09 July 2024

Just about a bike: Monē SB2 Klunker

3.3:1 gain ratio, 45.6 gear inches
Cjell Monē
(pronounced: shell money*) proudly runs his mobile custom-fab bike shop out of the back of a former Wonderbread work-truck which is currently parked (at the time of this writing) somewhere near Silver City, New Mexico.

I'm sure Cjell's one-off custom bikes are amazing.  His initial apprenticeship at Black Sheep Bikes and many subsequent years of experience as a successful independent bike builder, would seem to indicate: he knows well how to wield a torch.  But a one-off custom bike tends to be the sort of unobtainable unicorn which, for most of us run-of-the-mill average-type bike riders, is maybe something we get to plan for and purchase once in a lifetime.  That's been my experience, anyway. 

Somewhat uniquely, however, Monē isn't limited to just producing one-off full customs for his customers, he also produces several models of his bikes in small batches, ready to be sold off-the-rack. The Monē SB2 (small batch, straight bar) Klunker is one of these rigs, handmade in Silver City in limited sizes and quantities by Cjell himself.

Monē sells this beautifully fillet-brazed, pret-a-porter coaster-brake creation as both a frame-set and a complete bicycle in two ready-to-wear sizes: small/medium and large/extra-large. And he does so via his online store for, like, $2300 less monē than one of his fully custom creations costs. Plus, because the small-batch frames are usually in-stock and ready to be built to customer specs, I suspect there's a waaaay foreshortened labor-and-delivery time, too. In my particular case, for this bike, everything took about six weeks from payment to delivery.

So hey, listen, here's what I wanna tell ya: This bike is a fricken hoot to ride! Having now had mine (size large/extra-large, complete with a hand-built tubeless 650b coaster-brake wheel set, 820mm crossbar handlebar, 40mm stem, and 450mm rigid biplane fork...for which I paid 100% full-pop retail, I'll have you know) in my possession for about a month now, and having done gone and assembled and then shooken it the F down maximally in the full breadth-and-depth of my quasi-professional capacity (such as it is), I'm quite confident in making that aforementioned superlative assertion. A fricken hoot to ride. Yep! That pretty much nails it. Nuff said? Gonna pull the trigger?  Cool. Thanks for reading my review. 

But as to the nitty-gritty, the deeper-diving deets which pertain to the discrete ins-and-outs of the Monē SB2 Klunker, well friend, if you're of that sort, one of the ilk who's cookie gets all crumbley when you read of such things, then please, sit back and observe as I digress...

First up, first impressions:
  • The branding game is strong at Monē Bikes...  Everywhere you look, lest you ever forget, you'll find in the various nooks and crannys of this bike, an engraved piece of (often brass-colored) bespoke bling bearing the company name... atop the stem's top cap, upon the end of the bar-end plugs, encircling the largest of the stem spacers, engraved into the seatpost clamp, laser-cut into the rear drop-outs and the coaster brake arm, and even in the tiniest of typefaces on the valve-stem caps and handlebar shim.

  • The brazing game is strong at Monē Bikes... Given that these frames are built en masse in small batches, one might think the quality of its workmanship could suffer from a lack of attention to detail and quality control.  But one glance at the ample, gorgeous unfiled fillets which join the tubes of this bike will convince you otherwise.  Can't tell if there's a TIG or two under any of the brazings, but to be honest, it matters not to me.  The end product is, to my eye, a masterwork of fillet brazing prowess.  Leaving it unfiled and clear-coated is definitely the right choice. 

  • The stock-spec parts selection game for the Monē SB2 Klunker is mostly very strong...
    Tubeless 650b 32-spoke 3-cross Velocity Blunt 35 wheels with brass nips: yep!  A beefed-up Shimano CB-E110 coaster brake hub encased by Monē's unique finned aluminum heat-sink: you betcha! A silver White Industries thru-axle, disc-ready hub up front riding in a beefily hand-built, rakishly sexy Monē biplane fork: uh-huh, right there! A pair of big ol' 2.8 Vittoria tires: yes, pleaseAnd that fork? And those bars? My god!

  • The stock-spec parts selection game for the Monē SB2 Klunker is also sometimes meh... Hate to be a whiner, but if I'm being honest, I'm not so stoked about: A) the dinky brass (Monē branded, natch) seatpost clamp which was out-gunned by my dad-bod's ass-mass on ride-one and had to be replaced... nor B) the too-short seat-tube frame extension (not really a "part" I know, but it feels like my gripe should go here) which requires my post be run at or above the max-line so my seat's in the right spot for my very common 32" inseam; coulda used another 20mm of material there, imho... neither C) did I care one bit for the paltry FSA headset that came installed in the frame, with it's teeny tiny ball bearings, plastic top retainer and all too predictable tendency to loosen, just a smidge but just enough to drive me bonkers, on each and every ride... until it was replaced with one I ordered from the mix-and-match parts bin at Chris King, which has, of course, entirely solved the problem, as Chris King headsets always do. 
  • The ride-quality game for the Monē SB2 Klunker is sooper-dooper strong... Cjell has claimed, and I am inclined to concur, that, "With coaster brakes, you’re channeling your inner Yeti logo. You have to learn how to countersteer and throw your bike into drifty skids. Ride [a bike with coaster brakes] and you realize you don’t have to be the fastest. It’s a new level of silliness. You still get to rip but with a lot more giggles.”  And, if you run the numbers, all of that makes a lot of sense. For reals, take a bike with a (I shit you not) 48" c-c wheelbase, 18" chainstays, 820mm bars, flat pedals, a hugely raked-out rigid fork, a coaster brake in back, a nice, low 3.3:1 one-speed gain ratio (45.6 gear inches), and an aggro set of tubeless 2.8 (70mm) 650b tires pumped to around 20psi for a shred on some swoopy singletrack and there's more than a few things you will quickly begin to understand. Heck, almost 4 weeks in and I'm still learning, everyday, how to ride this weird new-thing, this long-ass coaster-brake one-speed mountain bike (a far wilder beast than my other coaster brake bike), as fast as I can on chunky volcanic one-track trails out in the woods.  It is exactly the work-in-progress kind of run-what-ya-brung project that I was seeking when I decided to buy it. So far, my experiences have compelled me to come up with a short list of what I think are some important dos and don'ts:
    • do lean the bike, do move your body (along all three axes), do use countersteer to fine-tune your corners and descending
    • don't oversteer, don't try to muscle the front end, especially at-speed
    • do go with the flow, do seek the path of least resistance
    • do get low, do ride in the back-seat, especially when deploying your manual at-speed
    • do ride the rail, don't let yourself get bounced around too much in the chunk because if you fly off your line into the rough at-speed all you've got is raw panic and a big dust cloud of fish-taily locked-up rear-wheel skidding to save your bacon
    • do keep your pedals at 3 and 9 (or maybe it's 2 and 8 or 4 and 10?) when coasting
    • don't ever drop your outside pedal to 6 when railing a turn or get your pedals at 12 and 6 at any point when you might need to get on the brake fast
    • don't ratchet-backpedal in slow tech (more than the 15-20 degree "dead spot" in the coaster hub) because it will make you stop
    • do be ready for the 15-20 degree "dead spot" in the coaster hub when track-standing in public or you will look really stupid right after you looked really cool
    • don't cheat your bunnyhop and lose your pedals because you will have no brakes and shear terror will ensue
    • do learn to modulate your coaster-braking force, don't jam it into skid-mode unless you're showing off or panicking
    • do show off and make big skids whenever you have the chance
    • don't panic, ever (good luck with that)
  • The potential-for-upgrade game for the Monē SB2 Klunker is really quite exciting... I've made a couple changes to my new bike, upgrades if you will, in the first weeks that I've owned it, and I will surely make many more over time ('tis what I do, after all). Some of the changes, as stated above, were necessary because they were parts that just had to go (the crap headset and the too-flimsy-for-my-butt seat collar), but a few other things I've changed-out, cut-down, or added-on, well, just-because and/or to reduce terror:
    • upgraded to an under-seat levered dropper-post because: riding without one has become a rather terrifying prospect
    • bolted on a Cooziecage beverage carrier because: riding without one has become a rather terrifying prospect
    • cut down the 820mm handlebars to 780 because: they were too wide to fit comfortably thru the rock gap on the Easter Island trail
    • added a front disc brake (180mm Avid BB7) because: riding with one is pretty much required if/when going higher or steeper or faster on our local angle-of-repose-ish shield volcano... and also because it is, in fact, as predicted by Cjell Monē himself, precisely "12% more reasonable."
Her sexy steeze, as of today.

* Cjell Monē is the clever, one-of-a-kind nom-de-internets of Taylor Zimmerman. The nom-de-internets is a trend/ethos/state-of-mind for which we here at RockyChrysler.com have long advocated.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey