Bice Bicycles – Sexy Steel From Someone Real

I met Bice Bicycles’ founder (and only employee) Dario Colombo a few years back, on a bike-packing trip from Venice to Turin. He showed up with a big smile and an old Pedersen, a peculiar Scandinavian rig with a cantilevered frame and a hammock-style saddle, complete with a set of modern pannier bags. It made a good first impression.

As we rode along the banks of the Po river, he talked enthusiastically about his business building steel frames, getting away from the homogeneity of the modern bike market by making products that would last and that could be tailored to each rider’s ability and needs. This also made a positive impression. When we got home, I promised, we’d talk some more. So this chat is long overdue.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Like a dating profile? My name’s Dario, I’m a nice guy, handsome, hard-working, a generous lover [laughing] … Before becoming a frame-builder, I worked as an electronic engineer for Siemens, and as an environmental engineer, working on the development of cycling in the city of Milan. I also worked at a biomechanics lab specialising in sports, and as a teacher on sustainability and smart cities, when I opened four cycling workshops around Milan to help young people repair their own bikes, have some fun, and maybe discover a future career.

Aside from the work, I suppose people would call me a Xennial, I’m still young, but old enough to remember rewinding my cassette tapes with a pen. I’ll happily drink beer but I prefer wine, in my part of Italy we say “La birra fa pisciar, il vino fa cantar,” – Beer makes you piss and wine makes you sing. I prefer mountain climbing to sunbathing and beaches, and I love music and cycling, obviously. If you made me choose between a concert and a bike, I’d tell you that I was riding to the gig. I actually did it last year when Dub FX played in Sestri Levante, on the Ligurian coast, I think it was more than 2,000 metres of climbing over about 220 kilometres.

When did you get into bikes?

Let’s say that before 2007, I wasn’t a cyclist. I went for a ride every so often, but nothing special. That June I went on a cycling trip to Provence with eight people and it changed my way of seeing the bicycle. From then on I started to bike-pack and to use it constantly for commuting and fun. I never had any grand delusions – if you saw my Strava you’d know what I mean – and I’ve always just seen the bike as something to have fun with and as a means of transport. I’m a committed singlespeeder, but at the same time, I don’t dislike innovations like e-bikes, especially not when you’re talking about something like a cargobike.

Why did you start making frames?

It was a gradual thing. Aside from my professional experiences, it began as an experiment, I just wanted to be a part of the bike world. My previous jobs were all positive experiences, but none of them really felt right for me. And I’ve always enjoyed creating things from scratch – but never to assemble them – and I liked bikes. It seemed like an obvious fit.

I started out modifying an old Leri frame, turning it from road to pursuit, changing the geometry and the rear end. The funny thing was that, even if it was a game to me then, before beginning that frame, I built a rig that I continued to use for three years. That first one was finished on Christmas eve, 2011, it was snowing and as is the tradition around my home town, there was a guy dressed as Santa doing the rounds, handing out presents. Meanwhile, I was flying around on my homemade track bike, it was such a weird beginning that I felt like it could only be a good omen!


What was the hardest thing about starting out?

Learning everything from scratch, self-taught, and above all, learning from my (many) mistakes, without letting them discourage me. In Italy, old frame-builders don’t have the money or the time to invest in young people, to pass on their skills and knowledge – even though a lot of them want to. So I wasn’t able to learn as a proper apprentice, and I could only get the knowledge by asking questions, listening, and watching. I came home several times after a day spent by with a frame-builder, only to completely change the whole workshop and machinery – as well as my mental modus operandi.

Another big difficulty is knowing the value of a firm “NO”. Involving the customer in the building process is an great experience for both parties, but it needs well-defined limitations if I’m to enjoy my work and they’re to get the best possible end product. But it’s a work in progress – I’m always learning!

Have you changed a lot?

So much. Every encounter with a frame-builder corresponded to a lesson in technique and in life. How to point a chassis, what type of welding alloys to use, how to TIG weld, how to set up the workshop to optimise my space, how to approach customers.

Not to mention the type of frames: at the beginning I didn’t even have a real price list, but now I’ve got a series of models that I’ve developed based on my experiences. I started with 29er frames and then moved on to touring, CX and most recently to the gravel and bike-packing scenes. Roughly, that corresponds to my personal cycling life.

One thing hasn’t changed: my desire to adapt and improve. Experimenting with new techniques and new tubing, for example, is an everyday thing for me, but it has nothing to do with market demand or programmed obsolescence. It just reflects my desire to keep moving and getting better.

Who buys a Bice?

The average customer is somewhere between 30 and 45, they generally have a lot of cycling experience, and are fed up with the modern “disposable” world. They don’t mind waiting four months for a truly custom frame. What’s the difference between that and one off the shelf? Well, you know who made it. You know it’s real.

Cycling has changed so much in recent years. Where do you see it going from here?

The modern bike industry is a child of our times: there is such a huge supply of products and a lot of the history, emotions, and memories, are being annihilated by increasingly heavy marketing campaigns. A year or two on from the presentation of a new model and it’s already “old.” Just one financial mistake, a speculative move made on the other side of the world, and a historic brand disappears. But I think a lot of people want to distance themselves from all that. I certainly do.

Sea Otter was a much needed breather

Photo: Stephen Lam/

I thought hard about whether I should make a trip to Sea Otter this year.

No doubt last year’s inaugural e-bike race at one of America’s premier bike festivals was fun, but I could really use a day off, especially after what turned out to be an intense Saturday in Berkeley.

So I somewhat reluctantly made the drive down to Laguna Seca and in the end, I am glad I did.

As I walked toward the entrance, a friend I haven’t seen since InterBike came out of nowhere and we spent 10 minutes catching up as we treaded closer to the blue overpass. The conversation ranged from kids, life, and a bit of bikes.

Pretty spontaneous but it felt like family.

Once over the blue overpass, my initial plan of attack was to fly under the radar around the expo as long as I could. However, just like my previous conversation, my hopes of staying down low was all but evaporated within five minutes into the expo when I walked by the Boyd booth.

Old pal Richard was there showing them hoops with a couple of Factor O2s, industry chatters…

Want. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Somewhere along the way, test rides were offered but since I only had a day there, that just couldn’t happen. With more than 400 exhibitors, even quick drive-by booth visits quickly added up to a significant chunk of time as I jumped between the seemingly sprawling booths and race venues that littered within and outside the famed corkscrew race course.

As cheery racers went to claim their podiums from the day’s criterium and enduro races one after another, I slowly came to realize that Sea Otter is more than racing and new products.

Up and personal. Photo: Stephen Lam/

It’s a family gathering of all disciplines where little rippers can share pump track tips with their older brother-in-arms of whom they’ve only seen in YouTube videos; Where aspiring cross-country racers in USA Talent ID jerseys rub shoulders with GT’s Anneke Beerten as Brett Tippie goofs around while filming his latest Just The Tip segment; And eBikes getting along with just about everyone, including them electric surfboards.

Photo: Stephen Lam/

In it, I find myself a brief reprieve from the constant barrage of what’s happening around the world.  The feeling where you’re so thirsty and suddenly the GU booth just magically appears like a desert oasis on the horizon, along with all the food samples and drinks you can have.

And I am not even mad about falling into one of the many gopher holes, or, as one of my teammates joked, bomb holes that lined the dual slalom course.

Photo: Stephen Lam/

With that in mind, perhaps I should treat next year’s Sea Otter as if I was coming home for Thanksgiving.

Until next year. Photo: Stephen Lam/

Commute in style with the Cannondale Bad Boy

I always had a soft spot for a Cannondale Bad Boy ever since its inception in 2000. I was relatively new to the whole cycling thing then, but that monochromatic theme made quite an impression to me (a kid) that I almost convinced my parents to buy me a 2001 Bad Boy Jekyll… from Copeland Sports, no less. A former race mechanic eventually steered us away from buying a Bad Boy to race high school cross country (he was right).

But the want factor remained.

Perhaps it’s the fact that Cannondale got into the whole murdered-out black color theme way before it was even considered cool, or maybe because the Bad Boy always carried a unique narrative within the Cannondale lineup parallel to that of an unassuming sleeper car. Over the years, proven technologies from both the road and mountain segments such as the HeadShock suspension fork, the one-sided lefty, and the SpeedSave rear triangle design all made their ways into the Bad Boy line up. The redesigned 2017 Bad Boy is no different. In fact, it’s a gem with all the subtle integrated details.

The rigid lefty fork design remained but with all the room inside the hollow rigid tube, designers at Cannondale integrated a LED light strip directly into it. Dubbed the LightPipe Lefty, the USB-rechargable strip is a continuous light with a claimed 24-hour run time that functions like an aftermarket front light would to increase visibility. 

See that white strip on the lefty fork? That’s a light. Oh, and there’s the one-piece headtube and downtube assembly.

The LightPipe is by no means a replacement for your 1,000 lumen headlight, but the said model shown at InterBike this past September was plenty bright to be noticeable, not to mention all the light integration made the Bad Boy significantly less cluttered, more streamline even, as if the Bad Boy got hooked on Kondo Method and was a believer of marginal gains.

The Bad Boy shown at InterBike.

With the front LightPipe covered, Cannondale also added a built-in red taillight into its massive 31.6mm seatpost with three modes: Continuous, blink and wave. Run time, as I was told, will be about 50-hour in continuous and blank modes and 100-hour in wave. It’s powered by 2 internal AA batteries.

Integrated taillights within the seatpost.

Yet the makeover did not stop at the lighted fork and seatpost. While the previous Bad Boys came with 700c wheels, the ’17 Bad Boy will have 650b wheels throughout. The frame is new too, most notably with its massive one-piece 3D-forged headtube and downtube assembly. The Bad Boy is available in disc-brake only, so plenty of power for those endless stop and goes around town.

The Bad Boy will come in four models in various built favors from $870 to $1,840. The top-of-the-line Bad Boy 1 will come with a belt-drive drivetrain with an eight-speed Shimano internal gear hub. So yay for less maintenance, no lube getting on your hands/pants, and a smooth silent ride.

It’s worth noting that only the Bad Boy 1 and 2 will have the LightPipe fork and illuminated seatpost.

The last detail worth mentioning is the rubber strip along the top tube to protect the frame from whenever it’s leaned on. It’s a simple design touch but nevertheless a refreshing sight to see a company go great lengths to execute a well thought out performance whip as opposed to a boring hodge podge commuter bike.

Obviously it’s not a bike for everyone’s taste, as some might still scoff at the idea of a single-side fork, or fat aluminum tubes even for that matter. If you’re looking for a well-designed, high performance commuting machine with an understated look though, look no further.

Salsa Cycles’ New “Marrakesh” Touring Bike

Spotted on social media, Salsa Cycles new touring bike, Marrakesh, looks rather interesting.
Spotted on social media, Salsa Cycles new touring bike, Marrakesh, looks rather interesting. Photo: Ben Weaver

While wandering around the social media landscape last week I spotted a new, never seen before, Salsa Cycles touring bike. The photo, posted on July 11th by musician Ben Weaver, shows a fully loaded, drop bar, triple crank, disc brake touring bike bearing the Salsa Cycles logo with the name “Marrakesh“.

Closer examination reveals some pretty interesting details:

  • Shimano Deore triple drivetrain with bar end shifters.
  • The brakes are the tried and true Avid BB7’s.
  • Cowchippers appear to be the handlebar of choice here. They are more flared than Salsa’s CX specific Cowbells, but less so than the offroad centric Woodchippers.
  • The WTB rims have no braking surface, and there appears to be no cantilever brake mounts, so this is a disc brake only frame.
  • The tires are beefy Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700x38C tires. There is more room to be had for larger tires, but it’s hard to tell from this photo just how much. 700×42 or 700×45 seems to be a safe bet.
  • The saddle is a Brookes C17.
  • The frame has 3 water bottle mounts while the fork has another 2 mounts, which Ben is using for Anything Cages. That’s in line with pretty much Salsa’s entire bike catalog. The fork itself doesn’t appear to be one of their carbon fiber “Firestarter” models, so it’s probably the same fork as the Salsa Vaya.
  • As with the Salsa Vaya, the Marrakesh has mounts for both front and rear racks.

The parts used for build itself could be particular to Mr. Weaver and his preferences, there really is no way to tell. Regardless, a brand new, disc only, drop bar touring bike from Salsa is an interesting move on their part. They currently have three 700cc based models: Colossal, Vaya and Warbird. The Colossal and Warbird fall into a race (or really, really fast touring) category, while the Vaya is aimed directly at touring. Where and how the Marrakesh fits into the grand scheme of things should be interesting to see.

The fit and finish, complete with Salsa branding and name, doesn’t look custom. Salsa typically doesn’t let branded test prototypes out into the public eye to be seen, so that makes this either a final production prototype or the first of a full factory run. I’d bet there will be a new product announcement from Salsa very, very soon.

Should you want to see the “Marrakesh” in person, and catch some great tunes at the same time, Ben is currently touring (by bike, of course) around Lake Superior. You can find his show dates here.