … plus three I’ve written off (note: only one was for a garage door), I’ve always been drawn to functionality and aesthetics apart equal. Each of these bikes made me smile and helped me see these familiar roads in a new light. But as incredible as each of these bikes is / has been, the reality is that this mixture of carbon and alloy is somewhat disposable.
This is something I borrowed from my interest in hand tools for woodworking, but I love the idea that a day after countless adventures, something I own will be passed down somewhere. in the family (or just as possible: pledged after my death for far too little, to the delight of an impassive buyer). The reality is that it won’t be a premium carbon frame that gets passed down. No, the bikes I own that have the potential to upgrade to a future generation are built of steel (or at least they were).
The concept of “life sentence” has been running through my mind for a long time. Accept that a bike for life must be mounted for its lifespan, I always had in mind that when I would get started, it would be a titanium frame.
The appeal of titanium goes beyond the mystique and romanticism of this exotic material, the stiffness and weight similar to carbon, and the unmistakable appearance. It is also a very practical material that can take a beating. The scratches can be lightly polished and handled well, it won’t get knotty like an alloy frame, or you will wonder if there are any invisible cracks like some of my much loved (and used / abused) carbon frames.
Over the years, I have kept an eye on frames and builders, knowing that something would end up touching my heart. And the tugboat finally did, although I had no idea I would be halfway around the world when it happened.
I’ve had some amazing adventures over the years with my good friend Shannon Bufton from Serk Cycling, including our attempt at Everesting on Mount Everest itself. It was a few years later, as I was riding with him in the arid nature of Kyrgyzstan, that I first saw some of the titanium Serk bikes in his stable. In my mind, my ‘life’ was always going to be raw titanium, so seeing these bikes that celebrated the material with traditional (rather!) Geometry, simple, clean lines and subtle but meaningful design cues, I got quickly won over.
I spoke with Shannon about the manufacturer. The factory he uses has over 30 years of experience in manufacturing titanium bikes, making it one of the oldest and largest in Asia, with over 50,000 frames built over the years. decades. They invested huge sums of money a few years ago and built a new factory in a neighboring province with all the latest cutting edge technology, while using the same old lathes and most of the original workers.
Maybe this is my experience at CT where all of our staff live and breathe cycling, but it was important to me that a lot of workers ride. It turns out that they Also live and breathe sport, and the factory has helped fund many grassroots programs for the local scene.
I had quickly fallen in love with Serk, equally because of the simple and beautiful lines, but also because of the alignment with Shannon’s sense of exploration, creating new frontiers and seeking adventure in… eh well, everything.
I can’t really explain why, but I’ve always found something breathtaking about the aesthetics of steel track bikes. I’ve owned quite a few over the years (I’m currently riding an old Kierin Eimei and recently completed a full build of NJS Nagasawa). One thing that has kept me obsessed with these bikes over the years is the lack of brakes, and therefore super clean rear seatstays.
When I got my first introduction to disc brakes in 2013, I vividly remember being impressed with the improved braking performance, but also the caliper-less stays offered by the rotating discs. So when I spoke with Shannon about a custom build, it was always about playing on those flawless lines that the unbridled rear of the A30 conjures up.
I also loved the design elements that show up in each component. There are the Haçienda style patterns found on guardrails all over Tibet that are found on the bottom bracket shell. And the Easter egg quotes on their thru axles bring smiles when discovered on the side of a dusty road during a tire change. And then there are the iconic collars listed as height markers on the back of the seatpost (I’m slowly progressing this bucket list!).
I asked Shannon what the inspiration was for the surprisingly intricate design details seen on the helmet’s lower cup. As a former architect, it was no surprise that he showed consideration for every design element that goes into his bikes:
“We looked for a meaningful way to represent this motivating force in the design of our bikes and found inspiration in the ancient border town of Samarkand in Uzbekistan. Samarkand was one of the largest cities in Central Asia, thriving thanks to its location at the crossroads of the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean.
“In Samarkand, we discovered a series of bewitching patterns on the facades of buildings lining the old town square. These types of square kulfic patterns are created when Arabic words, most often representing divinity, are abstracted, rotated, and joined together to form a pattern.
“We took the word ‘border’ and translated it before abstracting it and rotating it in the Square Kulfic tradition to create our own Serk Frontier pattern.
“The design is laser etched into our helmets and stem caps and represents a deep connection to the experience of exploring frontiers. “
Playing on the simple aesthetic of the frame, I asked Shannon to remove all solder, wire ports, and keep a low profile with the brand – basically whatever is possible to keep it looking crisp. To further reduce unnecessary visual clutter, I opted for the wireless system offered by SRAM Red eTap AXS. The result, I think, is a bike that is immensely manoeuvrable, has a clean look, and celebrates the drab beauty of its titanium construction.
I was all set and ready to go with my order, and the intention was to go to Beijing, make a final fitting, then hit the road with Shannon for a few days to break it in properly before heading back to Melbourne. with. Spoiler alert: 2020 had other plans in store, and after delaying the trip a few times to “allow all that COVID stuff to fall apart,” it soon became clear that a trip to China would have to wait for a while. in the past.
Instead of the trip, the knowledgeable team at Jetnikoff in Melbourne completed the build, which also allowed me to add some extra stuff like the super fluffy, sticky Burgh Tape in Tasmania (that’s right) made to ride without gloves), a set of titanium King Cages, and I traded in the WTB Exposure tires seen in the gallery for a set of Panaracer GravelKings.
While a relentless stream of blockages provided a slightly cushioned introduction to this bike, I still managed to get it out on a number of backyard adventures. With a geo that was immediately familiar to me and a ridiculously comfortable ride, it really puts the “whole day” off-road. So, while upcoming overseas getaways will have to wait a little longer, the best thing about a bike for life is that there is a life of roads to ride.
A bicycle is as much about the connection you have with it, as the sum of its parts. It’s about the places he opens and the memories he leaves with you. As Shannon puts it:
“For us, cycling is a transcendent experience. From the serenity of witnessing the first light flooding a landscape to the invincibility felt during a perfectly fluid descent, we perpetually pursue these moments of nirvana that are offered to us while cycling.
That’s what horseback riding is for me. With a mantra like this running through its designer veins, this bike for life was always going to be right for me.
Framework: Serk Titanium A30 ‘Captain’ All Road
Fork: Seek Carbon All-Road
Helmet: Serk IS / CE
Rims: Serk carbon rims 21 mm internal wide / 35 mm deep
Hubs: DT Swiss 350
Spokes: Sapim CX-Ray
Front derailleur: SRAM Red eTap AXS
Rear derailleur: SRAM Red eTap AXS
Controllers: SRAM Red eTap AXS
Brakes: SRAM Red AXS
Cassette: SRAM Red AXS, 10-33T
Chain: SRAM Red AXS
Crankset: SRAM Red AXS DUB, 35 / 48T
Low support: SRAM DUB Road
Shape preference: Barbecue
Tires: Panaracer Gravel King 32 mm, without tubes
Handlebar: Enve Aero Road SES, 42 cm
Rod: Enve Aero stem
Saddle stem: Carbon serk with border graphic
Cage: King Cage titanium
Socks: Gate below leggings
Bar ribbon: Burgh Stealth Hieroglyph
Saddle: Specialized power
Pedals: Shimano Ultegra PD-R8000
Supplements: Machined rear hanger cast from a solid piece of titanium block