Builder: Breadwinner Cycles
Material: Columbus Spirit, ENVE Carbon fork
Distance to date: ~7000 miles | ~11265km
Groupset: Dura Ace 9100 Mech, ROTOR VAGAST compact crankset.
Headset/BB: Chris King
Wheels: HiFi 38 anti-flutter (front), 50 anti-flutter (rear) (read HiFi article here)
Being part of the Portland cycling scene, you can’t escape seeing handcrafted steel bikes on the daily. The vibe is pretty much “steel is real.” I heard about the steel appeal, but whenever I ask someone who owns a handcrafted steel bike, “what makes it real?” they usually say, “there’s something about the riding quality that I can’t describe; you just have to ride one to understand.”
Curious about what makes handcrafted steel bikes real, coupled with bad financial advice from Evan, I kept thinking about pulling the trigger for a while. Especially after dealing with factory-built bikes with their limited options.
The Lolo is actually my second Breadwinner, with the first being the B-Road which I built as my all-around bike. It is still hands down the best bike I own. The second best place goes to the Lolo. Although, the B-road review should also be coming soon enough, so stay tuned.
Given that I loved riding my B-road for over 2 years so much, I decided to ditch my plastic (carbon) roadie and build a steel bike to replace it.
However, the real reason I wanted a steel roadie from Breadwinner was that I wanted to own a bike fully built, sourced locally from Portland. I was leaving the US for a while and wanted a piece of Portland with me wherever I went. And at the same time, support the local bike community!
When I figured out the geometry, what I wanted from the bike, color, groupset, and all that jazz, I had specific needs for my back. Thanks to bikes, I lost around 200lbs (90kg) over 4 years. With that weight loss, I found out that I have Scoliosis. Thus, being in a lower (aero) position for a while is a no-go for me.
Hence, why I have the massive headtube!
I wanted a climbing geometry that would allow me to ride all day comfortably. Hence, the sloping top tube makes this machine fast, sharp, and responsive overall. The raised front certainly affects the aerodynamics a bit, making it hard to sustain fast pace rides for anything more than 3 hours without proper fitness. This isn’t a big issue since I rarely go after fast-paced rides anyway.
After all, this was my “faster” exploration bike.
Tracking back to the steel appeal bike owners swear by. After riding steel bikes for about 3 years, I think the best I can describe that feeling would be compliance + lively + springy + fine-tuned.
However, I think it's much more than that.
It's about forging a connection with someone who not only has the passion but the craftsmanship to bring your vision to life. Building steel bikes is a commitment and a journey.
It's made for you and you alone.
So far, I have ridden the Lolo in four countries with drastically different terrain, difficulty, and specialty. I spent a few months riding around my favorite playground, Portland, crossing between back country roads, large hills, and scenic byways. The Lolo was built precisely for that terrain and long days in the saddle.
However, the true potential of the Lolo came through when I rode in Valencia, Spain. The giant mountains of the Costa Blanca, steep climbs, and vast valleys brought up the best out of the Lolo. I biked thousands of miles up, over, and between the mountains. And the best thing about it is that the Lolo felt like the right tool for the job every time.
It made spending the whole ride climbing mountains more exciting, encouraging me to push the envelope every time.
I found my calling in the mountains.
Check out these articles to see what I’m talking about:
In Turkey, the Lolo pushed me even further, taming the massive Western Taurus Mountains with their long and steep climbs from sea level to 8300ft (2530m). Over a month-long trip in Antalya, all my rides were based on exploring the magical Western Taurus Mountains and the hidden plateaus above the clouds.
After a year of riding my trusty Lolo, all I want to do is ride up even more mountains. Southern Turkey captivated me, and I know that having the right tool made it so. The balanced geometry of the Lolo normalized climbing in the saddle, which is excellent given how long the climbs were.
As a climber, the reward is definitely reaching the summit and bombing the descent. However, the climb was equally as rewarding, especially in Antalya.
Rides like these remind me why it was the right choice to build a bike that works with you, is adapted to your needs, and simultaneously encourages you to go higher, further, and faster.
Lastly, Kuwait presented a challenge, which was being very flat. Believe it or not, for me riding flats is a lot harder than climbing. The challenge with riding flat terrain is dealing with the wind and constantly pushing big gears to maintain a decent pace—pretty much no room for resting, such as a short descent or a break at a vista. The only advised option is to slow down so as not to lose momentum.
Although this style of riding is out of my element, the Lolo still managed to get me to stay within the peloton of the CCC Friday rides (article coming soon!). Yet again, pushing the envelope to go faster, maxing out effort, and keeping up with the group.
Having the chance to ride in different countries, terrains, and styles proved the versatility and advantage of a bike that complements your riding style and preferences and simultaneously pushes you to try new things.
A year well spent with the right bike, and hopefully, the following years will be even better.
Support your local builders, bike shops, and community!