Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira separately entered into the Northwestern vortex of bike riding and craftsmanship otherwise known as Portland, Oregon. Once there, the framebuilders met and became friends, and a chance to work with Rapha on a series of bikes led them to realize that they liked working together. Thus Breadwinner Cycles was born; an extended collaboration of sorts. Each Breadwinner is hand-built out of steel by Tony and Ira. Customers order direct—they put down a deposit, and between eight and 12 weeks later take delivery of a bike that has been crafted specifically to order, painted and assembled, then shipped to their doorstep.

Breadwinner Goodwater

Breadwinner is the result of a collaboration between Portland frame builders Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira.

The Goodwater that we received for testing is Breadwinner's twist on the traditional XC platform with a nod toward somewhat broader horizons. As such, it's a steel hardtail TIG welded from a blend of Columbus and True Temper tubing, with 148-millimeter Boost spacing and the ability to run either 29-inch wheels or 27.5+. Geometry is based around a 140-millimeter-travel fork, with 67.5/72-degree head and seat angles and modest 17.3-inch chainstays. Toptube and seat tube lengths are determined by the customer and builders during the ordering process. Frame prices start at $1,895 and complete bikes begin at $4,350. Our test frame featured optional upgrades in the form of internal brake and dropper routing, which bumped the price up a couple hundred dollars, a Shimano XT drivetrain, Fox 34 fork, Chris King headset and threaded bottom bracket, Thomson dropper post and Shimano hubs and controls.

I opted to test the Goodwater exclusively with 27.5+ wheels in place, partly because I've been riding that wheel size a ton this past year, but mainly because I wanted to assess how the added volume of plus wheels impacted the steel hardtail experience. In this instance, the impact is entirely positive. Combining the relaxed front center with a nicely balanced seat angle/chainstay length resulted in a bike that was calm, collected and very neutral in its handling. The larger-volume Maxxis Minion tires suck up a little bit of trail chatter, offer tons of grip everywhere and add another layer of calmness to handling that could best be described as 'ninja on valium.' Meaning, this is a bike that can be fed a diet of brutal terrain and rider aggression, yet remains poised wherever or however it is ridden. It's deceptive. It feels way more relaxed than most XC-oriented bikes, but responds with snap and precision when the rider demands it. To hammer a cliché: "The bike disappears beneath the rider."

That's high praise. Call me a sucker for old-school steel craftsmanship, but a few rides on the Goodwater had me rethinking my suspension dependency and craving a well-built, simple bike that I could grow old with.

MSRP: $5,300 (Frame only: $1,895)