[American Ride] Greg Ooley’s Custom Black Cat Rigid 29er

I came across this beauty of a rigid 29er on MTBR a while back and asked the owner if I could feature it on the site. At that time Greg hadn’t got that much saddle time on the bike so he was a bit reluctant to do a full article. However, after a good little bit more time on his new bike he sent me along a great email detailing it. Check out the details of this sleek custom Black Cat Bicycles rigid 29er.

About The Owner:
curvacious seatstays
curvacious seatstays

What is your name?

Greg Ooley

Where do you live?

Durango, CO

What type of riding do you like to do?

Hmm.  I like it all.  Flowing fast descents.  Exploratory HAB bushwhacks.  Hammering out big climbs. Threading-the-needle technical singletrack.

Where is your favorite place to ride?

My best days on the bike have been in Durango, Flagstaff, McKenzie River Trail, Yukon Territory, and Brown County, Indiana.

Do you race often or participate in special events?

Not often, 3-4 events per year.  I’ll show up for races like the Original Growler or Whiskey Off-Road when I have the extra bread.

About The Bike:

Black Cat Bicycles – Rigid 29er

Greg Ooley's custom Black Cat rigid 29er
Greg Ooley’s custom Black Cat rigid 29er

How/Why did you choose to get a custom frame made?

I broke my 8-year old Spot Brand frame a couple years ago and started thinking about a custom bike because I’m 6’3” tall with a 36” inseam and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever owned a bike that actually fit me.  That’s a luxury that only medium-sized people get to enjoy.  I figured it was time I saw how the other half lives.

rear view
rear view

How did you go about deciding which builder you wanted to work with?

I came up with a short list of builders based almost entirely on aesthetics.  I just looked over the NAHBS website and magazine articles and took note of what I thought were the most attractive frames.  Then I narrowed that list down based on who was most experienced and passionate about building 29ers with short chainstays and slack head angles.  Todd Ingermanson turned out to be the only builder I had an actual conversation with before making my decision.

non-drive side
non-drive side

What were your design goals with this frame (discuss why you went with rigid singlespeed)?

The reason I ride rigid is because I ride pretty well downhill, but I climb for sh*t compared to some of my mountain goat friends, so I sort of handicap myself a little on the descents so that I can gain a bit of an advantage on the climbs if I’m lucky.  I also enjoy not having to service my rigid fork.  I’m a family man; I don’t have much time to burn.  I need a bike I can put away wet and have it be ready to rock the next time my wife gives me the green light to ride.

As for the actual design, I told Todd that I wanted a bike with a stout spine.  I don’t want to actually feel my bike flex under me when I stand and stomp, but I also don’t want a bike that beats the tar out of me on a long day with 7,000’ of climbing and fast, rocky descending.  So he used a stiff down tube and chainstay gusset, but a comfy seat tube, seat stays and top tube.

RCR Fab chainring
RCR Fab chainring

Can you talk a little bit about how the bike rides. The performance you’ve seen out of it? How it compares to other bikes you’ve ridden / how it fit better?

I’ve been riding rigid 29ers for a decade and have been known to call bullshit on the supposed loss of “flickability” compared to 26″ bike.  Threading the needle through tight stuff, spotting the quickest, smoothest line is what I enjoy about mountain biking.  It’s like fitting pieces of a puzzle together.  I’ve never felt that a bike is noticeably compromised by bigger wheels.  What I did start to suspect is that the longer chainstays of most 29ers, and the resulting longer wheelbase, left a lot of room for improvement.  Todd does short chainstays better than anyone, so I ended up at Black Cat Bicycles’ doorstep.

When I initially built the Black Cat, I set the stays at 17″ (previous bike: 17.75″) and was really surprised by how much different it felt.  It was easier to shift my weight over the rear wheel to lift the front end or manual, the bike felt quick and playful.  Like driving a Mini Cooper vs. a Corvette.  It wanted to slip into turns faster and it has this uncanny sensation of accelerating out of corners.  I’ve since settled on 16.75″ (ish) chainstays and in my opinion, it’s the absolute sweet spot.  Tucking that rear wheel way up underneath you and then sitting back with a nice slack head angle is the business.  It’s the same sensation you get on a motocross bike when you grab a handful of throttle.

Every time I walk in the door and my wife asks how my ride was, I tell her “I love that bike.”  “Yeah, you said that already” shes says.

Could you also give some more detail on the headbadge?

The “custom steel sorcery” head badge was made by acid etching brass with ferric chloride, which I only taught myself to do because I wanted a badge on the Black Cat.  The process is really simple and inexpensive and directions are easy to find online.  I’ve made a few dozen, mostly as gifts.

custom headtube badge
custom headtube badge

What is your bike frame geometry and how did you and your builder determine the geometry?

I wanted a moto feel with wide bars, a slack front end, and the rear wheel tucked up underneath me. The swinger dropouts are bomb-proof, super easy to adjust, fixing a flat on the trail is cake, and they also allow me to set my stays at 16.5-17.25”.  The head angle ended up being 71° with the 80mm corrected White Brothers rigid carbon fork or 70° with a 100mm suspension fork.

swinger dropout details
swinger dropout details

What were your reasons for going with this frame build material choice?

I’ve always liked my steel bikes best, so I thought I’d stick with that.

How did you come up with the color/paint/design?

I chose the base blue color and then gave Todd a list of other colors I liked… white, mustard, olive.  Todd came up with the rest.  I had zero idea what my frame was going to actually look like until it arrived and I pulled it from the box.

custom paint detail
custom paint detail

Please detail your bike build (parts, total weight):

• White Brothers Rock Solid carbon fork

• Stans ZTR Arch hoops with DT Swiss 240S hubs (36-tooth ratchet upgrade)

• Ardent 2.4 front; Conti X-King rear

• Shimano XT disc brakes

• SRAM PF30 bottom bracket

• SRAM/Truvativ X9 crankset

• RCR Fabrications spiderless SRAM-specific chainring

• Thomson seatpost and stem (90mm)

• WTB Devo Thinline saddle

• Whisky Parts Co No. 7 Lo-Rise carbon bars (740mm wide)

• King Cage Iris bottle cages (made Durango, USA)

• Custom brass head badge (made by Me)

• Total weight: 23.1 lbs

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