Saturday, March 09, 2024

Brown Season: Honeman Flyer Maiden Gravel Voyage

Escape Route: North Side alleys
 After a couple of test rides and a commute back and forth to work, the Honeman Flyer had gained enough of my trust to go for a brief ride out in the country. The goal was simple: Go to the Big Rock and back home again. 

I chose this route because that is where I rode my Black Mountain Cycles MCD on its maiden gravel voyage in 2018. It is also where I first rode on gravel with my Twin Six Standard Rando v2 in 2020. So, keeping the them alive with another test ride two years later to the Big Rock just seemed appropriate. 

It was a nice day, a little hazy with high clouds creeping in which heralded a rain event we experienced Friday. It was warm, about 57°F and hardly any wind, but what there was seemed to be out of the Southeast. I wore 3/4's pants, a bib short for a liner, a base layer, and my long sleeved wool jersey with the Twin Six wind vest. I stuck some plastic shopping bags on my feet and wore my Shimano gravel shoes. Wool socks.....but of course!

Hitting first gravel here. This was about as Sunny as it ever was during the ride.

That's Big Rock Road in the distance.

I wound my way through town casually. The road out to Moline Road wasn't too busy, which was nice. People drive 55 mph on that section which is signed at 45mph, so it can get a little hairy if the traffic is bad. There are no shoulders to speak of either. That lasts about a mile, but it really sucks to ride that stretch. 

I hit first gravel and thought to myself, "Well, it rides like a bike!" Which is a good thing. The Honeman design isn't all that far off from modern day gravel machines, so things like the front end geometry and the bottom bracket drop are not all that weird at all. In fact, a lot of gravel bikes are where this geometry is at. The outlier here is the rear of the bike which features a very different set of numbers. It all starts with that slack, 70° seat tube, which in reality measured out for me at a half a degree slacker than that! 

It's a keeper!

I'll likely have a deeper dive into the historical aspects of this idea, but as for now, I'll just say that the entire design seems to be a very relevant one to gravel riding. As I said, the front end is, for all intents and purposes, "standard gravel geometry fare". The rear is the old married back to what was old, and the entire package just really shines for me on gravel. I'll also say that the fact that the bike is a steel bike makes this even hit home more precisely. 

The slack seat tube angle "works" that seat post more, and perhaps the angles of the rear triangle help here as well. All I can say is that this is a very, very smooth riding bike. The thin gauge steel tubing helps a lot too, but whenever a builder chooses thin gauged steel, you have to start riding more calmly and smoothly. This would not be the bike for a person that pedaled in squares, but not because of the geometry, but because of the frame tubing. 

I had a Tomassini road bike built out of Columbus SL tubing and you HAD to ride that bike with excellent form or it would hate you. This bike is not that bad, but I can tell it rewards a smoother, more efficient pedaler. I'm fine with that. If you wrassle your bike, you should err on the side of heavier gauge steel, in my opinion. 

The rural beer drinkers must have been kickin' it old school recently.
That little grouping of trees off to the left here on Big Rock Road held some new arrivals from the South.

As I rode along Big Rock Road I was ruminating on how I had not yet seen, nor heard, any Robins yet this year. And then it dawned on me that the Red Winged Blackbirds should also be back by now. But I had seen no signs of either. I looked across a field and then a small group of trees was coming up on my left. I saw movement, I heard sounds. Both Red Winged Blackbirds and Robins in the same trees! 

Check and check! 

Well, I suppose the Robins will be heard outside the house any morning now then. Up until now though, they haven't been heard singing their random, warbly song. 

What?! "Normal" gravel conditions? Weird.....

It is still insanely dry and dusty out in the country. At least the roads aren't ditch-to-ditch crushed rock three inches deep. I don't know what sort of rain we got, but we're going to need a whole lot more of that before we are out of the woods with regard to the drought here. 

As for the Honeman Flyer, I have to await the incoming through axle (should be today) and then all will be done with it and then it will be on to more riding. Until then.....


Phillip Cowan said...

Looking at your profile pic of the bike I can see that the slack seat tube moves the saddle much closer to being over the rear axle. I'm curious to hear your experience on fast down hills. I'm guessing that shifting your weight back will be beneficial.

Marc Pfister said...

It's going to be fun to watch gravel bikes plow into the current trends of "progressive" MTB seat angles, zero offset droppers, "short nose" forward offset saddles, and short cranks and lead to a rash of nerve damage in the hands. It's a good time to be a bike fitter!

I've been building slack seat frames to address the above and the Honeman bike print was a fun data point to think about.

Guitar Ted said...

@Phillip Cowan - Well, I was thinking I would actually have to adjust my saddle to a very forward position, lacking an extension forward off the seat post, which many older track bikes had. However; as I sat on the bike and measured things out it became apparent that the ideal position for my reach was actually with the saddle back to a spot midway on the rails. (WTB Volt)

This placed the pedals a little more forward of my rear end than I'm used to, but it felt fine. Now, I should say that I tend to ride using my lower back and glutes, being from a single speed mindset, and so this suits me fine. It may not work for everyone.

Cornering seems more balanced as my eight is more rearward, again, something that may be specific to the way I am built. But when you think about the design, there was a reason they were placing riders in this sort of positioning. Exactly why is not known to me, but this wasn't a haphazard design by any stretch.

Guitar Ted said...

@Marc Pfister - Thanks for the link. That was an interesting read. I especially liked the link to the classic bikes site, which I've been on before. I had not seen that path/road bike you linked though and it has a strong resemblance to the Pop Brennan bike design. I noted the saddle position is not super-forward either. Interesting....

I have not done the short cranks thing, but I understand it is getting a lot of interest these days. FWIW I am running 172.5mm on the Honeman Flyer.

MG said...

That Tamer post is a good choice too… With that seat tube angle, you’re getting all the flex that was designed into that filament wound shaft.

baric said...

First off I think your Honeman Flyer build turned out fantastic and I really like that paint job. The only thing I don't think quite fits is the bubble gum handlebar tape, but can't tell from the pictures the true colors of every thing. So the other day I was perusing the net looking at whats available in bar tape for my next bar swap and of course Amazon horned right in. So anyway on Amazon I run across this Chooee road bar tape which has a black background and a tightly knit pattern similar to your paint job of flame like swirls, lines and spatters which also come in just all the colors of your frame but the pink. So then I think it might be cool to carry that theme on up to your handlebars and seat post clamp above top tube and then I see your picture of your Honeman leaned up against " the big rock " with that blue water bottle with orange cap and that's it, orange pattern tape and orange seat post clamp. Orange looks good with that frame. And while I'm still dreamin' maybe a Race Face Atlas crank, orange , 165 mm arms. Whew!! ....

Guitar Ted said...

@baric - I really appreciate your comment and suggestions, so thank you!

To be honest, that pink tape, (which is pretty much a bubblegum color, so you were spot-on), is a sacrificial tape for Mid-South which I anticipate will ruin it in one ride due to their red clay dust or mud. (Depends on the weather)

My thoughts were to come home and strip that off and retape with a basic black tape, but I will have to look into your suggestions here.

As for orange anodized components, I am less likely to get those due to extra expense, but you never know....

Thanks again for the comment.