Sweetpea Journey #3: All Mixted Up

If you didn’t know, I’m getting a custom-made bike from Sweetpea Bicycles. Natalie Ramsland builds these bikes specifically for women, one of just two women frame builders in the United States (the other is Luna Cycles). Many people I know are interested in hearing about the process, so I hope to be blogging about it each step of the way. Read the series here. Presenting the third installment…awaaay we go!


Less than 24 hours after my fitting, Natalie posted two design options on her project management site to peruse, based on two wheel sizes. When I took a look, suddenly I got a glimmer of what it must be like for a pregnant woman to get an ultrasound–my bike is going through a slow gestation process, and I could finally see it was real! (While that probably comes off as completely tongue in cheek based on this past post, at the time the feeling was very serious.)

As for the designs, the 650B bike looked well-proportioned, but because of the non-standard wheel size I’d need to be prepared at all times for a major flat, as replacement tubes and tires aren’t readily available. On the other hand, the 700 bike (above) had a standard wheel size but didn’t look as elegant. An important difference though, was that Natalie determined that structurally, that bike would work better as a mixte.

At some point, I knew I’d need to decide between a mixte and a regular diamond-frame bike, and I had been dreading it. Mixtes are certainly more fancy, but the structural strength lost in the angled top tube is made up by adding steel, increasing the weight of the bike. Mixtes do have a practical purpose for women though–you can ride a bike wearing a skirt! However, since I don’t wear skirts very often at all, this is not a huge issue. Oh yeah, and it would require a $100 mixte “upgrade.”

Over the next five days, I agonized over this crucial juncture in my Sweetpea journey. Did I want a mixte or a standard frame? And did I want a 650B or 700 wheel size? I consulted trusted friends, like James the super mechanic at Bike Gallery, April the mixte aficionado, and of course my only real friend in the world, the internet. It seemed only fitting to do due diligence before making such a major decision, to be fully informed on what I was getting myself into. After all, I don’t want to have any regrets or negative surprises when I finally get my dream bike, right?

On Monday, Natalie reminded me that I shouldn’t be wrestling with two separate dilemmas, but the bike style would be tied to the wheel size. This helped streamline the decision process. Meditation was making it clear my gut was leaning toward the 650B standard frame, but I wrapped up my due diligence by consulting my friend Beth, who works at Citybikes (they stock 650B tubes and tires!), and wonderful Theo, who has a 650B Kogswell, and even uses the same tires I likely will end up with, Rivendell’s Nifty Swifty.

After informing Natalie of my painstakingly researched and thoughtfully considered decision, about five minutes later she turned around a revised design of my final choice, including frame specs, and some additional features (pump peg, cable routing for a dynamo, etc.) I could add on for a fee. We’ve scheduled a phone call to review everything together tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, I get to continue agonizing over the color of my bike. Last week I stopped by the shop to see the color of HW (Heliotrope Wonder), which was a super dark purple with multi-colored sparkles in it–fuschia and blue–that aren’t really visible via photographs. It’s lovely, and the base is very close to the color I originally thought I wanted. However, I had a slightly different idea in mind in terms of the finish, and upon inquiry with Natalie’s powder coaters in Colorado, it looks like they can do a work around for something that can usually only be done in paint. We’re probably going to have them do a water bottle cage as a relatively inexpensive test to see if the dream can be realized.

Last night I had a pretty lengthy conversation with my mom about the color of my bike. (She loooves that stuff.) I told her about a couple of ideas that Natalie and I had been tossing around. She was very helpful, and in passing even gave me a concept anchor, describing this bike “like a big berry rolling down the street.” I think that this is indeed the palette I’m going for, and I think the phrase helped solidify what this bike is going to look like just a little bit more.

One thing is certain: it truly takes a village to build a bike.

Next: Final design? Fun with powder coating? Components? Even I have no idea what’s next right now.


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Filed under bicycles, sweetpea

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