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Little did Matt know that the journey towards his new Sycip began back in 2016.
Matt's new Sycip. Photo by The Radavist.
Seven years ago, he picked up a personal dream bike in the form of a mid-90s Eddy Merckx MX Leader frameset. As cyclists have a habit of doing, building it up was a project that remained on the back burner until 2020 when it was made road ready following a refurb, a respray, and being outfitted with modern components. (You can read all about it in this blog post.)
Much to Matt’s delight, the Merckx turned out to be a total revelation. It was practically the perfect bike for the fast, punchy loops and off-pavement excursions that make up the bulk of his riding and claimed the title of the best descending bike he’s ever ridden.
The bike that inspired it all.
After logging some serious miles, Matt decided it was time to augment everything he loved about the Merckx with an update to current fitment standards and the ability to run tires wider than 28mm. As someone who started out on 19mm tires pumped up to 120+ psi, the idea of moving to tires nearly twice as wide with half the pressure was just one of the areas where Matt was shifting his philosophy on what makes the perfect road bike for his needs.
The skinny tires, rim brakes, and double crank of the Merckx are nowhere to be found on the Sycip. Instead, there’s 36mm of rubber, disc brakes, and a Campagnolo EKAR group with an attention grabbing 13 speed cassette that ranges from 9-42 teeth.
What follows are Matt’s thoughts about the build and the process of going the custom route.
The research side of things is one of my favorite parts about building up a new bike. I enjoy looking at what has worked in the past and what direction I want to explore moving forward. Then I distill those thoughts into lists and charts to help narrow down the decision process.
An example of this was making the jump to a 1x. I ended up making a gear inches chart of my bike and tracked the gears I used on my regular rides. Once I did that, it became obvious that the way Campy set up the 13 cog cassette would be very familiar and functional for maintaining a road bike feel without the need for two chainrings up front.
13 in the back and one in the front. Photo by The Radavist.
I reached out to a few builders and asked a bunch of different questions to see what their thoughts were. I’ve worked with Jeremy Sycip before and we click pretty well so I was excited to put this project into his hands. When doing a custom frame, being able to find a builder you mesh with is important and makes the process a lot more enjoyable. I gave Jeremy my ideas of what I was after and he’s good with telling me what would work and what wouldn’t based on his decades of experience. I really went deep in selecting the tubing for the frame in terms of diameters and shapes. Originally, I’d planned for a smaller diameter top tube but Jeremy gently pumped the brakes on that because he knew the end result would be too flexy for the feel I was after.
Another area we discussed at length was a steel vs a carbon fork. My main goal here was to replicate what I love about the steel fork on the Merckx. The unique design of wide, bladed legs that taper to a more traditional style at the dropouts made for a nice blend of lateral stiffness that retained a measure of comfort. With the added stress of disc brakes added to the equation, opting for a carbon fork became the way to go.
Once the design was locked in, it took just a few months for the frame to arrive. Jeremy works fast.
I spent a lot of time and made multiple lists for wheels, as is often the case considering how much they affect the overall package. Going all-in on modern wheels felt like a good fit for a bike like this. This is my first set of carbon wheels and I must admit the learning curve is bigger than I expected. They’re a lovely and fast wheelset but I’m still working on dialing in the right tire and pressure combo and am getting a little closer to doing that with each ride. The frame can handle a 30-42mm tire so it’s going to be fun playing around with different sizes in the future.
At this point, any top end headset is going to outlive me and it’s an area where whatever you pick is going to be the right choice. I went with Wolf Tooth because I liked the angle of the spacer cap and felt it was a nice match to the tapered head tube of the frame. And then in the back, the flow of the Lynskey seat post was equally pleasing to the eye and is an area where the functionality of titanium really shines. The inherent flex of ti helps neutralize some chatter while its strength makes it a great option when it comes to long term practicality.
The Selle Italia saddle and Time Pedals are old friends but I did make a big change to a vital contact point by switching to a bar with a shallow flare and drop. I find that I go into the drops more with a shallow flare than ever before and actually use more hand positions. On my first gravel bike, particularly rough rides left my forearms hurting from hitting the top of the drop which isn’t the case here. I’ve also added this style of bar to my other bikes and have enjoyed trying out different brands to see whose version I like the best.
It's all in the flare. Photo by The Radavist.
I’m still basking in the new bike glow but I’m really enjoying the ride so far. It’s really different from anything I’ve ridden before. My usual rides are 20-30 mile loops with short and punchy climbs that are peppered with dirt cut throughs and on flats, the gear range of EKAR provides a very road bike-like feel while the bigger cogs can handle the hills and dirt. My biggest ride so far has been Big T to Clear Creek and back down Angeles Crest Highway. I think we’ll be spending a lot of time up in the San Gabriels this spring and summer.
Want to see more photos of Matt’s new ride?
Check out the feature story and photo gallery on The Radavist!