Review: Breadwinner Goodwater

A plus-size hardtail for buyers with a taste for the finer things

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)