I turned into the switchback, the impossibly narrow Italian road’s grade again shifting sharply upward. I downshifted and rose from my saddle, mimicking the thousands of other riders who have ridden this infamous Stelvio mountain pass before me. As I pedaled closer to the top of its 9,045-foot peak, another cyclist rode up beside me, out of breath from both exertion and the thinning oxygen. I knew this man had something important to say, as he valiantly tried forming words with his nearly frozen mouth. I listened closely, as he finally uttered ...
“I … really like … your bike.”
One of the first lessons you learn when you buy a custom-built bicycle is you’ll never have more than a moment’s peace on the road or trail again. That’s especially true of my gorgeous Shamrock Cycles Fluid Druid. Over the years I’ve owned it, I’ve traveled across the country and around the world, earning admiring stares and compliments from dozens of bike aficionados. Looking at the lugged steel frame, classic paint scheme, Campagnolo Super Record EPS drivetrain and disc brakes, it’s easy to see why nearly everyone who sees the bike falls in love with it.
The genesis of my bike began on my wife’s birthday several years ago. Tim O’Donnell, the mastermind behind Shamrock Cycles, was talking about his experience at that year’s NAHBS and mentioned needing to begin bikes for the following year’s show in Charlotte. (Full disclosure: I’ve known Tim for several years and race on Shamrock’s cyclocross team.)
At the time, I traveled with a bike box roughly the size of a Manhattan studio apartment; it kept my bicycle secure, but made navigating a busy airport or getting a big-enough taxi a major hassle. Then there were the oversize-baggage fees that multiplied faster than my college bar tabs.
Over beers, I laid out what I wanted in a travel bike: S&S couplers, so I could fit the bike in a smaller case, making it cheaper and easier to travel with. Disc brakes, so I never had to worry about a slick, mountain descent ever again. Tubeless wheels, so I didn’t have to worry about flatting in unfamiliar country. In short, I wanted a do-anything and everything bike; a rig I could pedal 200 kilometers on a rando one trip, and jump into a road or gravel race the next.
Luckily, my wife Dee had just enough cake and alcohol to be agreeable to yet another new bike. A handshake sealed the deal, and I was now at the back end of a six-month queue.
With Tim, the process of building the bike is nearly as much fun as riding the finished product. After taking my measurements, Tim began cutting and brazing the Columbus Spirit tubes, sending me photos every step of the way and inviting me to his workshop to marvel at the progress.
During that time, I visited painter Michael Corby at his suburban Indianapolis workshop to discuss the bike’s paint scheme. The three of us agreed the bike should look timeless, like a vintage Italian roadster or a British racing motorcycle. The simple green and off-white color scheme accomplishes that perfectly, giving it a classic, understated appearance. Were it not for the modern touches, you wouldn’t know if it had been built 60 years ago or yesterday.
Although I gave Tim pretty much free reign when it came to parts and components I didn’t care about, I balked when he suggested going with a Campagnolo Super Record EPS gruppo. During my riding career, I’d ridden Ultegra almost exclusively, and I was looking forward to trying out Shimano’s new Di2 groupset. But two things changed my mind. With the classic lugs and paint job, the bike needed a gruppo that evoked that same sense of timelessness – only Campagnolo would do. What sealed the deal was taking a spin on Tim’s Record EPS-equipped bike. As my hands grasped the levers, I was taken by the perfect ergonomics – it felt as if my hands were melting into the shifters. The shifting was effortless, with a barely perceptible whrrr each time I tapped the button. After five minutes on his bike, I pedaled up beside Tim and let him know he’d won.
As the bike started coming together, we realized my desire for tubeless wasn’t feasible for a travel bike, as I’m constantly inflating and deflating the tires. We’d already ordered a set of Stan’s Crest 29er rims, that we eventually built up with a Schmidt dynamo hub up front and a Chris King R45 hub on the rear, both laced with DT spokes. Topping off the wheels was a set of Schwalbe Durano tires.
How in tune were Tim and I on the bike? As I was surfing the web one day, I came across the new Brooks Cambium saddle, and it was love at first sight. I decided then and there that was the only seat for the new steed, and immediately forgot about it. (In my defense, I think I stumbled onto some adorable cat videos on YouTube minutes later.) Imagine my surprise when I stopped by Tim’s a couple of weeks later to check out progress and saw the Cambium. Turns out Tim had seen the same article and had the same conclusion as me, but didn’t fall prey to cute kitten distractions.
Suffice it to say, the bike was a massive hit at NAHBS, attracting loads of media attention and countless jealous stares from attendees. As thrilled I was with the bike world’s reaction, I was much more excited for the show to end so I could finally ride the damn thing.
So the bike, of course, looks incredible. But how does it ride? Does it meet the requirements I’d set for it?
I wanted a do-everything bike, and I certainly got one. The steel frame and fork dampens road vibrations better than any material I’ve ridden. The wider 29er rims allow me to run 32mm Durano tires, giving me an even plusher, more stable ride. (That said, mounting the Duranos onto the Crest rims is a massive chore that leave my thumbs and hands sore. I’ll likely switch out the Duranos at some point in favor of a tire that’s a bit easier to work with.)
The Schmidt light puts out about 200 lumen, more than enough for riding paved streets and trails. The dynamo hub does cause a slight drag when pedaling, but probably at the cost of a couple of watts. If I was planning take it to a race I was serious about, I might consider swapping the wheel out (assuming the light wasn’t needed), but until then, I’ll live with the slight penalty.
Without fenders or racks, the Druid weighs in at just under 20 pounds; not too shabby for a steel bike with so many extras. While it’s not as supermodel-svelte as many of the carbon-fiber rockets I see on the Grand Tour climbs, it’s not like the added three pounds or so is hindering either my progress up the mountain – or my enjoyment.
Heading down the mountain, the TRP HY/RD hydraulic brakes offer both terrific modulation and stopping power. The power of these brakes have helped tremendously with my confidence on the descents, especially on wet pavement.
At first glance, you might not be able to tell the bike is equipped with EPS because the battery is hidden inside the seatpost, with the interface tucked inside the stem. But if you look closely, you might notice the charging port located just above the 50/34 compact crank. A charge typically lasts between four and six months, and the unit will beep when getting low.
Although I typically remove the rear derailleur for travel, it can sometimes become misaligned, causing some shifting issues. The night before the first day’s ride on any trip, I always run through all my gears to note any issues. Thanks to a great YouTube tutorial, I quickly learned that realigning the derailleur is usually as easy as monitoring the interface and pressing a button in the proper sequence.
Although I’ve done some some short bikepacking jaunts with the Druid, it’s not a traditional touring bike; rather, it’s more of a credit-card tourer. When I do load up, I use a VO front rack slightly customized by Tim, a Surly Nice rear rack and Ortlieb classic waterproof pannier bags, adding just a few pounds. Because I tend to over-pack on trips, the limitations force me to be more deliberate with my gear choices, which isn’t a bad thing.
So far, the biggest challenge with the bike has been assembling and disassembling it, typically without the aid of a bike stand. The first time I took it apart was the day before a long-scheduled trip to Lake Tahoe; I spent the better part of three hours trying to arrange the bike’s parts correctly inside the Co-Motion hybrid case. Drenched in sweat and clenching the rear fork so hard I thought the steel would break, I mentally composed a Craig’s List ad to sell it. Luckily, with each successive trip, the process has gotten less laborious, with fewer wrenches and F-bombs tossed about.
I’m not the most outgoing person in the world, but the Shamrock is a natural conversation starter among bike geeks, forcing me to interact with and meet new people – always a good thing for a journalist.
Of course, my wife was so taken by the bike, she commissioned Tim to build her one as well, which seemed only fitting as I was the one who received the gift on her birthday.
Shamrock Cycles Fluid Druid
Price: $2,500 (frame and fork only)
Sizes available: All custom
Weight: 19.5 lbs. with Crank Bros. Candy pedals
Test bike measurements:
Seat tube: 53.5 cm
Head tube angle: 72.5
Seat tube angle: 74
Chain stays: 425 mm
Standover height: 826
Frame: Columbus Spirit steel tubes, lugged joints. Two bosses for water bottles, mounts for fenders and racks. Wiring for EPS shifting internal. Hydraulic brake lines external.
Rims: Stan’s No Tubes Crest 29er, 32 hole
Spokes: DT Swiss
Hubs: Schmidt Dynamo hub (front), Chris King R45 (rear) 32 hole
Tires: Schwalbe Durano 700x32c
Bottom Bracket: GXP
Crank: Campagnolo Super Record EPS, 172.5 mm, 50/34 chainrings
Cassette: Campagnolo Record, 11-32
Chain: Campagnolo Record 11-speed
Brake/shift levers: Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Brakes: TRP HY/RD, 160 mm front, 160 mm rear
Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy
Seat Post: Thompson Masterpiece, 240 mm
Stem: Thompson Elite X2, 110 mm
Handlebar: FSA Omega
Bar tape: Lizard Skins, black
Headset: Campagnolo Record
Saddle: Brooks Cambium
Contact: Shamrock Cycles