in my hands

 

A tenuous musical link, I’ll admit; I just couldn’t resist a bit of angst ridden grunge from the 90s.

How does one measure the success of a blog? Is it by the number of hits every day? How many likes each post gets? Maybe the number of comments received? I don’t know and I suspect it’s different for everyone…

When I started this blog, the aim was to share some of my knowledge with the people out there in the blog-o-sphere and, hopefully, save them from making some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way. In the early days, I was lucky to get more than a few hits each day and now, as I approach 5000 all time views, I’m getting anywhere between 40 and 80 views every day; the majority of which come from Google.

So, I thought it was high time I started answering some of the questions I’ve been (indirectly) asked. This week, we’ll explore such mysteries as “Why do people hate bullhorn bars so much” and “Will bullhorns work on my MTB?” and “bullhorn handlebars gear shifter”. Unfortunately, we don’t have time today for “miley cyrus white wicker basket” or “barendi porn tube”… *slow, sad headshake*

If you’ve ever clicked around this site, you’ll know I’m the proud owner of a vintage Falcon Panther 10 speed road bike which I rescued from the scrapheap; regular readers will also know I’m no fair weather cyclist and I don’t shy away from taking my bikes over challenging terrain. However, when it comes to wheeling the Falcon out, all of this goes out the window.

The 40 year old centre pull Dia Compe caliper brakes do work but they’re hardly the most effective thing and, even the mention of moisture in the air turns stopping into a mere aspiration.

The 1 1/8″ wide Continental Ultra Sport slick tyres are fast yet sticky on smooth, warm tarmac but, again, the very mention of any kind of rain / oil spots / wet painted lines / shiny manhole covers and it becomes skittish and grumpy, threatening to throw its younger passenger off at a moment’s notice.

Give it 80psi in those 27″ tyres, point it towards the epic scenery only t’ North can provide on a crisp, clear, breathless Autumn day and the grumpy old bugger turns into a feisty teenager again; champing at the bit, wanting to go faster and faster, urging you to fiddle with the (less than precise) Huret downtube shifters and stick it in the big ring. What was I going to do, say no?

Exhausted as I may be today, I forced myself to throw some baggy shorts and a baggy jersey on (you can’t wear lycra on an old bike), grab my hipster style shoulder bag and, with no idea where I might end up, the front wheel turned left and up the nearest hill I went. The ride was as beautiful as the weather and, heading north from Middleton, I somehow ended up at Hollingworth Lake before looping back again through Royton and Shaw; a fine way to spend a couple of hours, despite the throngs of fat people queuing for fish and chips at t’ lake.

Anyway, back t’ t’ bars. When I restored the bike, I decided to remove the old drop bars and safety [suicide] levers in favour of fitting a pair of Charge’s excellent Slice bullhorn bars. Primarily, this was a bit of an experiment as I’ve often admired the look these bars give but I’d never ridden with them before.

Essentially, the riding position is the same as you get with traditional road (or drop) handlebars in that you can ride on the flats or on the ‘hoods’ by the brake levers and there’s always the relaxed holding-the-curved-bit-in-between-position which I favour. What you don’t get, of course, is the option to ride in the drops or the hooks (favoured by roadies) which helps cut down wind resistance and is arguably more comfortable.

You’ll notice here that my Charge bars clamp quite happily into the original stem thanks to the 25.4mm clamp; this means that yes, they’ll also clamp into standard 25.4mm mountain bike stems. But no, this doesn’t mean that would be a good idea. You see, the brake levers and gear shifters you find on mountain bikes generally have a 22.2mm (I think) clamp size and the diameter of these bars is much larger so they simply won’t slide on. I chose to go with Dia Compe time trial style levers which fit very nicely into the bar ends; now, here’s the other problem with using these bars on MTBs, the cable pull from these levers is designed for road style brakes so, unless you have cantilevers on your bike, they ain’t gonna work.

The final problem, should you overcome the stem & brake issues is gear levers. As I’ve already said, standard MTB style shifters simply won’t work on these bars so you’re down to fitting your shifters elsewhere; this really only leaves you with downtube shifters. And, of course, downtube shifters (unless they’re full friction) are designed to work with road style derailleurs which you wouldn’t have on your mountain bike…

…unless…

…are you thinking of using an old, steel, rigid mountain bike as a commuter with road tyres? And you like the idea of road bars but can’t get on with riding in the drops? Alas, bullhorns are still not for you. What you want is a pair of butterfly bars. But, that’s a topic for another day.

Bullhorns are great for me on my Falcon but they certainly aren’t for everyone; they also work great on single speeds and fixed gear bikes but I have to say, I think fitting them on a mountain bike would be a mistake.

monster

 

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, me.

Regular readers of this blog will know that several weeks ago, I collected my Surly Troll frameset from the shop with grand ideas of getting it built within a mere couple of days. I mean, given you have the parts and everything goes according to plan, there’s no reason at all why you can’t put a bike together in a mere couple of hours.

I thought I had all the parts.

I thought everything would go according to plan.

I thought wrong.

You see, I actually did have all the parts I needed to make a perfectly usable bike; the problem is my bloody perfectionism! I already have a perfectly usable bike… in fact, if you ask my girlfriend, she’ll tell you I have several perfectly usable bikes. And, I suppose she’s right.

But, the Troll was never going to just be usable.

Over the years, I’ve tried and tested all manner of different parts, ridden all manner of different frame types & materials and, along the way, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, learnt a lot of lessons and developed a fondness and brand loyalty for some of the better stuff I’ve come across.

My good friend Geordie was right when he said he’d planted the Surly seed back when we built his Long Haul Trucker in my driveway. Sure, it wasn’t cheap and no, it still isn’t fully finished off so I’ll be parting with more hard earned cash before too long but (coming in on the right side of £1000) I fully expect to be keeping this bike for an extremely long time.

So, here’s a quick rundown of some of the good stuff I’ve discovered over the years making an appearance on the Troll:

  • Frame and fork – Courtesy of Surly, of course, and made from 4130 chromoly steel providing stiffness, flexibility, comfort and surprisingly low weight. Being a company that builds weird, quirky and sometimes utterly ridiculous stuff, they occupy that special place in my heart. I must put my hands up and admit I was convinced Surly was an English brand but I’m reliably informed that they are, in fact, as American as… well, Minnesota. Not to worry, we like Americans.
  • HeadsetCane Creek. Another American brand here; they make great stuff that works well and won’t cost the earth. Oh, and they put lizards on almost everything they make. We also like lizards.
  • Bars, stem & seatpost – All brought to you by the good people over at On One Bikes in Rotherham. These guys actually are English and, like Surly, are also the good kind of mad. They make quirky, but well thought out stuff from good materials and it’s all available at really good prices.
  • Saddle & bar tape – Another excellent English company going by the name of Charge. Primarily, they’re known these days for catering to the single speed and fixed gear market with some really cool parts, just the right amount of quirk and really good prices. I run Charge saddles on all of my bikes and have used many of their other products on several bike builds.
  • TyresHalo Twin Rail. Quite simply the most versatile tyre I’ve ever come across. They do it all: road, trail, gravel and even a certain amount of mud. Originally designed for jumping around the skate park and random bits of city centre street furniture, you can now get Twin Rails in all kinds of sizes and colours. Love ’em. Oh, and Halo just happens to be another English company… sweet.
  • Gears – Dia Compe full friction bar end levers coupled with Shimano Deore Shadow derailleurs give me all the gear combinations I’m ever going to need on this bike and all the fine adjustment that only non-indexed gear levers can give.
  • Brakes – One more American brand creeps in here in the shape of Avid (or SRAM, or whatever they’re called at the moment) and their phenomenally good BB5 disc calipers. These are the road version and I have 160mm on the rear (the maximum possible with the Troll frame) and a massive 203mm on the front which have simply incredible stopping power – so much so I nearly threw myself over the bars on a tricky descent earlier on. The levers are Cane Creek again, SCR-5 is the model and they’re all black and they’ve got the all important lizards on them!
  • Chainset & bottom bracket – Surprisingly enough, what with my best friend being Canadian and all the best mountian bike stuff coming out of Canada, this is the only bit of Canadiana on the bike, brought to you by Race Face. Look ’em up, they just make good stuff.

As I said, there’s still more work to do here; not least switching out the rear Shimano disc for an Avid one (there’s that pesky perfectionism again), sourcing and fitting luggage racks and bags and deciding on a chainstay protector… Oh, will it never end???

So, once all of that is sorted, I’ll take some arty detail shots of the completed build but, for now, you’ll just have to make do with this one of the Troll taking a much needed rest after climbing the affectionately named ‘Hill of death’ (also known as Ashworth Road, Rochdale). The descent of which is quite simply awesome, by the way.

want you bad

 

Those of you who know me well also know that there are precious few things in life which make me grin like an idiot and giggle like a schoolgirl; chief amongst which is, of course, the prospect of laying my hands on some new cycling related shiny.

You see, for a while now I have been coveting another… I love my Merida dearly, it takes me just about everywhere I need / want to go; often with Kojak attached, filled with god knows what. Before that, I also loved my Graham Weigh cyclocross which is currently broken down in boxes waiting for me to decide what on earth to do with it. They’re both up for sale but I also have a very soft spot for my Coventry Eagle and Falcon Panther.

But, something has always been missing… it’s hard to explain what but there was definitely something. And so, after much research, a lot of saving up and an awful lot of time spent drooling over one in the bike shop, I am ridiculously happy to report that I shall very shortly be ordering myself a Surly Troll!

Do a quick Google Images search and you’ll see several custom builds, some of which are pretty cool and some others which are… not. A fellow blogger has done quite a good job on his Troll but I think I’m going to go in a slightly different direction.

I’m lucky enough to have an awesome bike shop at my fingertips which just happens to have a ready built Troll in stock which just happens to be exactly the right size for me so this weekend (my girlfriend has gone away for a few days) I popped into the shop, bribed them with some shortbread from the excellent Blue Daisy Cafe around the corner and took the Troll out for a spin around Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

The complete bike comes with a rather odd selection of parts including some very wide handlebars, Avid disc brakes, Kenda tyres and a rather cheap and nasty WTB saddle. The Shimano Deore 27 speed mountain bike drivetrain suits the 26″ wheels and the setup of the bike very nicely and the all steel frame and fork are surprisingly light.

The major attraction for me is the incredible versatility of the bike; it’ll take just about any drivetrain you want to fit from single speed to internally geared Rohloff hub and everything inbetween. You can run disc brakes or cantis (even v-brakes if you really must), flat bars, road bars or… any bars you like – some suggestions here. Unlike many other frames, you can also fit disc brakes, full wrap mudguards and pannier racks (front and rear) all at the same time with no interference issues and, if all that wasn’t enough, there are also dedicated mounts for Surly and BOB trailers!

What will I be running? Well, I’m glad you asked! Obviously, the frame is orange. Very orange. I’ll be going for a fairly clean and simple orange and black colour scheme with the ocassional silver / chrome accent here and there:

  • Wheels: Sun Rims 26″ disc specific wheelset
  • Tyres: Halo Twin Rail 26 x 2.2″
  • Drivetrain: 27 speed MTB specific Shimano Shadow derailleurs, Race Face chainset and Dia Compe full friction bar end shifters
  • Brakes: Avid BBDB mechanical disc brakes with Cane Creek Drop V brake levers
  • Bars: On One Midge ‘dirt drop’ bars with matching stem and seatpost

As I want my Troll to be a commuter, tourer and ocassional weekend trail runner, I’ll also be fitting full wrap mudguards (just as soon as I can find some wide enough to cover the tyres!) and front and rear pannier racks too.

Keep your eyes peeled for progress reports – I’ll be ordering the frameset and other parts tomorrow!!!