I purchased a 2009 Giant TCR Advanced SL ISP and rode the heck out of it for many years. One random day I ended my relationship with carbon and sold it. I wanted steel. I didn’t know it then, but bike snobbery took root and it’s led me to the 2017 All-City Macho Man Disc.
I’m no gravel grinder; that type of riding just isn’t for me. But, I like a lot of the technology coming from the gravel side of the sport. Clutch based derailleurs, 1x set-ups, big tires, and the like. There were many requirements for the next bike. Steel. 32c tires. Disc brakes. 135mm spacing in the rear. Threaded bottom bracket and on and on. Before continuing, allow me to take a quick pause and address your confusion dear reader…if you are still following and slightly confused at a few of the seemingly antiquated requirements, understood. But when budget sets the parameters of the doable, concessions must be made. Tapered carbon fork, thru-axle’s front and rear, 142mm rear spacing, flat mount discs, all the cool modern razzle dazzle; had to be let go. Enter All-City’s Macho Man Disc and not without its own special wow. This discussion must begin with the paint.
When it comes to paint, there isn’t a bike on the market quite like what the good folks at All-City cooked up. For the 2017 Macho Man Disc, the color includes a black base infused with metallic flakes that change between green, blue, and purple depending on the light and angle viewed. Images don’t capture it well; it must be experienced first hand. It is beautiful. In stark contrast, the chain/seat stay junction and bottom of the fork include white bands that make the frame look like it’s wearing boots.
Curiously, it has a number of details you’d expect from a small custom builder like custom dropouts, brazed-on seat collar, custom lug work on the crown, and diamond shaped bottle boss reinforcements. Thoughtful. Last, the bike comes with an internal E.D. coating to preserve the frame in foul climates. For those in the know about steel bikes and rust, no Frame Saver required.
The bike has a retro look and retro lines. Tubes are skinny. The head tube is 1⅛”. The top tube is nearly parallel with the ground. Tires are wide. The bike is billed as a commuter. Sure, that makes sense. But it’s also true the bike can be ridden however its owner chooses, and for me, it is a road bike. With a few tweaks to cockpit parts and some custom wheels, the bike has become what I intended.
In a word, smooth. Real smooth. Quiet too. It’s certainly because steel is doing what steel does, but it’s also because the large volume tires can be run at lower pressures than traditional skinnies. The change from 105psi to 55psi, is significant. Everything about how the bike handles and responds to input is different. It’s every bit the stiff platform needed for sprinting or pushing big gears out of the saddle. But when the bike is leaned at speed, the slingshot phenomena steel is known for is present. And man is it fun!
Shifting is dependable and accurate with SRAM’s APEX 1. There isn’t much to say here. It works. On a few occasions I’ve missed the small ring/granny combo, but the extra work to climb made my legs pumped and toned. I looked good in my board shorts at the beach after. Fine by me. I will say this. I am firmly in the Shimano drivetrain camp and while it’s no secret that big S is only recently catching up to SRAM on few levels of drivetrain razzle dazzle, nothing has matched, nor do I believe can match, the smoothness of Shimano’s shifts up and down the cassette. The klunk of SRAM is real and while it works well, isn’t for me.
The Macho Man isn’t a race rocket. Far from it. The wheelbase alone can tell you that; 1030mm for a 55cm frame. It is a Cadillac; it is not a Miata. It’s not light either. It’s the opposite of light. It’s the weight of your arm after a funny bone incident. It’s a tank. For me, that is fine, but it’s also true that many folks don’t want to self propel a tank. One surprise benefit the heft affords is coasting speed and downhill speed. In every instance, every one, I picked up speed faster and maintained it longer than friends on carbon wonder bikes. What’s fun about that is receiving “the look” out of the corner of their eyes and subsequent body language expressing frustration that I’m going faster. Again, fun.
There is one particular frustration. Front brake judder. It’s bad. No amount of wheel truing, tire re-seating, or disc alignment can fix it. When the front brake engages, the fork bounces violently back and forth. I haven’t experienced this with carbon forks or those with tapered steer tubes. The bike has seen 50 mph+ descents multiple times and all seems to be functioning well. Though, concern exists because it’s unclear how many cycles the fork can handle before failing. Perhaps I’ll give the good folks at All-City a call and have a chat about it. I will. Update to follow.
Get one. It’s a fun bike to ride. In it’s September 2019 configuration, it exists as a flat bar road bike. Cool. There is peace of mind knowing the bike is metal and made to be beaten on. It is strong. It will last. It’s an inexpensive investment that will make the owner appreciate what is capable on a bike that doesn’t have the latest and greatest bells and whistles. Not that they are bad. Just, they are unnecessary.