Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Pro bikes, December 22, 2005

Pro Bikes: Maureen Bruno-Roy's IF Planet Cross

Click for larger image
All Photos ©: Steve Medcroft

Bikes of 'Cross Nationals, part 1

From infamy to

By Steve Medcroft

Bruno-Roy is congratulated
Click for larger image
IF tops off the Planet Cross
Click for larger image
Bruno-Roy runs
Click for larger image
Bruno-Roy says
Click for larger image
A 12-27 cluster
Click for larger image
Maureen Bruno-Roy
Click for larger image
Bruno-Roy runs Ritchey
Click for larger image
IF says
Click for larger image
IF uses San-Leandro-based
Click for larger image
Bruno-Roy runs
Click for larger image

One of the great benefits of attending an event like Cyclocross Nationals is the opportunity to drool over thousands of bikes that the racers have put together. Providence didn't disappoint; we saw everything from ten thousand dollar custom titanium's to all-carbon dream machines.

What stood out mostly though was the representation of so many boutique and custom builders. Maybe because the U.S. 'cross scene is a smaller, tighter community than the pro mountain bike or road scenes, it can be a great home for lesser-known builders to showcase what are often some of the most finely made, and beautiful bikes available.

In the special tech series that follows, we'll bring you closer to three standout bikes from Cyclocross Nationals.

For the first installment, we talked to Maureen Bruno-Roy, who rode her Independent Fabrication Ti Planet Cross into a national championship jersey in the women's 30-34 master's race and third in the women's elite race.

Who is Independent Fabrication?

Somerville, Massachusetts's custom frame builder Independent Fabrication (IF) sponsors Bruno-Roy. The employee-owned enterprise got its modest start when a group of former Fat City Cycles employees, out of work when the holding company that also owned Serotta bought Fat City from Chris Chance and moved its operations to New York, put together a business plan, received a small grant form the Somerville Economic Development Partnership, and started building steel frames in a tiny business-incubator space.

The company claims a checkered history in its first ten years. On IF's website, the official company history is full of stories of wild adventures (broken bones and arrests) and IF says that if you research the company on the Internet you would run across "the fact that the plant in East Overshoe burned down or the company was the subject of a major product liability law suit." But the thirteen-employee company, which builds colourful, all-custom frames in steel, titanium and ti/carbon mixtures, is healthy today and well respected in the industry; especially in the Northeast where its grass-roots racing initiative supports a slew of mountain bikers, roadies and, in the case of Maureen Bruno-Roy, cyclocross racers.

Mo Bruno's bike

For the 2005 'cross season, IF outfitted thirty-one year old Bruno-Roy with the titanium version of its Planet Cross cyclocross bike. The model, according to IF, is designed around a few basic principles: "a taller head tube to provide more shoulder clearance when being carried, no chain stay bridge to maximize tire clearance and to help prevent mud buildup, and a derailleur adjuster mounted on the seat tube to keep it clear of the mud."

The 5ft 4in, 109 lb Bruno-Roy says she'd never had a custom frame built for her before. " I've been friends with a lot of the guys who have worked at IF over the years; I used to be roommates with Steven Elmes, one of the founding members," she said about how she came to be sponsored by IF. "They wanted to sponsor me last year but I already had a team commitment. When they called me this year and said they wanted to make me some custom bikes, I went right in."

Bruno-Roy said the company sized her up and talked her through the choices she needed to make about how the bike should fit. "We measured my legs, femur length, and height. They took measurements of my existing road bike - which was setup based on a fit I had done with my coach (Cycle-Smart's Adam Hodges Myerson). The IF guys then entered all the angles into a computerized system and designed the bike."

That design conversation extended beyond simple measurement though. "They tweaked a few things based on my fit and size," Bruno-Roy said. "They were concerned with toe overlap. With smaller frames (the build called for a 46cm seat tube and a 50cm top tube), you can have trouble where the toe of your shoes and your front wheel overlap each other too much when you turn so they adjusted the seat tube angle and were really able to minimize the issue for me."

The resulting bike is a classic Independent Fabrication 'cross bike that Bruno-Roy says fit her perfectly. "Mo fits this bike like a glove," said Matt Roy, Bruno-Roy's husband. "The first day she rode it she said 'this is what a bike should feel like.'"

One of the more striking elements of any Independent Fabrication bike is the look. Topped with a sterling silver head badge, buyers choose one of two-dozen colors and a number of paint schemes. "They leave the rear triangle exposed though," Bruno-Roy said, "to show off the titanium." That exposure allows the world to admire IF's unique and attractive shot-peening finish; a final prep process where a frame is blasted with tiny metal balls that the company says enhances fatigue life and surface hardness.

For her racing frame, Bruno-Roy chose IF's now classic green and even managed to complement the color with her bar tape and seat. "My mechanic found lime green bar tape," she said with a smile. "The same with the saddle; we're sponsored by Fi'zi:k . I love to ride the Vitesse saddle. I had some black ones but we found out that they make them in all sorts of colors so we special ordered one to match the bike."

Bruno-Roy outfitted the bike with components from IF and her sponsor's lines. "A lot of the stuff is what IF uses on their stock bike," she says. "The Chris King headset, Ritchey bars, stems and seatpost and the Shimano Ultegra setup are all theirs." The San Leandro-based Alpha Q's carbon fork is also IF stock. "We also run the 550 'cross brake (switching from Frog Leggs this season). These have a much lighter touch," which, she adds, can help save her arm strength for her day job as a massage therapist. "I don't have to crank these brakes so much. I like them a lot."

On her Mavic Ksyrium SLs, Bruno-Roy runs 30cm Michelin Mud 2s. "It's a really fat tire and gives me flexibility on air pressure because I'm light," said Bruno-Roy, adding that she changes pressures depending on the course but prefers to run it as low as she can. "Yesterday, for example [during master's nationals], I ran around 28 to 30," she says.

The final touch on Mo's race bike is a small paper sign taped to the stem. "That's my husband Matt," says Bruno-Roy. "Every once in a while he puts a special picture or something on my stem. It's a good luck charm. The one my bike for nationals (a small, pink square with small figures cutout and taped on) is Matt and our cat."


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Steve Medcroft

  • Somerville, Massachusetts based Independent Fabrication makes both a steel and (like Maureen Bruno-Roy’s team-issued bike) titanium Planet Cross.
  • Maureen Bruno-Roy carrying her Independent Fabrication Ti Planet Cross on her way the U.S. Master Women’s 30-34 Cyclocross national championship.
  • Bruno-Roy is congratulated after her third-placed finish in the elite women’s national championship by teammate John Bruno (oddly, no relation).
  • Bruno-Roy runs Ritchey bars, stem and seatpost and Ultegra 10-speed components. The lime green Stella Azzura handlebar tape, which matches the bike’s signature paint job, was a find she credits to her mechanic.
  • IF tops off the Planet Cross with this stunning, sterling silver head badge. The symbol is based on a monument in the company’s hometown.
  • IF says they’ve tweaked the Planet Cross slightly to properly fit Shimano’s outboard crankset bearing design; seen on component groups like the 2005 10-speed Ultegra.
  • Bruno-Roy runs Shimano’s SPD mountain-bike race pedals on her ‘cross bike.
  • IF uses San-Leandro-based Alpha Q’s all-carbon ‘cross-specific fork on the Planet Cross.
  • Bruno-Roy says she sticks with IF’s stock pars and components setup, including the Ritchey Pro stem and Chris King’s No Threadset headset.
  • Bruno-Roy runs 38/44 chainrings on the crank; a tight gear ratio that allows her to keep a power cadence but gives her more choices than one chainring alone.
  • A 12-27 cluster gives a wide gear range. The Ultegra rear derailleur could be viewed as sacrificial!

Full specification

Frame: Independent Fabrication Ti Planet Cross, titanium.
Fork: Alpha Q CX

Cranks: Shimano Ultegra, 38/44
Bottom bracket: Shimano Ultegra with outboard bearings
Chain: Shimano 10-Speed
Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra
Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra
Brakes: Shimano BR-550 cantilever
Levers: Shimano Ultegra Flight Deck 6600, 10-Speed
Rear sprockets: Shimano Ultegra 12/27


Wheels: Mavic Ksyrium SL
Tyres: Michelin Cyclo Cross Mud 2

Bar: Ritchey WCS Road Bar
Bar tape: Stella Azzura
Stem: Ritchey Pro Stem, 80mm

Headset: Chris King
Pedals: Shimano SPD, PDM-959
Seat post: Ritchey WCS
Saddle: Fi'zi:k Vitesse