Crust Lightning Bolt Canti build

November 4, 2023

Bicycle in front of the San Francisco Bay

This August, I bought a Crust Lightning Bolt frame and had it built up at my local bike shop (thanks Christian!). I have a good number of miles on it across road, trail, and even a bit of chunky singletrack. I'm very happy with the bike.


In the summer of 2022, I was riding bikes a lot – mostly my Surly Bridge Club, an all-road touring bike with flat bars. As I rode more and farther, I made changes for comfort and speed. I stuck bar ends the inside of my bars to approximate a hoods position. After doing a few rides almost exclusively on the bar ends, I wondered: should I just get a drop bar bike?

In December 2022, I read Jan Heine's book The All-Road Bike Revolution and was introduced to the Bicycle Quarterly (BQ)- style bike – comfort on and off road, low trail, 650B wheels, wide tires, full fenders, front rack and bag. I was pretty sold on the overall vision.

By April 2023, I had a good number of miles on the Bridge Club. I decided for certain that I'd get a drop bar bike. I wanted a bike that would ride well and look good. But I also wanted to de-risk. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the bike and immediately realize that it just didn't work for me (insert dream build Bombora eBay listing meme here). So I bought a total beater on Craigslist with similar enough geometry for very cheap and rode it for a few hundred miles. By July I had developed strong enough opinions about what I liked and didn't like to commit to a build.


Bike parts in a box

I planned tentatively to get a Crust Lightning Bolt. I already Crust a lot, and the Lightning Bolt is explicitly inspired by BQ / Jan Heine thought. And I'm a sucker for horizontal top tubes.

My main inspiration aside from Jan Heine's book was Ryan Rando's Canti Bolt build and Ryan's build on Dropped Chain (two different Ryans).

A lot people spend many months curating parts for builds. I don't have that kind of patience. Over the course of a few days, I made a spreadsheet of potential components. Christian at my local bike shop, Straight Wheel Cycling, was gracious enough to look over my parts list to give feedback and make sure everything was compatible. The big decisions:

  • Drivetrain: on the cheaper side, 2x for bailout when climbing – 2x10 Tiagra brifters, New Albion 42/26 crankset, 10 speed GRX rear derailleur with 11-36 cassette
  • Wheelset: Crust's 650B rim brake wheelset with dynamo hub
  • Brakes: Dia-Compe DC980s with Kool-Stop salmon pads
  • Handlebar / stem: big old grandpa-sized Nitto Technomic stem to get the bars over the saddle and Nitto M151 compact drop bar

The last big decision I had to make was frame size. I stand 5'8" and have 82.5cm PBH. I called Crust and asked which size I should get, and Garrett said that I definitely should go with the M / 55cm (yeah, that's right, the Garrett of Crust Bikes: Chapter IV, the coolest bike video I've seen). He was so right, I can't imagine riding a smaller size.

Initial build

First assembly of bicycle

After going over the component list one last time with Christian (seriously – thank you), I ordered all the parts. I dropped everything off with Christian, and around a week later I rode it home.

I immediately liked how the bike rides. It's very responsive without feeling squirrely (except up >15% gradients with a front load). It's comfortable. The 42mm tires eat up bumps in the road. And the giant stem means I spend a good amount of time in the drops – they're useful, not aspirational.

So what about the low trail? What about planing? I don't know, it rides like a bicycle, a nice bicycle. I lack vocabulary for differences at this level, and I'm still pretty blind to them.


Rene Herse UD-1 rack installed on a front

After riding for a few hundred miles, I knew the bike wasn't going to need any major changes, so I decided to get a rack and fenders. I had my heart set on a Rene Herse rack – they look really nice, and they've been tested to 10kg capacity. (They don't have the absurdly low official weight limit of 4.4 lbs that other similar racks do.)

I was split on whether to get a rack that mounted to the canti bosses (M-13) or one with adjustable stays that mount to fork eyelets (UD-1)

I asked Garrett what he thought. He pointed out the Lightning Bolt has eyelets and that I might as well use them so that I don't have to futz with the rack if I ever need to change the brakes up. I hadn't considered this, and it's a great point, especially since the rack is also connected to the front fender.

I bought the UD-1. Installation was easy, and I used a pipe cutter to trim the stays to length. I'm really happy with this rack – it seems quite well-made and it looks great.


Bicycle in front of the San Mateo Bridge

Read this fender installation guide from Eléctricalités A.T., the companion blog to if you ever intend to install metal fenders on your bike, ideally beforehand. You'll want to know what you're getting into. It was incredibly helpful for me.

I got Rene Herse H80 fenders, which I understand are basically Honjo Smooth 62s with more coverage, different hardware, and nice instructions. The one oddity I'll note is that the Rene Herse stickers on the fenders are pretty crooked and off-center, but that doesn't matter to me since these things are going to get all dinged up anyway.

Installing the fenders was humbling. I foolhardily bought them thinking the difficult part would be drilling my own holes which didn't sound so bad. I was wrong. Drilling was the easy part.

I found out that fenders need to be re-radiused, a time-consuming process where you massage it until the arc of the fender matches the arc of the tire precisely. Installation took me between 6 and 8 hours all-in. Hours of radiusing, fitting, removing, tweaking, measuring, drilling. Everything affects everything else. An example: fastening stays can (read: will) change the width of the fenders slightly which changes the radius of the fender.

The description for the 2023 Lightning Bolt Canti says the fork is specifically designed for Honjo Smooth 62s and similar fenders. I assumed the frame would also fit 62s easily. Bad assumption! The frame's chainstays are too narrow, so I needed to dimple the fenders to get them to fit. You don't cut a fender to fit narrow chainstays since that'll ruin the fender's structural integrity. I made a form out of wood, put a dowel on the other side of the fender, and tapped it with a hammer until the fender would fit between the chainstays.

I'm pretty pleased with the job – you can't tell that the fenders are dimpled unless you're really looking:

Fender dimples

The rear fender is a tight fit in another way: the front derailleur touches it a bit.

Front derailleur touching front fender

The front fender was easier. The Lightning Bolt's fork really is designed to fit them perfectly. My trouble here was the stay. The wheel spacing is 135mm on the rear and 100mm in the front – this means that you need to bend front fender stay inward a bit more than the rear one. This affects the radius of the fender stay's curve, which affects the width of the fender, which changes the radius of the fender. I ended up overworking and totally butchering the front stay but got a decent radius despite all that.

I also got more fender sticking out over the front of the wheel than I wanted. It was late and I got sloppy with my measurements. Oh well!

I now have some light toe overlap because of the fenders. I don't mind too much because I ride flat pedals and can just shift my feet a bit when negotiating super tight curves.

I considered buying mudflaps from Berthoud or Rene Herse, but I decided to go the cheap route and make them myself. I used Jan Heine's trick of cutting up a black plastic folder.


After installing the rack and fenders, I got a Berthoud Sans Decaleur 25 (SD 25) bag. I wanted that classic rando bag look and function but without the cost, weight, and complexity of a decaleur. The bag's lack of decaleur doesn't hurt at all: this thing stays put.

The SD 25 is always always on my bike. I keep my phone in one of the rear pockets and tools in other. The main compartment's capacity is huge. I have plenty of room for food, miscellaneous supplies, and extra layers (not that I've needed them yet in the SF Bay Area). It's also great for picking up takeout, though not quite large enough for grocery runs.

Jan Heine says he's not selling Berthoud SD bags yet because they're not sturdy enough for the Oregon Outback. I'm not doing anything as demanding, so the SD 25 is good enough for me.

Dynamo light

Bicycle in front of marsh by the San Francisco Bay

The last thing I added to the bike was a dynamo light, a Busch & Müller IQ-X. What a revelation! How different from a battery-powered light could a good dynamo light be? Very different. It's so liberating. Now I go out for rides before sunrise or well after dark, and I don't have to think about charging anything. The IQ-X's beam pattern is excellent. It has so much coverage, and it's so even. I see plenty riding trails at night, and the beam's shape stops it from blinding people.

Dynamo lights rule. I don't think I'll get another bike without one.

Future changes

I'm happy with everything on the bike right now. Well, everything but the rear derailleur, I don't like that thing. It's a little noisy, but much worse, it's difficult to get my rear wheel off even in the bike stand. I dread the day I need to fix a rear flat in the middle of nowhere. I'll have to give up a few teeth on my largest cog – probably drop from 36 to 30-34ish – but that seems entirely worth it.

I'll probably fabricate a better mount for the headlight and place it on the non-drive side. I was thinking I'd draw something up, maybe a fun shape, and use a service like SendCutSend to get it cut out of aluminum.

My current compact handlebars have reach and drop that's a tad on the short side. They work well for me right now, but I do want to switch to the Rene Herse Randonneur handlebars in the future. The shape looks quite comfortable, and the bars' rise would also let me drop my stem.

Some miscellaneous, blingier things I may get in the future: Rene Herse cranks, Paul Touring Canti brakes, and a Berthoud titanium-rail saddle.

In the far future, assuming I'm still riding this bike and it's intact, I may have the frame repainted the green that the first prototypes were. They look so good.

Build list

  • Frame: Crust Lightning Bolt Canti, M / 55cm
  • Wheelset: Crust 650B rim brake wheelset with SV-8 dynamo hub
  • Tires: Grand Bois Hetre 650Bx42
  • Handlebar: Nitto M151 40cm
  • Brake levers / shifters: Shimano Tiagra 4700
  • Bar tape: Brooks Microfibre
  • Stem: Nitto Technomic 60mm
  • Saddle: Brooks B17 carved
  • Seat post: Simworks Beatnik
  • Crankset: New Albion 42/26, 170mm cranks
  • Chainring guard: Blue Lug chainring guard
  • Crank caps: Blue Lug brass
  • Pedals: MKS Gamma
  • Bottom bracket: Tange Seiki 68mm 110mm
  • Brakes: Dia-Compe DC980
  • Brake pads: Kool Stop Thinline Salmon
  • Front derailleur: Shimano Tiagra 4700
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano GRX RX400
  • Chain: Shimano 10 speed
  • Cassette: Shimano HG-50 11-36T
  • Dynamo light: B&M IQ-X
  • Headset: Crust 24 Palms
  • Headset spacers: Nitto
  • Bar ends: Nitto
  • Rack: Rene Herse UD-1
  • Fenders: Rene Herse H80 650B
  • Mudflap: homemade
  • Front bag: Berthoud Sans Decaleur L (SD 25)
  • Front cable hanger: Dia-Compe
  • Rear cable hanger: Nitto AS-1
  • Downtube cable stops: Yokozuna
  • Cable ferrules: brass via Analog Cycles