Over the past few weeks, I’ve been riding a bike that’s better looking than my best suit. It’s not a mystery that Budnitz bicycles were born from a love of design. Founder, Paul Budnitz, is also the mind behind Kid Robot. Head to your local toy store and you’d be hard pressed to not run into a collection of vinyl figures created or rather, spawned, from Kid Robot. Looking to create personal bicycles with a style of their own, Paul started creating titanium bicycles, which lead to the birth of Budnitz Bicycles. The company is now producing titanium and cro-moly steel frame luxury bicycles that carry a wealth of Made in USA components.
If you ride with me, you know about all about my love of titanium. The way it looks, its compliance properties and it’s a metal that will outlive you. Let’s not forget that although titanium bike frames are more common these days, you still don’t see a lot of them on the trail. I enjoy the looks I get. I enjoy the questions. Most of all, I enjoy the ride.
Let me backtrack a little and say that when I first heard about Budnitz, although I loved the look of their bikes, I wasn’t sure the design would translate into performance. I’ve seen a lot of pretty bikes over the years that may be great for commuting, but downright awful for mountain bikers. The guys were nice enough to let me spend some time on their MTN Limited Titanium bicycle.
After unwrapping it like a Christmas present, I tossed the flat pedals it arrived with aside and installed a set of Crank Brothers Ti Eggbeaters (not included). They look as if they belong on this bike. A few saddle adjustments, air in the tires and I was off. The very first thing I noticed riding this bike is the gorgeous cantilever, split-tube design that flows from stem to stern. Next, the lack of chain noise, or any noise at all for that matter. The Gates Carbon belt drive is dead silent, even wet. I quickly realized that the design of this bike may bring it home for most, but its simplicity is really what makes it shine. A good multi-tool and a hand pump is all you would ever need to fix or modify anything on this bike.
This is only my second time riding a no-chain bike. Much like before, I feel the power transfer with a belt is just as good if not slightly better compared to a chain. Definitely more quiet, no mess, and you probably won’t need to replace it for a very long time. I found the gearing setup a little tall for steep climbs. Or, maybe I need to man up. The Rohloff rear hub option would be welcomed on long days. The daVinci Designs crankset perfectly compliments the style of the frame and is handmade in USA.
Most of the trails around Southern California are loose over hard, plenty to throw you off your bike if you aren’t paying attention. Having just setup my Kona Ti bike with a rigid front fork, the arrival of this bike was with perfect timing. The White Brothers Rock Solid carbon fork is one of my favorites and once again shined on the Budnitz. Great looking, solid construction, soaks up a great deal of vibration and has more give than other carbon forks I’ve tested. The bike did well with every trail I threw it into. Tons of control, great lateral stiffness, carbon + titanium soak up vibration like no aluminum or cro-moly bike I’ve ridden, and the ride is noticeably smoother than my Kona through the rough.
It’s hard to put into words, but the bike just feels quick. Where the split-tube design soaks up the trail, the larger down tube keeps power transfer on point and screams at you to, GO GO GO! I found myself ripping into and out of corners fast, only slowing when the descent turned more treacherous.
Across the nose is a Budnitz flat titanium handlebar (31.8), mounted to a Budnitz titanium stem. The grips are black Oury (USA) and brake levers are from Paul Components (USA). Leaving the brakes is a set of Yokozuna Internal Housing brake lines. One of the few non-USA components.
Every Budnitz model has a long list of options to make sure its exactly what you want. Keep in mind these are custom made bicycles, which is why you haven’t seen them at your local bike shop. The MTN Limited is available in both titanium and cro-moly, both with internal cable routing. The right side of the frame allows for a shifter cable should you choose the 14-speed Rohloff internal rear hub.
The Gates rear cog transferring your power into the drivetrain is a crafted chunk of stainless steel goodness. Notice the skewers are also very minimal, no levers. You can also spot fender/rack mounts. My test bike came loaded with Avid BB7 mechanical brakes. They do a decent job, though I’d opt for the Formula Hydraulic brakes if I was building this bike. Mechanical brakes tend to shutter stop when under hard load in my experience. Still, no stopping issues and very simple to adjust and replace pads. They are probably the best mechanical you can buy right now making them very common and easy to find parts for.
It was a pleasure seeing a single-adjustment titanium seatpost on the bike. Why companies are still using that funky, hard to adjust, dual-screw type post is beyond me. Are they more stable? Maybe. Over the last few years every replacement seatpost I’ve purchased uses single-adjustment. I’ve yet to have this design fail on me and they look much, much nicer.
Clearance on the rear is just enough to mount fenders. Though, who really puts fenders on a mountain bike? The option is there should you need to use your MTN Limited as a double-duty office commuter or need a rack for bikepacking.
The tried and true Schwalbe Racing Ralph 650B (27.5) tires were chosen for the MTN Limited. Tire preference is very individual. The RR has always been good to me through most conditions until it gets really wet. I’d prefer a chunkier tire up front on a rigid, and something a little fatter. The 2.25 wide front tire was adequate and never left me feeling uneasy. This bike is begging for a 2.4 wide front tire setup tubeless. Keeping with the Made in USA theme, a solid set of Velocity Blunt SL wheels are on board.
Between those daVinci cranks is a Bushnell USA Featherweight EBB & square-taper sealed bearing bottom bracket by Token (USA). Known for their reliability, the Bushnell USA EBB weighs only 140 grams and is made of aluminum and stainless steel. The combination was noise-free after several water-to-sand crossings.
I like to say I am 6′ tall. Well, it seems I am shrinking so now, I am 6′ tall with shoes on. At 5’11” (and a half!), I found the Large frame to fit on the money, though I needed to use most of the available seatpost.
This isn’t a bike you are going to follow your Enduro buddy to the trailhead on. It’s a smooth, singletrack slayer that rips and roars through the trees for the rider that wants to look as good as they feel on the trail. Make no mistake, riding this bike is going to gather looks and comments. It’s rugged enough for the dirt, handsome enough to ride into the office and is built with quality components that will last a very long time.
The MTN Limited models range in price from $2,590-$5,000+. Budnitz recently launched a Fatbike, I wonder how long until we see a MTN Limited 29? Head on over to Budnitz Bicycles to learn more about their current model lineup. If you’d like to throw a leg over one, their showroom is located in Burlington, Vermont, with occasional demos in LA and NYC.
This is a bike you will love to ride. It's light, fast, able, and handsome. The majority of the bike is handmade in USA, simple and easy to maintain, rides great and will last a lifetime.