The Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer

In 2015 I ordered my Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer (NFE) after several years of comparing other bikes to add to my existing Bike Friday Pocket Rocket. When the NFE came out, there were very few bikes that were anything like it. It is modeled after classic French Randonneur bikes from the 1940s, steel bikes for fast lightly-loaded touring with luggage carried as a front load. Yet it’s a 21st century design, with disc brakes and brifters, not downtube shifters. It was built by Glen Copus in Spokane, WA.

It fits 650B tyres (aka 27.5″) as wide as 42 mm with mudguards. These wide tyres have as much circumference as 23 mm 700C road tyres but offer far superior comfort, great traction and safety. Due to the low pressure they experience very few punctures (I had only two punctures in the first three years). I run them at 3 bar (42 psi).

By carrying the luggage over the normally lightly loaded front wheel, the frame can be built lighter than if the luggage was carried on a rear carrier. More fork offset makes it low trail, which keeps the steering light despite the additional mass over the front wheel and wide rubber. It also makes it fairly insensitive to cross winds compared to conventional bikes.

I primarily use my NFE for long distance rides, all year round. Most of my weekend rides last 12 hours or more and cover more than 160 km. I also participate in several brevets a year, mostly with Audax Japan NishiTokyo.

The bike is set up with mudguards, a dynamo hub, dynamo lights front and rear, a front rack, hydraulic disc brakes, a Sugino OX601D 42/26T “compact plus” crank, an 11-speed 11-32T cassette, a Brooks leather saddle and a bell.

Along with the mudguards, the disc brakes make this an all-weather bike as they are largely unaffected by rain.

The dynamo hub and lighting system make it possible to ride at all times of day without worrying about batteries or lack of illumination.

The front rack carries a bag large enough for clothes, food, cameras, tools and other accessories that is easy to access without having to dismount from the bike, thus minimizing stopping time.

Build list:

  • Elephant Bikes NFE stock frame and fork, size S (I’m 171 cm tall)
  • Haulin’ Colin porteur rack (NFE green)
  • Shimano ST-RS685 shifters
  • Sugino OX601D “Compact Plus” crank
    • PE110S-42T outer ring
    • 74J-26T inner ring
    • Sugino bolt set B
  • Shimano FD-CX70 front derailleur (10 speed, top pull)
  • Ultegra RD-6800-GS rear derailleur (11 speed)
  • Ultegra CS-6800 11-32 cassette
  • CN-HG601 chain
  • Shimano PD-M530 pedals
  • BR-RS785 hydraulic calipers
  • Shimano J03A resin brake pads
  • Shimano 160 mm rotors
  • Shimano M-System brake housing
  • Tange Seiki DX4 head set
  • Dimension threadless stem, 80 mm, silver
  • Nitto Randonneur handlebar, 450 mm / 25.4 mm
  • Nitto S65 seatpost, 27.2 mm x 300 mm
  • Brooks B17 leather saddle
  • Custom 650B wheels built by GS Astuto:
    • Velocity Blunt SL 27.5 rims, 32H
    • SP PL-8 dynamo hub
    • White Industries CLD disk brake rear hub
  • B&M Lumotec IQ Cyo Premium
  • B&M Secula Plus tail light
  • Tioga QR skewer set, 100/135 mm, silver
  • Compass Babyshoe Pass EL (650B x 42) tyres
  • Schwalbe SV-12 tubes
  • SKS Bluemels mudguards (SKS-K-BM65-26-21-235)

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