Freeman Transport | Gravel Racer

The gents at Freeman Transport have just launched their newest bicycle and this time it’s an easy to ride commuter called the Gravel Racer. The story goes that Freeman Transport co-founder Nathaniel Freeman’s “great-great-grandfather was an inventor during the Industrial Revolution. His contributions were many but perhaps his most controversial are the sites for the Colt .45. In his honor we’ve built a bicycle with a finish similar to that gun, richly patinaed with gun bluing and ferric browns, sealed with tree wax and ready to age. It comes with or without couplings, stainless steel lugged rack, chain guard and fenders, and can be built fixed or coaster braked and is perfect for commuting or general transport.”

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The Gravel Racer comes in a few pre-set combinations, the most basic being frame and fork only for $985. Other options include a “basic” set-up including a “complete build: ready to ride with Formula Hubs, Sugino RD2 Cranks, Tange Head Set, Brooks B17 and more for $1485.” There is also a “deluxe” option that includes “Phil Woods Hubs, White Industries Cranks, Brooks B17, Chris King Head Set and more” for $5275, but made right here, by Americans in the United States of America.

Update: I spoke with Nathaniel Freeman yesterday to help alleviate some concerns over pricing. He said: “The bike is supposed to travel up in price, from basic to deluxe, not be two distinct bikes. It really was an attempt to create the ‘peoples bike’ and let them add on accessories according to what they could afford and needed.”

In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that I help the Freeman Transport guys, Ben Ferencz and Nathaniel Freeman, with their public relations. All that being said, I’m a big fan of what they are doing and need / want / yearn for this bike. Look out for me on a Gravel Racer soon.

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Comments on “Freeman Transport | Gravel Racer

    Sean on May 13, 2009 8:57 AM:

    So effing good.

    Aaron on May 13, 2009 9:24 AM:

    Ridiculously expensive.

    985 for frames/forks… and that’s it. 4290 for the ‘deluxe package’, which is pictured.

    Think about it. 4290 for a basic road bike.

    Charlotte on May 13, 2009 9:31 AM:

    What is the silver bit at the back of the top tube for?

    hatergod on May 13, 2009 9:35 AM:

    very cool, but very expensive.

    Ben on May 13, 2009 9:54 AM:

    thanks so much for the interest. just to be clear you can get the basic gravel racer with a basic build kit for $1485. we think that’s a fair deal. especially when you compare it to the dutch bikes and the pashleys. The Deluxe comes with couplings, rack, travel bag and a top tier build kit ready to travel and yeah that’s an expensive bike.

    invisibleagent on May 13, 2009 10:01 AM:

    I love the old racing handlebars…the copper patina on the fork is also a nice touch.


    Michael Williams on May 13, 2009 10:03 AM:

    Good shit costs money!


    Justin Anthony on May 13, 2009 10:25 AM:

    Amen to that.

    A Squirel Most Frugal on May 13, 2009 10:38 AM:

    I’m sorry, but that is too much money for a damn bike. I pulled a vintage Schwinn bike out of a dumpster that was free. All it needed were new tires. Of course, it is your choice to buy what you want; I respect that. I would never pay so much money for what is essentially appearance. It is a nice looking bike though.

    Paul on May 13, 2009 11:11 AM:

    That bike is great… but I don’t ride one enough to justify that kind of purchase. Oh well, I can still admire the pictures!

    Rob on May 13, 2009 11:20 AM:

    I thinks it’s “sights.”

    GoGo on May 13, 2009 11:38 AM:

    $1500 bucks for a handbuilt biccle that is clearly a piece of art that can be handed down to the next generation is a steal! Michael is right, you get what you pay for and this bike, my friends, is worth it.

    Damion on May 13, 2009 11:52 AM:

    It’s a cool looking bike…but it’s just a bike. I agree that you pay good money for good shit, but I’m not in the income bracket that allows $5K for a bike without a motor…especially in Los Angeles. But if money were no object, I’d ride the shit out of that.

    don weir on May 13, 2009 12:00 PM:

    fucking perfect.

    Vadim K on May 13, 2009 12:19 PM:

    Great bike. But it raises this topic that just grinds my gears…
    Good design doesn’t have to be so expensive, and until it is – the majority of us will keep living surrounded with crap.
    “Good shit costs money!” – no it doesn’t… Thats how much we, designers, charge. And then we are so surprised when we are the first people to get fired in a recession.
    Example: We all know how much Eames furniture used to cost for our grandparents vs. how much it costs to us. It was a modern design for the people and you could buy at your neighborhood furniture store.
    These days good design for some reason wants to position itself straight in the luxury market – and its not being driven by the complicated manufacturing process – its nothing but marketing.
    I’m just saying it doesn’t have to be this way.
    Love your blog.

    Michael Williams on May 13, 2009 12:40 PM:

    I’m sure it would be cheaper if it was made in China with less expensive components and it would still look similar. This is not a case of pricing as luxury with good marketing. This is small batch domestically made, mom and pop goodness. That costs money.


    nick on May 13, 2009 12:49 PM:

    I really want one.

    Vadim K on May 13, 2009 1:09 PM:

    I understand it, Michael – but that’s how things were made before China became a power it is now. And they didn’t cost as much. What happened? Would my grandfather ride a 5k commuter bike? That thing he rode lasted quite a while and I’m sure he did not spend even $200 for it.
    One more example: I know of a mom and pop leather craftsmen here in Minneapolis or even in UK, who make things to last you a lifetime – and they don’t cost even half as much as Filson charges for their canvas stuff. (I still own them both)
    …I’m just thinking out loud. Its a weird choice some companies make. It seems like their roots are somewhere else and not in a 5k bike territory.

    rick b on May 13, 2009 1:12 PM:

    very desirable!

    Michael Williams on May 13, 2009 1:30 PM:

    Vadim – you can buy this bike fully built and ready to ride for $1500! Why do you keep saying 5k! And your grandfather reference is just silly.

    Dylan on May 13, 2009 1:33 PM:

    Beautiful, beautiful bike. You guys do incredible work.

    Nathan/Ben, I’m curious as to why no builds with gears? Specifically internal gears?

    I can appreciate the simplicity of a single speed—as I’ve owned several—but for a commuter, errand, or ride-around-town bike I find that it’s nice to be able to have a few (three to nine) gears so that you’re not always riding hard, grinding up rises, restricted to flatter routes, or (should you pair the rear cog and/or front chainring down) undergeared on descents.

    SRAM ( is an American company (maybe one for the list), and while not all of their parts are made in the states, a number are. Additionally, Sturmey Archer (, US based, but not made) has been producing internally geared hubs for over 100 years.

    Thanks guys, and keep up the great (and very fairly priced) work.

    Jake on May 13, 2009 2:06 PM:

    To the frugal squirrel’s point, there is a difference between a Schwinn and a bike like this. I started riding three years ago on a late ’70’s Centurion Le Mans. It was a solid bike, it got the job done.

    I saved my pennies and bought a friend’s Rivendell Atlantis about a year ago. There is no question that both bikes are functional and work well, but there is a huge difference between the two.

    You can say a Schwinn works, but you can’t compare a bike like that to a beautiful bike like this and say they are comparable.

    Great post.

    Nathaniel Freeman on May 13, 2009 2:41 PM:

    Hi Vadim – My wife and I are also here in Minneapolis at the moment – where my good friend Eric Noren builds our bikes and my other good friend Nate Van Hofwegen hand builds our bags. I would invite you to give them a call to find out what it cost to produce quality domestic goods. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the US economic meltdown has had quite an effect on China, and I don’t know how much longer we as a country will be able exploit that particle resource without having to deal with the environmental and social cost of the economic boom thus far.
    Your Grandfather did not pay 200 dollars for this bike. In comparable inflation terms a good horse was 10k to 20k, cars 50k, and a quality bike would take a laborer almost a year to save up for. We are in the midst of paradigm shift with regards to the things we buy and the cost of producing well-built, environmentally responsible goods – the difference between what something actually cost and what you can buy it for – e.g. just because China will sell you shitty shirts for .50 doesn’t mean that price factors in all the real cost associated with making the shirt. Take a look at some of the Beijing Olympics footage if you want to see the real cost: air you can’t see through, mounds of trash pushed behind glossy ad walls, people getting the shit beat out of them for standing tall for their beliefs.
    Nobody is trying to sell you a 5k bike. Please take a look at the price structure on the site. The bike starts at less than 1k, almost unheard of for a hand-built domestic frame. If nothing else, please know this bike was meant to be the bottom line for a well designed, quality built, domestic product that will last lifetimes. This is the bike your grandfather would have bought, it is of that caliber; it’s just not the same world anymore.

    Alexi on May 13, 2009 3:03 PM:

    As someone who owns/has owned $5000 custom bikes, that bike at the 5k price point is not worth it. The less then a k for the frame set is a great deal however. And those brooks panniers suck.

    Patrick on May 13, 2009 3:28 PM:

    Beautiful bike. Seen a few people/companies try building something in this style, most have ended up looking a bit silly. This is perfect.

    Black Cat on May 13, 2009 3:30 PM:

    Pass. I’ll keep riding my $20 classified ad Schwinn’s that I’ve fixed up myself.

    Turling on May 13, 2009 6:01 PM:

    I do have a question, and excuse me for my ignorance, but on a fixed cog bike with no brakes, how in God’s name do you stop??? I have’t been on a bike since a velodrome accident (damn miss-n-out races) about 17 years ago, but I would never take my track bike on the street. There is obviously something I’m missing with these new styles of bikes.

    Thom on May 13, 2009 6:02 PM:

    Saying you can buy X for less makes X a better bike is about as meaningful an argument as saying I can commute in a Kia, screw this Ferrari crap. Is the bike expensive for what it is? Not really. If you wouldn’t spend $5K on ANY bike why do you even read this site?

    A Chris King headset can cost up to $300 – does your Schwinn have a $300 headset? How about $200 cranks?

    The Brooks B17 saddle on the $1485 option retails for around $120, or 8% of the total cost of the bike. For the saddle.

    Russell Sprouts on May 13, 2009 6:10 PM:

    Goddamn you old ladies got quite the knitting circle going on!

    Henry on May 13, 2009 7:13 PM:

    To the guys at Freeman Transport – I think what you’re doing is freaking awesome… full steam ahead and don’t change a thing!

    Bought the 5 panel waxed cotton cap about a month ago. Definitly the best $32 I’ve spent in a long time.

    Alexi on May 13, 2009 7:40 PM:

    “A Chris King headset can cost up to $300”

    anyone who buys a ti king headset is a freaking idiot. It costs twice as much, is heavier and has no practical benifit above the normal version.

    Michael Williams on May 13, 2009 9:43 PM:

    I’m calling it…ACL is the Brooklyn Vegan of non-music blogs. The comments here are bonkers.


    Johnny Slims on May 13, 2009 11:25 PM:

    Pretty bike. Can it be built with a freewheel and a handbrake?

    Biggie_Robs on May 13, 2009 11:39 PM:

    Here’s a Colt 45 site:

    giuseppe on May 14, 2009 1:27 AM:

    I’m all for bringing manufacturing and design back home. I think it’s at the heart of our problems. But…

    If most people still can’t even hope to afford it, what’s the point?

    If it’s really just an assembly of parts from other countries, what’s the point?

    Just sayin’.

    Tuco on May 14, 2009 1:57 AM:

    Freeman Transport makes great frames and for 1500 that’s good deal for it built up. I build bikes up and I can tell how much those components cost. Study your math and before you open you mouth boy!! There’s a big difference between a beautiful lugged frame and Schwinn from a dumpster.

    H.O. on May 14, 2009 6:18 AM:

    “There’s a big difference between a beautiful lugged frame and Schwinn from a dumpster.”

    Agreed, but when I’m simply using it as a ‘commuter’ (which this back is touted as), is the difference really worth the price? Perhaps if I have money to burn, but I don’t, so I’ll stick with the $50 Schwinn which rides just fine from Point A to Point B.

    Jay on May 14, 2009 9:21 AM:

    OK…I’m a “casual” biker (well, I aspire to be a casual biker, I haven’t actually owned a bike for 10+ years), and want a versatile, US-made bike…something I can ride around town as well as on trails (I’m not talking mountain biking).

    Money IS an issue, so what are some of the more “economical” options?

    Fern on May 14, 2009 11:28 AM:

    I have a weakness for white tires..

    hatergod on May 14, 2009 12:50 PM:

    1500 is reasonable.

    Dave on May 14, 2009 1:08 PM:

    Grab an IRO. I love mine. Made in either Staten Island or somewhere in PA (the factory moved at some point). You can get on one, fully built, for about $650.

    If you don’t like the track geometry of the Mark V (mine – really dig it) then the Model 19 might be your best bet. Throw on some 29″ semi-slicks and you’re golden for a city/trail ride. Pretty sure you can even order ’em in custom colors, but the black looks demonic.


    discerning on May 14, 2009 1:11 PM:

    Those look like Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. Same on the Pashley Guv’nor, same on my ride. Lovely. Freeman Transport inspired me to have an old frame retrofitted with s&s couplers. Hats off to them.

    Alisdair on May 14, 2009 1:24 PM:

    “I’m all for bringing manufacturing and design back home. I think it’s at the heart of our problems. But…

    If most people still can’t even hope to afford it, what’s the point?”

    Because in the current climate, domestic companies can’t compete against cheap bikes from china, but they can compete against more sophisticated bikes from for example the Netherlands. It’s not supposed to be a bike for everyone, but rather a bike for people who want a well designed, us made quality bike.

    Now lets sit back and daydream about owning one of them!

    I. Ponder on May 14, 2009 7:03 PM:

    That’s the ultimate bike…for poseurs!

    Gravel Racer? It’s a fixie. No gearing, no brakes. What does that have to do with gravel? I think it’s cool looking. Hang it on your wall. I ride 100 miles/week here in Seattle and my son rides 200+. This is a good bike for all the flabby assed cigarette smoking young poseurs riding their fixies on flat ground in their skinny assed black jeans, no helmets, and studded belts, all looking the same. This bike is a poor investment unlike the Rivendell that was mentioned, which has great shifters, derailleurs, & brakes!

    My kid builds super cool mechanically excellent fixie bikes all the time for a few hundred dollars, utilizing vintage parts. Where do hipsters get the $ for this thing?

    A Squirrel Most Frugal on May 14, 2009 8:59 PM:

    To Jake: I hear you regarding quality. But I was not comparing the quality of bikes. My point was about cost. I feel that it is too much money. But then again, I am … A Squirrel Most Frugal. :-) If you have the money to spend and want this bike, go right ahead. I respect that. I’ll keep riding my free, saved-from-the-dumpster Schwinn bike and put my few thousand somewhere else. I’m in the market for another rental property. I think I’ll put it there.

    Alexi on May 14, 2009 9:55 PM:

    “Grab an IRO. I love mine. Made in either Staten Island or somewhere in PA (the factory moved at some point). You can get on one, fully built, for about $650.”

    Ummm I know Tony, he is an awesome man, but his bikes are built in Taiwan, he only designs them.

    “Gravel Racer? It’s a fixie. No gearing, no brakes. What does that have to do with gravel? I think it’s cool looking. Hang it on your wall. I ride 100 miles/week here in Seattle and my son rides 200+. This is a good bike for all the flabby assed cigarette smoking young poseurs riding their fixies on flat ground in their skinny assed black jeans, no helmets, and studded belts, all looking the same. This bike is a poor investment unlike the Rivendell that was mentioned, which has great shifters, derailleurs, & brakes!”

    ummm what are you getting at? Fixies (I hate that term), can cover a lot of ground from track to cross to winter trainer. I’m sure the term “gravel racer” is a nod to “path racer.” but yeah saying all fixed gears should just be called “fixies” is pretty dumb.

    Secondly rivendells are over rated over priced and not made in the US. If you want to compare this to something geared and brake made in the US it would be ANT bikes. Also what the hell are you getting at with your mileage and the way hippsters dress and other bullshit? Many of these skinny pants, cigarette smokers blah, blah, blahs put in as may miles as you. It does not make them more or less of a cyclist. I used to put in 110 miles a week commuting in NYC on a track bike in skinny black jeans (ok mostly jean shorts) and at least another 200-300 miles doing randonees, cross races or just tooling around on pub crawls. By your seeming logic I am more of a cyclist then you. You know what? I’m not I’m just another fool enjoying my bike.

    I. Ponder on May 14, 2009 10:11 PM:

    I’m not putting you down. I’m putting the bike down. It’s a poseur bike. It’s already got the aged patina so you don’t have to earn it. Just take it out of the box, sit on it and look cool. It’s all for show. You’re paying way too much for the faux finish. Either take an existing bike and customize it or build your own. Be creative, make it your own, save big $. Grow your own patina.

    john on May 18, 2009 3:41 PM:

    The world has become flooded with cheap crap that is cheaply made. When you see something that costs a lot, you have to consider whether it is actually expensive by historical standards. A lot of the nicely made clothes like Filson that blogs like this talk about really cost just the same as they always have. J. Press suits aren’t more expensive now, but now they are competing with Mens Wearhouse crap which is absurdly cheap by historical standards. And so on.

    It turns out this is not the case with bikes, based on my quick look.

    A standard bike from 1914 cost roughly $20, using this:

    as a guide.

    That’s about $385 today, which is still roughly the cost of a decent mass market bicycle. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe that bike is super cheap or super expensive by 1914 standards.

    But assuming about $20 was normal for a bike in 1914, a $1500 bike in 2009 dollars is indeed expensive by historical standards. You’re paying for the lack of scale.

    The biggest problem is not that there are $1500 bikes (I don’t see why people are always affronted at the existence of products they don’t want), but that we don’t expect enough of our $400 bikes.

    There is no reason not to demand quality out of everything you buy. If you’re inspired by the stuff on ACL that’s out of your range, with enough shopping around or you can get stuff just as good within your range.

    Everyday, affordable stuff used to be of a lot higher quality. Apparant savings coming from cheaper processes, overseas labor, and the like aren’t necessarily being passed along to the consumer.

    Kyle on May 20, 2009 4:43 PM:

    I worked for a company that imported product from China, my job being to source products.

    Technical products aside (computers, cars, etc that are made in ultra modern factories), the majority of goods (tools, clothing, toys) are made in quite crummy factories with a “what gets by the inspectors is good quality” policy. my first factory visit where I saw families sitting in groups on the floor hand-building floor jacks (fortunately no young kids, but maybe that was hidden from the visitors).

    One evening I asked our Shanghai office manager why the bills were in such small denominations…as I paid for our non-exorbitant dinner with a stack of relatively-high denomination bills. Turns the price of our dinner in Shaghai was about the same as a worker’s monthly pay outside the city.

    As NF stated, the price we pay for some of these items may be low, but the term “low cost” is quite deceiving. Often these products are “dumped” into the market…sold to US/EUR companies for less than they cost to make. There are no retirement plans for the workers. No environmental guidelines. and so on.

    We also tend to think these days in comparison to the lowest price alternative rather than to the highest quality alternative. Compare a Toyota to a Hyundai and you’ll think differently than if you compare that Toyota to a Ferarri.

    Simon on June 3, 2009 2:41 PM:

    @ john:
    thanks for calling everyone out on their shit

    Rob on June 9, 2009 9:48 PM:

    Has anyone on here paid for one and been riding it? What are your thoughts? Do you feel it was worth it?

Comments are closed.