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.

the chain

 

There’s something about fitting the chain to a bike build which somehow moves it on from just a collection of pieces to something resembling an actual bike; today I fitted the chain to my latest and, to date, favourite build. So, here’s the latest on my 3 speed Coventry Eagle build:

I originally picked this bike up for a mere £50 on eBay and, despite being around 50 years old, it was in surprisingly good shape. The saddle had a small tear and the springs were pretty much shot but I was never going to keep it and there were a few cosmetic scratches here and there but it was essentially in need of nothing more than a little adjustment here and there to get it on the road. But, that wasn’t the plan.

Before long, I’d stripped it all back so I could see what I was dealing with. The bottom bracket bearings were shot, as were those in the headset, the original bars and stem were destined for the big parts bin in the sky but, importantly, the 3 speed Stumey Archer hub worked just fine, the steel 27″ wheels only needed a little truing and, as first impressions suggested, the frame and fork had almost no rust on them. I decided to remove the original steel mudguards and replace them with modern plastic ones to test out the brown & green combination which I wasn’t really sure about to start with but it’s actually worked out really nicely. The chainguard will be staying and when I took this picture, I was planning to run a rear pannier rack too but that’s since been removed because I think it spoils the look somewhat.

 

 

 

I’d bought some new 27 x 1 1/4″ Michelin City tyres to replace the amber walls that came on the bike and, as I came to fit them, I realised the all steel wheels weren’t in quite as good a condition as I’d first thought. Happily though, with a little wire brushing and some fresh cloth rim tape (Velox is really the only way to go unless you’re worried about weight, by the way) all was good with the world again and the tyres went on with new tubes and little hassle.

Next on the list was the long awaited fitting of my gorgeous Soma 3 Speed II moustache bars which I’d picked up from the good people over at Keep Pedalling, Manchester for a bargain price. Here they are cradling an equally gorgeous real leather handlebar bag (it’s a Selle Monte Grappa) I got for an utterly ridiculous £7.99 from On One bikes in Rotherham.

It was always the plan to keep the original wheels and 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub but I agonised over which shifter to use as the original was toast; it turns out you can get brand new old style trigger shifters in exchange for a crisp fiver, or there’s even a *shudder* twist grip version you could go for, if you’re that way inclined. As you can see, I went for the uber cool option of an indexed bar end shifter which slots perfectly into my new bars and (so they tell me) will work with any Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub, no matter what its age. The cable anchorage with these modern shifters (more on that in another post later) is much improved on the original too so I reckon they’re the only way to go. I paid a little under £20 for this one which came with gear cable inner and cable anchor dealy which is quite simply a bargain.

So, all that’s left to do now is run the cabling for the shifter and brakes, wrap the bars in brown Charge U-Bend tape to match the Charge Spoon saddle and it’s all ready for pootling around Manchester!