With its Land Rover green color, honey leather saddle and matching amber shallaced bars, it is a bike that looks borderline matchy-matchy. I’m guilty of fetishizing the build a little, although I hope I didn’t veer into foppishness. It is so fancy looking that when I rode it to a bike show, it won best of show without even being cleaned up. What might save it from foppishness is how much I ride it: which is almost everywhere and for almost anything.
I wish I could say that I ordered it new from Mitch Pryor, as I would have liked to support his bicycle building vision, but my available finances never aligned with Mitch’s era in the bicycle business. Alas, I waited too long and after Mitch’s shop in Paradise, California burned to the ground in the Campfire, all I could do was donate some small change to help get him back on his feet. Since the fire, Mitch has changed careers and as far as I know isn’t building frames currently. So, I picked up my MAP used from the original owner.
The MAP turned out to be the rando bike to end all rando bikes. At least all my rando bikes. After it came into my garage, I gradually sold all my others including a Jeff Lyon L’avecaise, a Tournesol, a 1980s Alex Singer, and a Coho. I learned a lot pedaling those bikes–mostly that I really enjoyed a steel bike with light tubing, provisions for dynamo lights, fenders, and a decent sized front bag. All of those bikes were wonderful bikes, but in terms fit and the liveliness of the ride, the MAP topped them all, and I slowly let the rest go. As much as I loved them, with my diminished bicycle storage space, there was no point having a whole fleet of fendered randos in sunny Arizona. And, I simply loved riding the MAP too much and would pull it out of its slot before all others.
According to Mitch’s description, the S & P is a “fully featured, light-weight, event-ready randonneuse that is equally at home on remote gravel roads or your local chip-seal.” The bike is a joint effort with the “S” standing for Brent Steelman, who Mitch partnered with to TIG welded the frame, and the P for Mitch Pryor, who designed the bike and fabricated the fork and racks. Both have their signatures on either side of the top tube. Each year he was in business, Mitch offered a project frame that he would make in batches, in a limited size run. For the S & P Project bike, they came in 7 sizes, with mine, a 61cm, being the largest. Truth be told, I prefer a batch project bike to a full custom. My body proportions are long and tall, but I usually fit either the largest or next to largest stock size. With a batch bike, you get the geometry and tube specs that the builder thinks are right for the size of the bike, although on large-sized bikes, the specs could be overbuilt for skinny tall guys, or too noodly for heavier more powerful pedalers. For my 169 lbs, the MAP S & P project is right in the sweet spot. I love the way it goes up hill, like a giant lightweight spring in sync with my body.
It also descends predictably with an overloaded front bag, even in cross winds. Although according to my digital records, 650b x 42mm tires are perhaps a smidge slower than comparable quality 28-32mm 700c tires, but they are worlds more comfortable on rough roads and gravel. Combined with the graceful 65mm fork rake, the MAP really seems to fly over gravel.
The MAP has a few special features that I love: the custom machined seatpost collar with a painted color insert that matches the blue accent in a slot on the fork crown. The bike looks really sharp with cream colored tires, but the best rolling skins I’ve had on it have been the Rene Herse Babyshoe Pass regular casing. As I learned from my L’avecaise, the non-drive side seat stay is by far the best place for a pump. Also, the TRP RRL levers combined with the Velo Orange Zeste cantilevers have wonderful power and modulation–this is the best cantilever brake system I’ve ever used. I’ve also come to appreciate the 46/30t Rene Herse sub-compact gearing which I initially thought would be too low. I find that I’m almost always in the 46t front ring, but can easily use the whole cassette in back. Over the years, my preferred road front gearing has gotten lower and lower; I’ve gone from 53/42, to 52/39, to 50/34 then 49/33 and 48/32–and now 46/30.
I suppose this write up could be considered a long term review, as I’ve put around 3500 miles on the MAP. In addition to my usual haunts–Tucson’s Mt. Lemmon accents, Saguaro National Park spins, and Chuck Huckleberry Loops–I’ve had some memorable adventures on the bike. I packed the bike in a ridiculously huge Extracycle box and flew with the MAP on Alaska Airlines to Spokane where I was giving a garden talk. My friend John drove up from Portland with his Toei and we rode the Lewis and Clark trail across Idaho after my work was finished.
My wife and I typically visit Oregon in June to visit family, stuff our faces with berries and Franz donuts, and marvel at the cool weather. We always bring our down puffers, which we inevitably have to put on when we are out on some patio too late in the evening just to embarrass our Oregon family. Also, because we really are cold. Recently, during Covid times, we drove our van to Oregon with the MAP in tow. We first stopped in Sisters, so I could ride McKenzie Pass on the last day the road was closed to cars. It was a memorable ride with my brother in law Kevin–windy, with a few patches of snow along the roadside, and light rain. My Waxwing front bag was put to good use as I repeatedly shed layers and put them back on as the weather changed. After Sisters, we arrived in the rural part of the middle Willamette Valley where my in-laws live, camping in their yard. For almost three weeks, I rode solo daily on the dirt and paved farm roads in the area and managed to put in around 550 miles . I planned routes to monasteries for beer in Mt. Angel and chocolate truffles near Amity. I climbed up a road called Peavine into the hills west of McMinnville. The MAP seemed to be made for Oregon roads and verily floated over the surfaces at speed. My wife, her sister, and brother in law joined me on the Covered Bridges rail trail ride near Cottage Grove. I also managed to get out on two rides with a small group of friends from Eroica and Bike Forums. We climbed Larch Mountain and did the Banks Vernonia trail. Almost everyone was on a similarly equipped randonneur style bike, so we spent half the time taking pictures of each other’s machines. My Oregon cycling trip was bookended by a loop around Crater Lake, where like McKenzie Pass, the road was partially closed to cars. It was a cold day and I appreciated being able to add layers and winter gloves and haul snacks around in my front bag. With substantial snow still beside the road, and a late afternoon start, it was also nice to be able to flip my lights on for increased visibility.
I got the bike as basically a frameset with racks and some components. I have had it built in three different configurations, but I’ve finally settled on the following and will likely keep the bike this way until I wear the chainrings out.
In regards to the steel tubing Mitch and Brent used, the fork is 1″ threaded and is made with Kaisei Imperial fork blades and a Grand Bois fork crown. For the frame, I don’t know the tubing brand(s) or butting, but I can say that butting on the top tube is thin enough that the handlebars of not well parked cruiser put a tiny dimple in the top tube at a coffee shop. Using calipers, I can say that the top tube and seat tube diameter is 28.6, and the downtube diameter is 31.8.
The current build is as follows:
- Nitto stem from Grand Bois
- Decalleur for Grand Bois
- Bars Rene Herse (Nitto) Maes Parallel 46cm
- Rene Herse 177mm crankset 46/30
- Dura Ace 9 speed DT shifters
- Dura Ace Rear Derailleur
- Campagnolo Record Front Derailleur
- TRP RRL brake levers, drilled with gum hoods
- Velo Orange Zeste Grand Cru Cantilever Brakes
- Nitto S83 Seatpost
- Honjo Fenders
- Pacenti Brevet Rims, 28 hole
- SONdelux Wide Body Generator Hub
- SON Edelux II hanging Headlight
- Rene Herse Babyshoe Pass 650b x 42mm tires
- Custom Waxwing Front bag and matching low-rider Panniers
- Custom aluminum bag stiffener made by me
Details on the geometry:
- Top tube length (c to c): 60cm
- Seat tube length (c to c): 61cm
- Head tube length: 22.8cm
- Head tube angle: 73
- Seat tube angle: 72.5
- Chainstay length: 44cm
- Wheel base: 107.5cm
- Bottom bracket drop: 6.7cm
- Bottom bracket height: 28.6
- Stand over height: 87cm
- Saddle height shown in photos is 81.5cm
- Trail with 42mm tires is 35