Bike Test: Dean El Diente

A name that stands the test of time

The Dean El Diente Blends Modern and Classic performance

Dean has been a household name in quality titanium frames since its inception in 1989. Founded by John Siegrist in Boulder, Colorado, the brand has evolved over the years with a focus on unique one-off bikes and custom geometry. Dean Bikes has embraced the fact that there are a lot of customers out there who don’t want an off-the-shelf plastic bike that is on display at most shops. Dean knows that there are many cyclists who like to feel special and unique but still demand a high-quality product, and that is what they aim to provide.

THE FRAME

While Dean Bikes is known for their custom sizing and ability to accommodate a large variety of rider-specific needs, we chose to go with their standard -size 56cm geometry. Our El Diente uses American-made 3/2.5 radial titanium that is seamless, cold-worked and stress-relieved to add stiffness. This is Dean’s best balance of custom and performance with multiple bottom bracket standards to choose from. We chose a PF30 bottom
bracket and, of course, opted for disc brakes.

Clean welds and subtle tube shapes maintain a classic titanium aesthetic.

A 44mm straight head tube is standard, but there is a choice of internal or external routing for cables and housing. We went external for the ease of building and a bit more of a classic look. As with all the frames out of the Boulder production line, it was hand-welded.

Our stock geo is that of tradition, with a 15cm head tube at 73 degrees, 95.5cm wheelbase and 55cm seat tube. There is a stack of 576 and reach of 380 with room for up to 32mm tires. The frame is designed to accommodate the current standard of flat-mount disc calipers and is positioned for a 140mm rotor when mounted with no adapter. 

THE PARTS

Dean offers build kits of all different levels, and our build included an Enve Road carbon fork matched with a Chris King headset. The always-reliable and smooth-shifting Shimano Ultegra group came with an 11-28 cassette and mid-compact chainrings. The cable-actuated derailleurs are easy to adjust thanks to the external routing. 

A full set of Ritchey components make for a classic cockpit with alloy stem, carbon bars and matching carbon seatpost. Our build also came with a set of tubeless-ready, 32mm-deep alloy Rolf Prima Vigor disc wheels with a 19.5mm internal width. A set of Challenge 27mm Paris-Roubaix tires ballooned up to 30mm when mounted with inner tubes.

THE RIDE

The Dean gets a lot of looks, as the traditional triangles and etched Dean logo bring many riders a sense of nostalgia. As they describe a dream bike build of the past, it is replaced with the modern details of our test bike as they inspect the welds and ask for details.

Setting up the bike is easy, and the stock geometry is a great balance of performance and comfort. On the first ride it was easy to find a comfortable position for an all-day spin. With more rides and more miles, the Dean only seemed to get better, as you realize this is a bike that would easily be one to keep for a lifetime. 

Flat-mount disc brake mounts are designed to fit 140mm rotors.

The handling isn’t overly responsive at speed, but is nimble on fast switchbacks. You have a very confident feeling as you lean deep into carving turns no matter the speed. When the roads start to tilt up, the frame is stiff out of the saddle but not the lightest. At a (claimed) 1300 grams, the frame isn’t out-of-line heavy, but the alloy Rolf Prima wheels weighed nearly 1700 grams. We made a quick wheel swap to lower the rotational mass, and the bike was reborn. Climbing, the handling was even quicker to respond.

Shifting is smooth and precise as we have come to expect from the Shimano Ultegra group. In an age where internal routing and sharp cable bends are common, the classic external routing made for an even lighter and consistent shift. The disc brakes bring a level of safety and accuracy that is just not possible with rim brakes. The thru-axles also add a level of rigidity over the quick release of the past.

THE VERDICT

The El Diente isn’t a race bike in modern terms, but its balance of performance and stability make it a fun frame that could easily deliver for a lifetime. With over three decades of experience working with titanium, it’s no surprise that it was hard to find fault in the tubes and construction. Components come and go, but the quality craftsmanship that comes out of the Boulder HQ is the reason Dean is still producing frames all these years later.

PUNCH LINES

• Made in the USA for over three decades

• Custom titanium is the name of the game

• Classic design with modern amenities

STATS

Price: $2700 (frame only with custom finish)

Weight: 18.75 pounds

Sizes: 48cm, 50cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm (tested), 58cm, 60cm, 62cm and custom

www.deanbikes.com

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