In a world where most major brands have turned their focus toward carbon, riding a steel bike can sometimes feel like flying a prop plane in a sky dominated by jets. Still, steel maintains a firm grasp in the boutique bike market.
Along with titanium, it’s the tubing of choice for custom frame builders and riders searching for something a bit more unique and personalized. One of the most successful and desirable custom builders to surface in the last 20 years is The Vanilla Workshop out of Portland, Oregon, which produces Speedvagen Bikes.
The Vanilla Workshop was founded by Sacha White in 1999, and within a few years, it had acquired an enormous waitlist. This is an issue faced by many popular custom frame builders. Frames are handbuilt in low volumes, which means long and tortuous waits for customers. The Speedvagen line was created to meet the demand, by having a collaborative group of craftsmen in the workshop building batches of race bikes, both custom and stock, in regularly scheduled intervals throughout the year, thus reducing wait times for customers seeking a high-end steel bike to months rather than years.
The resulting Speedvagens are classically beautiful machines. This Speedvagen road bike has one of their signature, eye-catching paint jobs. Small details like the custom machined dropouts and stainless steel reinforcement in high-wear areas like the seat mast simply exude quality. The tubing is larger and stiffer at the front of the frame and tapers to a smaller diameter toward the seat mast to smooth out any roughness from the road that might be transmitted up through the saddle.
The seat stays hug the wheel, tapering flat and wide for compliance while creating a beautiful hourglass silhouette from behind. It’s an easy bike to lust after. Every curve and line of the frame seems designed to look and work perfectly together.
The high-end SRAM Red eTap group-set is almost as lust-worthy as the frame. Red eTap provides wireless electronic shifting, for precise and effortless shifts and without the need to route cables, an ultra clean and modern look.
The stem is a color matched Zipp SL Sprint, one of the stiffest on the market.
Out front, the brake cables run through some blingy Alligator iLinks housing for enhanced brake feel at the levers.
The bike rolls on tubular Mavic Ksyrium Pro Carbon SL wheels which are light, fast, and perfect for hardcore racing.
The only thing I’d change is that purple bar tape. Black is always the way to go, always. Otherwise, this is the perfect machine to make someone feel very special.
Check out this bike at our shop.
Bruce is a writer who loves getting his bikes dirty, trying new tech, and riding tough trails that make him suffer for hours at a time.