The Red Baron

Here is the Fokker Dr.I 425/17. The triplane of WW1 Ace Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (The Red Baron) which he flew for the last 19 of his 80 kills. Legend status: 100.

The Fokker Dr.1 is the namesake for this bike. Lovingly nicknamed The Red Baron. This bike is about style and chill, not being the fastest.

The bike is a klunker. Barely an off road machine. Pure Neanderthal. I live in Fairfax, California so it was probably well past time for doing such a bike. Repack and the old timers monopolize discussions of bikes here. Now, it’s my turn. This version is built to go as fast and as hard as possible with the least amount of machinery. I pared this bike down to the absolute minimum. No suspension, no front brake, no clipless pedals. Just a rear brake and a dropper post. What does this bike do well? Nothing. Except be cool. It will get you around town or through trail. Exuding cool. Plus I’m getting old and this will enable about a thousand excuses in each ride.

Designing Red Baron, I kept flashing back to a post I wrote a while ago about what is truly needed on a bike: Gamechangerz. What’s really important and what isn’t? This bike is going to tell me a lot about what’s truly necessary.

The fork is at the heart of this bike. The goal was for it to be modern, comfortable, and still a proper BMX-type fork. A 110x15mm thru axle kept me in line with the modern world. PMW inserts and custom dropouts made this possible. Engineering the front dropouts was interesting as I hadn’t done this type before. It seems to have worked as the fork is very robust torsionally. There is room in the fork for a 27+ rim and tire should I decide that that’s a direction that this bike needs to go. I’d prefer not but full rigid is a bit hard on old bones.

I have a confession…Long before I started building my own frames, my plan was to build a modern BMX-type bike for adults. Obviously, there’s no reason to use wheels larger than 24″ (or 20″ really) outside of a BMX track. This is a send up of that theme. Back in 1997, it was going to be a 26″ version on the theme. It’s taken until now to get to this project. These days, 29ers rule for covering ground and rolling over rocks, so I upped the wheel size. Still, a lot of this was based on my old Bontrager B29 24″ that I wrote about a few posts ago, HERE. I now have my bike. Usability was a primary goal. This can’t just “look the part”. It has to ride well in a variety of places.

Fit was hard to derive for this. I had to do some learning about handlebars and BikeCAD. When not using flat bars, the fit shown in BikeCAD goes crazy. It needs a user hack adjustment. Because I had to hack the software for the rise bars, I’m hoping some of the choices that I made will work out. The bottom bracket height is the biggest worry.  But if it worked, it’ll be so sick. The long front center lends itself to the forward geometry theme that I’ve been using for a while now. Getting the front wheel out front helps all bikes and this one, more than any other, could use that. Big tires and no suspension will lead to temptation. Geometry may be the only thing saving my ass. The geometry is totally modern and the look is full-on 700cMX. The chainstay length ended up longer than I would’ve liked. To have the 2X2 drivetrain on narrow Q156 cranks meant that real estate wouldn’t allow anything shorter than the 440mm that I got. It’s OK. The bike will cruise. With the 170mm dropper, it goes uphill and downhill pretty well.

The handlebars are Atomlab Pimplite 3″ rise bars. 750mm wide. Sweep: 7° up, 9° back. 31.8mm clamp. It would be nice to find some similar bars in 3.5″ or 4″ to clean up the fit and look. It would also be nice to find something with another 30mm of width.

The wheels are 29″ 148/110 type. The hub flanges are spread wide for sweet, sweet love. Onyx really came through with the special brakeless 110/15 TA w/ Torque Cap front hub. This hub is a beast! The prototype element of the hub shown un-anodized will be replaced with a black anodized bit when the part is available. The Onyx rear hub keeps this bike super silent and sick on the trails. I decided that the low noise would be an important element to this bike. These hubs are so addictive!! The rims are the fairly light and solid WTB Frequency i29s. Not as light as I run for normal riding but fitting for this project with the increased width.

I had tried to set the bike up with a short post BMX-style but had issue. Neither of the rigid posts that I had on hand would produce the correct nose angle. So it’s a bit high in the photos. It was either that or too low and I figured I’d make a break from what would look “too MTB” for that setup.

The gearing will take some sorting. A 2×2 drivetrain allows the bike to be run on street or dirt with pure singlespeed goodness. Right now, it’s geared 38/18 (193 IOD) and 34/22 (141 IOD). I want it to be able to do big ride on mixed surfaces and still have it work pretty well. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden a proper single speed so I’m shooting for something workable. A proper selection will take a bit of time. Hopefully, I’ll settle on a pair of gears that move the wheel more forward.

Powder coat: RAL Classic #3003. Ruby Red with a clear coat. RGB 134, 26, 34. CMYK 30, 100, 80, 20. Rad.

It’s low and it’s long. Gangster as fuck.