Ratio Rides: Nadiah’s custom FeZz cycles
Following on from Hailey’s awesome Rodeo is Nadiah’s travel gravel bike from custom builder Fezz Cycles.
“My journey to finding the one bike that rules them all was a somewhat accidental one. I’m Southeast Asian and barely 5 feet (1.5 metres) tall, with a problematic spine condition called scoliosis that results in a disproportionately short torso and reach, as well as a lung capacity issue. It’s taken years of experimenting with different frame materials and dialing in my bike geometry and riding position to get comfortable with spending the whole day in the saddle.
While I don’t specifically have any preference for genres of cycling, my love affair with the sport is directly tied to my need to explore. Having a wanderlust-prone father gave me my first dose of faraway lands before even the tender age of 5, and it was only natural that I progressed to traveling on a bicycle. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in the middle of nowhere on my bike, and the knowledge my own two legs will get me to my destination is pretty empowering.
But first, I’d have to have the right steed to be able to do this with. The honest truth is that most cyclists either get lucky with off the shelf bikes or suffer miserably on long rides. I opted for the third choice, namely finding a custom frame builder and cherry picking my parts carefully for the build. I needed a steel frame that was durable yet light, could fit into a suitcase easily for traveling, and could handle all road and all day touring.
Here in Malaysia my options for frame builders are extremely limited. I’d toyed with the idea of a Japanese made Kualis as there is a local distributor in Kuala Lumpur where I live, or the Taiwanese Ioklin after spotting their beautiful NAHBS award winning frame at RCC Taipei clubhouse several years ago. Fate had another idea however, as the founder and sole man behind the brand Fezz Cycles reached out to me one day out of the blue.
Initially I was extremely skeptical. What if this was a young upstart without the crucial experience of someone who had years of working with steel tubes under his belt? I’d had the opportunity to interview Dario Pegoretti for Cycling Plus Malaysia a year before his death, and I knew full well that his expertise came after decades of racing and building frames under the tutelage of his father in law and maestro frame builder.
But after that initial meeting with Megat Faritz, I quickly realised that this was a man who had all the right traits to build bikes. Despite being self taught, Faritz had built a number of frames himself after years of repairing vintage bikes for many clients. He was meticulous and customer oriented, and had a healthy dose of attention to detail that bordered on an obsessive compulsive disorder. He was also pretty clever, clever enough to teach himself the ropes.
“Build me a bike that can take a beating on allroad, all day tours,” I had declared, “But without breaking my back”. The bike was never meant to be fully loaded with more than 10kgs of extra weight, but it did need to be able to climb under load while being stable and nimble. My limited lung capacity made climbing a lot more difficult than normal cyclists, and the doctors had warned me that no amount of training would make me ‘normal’.
Five months later, Fezz proved I did not make a monumental mistake by putting my trust in a seemingly young and inexperienced frame builder. The Reynolds 853 frameset he built for me from scratch was exquisitely crafted, with internal filet brazing points that were so fine it felt like a crying shame to cover them up with paint. Once fully built, the bike definitely turned a lot of heads.
But the bike wasn’t meant to be a mere peacock, it was meant to be ridden. And for my intended use, I needed the right set up. Enter Ratio Technology, which made my mechanical 12 speed set up possible. I’d previously struggled climbing in Spain’s Andalusian region, Japan’s Shikoku Island, Taiwan’s JiuFen mountain town and South Korea’s Suanbo hot spring village. This upgrade would change all that.
My components are what we Malaysians call a “rojak” build, i.e a mix and match of different parts. With climbing mountains in mind, I opted for a Praxis Zayante 38 chainring matched to a SRAM GX 10-50T cassette and rear derailleur, paired to SRAM Force shifters. I wasn’t keen on going full electronic to go 12 speed, and the Ratio Technology upgrade kit was a nice way to get that extra granny gear I needed.
Being completed right in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, sadly the bike hasn’t had much opportunity to travel abroad. It’s gone on a number of local bikepacking tours since state borders were opened and lockdown restrictions eased, and I can safely say it now climbs like a dream with the rider (yours truly) its sole limitation. With the right cadence, I don’t really need to upsize my chainring for decent top speed either.
With new reports that we’re now in the final stages of the pandemic, talk at home has shifted to where we can tour next. Morocco’s Atlas Mountains are high on the bucket list, as are the Mongolian steppes, Scotland’s rugged Highlands and New Zealand’s Alps 2 Ocean trails. But first on the list is a return to Japan’s mountainous Gifu Prefecture, among the striking Japanese Alps. Here’s to hoping that the world’s borders open up soon!”