Honestly, it wasn't even a bike I wanted to buy. We had a running joke at the time (the late 90s) around my shop that anything coming out of Salida, CO was suspect and couldn't be trusted. Salidians were into 2x9 drivetrains and 29-inch wheels (a side joke was that anything with "2" and "9" in the description was simply ridiculous). Dumb. And they were way into "Don" bikes (aka a "McClung Bike" or a "Backyard Bicycle") from local Christ-figure Don McClung. Weird. We didn't get it. Looking back, it's hard to fathom how wrong we were!
I rode a McClung and it didn't bowl me over, despite the urgings of my friends Andy and Wade. I understood the idea behind the bike (big wheels so it rolls over everything, short chain stays with a curved seat tube so it climbs like a goat with the rear wheel tucked in tight) but I didn't get it. I was itching for a new 29er, so I sent some money to a framebuilder in Texas and decided against owning a Don bike. As luck would have it (bad luck for the Texan, good luck for me) that frame builder eventually threw in the towel and after a few of my frantic phone calls, returned my deposit.
It was during that time that I had an epiphany: 30 years in the future there'd be a good chance that Don wouldn't be building bikes. But I hoped to still be riding bikes in three decades. I didn't really want one now, but if I wanted one then, I needed to buy one soon. Better to bite the bullet and buy a bike at retail, than miss out on owning an iconic ride. So I took my erstwhile deposit, sent it to Don as a down payment, and he put me in line for #48.
The route to getting a bike from Don is pretty interesting. You don't really quibble too much about options or sizing. Things are done the way that Don wants to do them, and your size is determined by a "you're about the same size as that guy, I'll build you one the same size" method. Whatever the process, it works well and once brazed, the frame is yours to paint in whatever way you want. Most folks send their raw frames to Spectrum Powdercoating in Colorado Springs, where they have a paint scheme already earmarked for Don bikes.
The frame is a mixture of Columbus and Reynolds tubing, and even some 4130 so that the seat tube can have its distinctive curve. Fillet brazing puts the frame together. The truss fork is certainly a conversation starter, and its purpose is to stiffen up the front end since Don uses road bike fork blades in this mountain bike application. Simply put, it keeps things laterally stiff but vertically compliant (the most overused phrase in bike-describing history...ha!).
I'm a believer in bikes being the product of their environment and the McClung (and how they're kitted out by Salida locals) is a great example. The trails around Salida require technical acumen, but they're easier to navigate with a big wheel and voluminous tire. So 29er wheels are a must, and the bigger tire the better (note: at the time of this build, "+ size" tires were not yet invented, so most McClung's of this era can take up to a 2.2" tire or so...but I've heard tell of a new McClung that embraces these newer, bigger tires). There are also sections of hike-a-bike around the area that are a bitch in cycling shoes. So running flat pedals and trail-running shoes makes sense. Additionally, as most of the riders in Salida are hardmen (and hard women), the ethos of "derailleurs are for failures" is ever-present. This leads to lots of single-speeds in the 81201 area code.
The build of #48 is an attempt to stay true to how they'd do it in Salida: Chris King hubs and headset, White Industries One crankset on a titanium Phil Wood bottom bracket. WTB rubber, Salsa rims, Shimano DX flat pedals and XTR cantis, Thomson post, Fizik saddle, and a newer Nitto bullmoose bar complete the bike.