The Takeaway: Using Sophie Tauber-Arp’s 1937 painting “Composition” as inspiration, Jacqueline Mautner created this 2021 Philly Bike Expo “People’s Choice” award-winning gravel bike. Featuring custom frame bags from Bag Bags and a full SRAM XPLR suite of parts, this custom gravel bike breaks the mold of the slacker and longer geometry trend for a delivering a sharp and captivating ride on all types of terrain.
- The frame is made using Columbus Zona tubing, which is specifically designed for off-road applications.
- SRAM’s XPLR group set has an impressive range with 12-speed, 10-44T cassette.
- The RockShox Rudy fork’s 30mm of suspension travel takes the edge off rough terrain and small bumps.
Price: Frameset prices start at $ 4,800 with simple painted Artist series frames starting at $ 6,800 and include a Chris King headset and bracket. Weight: 20.6 lbs.
Style: Gravel Bike
Wheel Size: 700c
Frame: Untitled Cycles built with Columbus Zona tube set
Front: RockShox Rudy XPLR suspension front, 30mm travel, 45mm offset, Solo Air, 12x100mm, 1.5 “tapered steering
Drivetrain: SRAM Red XPLR eTap AXS
Cranks: SRAM Red 1x
Chain ring: 40 teeth
Cassette: SRAM XPLR XG-1271, 12-speed, 10-44T
Brakes: SRAM Red eTap AXS Hydraulic Disc, 160mm, Centerline rotors
Wheels: Front: Zipp 101 XPLR
Back: Zipp 101 XPLR
Tires: Zipp G40 XPLR Tubeless Gravel Tire, 40mm
Saddle: Brooks C17 Cambium
Chair pin: Reverb AXS XPLR, 27.2 mm diameter, 400 mm length, 75 mm drop
Steering: Zipp SC SL-70 XPLR, 70 mm range, 115 mm drop, 5º flare, 3º backsweep
Voice: Zipp SC SL Voice, 100 mm, 6º rise
Bicycles are utensils, made for riding, so I generally do not talk about them as art, because that can often miss the point. However, Jacqueline Mautner’s latest creation – the Untitled Gravel Bike – needs that kind of consideration. It is the rare bike that is almost impossible to separate from its inspiration and creator. It was first shown at the Philly Bike Expo in 2021, where it won the People’s Choice Award in large part for its spectacular painting by Eric Dungey of Color Works Palette.
Philadelphia-based Mautner, who builds under the name Untitled Cycles, draws inspiration from many artists. I saw her frames for the first time at the Philly Bike Expo of 2019 with her creative tribute to Keith Haring. For this gravel bike, Jacqueline drew from the 1937 Sophie Taeuber-Arp painting entitled “Composition”.
“The painting is a constructivist-influenced composition with primary shapes and colors. It is dynamic and involves movement – like the moving parts and movement of a bicycle. Mautner describes. She continues: “But as I immerse myself in a work of art like Composition, I learn and consider not only the logic of composition, but also the broader context in which it was made. For example, during the rise of fascism in the 1930s. , abstract art stood in contrast to and challenged the neoclassical, realistic art preferred by fascists.With the recent rise of fascism, it seemed appropriate to align with the opposition represented by abstract art.
This is typically where my conversations with Jacqueline end. We will start with a discussion about bicycles, but inevitably end up in a rabbit hole of art, its intersection with craft, where and how the two meet, and how it relates to their frame building or bicycles in general. This brings us back to the bike, which is made to ride. The frameset was built with Columbus Zona tubes, a round, double-butted tube set designed for off-road use because of its increased reliability and fatigue life. A tapered hollow tube, bottom bracket shell and through axle dropouts from Paragon Machine Works finish the frame.
Geometry for the frame was designed to match the type of ride Jacqueline prefers, especially long distance and mixed terrain. On the spectrum of gravel, this bike falls on the side of things “meant to go comfortably long distances”. A 72º hollow tube angle and a 73 seat tube angle put it almost in cyclocross bike territory. However, the longer than normal than up to crown length of the RockShox Rudy fork gives it a more relaxed 65mm of track. I will touch on this again in my ride impressions of the bike, but I liked the faster handling of the Untitled compared to longer and slacker bikes I have ridden recently. However, the obvious advantage of this a custom bike is that if you have different preferences, you can always request changes based on how you want the bike to handle and what you plan to do with it.
The construction kit for this bike was supplied entirely by SRAM, with a complete suite of XPLR sharing, This was my first time being able to ride the entire XPLR line all together on one bike, so it’s worth the effort to dig a little deeper into how they all worked together. The RockShox Rudy fork is probably the second most attention-grabbing thing about the Untitled gravel bike (after his paint job). I was really excited to give it a try, as there are currently not many options for this fork other than a select few production bikes (like the Canyon Grizl) or go to the custom route.
On the Rudy fork on the road, I generally did not think about it. Exhausted, it felt, more or less, like a stiff fork. Unlocked, the fork remained inconspicuous on slippery roads. I had to make a spirited, out of the seal effort before I noticed the front dive a bit. The lockout switch was easy enough to reach, so I quickly got used to turning it off when I saw a steep hill approaching. However, on more rolling terrain, I would usually not bother. Off-road, the fork did a great job of recording conversation and generally taking the edge off. However, the Ruby did not let the Untitled plow through everything. With 30mm travel, you still need to choose your lines carefully when riding on singletrack. What the Rudy did was to make long days on the bike noticeably easier for my hands and wrists by evoking the constant little bumpy talk that can be persistent on gravel.
The AXS XPLR dropper I found less useful than the Rudy. Probably the best feature of the post is just how easy it is to add to any 1x AXS bike. Without wires to run, it is as easy as installing another chair post. But its usefulness on a bike primarily designed for long-distance riding seems limited to the ease of getting on and off while the bike is loading and stopping at lights.
The ActiveRide feature touted by SRAM when the post first launched – dropping the post a few millimeters would give it a bit of a squish – could have been useful on some rougher roads. But the reality was that I did not find sitting stairs with my room too low to be particularly comfortable or useful either. The dropper itself worked beautifully and was actually quite fun when riding the bike on trails that were meant for a mountain bike.
The bike rolls on Zipp’s new 101 XPLR wheel set, which takes the same approach to compliance as Zipp’s Moto Trail Wheel Set, a single wall carbon rim construction with engineered localized flex. This is all a fancy way of saying that the rim is designed to give just enough under hard influences to reduce the chance of your pinch flattening, allowing for lower tire pressure and more comfort. As a concept, the wheels seem more suitable for straight singletrack or chunky gravel.
On paved roads and smoother gravel, the thing I noticed most about the 101s was actually their weight. At 1665g (required) for the set, these gravel wheels approach the weight of many cross country mountain bike wheelsets. With an internal width of 27mm, the dimensions look more honestly more on mountain bike wheels than those intended for a drop bar bike.
The XPLR drivetrain I have already used on a few other bikes. I’m a fan of the wide range offered by the 10-44T cassette when paired with a 40-tooth chainring. The larger than one-on-one low gear makes getting up difficult, loose and steep climbs possible even with a loaded bike. The jumps between gears on the cassette are a bit smaller compared to performing an Eagle mullet setup, making it easier to find comfortable gear when riding in the mid-range of the cassette. The actual shift performance is identical to other AXS groups, that is to say, it is precise, easy to use and just works.
I touched on this briefly when covering the geometry of the Untitled, but it is not a typical long and limp gravel bike. Riding reminded me of riding a cyclocross. It felt agile, with fast steering and a more traditional road ride position using a 110mm stem. It may not seem appropriate to place a suspension fork on a bike with a 72º head tube angle, yet this bike is just an absolute blast to ride. Unlike slacker bikes, it does not need to be transferred to make tighter turns. The Untitled can be swung right into the top and swung out the other side, daring to cut the next top even tighter.
I expected the steeper corner of the head tube to make the Untitled a bit restless on rougher, more technical descents. But this is where the AXS dropper and the Rudy suspension fork did a lot to change the character of the bike. The dropper allowed me to move far enough back on the bike to counter the 72º head tube. While the fork did just enough cushioning to leave me a little reckless, without feeling like I was constantly going over the bars. I still think both parts would be better suited for a bike with a longer and slacker front end, but I still had a good time “under biking” some mountain bike trails on the Untitled tank on both parts.
As enticing as the dropper and suspension fork make it to ride the Untitled as a hardtail of the 1990s, its sweet spot was to be an all-terrain roadbike. The sporty geometry gave the Untitled a sharp feel that even the extra bit of heft of the fork could not dampen. Like a good road bike, it felt fast, smooth and intuitive on slippery gravel roads. The fast handling made the cutting of a winding road descent natural. Raising the miles over any type of road surface was where this bike absolutely shone.
It can be difficult to look at a custom bike. When I dig into the pros and cons of a production bike, it is almost impossible for the manufacturer to then change the next bike from the production run. A custom builder on the other hand can take input and apply it (within reason) to the bike they are building for you. So often with custom bikes it feels less like I’m looking at the actual bike than what the builder brings to it. With the Untitled Gravel Bike, it was Jacqueline’s love of art and her desire to create not only a beautiful and functional bike, but one that meant more than just the sum of its parts. If this is the type of bike you are looking for, contact them as their production sites are filling up fast.