Monday, January 24, 2022

Goodbye MCD - Hello Mod. Zero!

The MCD model from Black Mountain Cycles is no more...
 So, a while back now I noted that Black Mountain Cycles was out of MCD frames and forks. I was watching their social media casually for any news on new colors. That's what Mike Varley, (who essentially is Black Mountain Cycles) does- he doesn't change the model much if at all. He just orders new frames and forks in two new colors. That model has worked for over a decade for him.

Well, no solid news was forthcoming and I had been hearing that frame/fork sellers on the smaller end of the scale were getting pushed aside for larger orders by their Far East manufacturing partners. I figured that didn't bode well for Black Mountain Cycle's future in frames and forks. 

Then, via a trusted friend, I got word that the MCD and the Road Plus models were getting axed from the line up with a possibility of a new model that combined the best of both into one. I did not say anything at the time, but now Mike Varley himself has posted on the BMC site about this development. 

So, it's true! No more MCD's! There will be a new model, combining the Road Plus and MCD. There will be a few changes with the new "Mod. Zero" too. But I think that in the long view this will be seen as a really good thing, and here are my reasons why I think that is so- in no particular order. 

  • 44mm Head Tube: Mike Varley doggedly stuck to the 1 1/8th inch standard straight steer tube for a LONG time after it was out of fashion. The move to the 44mm head tube is wise from a few standpoints. One- Obviously a tapered steer tube carbon fork could be substituted in for the steel fork. This may not strike you as a positive, but here's the deal- Carbon forks have been around for 30+ years and the industry has them figured out. The benefits of a steel fork are largely negated when you put a disc brake on the fork. The extra reinforcement necessary makes the steel fork heavier, less lively, and therefore not as much the advantage as you might desire. Plus, you can minimize stack height, relative to what you can do with 1 1/8th straight head tubes, to the max for those who want that. (And there are those who do want that)
  • Replaceable Rear Derailleur Hangar: While it is true that you can bend a steel drop out back into shape, it is better to just bolt a new hangar on. If the hangar is made from stout aluminum and is designed so that it has a good base for the derailleur to operate off of, this is a better way to go. Plus bending a steel drop out that also has a through-axle receptacle integrated into it is a lot harder to do anyway. Besides, who has the tools to bend back a derailleur hangar in the field? With a replaceable hangar you can just bolt a new one on and done!  
  • Flat Mount Brakes: While I despise flat mount brakes, it is high-time Mike did this. Your choices and applications open up, and is the way of the World now. Plus, as Mike says, it looks a bit better overall. 
  • Proper Wide-650B Clearances: This is probably more a nod to the folks who were Road Plus buyers. But be that as it may, it does appeal to me if I were to be thinking more off than on roads. The versatility of the new bike model is greater then the two older ones, and I could see a knobbly XC-ish 27.5"er for backcountry explorations. And also- big, wide smoothies are going to fit better as well. I'd consider those for a road tour, as a for instance. 

Mike Varley's sample he is testing for the BMC "Mod. Zero" model. (Image courtesy of Black Mountain Cycles.)

Mr. Varley states in his blog post (linked above) that the 700c clearances will not change significantly from what I have with my MCD. Still, as Mike says- "50-ish" millimeters. I'm actually okay with that as those bigger 29"er tires start weighing quite a bit. And besides, I am a bigger fan of the 42mm-47mm sizes for my riding. Also of note- If you wanted bigger tires on an MCD type of bike, Mike offers the LaCabra. 

Image of the Mod. Zero decal from Black Mountain Cycles' Instagram

As for geometry, we don't have any solid details. Mike only alludes to the subject of geometry when he said of the old MCD and Road Plus bikes that they were "very close in terms of basic geometry. What- if any- tweaks would be made to Mod. Zero are not known at this time. 

I would make a suggestion or two- But Mike has probably made his mind up already. But what the heck! Here is what I would like to see from the "Mod. Zero". 

  • An ever so slightly slacker head tube angle. It would really help with bigger tires and more extreme terrain, but it also is awesome on gravel. 
  • Maybe a tic more fork offset to bring back a bit quicker handling, but also to 'kick out' that front tire a hair more to gain a bit more compliance and toe-overlap room. 
  • Mike is combining the old 650B "road plus tire" sized bike with the old 700c compatible rig, so bottom bracket drop cannot get too crazy. That said, my Twin Six Standard Rando does just fine on 650B wheels with a 75mm bottom bracket drop. I'd LOVE to see that on the new "Mod. Zero", but I'd be really pleased if it were 72.5mm as well. 
  • Do I spy bottle mounts on the fork? A huge plus in my mind if that is the plan.

Now for the million dollar question: Will Guitar Ted be getting one? If you read the linked post from Mike, you already know that these bikes won't be seen here until mid-2023 at the earliest. So, yeah..... Here's where I am at with my fleet of gravel machines.....

I'm likely to retire the Noble Bikes GX5 by sometime around 2023-ish. While it is a great bike, it is going to be five years old by 2023 and being a carbon frame, ridden on gravel, and that not too kindly, well..... It may very well be okay, but I expect that newer designs and technologies may start making that bike a bit off the back in terms of what I can test on there. Maybe not. We will see. And it has to survive that long, which- being a carbon bike- is no guarantee. 

Then I have that old Tamland Two I keep threatening to retire but keeps coming back. That bike will be nine years old in 2023. And the Fargo? ha! So, yeah..... I could see a Mod Zero for Riding Gravel duties. This depends on the finer details which I don't have yet, and I cannot predict what I'll be doing next month much less than a year and a half from now. I don't really need a Mod. Zero, but I might be able to use one for work purposes. So, if I am still doing I would consider one seriously. If I am not? I have a perfectly fine BMC MCD.


teamdarb said...

The part about the derailleur hanger made me laugh. I have carried a DAG 2.2 and the previous version for years. Momentary or situational cyclist laugh until they have to ask for it. I even turned a frame pump mount into its holder. Did you know the allen bolt at the top of the threaded end fits proper onto a vintage pump mount braze-on? Obviously, this was an economical decision based on the lifestyle.

MG said...

I’m stoked with the Mod One… It’s definitely going to be the next addition to my stable. I’ve always wanted one of Mike’s frames and have decided now (or more accurately, spring 2023) is the time.

Guitar Ted said...

@teamdarb - Interesting! I did not know that.

Guitar Ted said...

@MG - Nice! Yeah, I think you'll really like it. Mike knows how to design and spec a frame and fork. It really shows. I'm about 95% sure I'm getting one as well.