Some Favourites from the Archives

I recently spent some time sorting though all the images I’ve taken of custom bikes we’ve built here at Commuter over the last three years. 8000 images of awesome bikes destined for lifetimes of exploring and commuting. It’s absolutely pouring rain here in Brunswick as I write this (thanks La Nina) so I thought this might be a good time to revisit a few of my personal favourites. Let’s go.

Fleur’s Surly Bridge Club

Fleur had been bringing her stunning original Giant ATX 890 from the mid nineties into our workshop for a number of years. We’d always loved working on that bike but eventually, like most aluminim bikes from that era, it just gave up and it was time to move on. Like most of our Bridge Club builds (and you’re about to see a few here for sure) the emphasis was on versatility and striking a balance between weekday commuting and weekend exploring on a variety of surfaces.

Schwalbe G-One tyres in 27.5×2.8 size are AMAZING all rounders. I’ve been passed by Fleur on the upfield a couple of times since we built this, and that bike goes FAST but certainly has enough volume and traction for some proper off-road exploring. The custom yellow powdercoat pays tribute to Fleur’s old Giant and the sleekly routed dynamo powered lights front and rear make this an unreal all-rounder. This one was a lot of fun, thanks Fleur.

Chiharu’s Velo Orange Neutrino

Chiharu’s husband Tomo had recently build a Surly Straggler with us and she was really excited to get something sharp for herself for family rides around the beaches near their home in Brighton. However, it’s not easy finding a good frame for the base of a custom build when you are less than 150cm tall. Even an extra-small Bridge Club was way too big. The Velo Orange Neutrino tuned out to be the perfect choice and the result is the most proportionate and fit for purpose Neutrino we’ve ever built.

A mix of stuff from us and from Blue Lug in Tokyo, Chiharu’s little bike really nailed the balance between functionality and overall aesthetic. First test ride for her here at the shop resulted in lots of giggling and tears of joy and we’re certain this thing will bring Chiharu years of good times. Chiharu and Tomo have since moved back to Tokyo and we’re hoping this bike is seeing some stunning river trail miles.

Karmin’s SRSLY Midnight Super Special

This one was wild. Taken on face value, Karmin’s super loud Midnight Special could definitely give the impression that aesthetic was the sole consideration here, but if you look deeper you can see that building a reliable and capable tourer was the main goal. Built to match Karmin’s bike-fit data, with super wide Shimano GRX gear range, the main focus for the Super Special was an extended international tour with full pannier load. Custom powder-coated racks front and rear aren’t just for show and have successfully carried loads over some serious distances. Full Velo Orange fenders and bottle cages in matching gloss teal really add some pop though!

To be fair, there were a lot of conversations about how this thing would look. Chris our powdercoater called us at one stage prior to kicking off to warn us this thing was going to be ‘very loud!’ and this is exactly what we were hoping for. The louder the better, Chris! Colour matched stem is something we’ve been adding to custom powdercoat jobs when we know we’ve got the fit dialled and I really like the way it ties everything together. We were given a pretty free reign from Karmin to do whatever we liked with the decals and all parties were stoked with how it came out.

Julien’s Surly Bridge Club

I think we all made some big life decisions during lockdowns here in Melbourne. Julien came to us, off the back of not much touring experience, looking to quit his job, build a bike and go to Tasmania and not come back for the foreseeable future. Big gear range, big load carrying capability and durablity were the big boxes to tick. A more personal colourway was also a solid ‘want’ and something we’re happy to encourage for bikes built for proper long term use. Especially given the durability of powdercoat finishes.

Vittoria Mezcal tyres are always our go-to for proper mixed terrain use. Tubus racks front and rear with integrated dynamo lighting take care of load hauling and being seen. Julien had some custom panniers made (one big enough to fit a full size hiking pack!) along with a matching frame bag and his trip looked absolutely amazing.

Lauren’s Velo Orange Neutrino

This one made me really happy. I’ve known Lauren for fifteen years and maybe ten years ago she saw a bunch of Bianchi mini-velos in Japan and reeeaaaalllyy wanted one ever since. Unfortunately most of those Bianchis were way too small (otherwise one would’ve come home with her for sure) and mini velo in general are not easy to find. Not good ones anyway. Lauren popped into Commuter for a visit a couple of years ago and was like ‘OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT I NEED ONE!!!’ And so this project was born.

‘Just do whatever you and the team think would be cool, but hit me with some big BMX vibes,’ is not a brief we get often (actually ever) but that’s how Lauren rolled on this once in a lifetime build. S&M Husky Re-issue handlebars got us started and from there it was all about durability and fun. Hope rear hub with matching blue SON dynamo up front with a little more blue from Wolftooth setting everything off. MKS Allways pedals meet White Industries crank which runs a bomber Shimano Zee drivetrain. Dynamo lights have since been added alongside the Sinewave USB charging port on the topcap. We know this thing is getting ridden just about every day and has been laugh out loud fun and super reliable. So happy for you Lauren.

Cath’s Tumbleweed Prospector

This thing is so good. Cath lives in Mildura and came to us looking for something to start properly exploring her local. Initially she had Surly Bridge Club in mind but as soon as we realised how sandy and loose the majority of the interesting riding around Mildura was, we started talking about bigger rubber. The Tumbleweed Prospector is amazing. Industry wide it’d be hard to find a more capable offroad touring bike. We build a lot of them, usually based around 29×2.6 rubber and that’s definitely the sweet spot for all-round bikepacking and exploring. The fact that it can pretty easily accomodate 27.5×3.8 (yes, three point EIGHT!) is incredible though and Cath has certainly spent a lot of time happily riding around in places most bikes would have you walking.

Give Cath a follow if you’re on social media and check out some of the places this thing has been. We’re jealous every time. Since being built this thing has explored some pretty remote desert, carried a LOT of water and food and been strapped to the front of a packraft for some proper multi-modal adventures. We love you Cath! Can’t wait to see where this awesome bike will take you next.

Luke’s Surly Straggler

Coming from a BMX background, Luke wanted a solid day to day Commuter that could also explore some gravel, but it sure had to be fun as hell! The Straggler frame with it’s narrow tubing definitely made a great base for a BMX inspired build. Short and upright cockpit feels super rowdy and the coloured Panaracer Gravel Kings round it all out. Honestly when this thing came back from the powdercoater none of us were really into the super pale green. Once built though, the contrast to the full black parts kit is unreal and this thing is on the staff favourite list for sure.

Kia’s Velo Orange ‘Kiolet’

There are a few staff builds that could certainly make this list but Kia’s Velo Orange Piolet is truly worthy of inclusion for a number of reasons. It’s been a pleasure to witness Kia’s journey toward this bike. A couple of years rolling around (and hitting 1000km bikepacking routes!) on her Surly Karate Monkey really helped her zero in on what her next bike, likely her last bike for a real long time, would be. Affectionately named the Kiolet, this bike was a very good reminder for all of us what a huge step it is to commit to a very personal and expensive custom build. It really reinforced how grateful we all are at Commuter for the opportunity to be a part of so many great builds. So thankyou everyone. Thankyou Kia.

Essentially the Kiolet represents all the stuff Kia loved about the Karate Monkey – big rubber, big gear range – but with a bit more versatility around load hauling capability and without any need for suspension or dropper seatpost. Kia also absolutely nailed the overall vibe on this thing, the silver parts kit providing big contrast and really letting that stunning frame do the talking. Well played Kia, this thing is GREAT!

Sophie’s Surly Ruffneck

I could literally do a whole post about Surly Bridge Club builds and it would be awesome. Sophie’s was one of the first custom builds we ever did around the Bridge Club frame and it’s still probably my favourite. It took me hours to make that Ruffneck decal but not as many hours as people spent Googling ‘Surly Ruffneck’ afterwards. We got so many calls about what this bike was and spent so much time delivering the bad news that Ruffneck did not exist that we decided not to pull this prank ever again.

Aesthetics aside, Sophie’s bike delivers the versatility that makes Bridge Club so awesome. Ride it wherever you want, on pretty much any surface, hauling whatever gear you need, stored however you want. Super comfy, super capable, absolutely stunning.

Daisy’s Surly Karate Monkey

There are SO many amazing builds we could continue to cover here, maybe I’ll publish a Part Two to this article. I feel like finishing with this, my partner Daisy’s Karate Monkey is appropriate though. It’s absolutely awesome and you can read about it over at Surly’s blog HERE!

Thanks everyone, hope you’ve all got some adventures planned now that the weather is warming up a little.

2 comments

  1. Love y’all too! Great bringing them together in Part 1 of scrollable bedtime reading! Had an awesome time working through (and still tweaking more!) the build of my prospector with you. So helpful, knowledgeable, and just plain keen!

  2. Inspiring, Adam! Makes me appreciate your shop’s choice of frames and enthusiasm all the more. Love purchasing from your store. Post more any time!

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Commuter Cycles acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional custodians of the lands and waterways in the area now known as Brunswick, and pays respect to their Elders past, present, and emerging, as well as to all First Nations’ communities in Australia.