National Forest Explorer

Elephant NFE - Mural
Elephant National Forest Explorer

Last autumn I was at Free Range Cycles in Fremont, checking out their various Rando bicycles. I’d been interested for a while in a 650b, low trail bicycle and after that previous summers tour in the mountains I was more interested in forest roads, fire trails and other routes off the beaten paths. Talking about this with the fine folks at Free Range on of them mentioned the forthcoming stock National Forest Explorer being pre-sold for a very reasonable price from Elephant Bikes in Spokane WA. It sounded like exactly what I was interested in. I went and checked them out but I’d missed that first pre-sale. But I had myself added to the list of those who wanted in on the second batch.

Elephant NFE - Frame, unboxed
NFE Frame

Eventually deposits were collected and I was added to the mailing list and then began a long period of updates, shop shots and work status along with tantalizing posts and pictures from owners of batch 1.  My frame arrived June 26th and lingered in my living room for some time before I finally had a chance to build it up.  That of course took longer then I’d have anticipated (the biggest holdup being finding a 1 1/8″ needle bearing headset) but I finally wrapped it up last week and finally got in a decent ride this last weekend.  I’m still getting everything dialed in, but so far it’s a lot of fun to ride.  I can’t wait to get it out in the woods!

Elephant NFE - Drive Side
Elephant stock NFE

Build list

Frame: Elephant stock National Forest Explorer medium
Headset: Token Threadless Headset 1 1/8″ silver
Stem:  Nitto threadless Lugged Stem 26.0, 90mm
Handlebars: Rivendell Nitto Albastache
Bar tape: Newbaums Grey
Shifters: Rivendell bar end Silver Shifters
Brake Levers: Shimano Tiagra Road Brake Levers
– Velocity A23 650b rims
– spokes: DT Swiss double butted
– front hub: SON 28 disc
– rear hub: Suzue Classica Disc hub
– Cassette: 8 speed Cassette 12-32t
-Tires: Compass Babyshoe Pass 650bx42
Brakes: TRP Spyre 160 mm rotor
Rear Derailleur: Sun XFD34M
Front Derailleur: Sun SXRD34m
Cranks: Sugino XD2 36/24 165mm w/ Sugino Chainguard
Pedals: Thin Gripster
Saddle: Brooks Cambium C17 Slate
Seat Post: Nitto s83
Front Rack: Nitto Mark’s Rack M1
Lowrider Rack: Tubus Nova
Fenders: Velo Orange Zeppelin 52mm Fenders 650b
Decaleur: Velo Orange Decaleur kit
Front Bag: Ostrich F-104 Rando Bag
Saddlebag: Ostrich S-2 Saddlebag
Waterbottle Cages: King Cage IRIS Stainless
Bell: Hammer Headset Spacer bell

The beautiful wheelset was built by Kathleen at Free Range Cycles and I had the headset installed by my LBS (truly local, about two blocks from me) Hello Bicycle here on Beacon Hill. I’m to blame for everything else. There are still a few things to do, mainly getting the lighting wrapped up. I put my old E6 front light on it so that the generator has a load, but I’ll probably move my Luxos U from my Atlantis over when I disassemble it for repainting. I need a rear light of some sort as well, perhaps something fender mounted.

More pictures can be seen in my NFE Gallery on Flickr.

5 thoughts on “National Forest Explorer”

  1. Hi! I have a pre-order in for a Medium in batch 3 for the NFE. Just curious how tall you are and how your Medium is working out for you size-wise. Great looking build!

    1. Hey Andy,

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m 5″10 and I think the medium fits me well. I Could definitely be a few inches shorter for sure. Probably would get a large if I was much taller though. I’m enjoying the ride at lot. I’d say for how I’m used to riding I wish I could get the bars up a bit higher, but I’m going to stick with it before I try stem extensions or anything. YMMV of course in all of this. I definitely am excited to get it out on some longer rides and on some gravel.

  2. Thanks for the info! I’m 5′-6″ and was on the fence between a Small and a Medium. I might reconsider my choice based, on how well the medium seems to be working out for you, but then as you said YMMV, of course.
    Best of luck touring with it!

  3. Hi Robert, I too have an NFE on order. Still a bit unsure about sizing. After talking to John at Elephant I’ve changed from my initial nomination of a Large size back to a Medium. However after reading of your experiences I’m wondering if a Large might actually suit me best.

    My basic issues, all other things considered, are stand over and cockpit length. I’ve started off comparing to my ML rSogn but have realised that the NFE has a steeper seat post and thus different (& longer) geometry with regard to reach.

    You reckon that at 5′ 10″ the Medium NFE suits you OK but you might also go for a Large if much taller. I’m 5′ 11.5 and my ‘hard contact’ PBH is about 850mm (33.5″). I guess I’m curious about your own PBH and your stand over ‘clearance ‘ on the NFE.

    I also see you’re using moustache bars, which I’ve also been interested in. I wonder how you find the reach when you are on the forward ‘loops’?

    Any comments much appreciated.


  4. Hey Sam,

    So my PBH is: 86.36cm (34″) so at least based on that measurement I’d think you’d find the medium NFE pretty similar to how I do. I have plenty of standover clearance. My basic assessment remains the same that I could ride a medium or a large. One in between those sizes would be ideal!

    H’bars are of course super personal but I for one love mustache bars. I’ve only had them on my Atlantis which has around 40k miles on it. I’ve done long tours, long rides &c on them. But plenty of strong riders can’t stand them. So YMMV.

    As for the reach, the key is to get the stem length right. Since my Atlantis is perfect in that regard I just used the same for the NFE. Since I’m using Rivendell’s newer “Albastache” bars I think it actually has a bit more reach. Still okay though; I don’t feel stretched out.

    hope that helps,

Leave a Reply