Niner Air 9 Carbon Ki2 Zipp Custom Build
The "Honey Badger" Niner Air 9 Carbon Ki2 Zipp Custom Build
Here at Pro Bike Supply, we’ve built tons of custom bikes – it’s what we do best. As with any custom build, there are individual traits and requirements that set each one apart… but the Honey Badger breaks new ground. When our friend, longtime customer, and world-renowned vintage Gibson Les Paul guitar authenticator Joe Ganzler came to us with an idea for a custom bike that would fit his new riding situation and replace his current custom machine, we were very excited to help out. What began as a fairly simple project turned into our most complex and detailed custom build to-date.
Joe’s current bike was already as custom as you could get. With a flat bar road frame custom made by Calfee Designs and outfitted with a mixture of the best parts on the market, this bike already had the “individual” touch. But like most cyclists, Joe rode the Calfee a lot (35K miles in 5 years), and found the need for a bike that was lighter, stiffer, and would fit him exactly the same. Sounds easy, right? The Calfee was a 700c carbon flat bar road bike that was equipped with disc brakes and Aero Spoke wheels. For sure not the lightest bike out there, but Mr. Ganzler loved this bike, how it rode and how it fit. If there was to be a new bike in the quiver, it needed to fit and feel as good or better. To make things even more challenging from a bike builder’s standpoint, the bike needed to be able to perform equally well on the alternating hardpack to asphalt to hardpack canal trails of Phoenix Arizona, Joe’s new locale.
We started with the Niner Air9 Carbon frame with the carbon color-matched fork to save weight and keep the road bike feel. Joe also chose to mix up the colors a bit by straying away from his raw carbon Calfee and went with the Tang Orange. Additionally, the bike would be spec’d with SRAM XX shifters, 11/36 cassette, and rear mech. Getting the power to the cranks would be done by the Look Keo Blade TI pedals. Slowing the roll of the 29er wheels would be done by the ultra light Magura MT8 Brakes. Knowing that Joe loves the lightest and the best, the stock rotors had to go. He had us replace the XX rotors on the Calfee with the SCRUB Race day rotors. We ordered up a set for the new Niner project with the black carrier and orange accents. These were hooked up to the Easton Haven Carbon 29er wheels and, like the Calfee, the tire choice was the Kenda Small Block 8, only in the 29 X 2.25 size. The cockpit was decked out with an ENVE seatpost, Easton EC90 SL stem, and color matched Niner flat bar.
Now here is where things got tricky. Joe’s #1 requirement was the road gearing. He had to have the Zipp Vuma Quad BB30 cranks in the 53/39 configuration. All of this looked good on paper, but there were issues that would later make this a true one-off piece of bike art. First off, the road cranks are set up for road frame spacing, chainring clearance and Q-Factor - not mountain frame spacing. Secondly, Mr. Ganzler has an eye for detail and was not a fan of the Easton Haven wheel logos printed all over the rims. Lastly, the bike needed to be sub 23 lbs with pedals or it would be a “no-go.”
The first problem we encountered was chainring clearance. On a MTB frame, the chain stays flare out sooner than on a road frame. The frames are like this for durability and the biggest chainring that “should” be spec’d on the frame is a 44 tooth, not a 53! We turned to Calfee Designs to make the custom carbon fiber modifications to the drive side chain stay. Working with them closely, we found that by carving out the amount of carbon needed to gain the clearance for the rings, the stay on the opposite side would need to be reinforced. This would then result in tire clearance issues. Joe wanted to stick to the 2.25 Kenda tires so we knew we’d be cutting it close. The overall strength factor was in question as well. Calfee solved this by thickening the inside wall of the stay. All in all Calfee pulled it off in just under 2 months and with flying colors! The resulting modifications looked totally “factory,” and were done to the millimeter in spec! Once the Zipp Vuma Quad BB30 was spaced and the Q factor was checked out, we were in business.
Next up on the list was the removal of the logos on the wheels. Joe wanted them to be removed while still retaining the factory surface finish. This is not as easy as it sounds. The Easton logos are of the permanent type of water slide ink. The only way to get them off is to wet sand. After hours of sanding to remove the logos, the rim surface needed to be sanded a second time with 600 grit paper to regain the carbon luster and then they were buffed. The end result was perfect!
As work continued and the frame was about to become a bike, Joe made the biggest change yet. With the premise of running all the cabling internally, why not make this bad boy an electric shifting bike? The electronic shift system from K-Edge is a modified Shimano Di2 road kit. The group would replace the Di2 front derailleur and custom Di2 rear derailleur as well as the shifters with Ki2 mounting. However, running the cables in a non-Di2 frame required a custom made Di2 wiring harness. After mapping out the cable path and drilling the corresponding cable holes, the custom harness was passed through the frame one piece at a time. Then each cable was soldered back together, sealed and then tucked away in the down tube.
After 6 months of waiting for parts and an untold number of hours of assembly the new ride was ready for delivery. Joe was stoked to see the end result and how well the bike fit. But the big question was - how much did it weigh? With a required goal of under 23 lbs, the now dubbed “Honey Badger” weighed in at 18.5 lbs with pedals! It became the perfect definition of a custom build. Where most shops would stop at non-compatibility, creating custom work is to push passed the simple plug and play and make it happen! As a seasoned rider, Joe knew what he wanted, and what would work for him - not something that was “close.” It was “all or nothing” and we are happy to have made it a reality! Joe has since logged over one thousand miles on The Honey Badger, with only the most minor of adjustments/changes. He derives special pleasure out of passing the “road bike guys” and seeing the look on their faces when they think they’ve been passed by a mountain bike!
We would also like to thank the wonderful people at Calfee Designs and AceCo Sport Group/K-Edge for their time and hard work. Your customer service to your dealers and attention to detail is what sets you apart in this industry!
Crankset: Zipp Vuma Quad BB30 53/39t Road Crankset
Front Derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 7970 Front Derailleur
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 7970 Rear Derailleur
Shifters: K-Edge Ki2 Shifter Set
Cassette: SRAM XX 11-36t Cassette
Wheels: Easton Haven 29" Carbon Wheelset
Tires: Kenda 29" x 2.25" Small Block 8 Tires
Stem: Easton EC90 SL Stem
Handlebar: Niner Carbon Flat Handlebars
Seatpost: ENVE Composites 31.6mm Seatpost
Battery & Accessories: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 7970 Battery Pack, Charger Cradle and Cord
Wiring Harness: Custom Harness Designed For This Build