We’re pretty excited about our newest addition to the Ratio Rides series; Iain’s self-built gravel frame is really something to behold and the build doesn’t let it down. Anyone with any experience of framebuilding will know how impressive it is that Iain started off by designing and building his own jig. To top that off, the frame was built in a week! We reckon 64 could be one to watch…
“Hey my name is Iain MacKeith and I’m currently studying Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. I started racing road and cyclocross when I was 10 and have been lucky enough to travel to Europe on two occasions to race along with around the US. When I was younger, I rode because I loved it but the main focus was always racing. As my long term focus shifted to school, cycling has become a means of understanding myself better and simply enjoying the adventure.
The bike is a fully custom, fillet brazed gravel and light-bikepacking bike. When lockdowns first hit and my high school turned virtual, I ended up with enough time on my hands to dive into framebuilding. The first month was spent machining a 4040 extrusion style frame jig along with loads of other tools and fixtures. My first bike was a Tig welded track bike and by the end of the summer I had built 7 frames. Over winter break I fit in 4 more with the last being my first completely fillet brazed bike. I had slowly begun to dabble in fillet brazing on earlier bikes for bosses and bridges but not main frame joints, so finally challenging myself to do an entire frame was quite tough but even more fun.
Both fortunately and unfortunately I have no formal training with milling machines, Tig welders, or Oxy Acetylene torches. I pretty much just watched a video or two, picked up the tool, and played around for a bit. It has definitely been enjoyable learning in such a pure trial and error manner but at times it would be nice to learn from someone with years of experience.
I built the bike with an aggressive and nimble geometry since that is what I am used to by now after 9 years on road bikes. The bike is rocking the ever-perfect Paul Comp Mini-Motos; I am definitely a stubborn member of the rim brake conservation society. They’re what I know, they’re what I have raced for some time, and they’re something I have never had complaints about. The groupset is a Sram Rival/GX mix since I wanted something durable and still affordable. I have raced Sram almost exclusively (all but a TT bike) for the last 6 years and I’m not sure that is going to change anytime soon.
I am also really pleased with the Hed Ardennes considering how wide the internal width is for a rim brake wheelset. The bike is running 35c Panaracer GravelKing Plus’s but I have my eye on a pair of their 2020 limited edition yellow 43c Gravel King SK’s. If I end up wanting to do some more rowdy gravel and even singletrack I will likely go down that path. Coming from classic drop 40 mm wide handlebars on my road bike, I decided to take a chance with the Whisky No.7 24F drop bar. The flare is definitely something but I like how it is narrow up top and yet I can fit a decent handlebar roll bag without losing my drops. So far I have been super pleased with both the frame and the build kit.
The bike is running the 1×12 Wide Upgrade Kit which means I have the range I was hoping for along with the simplicity of 1x. From racing cross, I was quickly sold on the simplicity and reliability of 1x clutch systems. One less thing to worry about is always appreciated, especially as I hope to get up to some challenging bikepacking adventures. The only thing I had been a bit disappointed by when it came to 1×10 and 1×11 drop bar set ups, is I always felt like I had to choose between having an easy enough gear and a hard enough gear. I knew this would especially be a challenge with this bike since I was hoping to do both fast gravel racing and crawling up a mtb trail fully loaded with bags.
With the Ratio Technology kit I can get away with a 48 Absolute Black oval up front and a 10-50 GX cassette in the back. My hardest gear is bigger than my hardest gear on my road bike and yet I still have easier than a 1:1. There are definitely some larger jumps as a result but I have yet to find this a problem. This was also quite a fun design problem for me because I wanted to fit space for ~45’s and an oval 48 chainring with only a 415 mm chainstay. Funnily enough, the place with the least clearance is between my third bottle and the chainring. I am not really sure what I would have done without the kit, likely having to settle for either way more than double the price for an AXS mullet set up or the extra failure points of a 2×11 set up.
I’ve been able to take it on two pretty epic gravel rides so far but I’m hoping for loads more. The build is still super new for me and although the frame was built in less than a week (albeit a very busy one), it spent about a month waiting before I got impatient with a pro paint job and did a quick rattle-can with Spray.Bike. I’d love to try my hand at some gravel racing on it but that will likely have to wait until things clear up more. I’ve got one decent bikepacking trip planned for it (Trans North Georgia) once the semester ends and I am sure there will be many more after that. I’m looking forward to pushing the limits of what both the bike and I can do, especially after a couple years pushing my limit doing gravel on my race bike with 25s!”
Many thanks to Iain for what we hope is the first of many full custom Ratio Rides. If you’re interested in being featured, just contact us.