19 May 2014

Vassago Fisticuff with Rohloff SPEEDHUB

Vassago’s Fisticuff is billed as a “monster cross” bike that can handle everything from rough gravel roads to singletrack to daily commuting. Some people may look at it as a cyclocross bike with wider tires and others may look at it as a drop bar mountain bike.  Whatever you call it, the Fisticuff is an "all arounder" that feels just as at home on mountain bike trails as it does on long road rides. It makes you want to take off on an adventure, and pairing it with the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 gives you the drivetrain to do so without any maintenance issues.

The Fisticuff is built from a high quality heat treated steel tubeset, offering a resilient ride that takes the edge off of rough roads and trails. Compared to most cyclocross frames, the Fisticuff is reinforced in high stress areas to handle rougher trail use, making it nearly indestructible in normal road and 'cross riding conditions. Like most cyclocross bikes, the frame geometry offers a blend of road and mountain bike qualities. The front end and cockpit provide a body position similar to a road bike, and the rear end has a higher bottom bracket for trail clearance like a mountain bike. Chainstays are in between a road and a mountain bike, with a fairly short wheel base that can maneuver through twisty singletrack easily. It has both disc and cantilever brake mounts, clearance for 1.8" tires, and 
horizontal dropouts with adjustable chain tensioners, which make SPEEDHUB installation easier. The Fisticuff is one Vassago's more affordable imported models, along with the Jabberwocky, but they also offer Rohloff-friendly U.S.-made frames called the Optimus Ti, TKO, and Verhauen.

We built up this Fisticuff with a sturdy wheelset that is capable of rougher off road riding. Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Flow mountain bike rims are strong and allow for wider tires than most other rims used on cyclocross frames. Sapim Race spokes offer a blend of strength and light weight, and brass nipples offer strength and corrosion resistance. We used a black Toxaholics front hub and a black Rohloff SPEEDHUB in the rear. Schwalbe’s versatile and flat-resistant Marathon Mondial tires offer good mixed surface traction.

As a heavy duty adventure-style bike designed for many different trails and roads, the Fisticuff is well suited for the Rohloff SPEEDHUB. The SPEEDHUB’s shift system is entirely protected within the hubshell, so it is not exposed to road grit, rocks, sticks or anything else that may damage or affect a derailleur system’s shifting on long rides or rough trails. By combining the SPEEDHUB with the solid steel frame, this build offers a nearly bombproof ride that rarely needs to be tuned up even after the roughest rides.

We used a range top shelf components to round out the build. Raceface’s Turbine cranks, WTB Valcon saddle, and Thomson stem and seatpost are very strong with a fairly light overall weight, and Avid’s BB_7 road brakes and Cane Creek Drop V levers provide plenty of stopping power.

If you are interested in a “monster cross” bike of your own, contact us to talk about a Vassago Fisticuff build.

Build Details:

• Frame: Vassago Fisticuff
• Fork: Vassago Fisticuff
• Headset: Cane Creek Forty
• Stem: Thomson Elite X4
• Handlebar: Salsa Cowbell
• Shifter: Rohloff
• Grips: Profile Design cork bar tape
• Seat post: Thomson Elite
• Saddle: WTB Valcon
• Seat Clamp: Vassago
• Front Hub: Toxaholics
• Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
• Spokes: Sapim Race
• Nipples: Sapim Brass
• Rims: Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Flow
• Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Mondial
• Cranks: Race Face Turbine
• Pedals: Shimano XT Touring
• Bottom Bracket: Race Face Turbine
• Chain ring: Race Face Wide/Narrow
• Rear Sprocket: Rohloff
• Chain: Wipperman Connex 808
• Brakes & Levers: Cane Creek SCR-5 levers, Avid BB_7 Road
• Rotors: Magura Storm 4-bolt


  1. Neil,

    I've noticed on most of your Roholff wheel builds the drive-side leading spoke is on the inside of the flange while the non-drive leading spoke is on the outside. What's the advantage here, rather than having both sets of leading spokes on the outside of the flanges?


  2. This is how we build all disc brake rear wheels - pulling spokes are on the outside. Both sides of the hub share both pedaling and braking loads, so we do one of each spoke orientation. Probably doesn't matter either way, but this is the way that made sense to me when I created our wheel building procedures years ago.

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  4. Hi,

    A couple of questions, (a year late, sorry, bit slow!)

    Are these Mondials set up tubeless or with inners?

    If they're tubeless, any idea what sort of pressure?

    Do you think Flow Ex rims (a tad wider and stronger than these at 28/25mm) would be suitable on a Surly Ogre for a mixed range of use and abuse, loaded, unloaded, bike packing, single track, shopping, extensive touring? Or do you think they're a bit lightweight for that?

    I'm planning an Ogre build based around a Rohloff. Front hub would be a Son. Disc brakes, 160mm. 36 spokes if poss. for strength. I'd like to be able to be versatile with tyre choices, swapping out anything from say a 3" Knard (as a front end only experiment) to a 2.4" Ardent, to a 2.35" Big Apple, a 2.25" Smart Sam to a 2.0" Mondial, depending on terrain, what's necessary and what's available. A 25mm internal rim width is pretty ideal. It'd be great if the rim could handle tubes and pressures of up to around 75psi or 5.0 bar. It'd be great if it was easy to convert to tubeless as and when, (like these Flows for instance). I just worry that they might not be burly enough, and that the rim walls of the Flows might not like the pressure of tubes....

    Any thoughts? Your informed opinion would be appreciated.

    Many thanks from across the pond.

    Sunny smiles,


    1. These wheels were set up with tubes for the photo shoot. I don't think we've tried setting up Mondials tubeless before.

      The Flow EX rims should hold up well for your intended use. I would probably use the 36 hole version, but they are pretty sturdy. If you want something burlier, the new Velocity Cliffhanger or Ryde Andra series rims are about as sturdy as they come.

      I would not run the Flows with anything more than 50psi though. Especially with a larger tire, even 50psi in on the high side! If that's a must, then I would switch to one of the other rims mentioned above.

  5. Thanks Neil,

    I wasn't sure my message would get through or whether I was posting on a long forgotten dusty fragment sitting in an obsolete corner of your site. Obviously not, the wonders of the digital age!

    You've confirmed my suspicions about the Flow Ex rims. Although Stans say they can be set up tubeless or with tubes, the design looks way more tubeless specific, the walls less able to grip and hold a clincher tyre under pressure. I felt cautious, hence the question.

    I guess I'm asking too much of a rim to want tubeless/tube capabilities on a range of tyres 2.0"-2.5", (with a possibility for a 3.0")...?

    I'll have a rethink and a ponder over my list of potential rims, (which include Blunt 35's, Cliffhangers, Pacenti DL31's, Spank Subrosa's, Sun-Ringle MTX33's amongst others...)

    I've come across the Andra's and Cliffhanger's before. Classics in the touring realm. Strong as, but hefty.

    And I'm intending to go 36 hole. Again a classic touring precautionary measure. The Rigida Grizzly rims on my current steed of choice, an LHT, have 36 holes and have proved true through the last 30,000 miles.

    Anyway, thanks for your input and thanks for your inspiring site and gorgeous builds. Keep up the good work!

    Sunny smiles from across the pond,

    Justin. :-)

  6. Hi:

    What size are those Mondials? Thanks.

  7. Well, it's a 29er, and Vassago say the Fisticuff can fit up to 1.8". Looking at the relatively tight tyre clearance on the front end and available tyre sizes on the Schwalbe Mondials, I'd say 28 x 1.6 or 28 x 1.75. Unfortunately there are no close up shots featuring the size details in raised print on the side of the tyre. But perhaps one of the Monkey Lab crew will reply with a definitive answer?