Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bike #65: Singular Gryphon Intro and Review

It's been a slow week on the blogging front. I took an extra week off after the Honda shutdown during which we took the kids down to Myrtle Beach (more on this later). So no playground reviews for a bit, and not much in the way of bike news. I was only able to manage two deals during the vacation--someone came by and bought my Soma Juice off Craigslist this morning, and my new frame arrived yesterday, ready for me when we pulled into the drive.

I mentioned a few posts back that I was looking for a bike that would combine the best attributes of my Soma and my Blackbuck. I hoped I would find it in a Singular Gryphon. It's a bit of an odd bike, being a rigid specific, drop bar optimized 29er. It has some neat features: a Phil Wood EBB for single speeding, a nice tall headtube so I wouldn't have my usual big stack o' spacers, and fairly light weight tubing (8/5/8 OS top tube). I've been thinking about getting one of these for several months, and when a used XL popped up on the classifieds, I jumped on it. I built it up this weekend and took it for its maiden voyage to Alum Creek P2 today.

Despite it being designed for drop bars, the top tube is actually pretty long (about 620mm), allowing me to run Titec H bars with a reasonable 100mm stem. Setting the EBB in the rear/low position also moves me back a bit on the bike, giving me more room to stretch out.

In some respects, it really did seem the best of all worlds: a lively, supple ride, as smooth as the Juice but with a nicer "spring" under acceleration. The handling is a bit quicker than the Juice, if not as razor sharp as the Blackbuck. I was feeling pretty good about my choice.

Shortly after leaving the trailhead, a fellow passed me on a rigid carbon Niner. Not to brag, but I'm usually the passer, not the passee, so this set my fragile mountain biking ego back a bit. After stopping to adjust my rattling rear brake, I caught up to Niner guy where he had flatted his tire. He was running tubeless, without a pump or CO2. Maybe the lighter weight helped him pass me? Anyway, after I handed him my mini pump, he had to ask how to use it. A guy on a $3000 bike who has never used a pump? Bemused, I gave him instructions, but it was to no avail--too many holes in his tubeless tire. After giving him instructions on the short cut back to the parking lot, I was off again--for about 30 yards.

Climbing a short hill, I heard a BAM! as forward motion stopped. I thought I had just thrown my chain, but it turned out that I had pulled the rear wheel out of the dropouts. I was using a good quality Shimano QR, and I certainly know how tight to make it, but maybe I didn't get this one tight enough. Maybe. Anyway, I struggled somewhat to get the wheel back in, and had to adjust my brakes again, but I was ready to roll again. Er, is my rear wheel off center? I had a sinking feeling about what had happened, but I still finished off that lap and one more with no more issues.

When I got home, I pulled the rear wheel out. The frame springing apart as I removed the wheel confirmed my fears: I had bent the rear triangle. The dropout spacing should be 135mm, it's now measuring more like 143mm:

On the bright side, with 142mm rear ends being the hot new thing, I guess mine is 1mm better. Though I can't say I noticed any stiffness improvements!

I guess I could get Franklin Frames to cold set this, but I will probably try the Sheldon Brown method. With a 2x4, a beer, and some string, I think I can squeeze this back into spec. I'll let you know how it goes. (Update: see here)

Some interesting things about the Singular Gryphon:

- the set screw EBB works well and is trouble free so far:

Just don't overtighten the set screws and deform the bottom bracket shell!

The frame has rear eyelets:

But these are largely useless. Located below the disc caliper, the lower eyelet only allows for a rack that is cantilevered about 20mm outboard. This is a hopelessly weak design for a rack, almost guaranteed to fail when it's loaded. Maybe these are for fenders, you say? Then why aren't there eyelets on the fork?

To be useful, the rear dropout should be redesigned to have the brake on the chainstay, not the seatstay, as is done on the Salsa Fargo or On One Inbred, for example:

Singular Gryphon vs. Salsa Fargo
Many people want to compare the Gryphon to the Salsa Fargo. The pool of drop bar specific 29er is pretty small, so this is a natural inclination. I used to have a gen 1 Fargo so I'll add my thoughts:

These bikes are completely different. The Gryphon is a mountain bike, meant for recreational riding on trails. Lighter weight tubing, shorter chainstays, more standover clearance, and the single speed option all point to a sportier outlook. The Fargo, on the other hand, while a capable off road machine, is really more of a utility bike. The incredible number of well thought out braze ons allow you to load it up, and the longer chainstays and lower bottom bracket give it a stable ride. It's harder to loft the front wheel on the Fargo, and it's not nearly as responsive to pedaling inputs. Think about your use and pick your frame--these aren't interchangeable if you want to optimize it for you.


  1. Nice write up! I have been intrigued by Singular for a while now, nice looking bike!

    1. Thanks! Now that I have it realigned, I'm looking forward to a more confident test ride.

      I have to say, I'm also thinking about a Troll (like yours) for family duties. I have a pair of 26" wheels hanging around, calling my name...


Clem Again

Regular reader(s) may recall that I journeyed up to Ann Arbor to buy a Rivendell Clem Smith Jr last summer. That particular bike ride didn&#...