Curtis Inglis has been building Retrotec bikes since he first went to work for Bob Seals in 1993. In 1996, Inglis set out on his own and started Inglis Cycles. He would later acquire Retrotec and continued to build the retro-styled frames on the side on a per-request basis. Then in 2001 former owner Seals requested a Retrotec to show off his new hubs at Interbike. After being out of the spotlight for a few years Retrotec was again garnering attention. Inglis refers to this period as Retrotec’s “second coming.” In the eleven years since, the line has grown to six different frame styles, all handcrafted by Inglis in Napa, California.
Our Retrotec Twin 29er starts with a standard 1.125-inch head tube that is fillet-brazed to twin top tubes. The top tubes arch graceful down away from the head tube and splay outwards along their length to wrap around the seat tube. Half way between the head and seat tube is a small brace welded between the tubes. This is added to stiffen the structure and reduce torsional flex of the smaller individual tubes. At the seat tube the twin top tubes are connected via a flat gusset before continuing all the way down to the Breezer style dropouts. Along with the seat tube gusset, Inglis adds a seat stay bridge to further stiffen the rear triangle and compensate for the longer seat stays required with 29-inch wheels.
The lower half of the frame utilizes a down tube with a conventional round profile with derailleur and rear brake cables and housing routed cleanly underneath. The seat tube continues with the front triangle’s theme of conventionally round profiled tubing. From the bottom bracket, the vertically ovalized chain stays taper along their length and feature a slightly upward curve just in front of the rear dropouts. The non-drive side chain stay contains the disc brake mount. The dropouts are steel and feature a replaceable derailleur hanger.
The weld quality on our Retrotec Twin 29er was flawless. The fillet-brazing creates a smooth and seamless look that accentuates the frame’s clean and classic lines. Another quality aspect of note was the paint. Though we have never had issues with paint on production frames, the depth and richness of the paint on the Twin 29er was truly spectacular.
Up front we outfitted the Twin 29er with a Fox 32 Float 29 100 FIT RLC 100-mm air-spring fork, complete with lockout and rebound adjustment. Inside the FOX 32 Float FIT 29 RLC is FOX’s FIT RLC dampers. The FIT damper reduces friction of the sealed damper and reduces unsprung weight for quicker wheel response. The fork also employs FOX’s Shim-controlled rebound circuit and rebound adjuster to provide speed sensitive damping for increased control throughout the fork’s stroke. Finally, the 32 Float FIT 29 RLC fork makes use of FOX’s Kashima coating on the stanchion tubes for reduce friction.
Retrotec’s classic cruiser look and retro styling is not just about aesthetics. The long arching seat stays isolate the rider from rear wheel impacts and provide a smooth and forgiving ride. However, the Twin 29er is also about performance. The frame is surprisingly stiff with a classic lively ride quality that can only come from steel. Gram counters and some racers may cry foul, but steel in the hands of a good builder can bring life and personality into a frame. This is the case with Curtis Inglis and our Retrotec Twin 29er, which we have lovingly named the Green Machine.
We equipped our Retrotec Twin 29er with a mix of Shimano XTR and XT components. The brakes and rear derailleur are XTR complimented by an XT front derailleur, shifters and cranks that were mated to a Chris King bottom bracket. We then outfitted the Twin 29er cockpit with a crankbrothers’ cobalt 3 alloy handlebar, stem and seat post. We rounded out the cockpit with a crankbrothers iodine saddle and Chris King headset. To keep the Twin 29er rolling, quickly we equipped it with a set of Shimano MT75 29 inch wheels wrapped in new Panaracer Driver29erPro tires. On the scales the Twin 29er registered a perfect 25 pounds without pedals.
Our Green Machine Retrotec was a custom-built medium with the top tube extended to that of what would normally be featured on a large. The resulting numbers are a 17.5-inch seat tube mated to a 24-inch top tube. This resulted in a low and stretched out position that most consider a traditional cross-country position. The Twin 29er came with a quick steering 72-degree head tube angle mated to 73.5-degree seat tube angle. The overall feel of the rider compartment is that of a classic racing hard tail.
The Twin 29er is a fun bike to tackle ascents. The bottom bracket is plenty stiff and transfers power to rear wheels without complaint. In addition, the Twin 29er has a snappy feel that makes it lively, quick and responsive. The classic racing feel of the rider’s compartment puts the rider in a strong and powerful position for maintaining speed. Long climbs are best done in the saddle where the lively feel of the frame best resonates with the rider’s legs and the full effect of the vertically compliant rear end can be appreciated. In and out of the saddle, the Twin 29er felt lighter than its 25 pounds.
Once up to speed the 29-inch wheels hold their speed and smooth out trail imperfections. Technical trails are best handled with precision as compared to brute force. The quick geometry affords the rider the ability to pick and chose their lines. On steep pitches the Twin 29er maintained traction well, with the bike’s geometry allowing it to make it around cumbersome corners.
When the trail points downward, the Twin 29er rolls fast and quick. On open, fast double track and fire road it absorbs small hits and trail shock with ease, giving the impression that the bike is floating over the trails surface. The rear triangle has more lateral give than what we have come to expect from aluminum or carbon hard tails, but provides accurate and consistent feedback. As speed increases on open sections of trail one needs to be mindful of the front end. The steep 72-degree head tube angle allows the Twin 29er to be flicked around corners with ease but requires ones attention at all-out speed. Through rougher sections, the Twin 29er remains glued to the dirt with the long arching seat stays providing a level of vertical compliance unmatched by over engineered carbon versions. Simply put, the Twin 29er is a smooth ride.
Enter the singletrack and the Twin 29er really comes to life. It steamrolls over roots and through rock gardens, never needing to break stride through tight twisty corners it simply carves out the ideal line. Even the smoothest riding hard tail is not going to help when the trail goes near vertical and drops turn the descent into a white-knuckle ride. In these situations we again found the steep head tube angle an advantage. Slow down, pick your line, get your weight over the back and let the frame absorb the impacts.
The Retrotec Twin 29er rider wants a beautiful, handcrafted bike that mixes modern performance with the style of classic machines of the past. Moving past aesthetics, they want a capable trail machine that it’s ideally suited for all-day trail rides, tight singletrack and the occasion lap around the racecourse. Curtis Inglis has created a work of art with the Retrotec Twin 29er and it serves as a reminder that form and function can co-exist.
Curtis Inglis handcrafts each Retrotec, which allows him to build custom and semi-custom versions of all of his uniquely styled frames. For full custom frames he provides a sizing sheet on his website or you can visit in person. The semi-custom bikes are for people that are of average body size. The frames are built to specific sizes, which can be found on the Retrotec website, but are available in different tubing options. Retrotec offers three different types of construction methods: fillet-brazed, tig-welded and lugged. Prices for a semi-custom start at $1,500 for a tig-welded model and top out at $2,000 for a lugged two-tone paint version. Custom builds start at $1,750 for a tig-welded version, with a lugged two-tone hitting the $2,200 mark. Retrotec also offers a full range of frame options such as an eccentric bottom bracket and S&S couplers for addition fees. All frames come in a single color with five decal colors to choose from. Custom options are available with the famed arrows being the most popular for an additional $140.
The Bottom Line
Price: $2,000 (custom fillet-brazed, frame only) $1,800 (semi-custom tig-welded, frame only)
Group: Shimano XTR and XT
Wheelset: Shimano XT75
Other: crankbrothers cobalt 3 alloy handlebar, stem and seat post; crankbrothers iodine saddle; Chris King headset and bottom bracket
Weight: 25 pounds