OPEN U.P.P.E.R.: 30 000 km Long Term Romance, err, Review

As I prepare to dip my tires into the Arctic Circle’s North Cape, Norway, I must acknowledge the 30 000 km milestone of my OPEN U.P.P.E.R..

The story begins when, after cycling across Canada on a CinelliMash fixed-gear bicycle in winter 2017.

After the 15-month Guinness World Record-breaking extreme adventure, I realised it perhaps wasn’t the most efficient or effective choice for future adventures, especially given the toll on my knees and I how I would end robbing myself of scenic routes because they were too steep to climb on one gear. 

I had never ridden a road bike with gears before so I undertook an Internet journey to find the ideal frame that would closely resemble my fixie’s in lightness, offering endurance geometry and the ability to accommodate wider wheels – something I appreciated even before discovering the wonderful René Herse world.

Google suggested a plethora of brands however one in particular piqued my interest. The attraction wasn’t solely because of the stealth matte black frame that satisfied all my criteria and beyond (such as running two different wheel sizes) but also the brand’s story: two immensely experienced cycling industry veterans who left behind the politics and antics of that world to do their own thing – something I could resonate with from my atypical DJ career and adventurous endeavours. 

Little did I know that this frame would OPEN (accidental pun which will stay!) a whole new world to me. Although the founders were outsiders, they wielded – and continue to do so – substantial influence. Before I knew it, thanks to Ute and Alex who presented my case, my frame was equipped with the world’s finest components, including SRAM drivetrain, Zipp wheels, René Herse tyres, Brooks England saddle and bar tape, as well as a Wahoo Roam navigation computer. All of these were built to my specifications by one of the world’s most renowned bike fitters, Cyclefit in the UK.

This bicycle has taken me on countless adventures, all of which also served as fundraisers for World Bicycle Relief.

Arguably one of the world’s most well-travelled bicycles, it has journeyed across the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, parts of France, Switzerland, Canada on my second trip, around the USA and is soon to traverse 12 additional countries in this European epic!

Every single component has been updated or upgraded since its acquisition in Autumn 2019 and as of this writing in Summer 2023, it remains resilient.

It transformed from a 1x SRAM Force eTap with the classic Zipp 700c Firecrest 303, to a 2x SRAM Force Wide eTap with the then newly launched 303 models, to a 2x SRAM Red eTap. It was recently fitted with 353 Zipp wheels for climbing and endurance rides before being equipped with 650B Firecrest to morph into a fantastic touring bike.

The U.P.P.E.R. has deservedly been crowned the “most versatile bicycle frame” by GrandFondo Magazine and my various builds over the years are testament to that.

Thanks to this OPEN U.P.P.E.R., I’ve encountered so many individuals over the 30 000 km who either own one or are enthusiasts of the model. I’ve even had mechanics keen to service it, having never seen one before.

I’m not one to waffle on about bikes, am I? Yet I never cease to be astonished by what this bike can do and where it takes me. 

For instance, a few months ago I was navigating harsh gravel in Kenya’s Maasai Mara on 650B wheels which to be honest should have been done on mountain bike, whereas months earlier I was ploughing through snow-laden roads in Canada and climbing Vancouver’s Triple Triple Crowns on lightweight 700C wheels.

When I let people try it out, they’re astounded by how such a bike can be so comfortable yet incredibly agile with wider than average tyres.

My endless admiration for it has intrigued so many people that I can name six off the top of my head who are now proud owners of either the OPEN U.P. or U.P.P.E.R. I’m sure there are more out there who have probably been “influenced” by my passion for the bike and the brand.

Personally, I dream of a day when I could own a fleet and share the open roads and unbeaten paths with friends and fans from all corners of the globe. 

Were I a multi-millionaire, everyone dear to me who rides bikes would receive one, configured exactly the same way, because this bike is one to own, one that will not only outlive its owner, but will always hold a special place in their heart.

If you doubt me, ask those who own them, or even better, those who once did and thought the grass might be greener on the other side. They’re now living with regret, although it’s merely a matter of returning home!

Over the next three months, I’ll add about 7,500 km to that frame as I explore and experience Europe on a dream ride of a lifetime. This journey is also a fundraiser and will include a stop in the company’s city, where a group of OPEN riders will roll alongside me for a day to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief.

It may sound peculiar to thank a material object, but I am genuinely grateful for my bike and the many adventures it has facilitated thus far. I eagerly anticipate the memories we’ll create over the next 30,000 km.

This is a post by JaBig, a Canadian DJ who is (as of this writing) about to cycle across Europe from North Cape, Norway to Tarifa to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief, in addition to embarking on a dream adventure of a lifetime. 

You can donate directly to World Bicycle Relief by clicking here or you can contribute towards his trip expenses by clicking here.