Featured Bike: Bilenky Cycle Works “Le Petit Graveleur” of Bina Bilenky

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

‘Stephen Bilenky has been in the bike industry for 44 years. He began frame building in 1983, when he started brazing bikes together in the basement of his repair shop. Thirty years on, Bilenky Cycle Works has moved above ground to North Philadelphia with a full-time staff of six. We have won numerous awards and acclaims, including rave reviews in Bicycling Magazine, Bicycle Guide, Tandem Magazine, Bicycle Quarterly and more. We won Best Road Bike (2010), Best Lugged Bike (2011), and Best Lugged Frame (2013) at NAHBS.” – Bilenky.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

“Since 2010,  we’ve organized the annual Philly Bike Expo,  bringing together makers and enthusiasts from around the country for a weekend-long celebration of everything bicycle.  From 2006 to 2014 we hosted the world’s only Junkyard Cyclocross, where riders braved a course through our neighboring junkyard – over cars, through toxic puddles and around broken glass.  Although wildly popular, it turned our hair grey(er) every year.”

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

“Bilenky Cycle Works is more than just a shop. It’s an enduring institution that is committed to enhancing the world of cycling, one handbuilt frame at a time.”

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

This example of Stephen Bilenky’s custom handiwork is known as “Le Petit Graveleur” and belongs to his daughter and coordinator for the Philly Bike Expo, Bina Bilenky.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike
Photo by Pete Bakken, 2018 unPAved media preview event.

Pictured above is Bina Bilenky and Jim Cummins (promoter of the Dirty Kanza gravel race), posing with each other’s respective bike :mrgreen: Follow this link for the inside scoop on Jim’s Salsa Cutthroat.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Above, frame design by Bina herself. In a nutshell, “Le Petit Graveleur” is an all-road bicycle built for the rigors of the continent of Africa.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Above, the jewel in the crown of this bike is its head badge; African inspired with mixed metal leopard spots, an Acacia tree and a North Ethiopian opal which Bina picked out herself. This beautiful piece was made by Jen Green of Head Badges.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Starting at the front of Bina’s bike are SRAM Red 10-speed mechanical brake / shift levers.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

TRP cross-top levers take a little extra room on the handlebars, but provide an additional braking position, which comes in handy if you’re the sort of cyclist who loves to ride the tops of the handlebars.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Bina is a petite lady, and her stem reflects that. Beneath the Ritchey Pro stem, cable hanger for the cantilever brakes and a Chris King external cup headset.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Above, the Avid Shorty Ultimate, one of the best and most adjustable cantilever brakes going. Bina has her front brake set in the wide stance, which provides more rim to brake pad clearance, but less braking power.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Steel is real, and so is the fork, an absolute work of art.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

The fork features plenty of attachment points for fenders, etc.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

More attachment options at the bottom of the fork.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

The top tube of Bina’s bike, shown further up this article, measures just 7/8″ in diameter, which bucks the trend of oversized tubing. That aids with comfort, and the curve of the top tube increases standover height.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

The downtube features True Temper tubing with an ovalized profile, which promotes strength and lower weight. Stephen Bilenky purposely built this frame with comfort and strength in mind.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Above, glittering gold.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Above, you won’t see this sort of cable housing routing on your average production bicycle. Functional and beautiful.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Above and below, Bina’s initials and an elegant cable housing guide.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Cantilever brakes may have become a bit passe’ circa 2018, but the Avid Shorty Ultimate brake offers a ton of power. Don’t believe me? Check out my 2017 Crusher in the Tushar race video. ‘Twas raced aboard my Ritchey Breakaway CX gravel travel bike with these exact brakes.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Another view of that uber cool top tube. Bina’s Brooks B17 narrow saddle perches upon an older Easton CT2 carbon seatpost.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Brooks saddles take time and effort to wear in, but once that has happened, their owners swear by their extreme comfort.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Not everyone is riding a 1x / single chainring these days. Granted, Bina’s bike was built around 2014 when1x was less prevalent, but her 10-speed 2x / double chainring drivetrain is still very relevant, and uber handy for climbing steep grades.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

White Industries VBC (variable bolt circle) crankset (check out our review of the MR30 version here) with a 42T big ring, and without counting, likely a 28T small chainring. Such is the flexible nature of the VBC design. A SRAM Apex front derailleur handles the chore of shifting between chainrings.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Bina’s VBC crankset is the square taper variety.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Bina’s bike doesn’t sit around looking pretty all day. She joined the media crew for Day 2 of the unPAved preview starting near Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Be sure to watch Gravel Cyclist for Part 2 soon, and video preview! Link to Part One.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Bina’s pedals have seen a decent amount of miles. Bina was part of the support crew for the Tour D’Afrique, a 12,000 kilometre (7,500 miles) cycling odyssey along much of the African continent, all aboard her Graveleur bike.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

The 10-speed SRAM XX rear derailleur is designed for mountain bike use, but it is equally at home on a gravel bike. It can shift up to a 36 tooth rear cog and features ceramic bearing pulleys.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

The “Le Petit Graveleur” will clear 2″ wide tyres, although these wheels are a little different.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

650b / 27.5″ is running amok on gravel bikes these days, but a petite lady may need something a little more appropriate. Hence, Bina’s machine rolls on 26″ wheels.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Panaracer are known for their Gravelking SK tyre, but the TServ is a favorite among bicycle messengers and commuters, and rides like a champ on hard pack dirt and gravel roads.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

Keeping it in the White Industries family, gold White Industries hubs for a regular 9mm quick release.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

More of the same on the rear wheel, and 130mm rear spacing.

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

bilenky cycle works gravel bike

bilenky cycle works gravel bike
Bina at Day 2 of the unPAved media pre-ride.

Bina Bilenky’s “Le Petit Graveleur” Custom Adventure Bike

  • Frame: Bilenky Cycle Works Steel, Custom.
  • Fork: Bilenky Cycle Works.
  • Headset: Chris King.
  • Stem: Ritchey Pro.
  • Handlebar: Ritchey Pro with TRP cross-top brake levers.
  • Bar Tape: Unknown.
  • Brakes: Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever.
  • Brake Rotors: N/A.
  • Brake / Shift Levers: SRAM Red 2 x 10-speed.
  • Front Derailleur: SRAM Apex 10-speed.
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM XX 10-speed.
  • Cassette: SRAM XX 11-36 10-speed.
  • Chain: SRAM PC-1070 10-speed.
  • Crankset: White Industries VBC with 42/28 chainrings.
  • Bottom Bracket: White Industries square taper.
  • Pedals: Shimano.
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss rims on White Industries hubs.
  • Tires: Panaracer TServ 26″ x 1.75″.
  • Saddle: Brooks B17 narrow.
  • Seatpost: Easton CT2 carbon.
  • Bottle Cages: Unknown.

Bilenky Cycle Works

4 comments on “Featured Bike: Bilenky Cycle Works “Le Petit Graveleur” of Bina Bilenky

  1. • Nice balance of small wheels/overall bike appearance (I have a friend who dabbles in aeronautic design who says “if a plane looks good, it flies good”… I think that sentiment applies to bikes too).
    • I would love to see a photo of that bike with fenders on.
    • Any design pinch points if you build up a similar bike for 1×12 or 13?
    • My wife is in need of a good bike that fits – I know, that’s part of the definition of a good bike, but at 4’11” soaking wet, she’s almost locked out of the market. I’ve searched high/low for off-the-rack bikes, bought/modified a few, always ultimately failing to find the right fit. Not to get personal, rather a serious question about size: does your bike fall into a range that would fit her?
    • Have you thought about the ‘short cuts’ you could reasonably take to do a short (in both senses) production run of frames that size without compromising the integrity of the design? Enquiring minds, an’ all ‘at…

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