nothing compares 2 u

 

3020_71527479862_5268368_nAs time goes by, new people come into your life; some stay for a while, others only for a fleeting moment. A precious few (for me, at least) stick around forever.

The same (again, for me, at least) is true of bikes. Just like the various people I’ve come across have taught me a lot about life, love and loathing, the bikes I’ve owned have taught me so much about being fat, being fit and going fast.

Interestingly, I don’t remember my first love… she might’ve had brown hair… maybe… was she the one with a VW Beetle? Were we happy together? Did we have plans for the future? I honestly couldn’t tell you… for one reason or another, I’ve blocked out those memories or they simply weren’t important enough for me to retain.

3020_71527364862_6393263_n 3020_71527369862_3687761_nAsk me about my first bike build and I can tell you everything you want to know! She was an orange Specialized Hardrock with Marzocchi MZ Comp suspension forks, a 27 speed Shimano Deore drivetrain and Avid Single Digit v-brakes. Followed quite closely by my second love, ‘the Race Face bike’, also with Marzocchi forks, Shimano XT drivetrain, Avid BBDB disc brakes, Race Face cranks, saddle, seatpost, stem and bars. It had Odyssey Sharkbite pedals, Halo Knobbler tyres and was just an awesome machine.

The Race Face bike eventually got broken down and largely sold off in parts (you’ll recognise the cranks on my current Surly Troll) but I kept the orange Hardrock for many years as a spare bike for my friend to ride around whenever he came to visit.

33932_444266934862_5527787_n I forget exactly why but I ended up getting rid of the original Marzocchi fork at some point and rebuilt the bike with… another Marzocchi fork! But, this time, it was also sporting a whiter than white Charge x Wiggle Spoon saddle and matching handlebar grips which stayed white for at least 10 seconds. In this guise, my fondest memory is watching it pull a spectacular 6 foot long, 2 wheel drift across a frozen wooden bridge on an equally frozen winter’s morning, deep in the woods of Cannock Chase on a deserted trail in the hands of my good friend.

6770_115343424862_5312862_nIn the meantime, I had a foray into the weird world of single speeding and built up the Hardrock with a rigid Onza Lite Guy fork, 26 x 1″ Specialized All Condition slicks and flat bars. That was fun!

Why am I boring you with this orange tinted nostalgia? Well, unlike whatshername, I was decidedly reluctant to part with my beloved Hardrock. She taught me so much and gave me so many miles of happiness… and yet, today I boxed her up, taped the lid down and sent her off for new adventures somewhere unpronounceable in Aberdeenshire.

It broke my heart to see her go and the PayPal boost I received in return only eased the pain a little… at least up there she’ll get to see some great countryside and I’m sure she’ll make some Scotchman very happy indeed.

Sigh… time for a new MTB build, I think.

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the only way is up

Happy holidays dear readers! I hope you’ve all been having a relaxing and enjoyable time whether you celebrate xmas or not. Over here at life in the cycle lane HQ, we’ve largely been doing lots of cycling up in t’ hills, eating lots of delicious food and drinking more than a few glasses of excellent wine. Keep your eyes peeled for a report on just some of our recent adventures.

In th meantime, another week has passed us by and Thursday is once again upon us which can mean only one thing; yes, it’s time for another instalment of ‘random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia’! Grab yourself a mince pie or something else delicious, pour yourself a glass of wine and sit back whilst I entertain you with this mindless nonsense.

  • Our first special guest this week comes to us via Google and wants to know “trivia about searching things” – no, really; somebody actually was searching for that when they landed here!
    • Worry not, your search is over! You’ll be (semi) pleased to learn that we explore the murky world of search trivia here at life in the cycle lane every Thursday, week in, week out. Got a glass of something to wash your mince pie down with? Good. Welcome to the family.
  • Now then… who’s next? Ah yes. “What is the widest tyre for a Brompton?”
    • Err… I’m sorry to say I have no idea! What I do know, however, is that Bromptons run on the larger 349c version of the 16″ wheel, not the 305c version you find on kids’ bikes, BOB Yaks and other such things so do take care when shopping for replacements to carefully check because 16″ isn’t necessarily 16″…
    • I had a wheel custom built for my BOB Yak using a Brompton 349c rim which I run with a Schwalbe Kojak 16 x 1 1/4″ tyre; it’s slick, narrow and designed for high pressures so if you’re a lettuce, it’s not for you. There are some slightly larger alternatives around the 16 x 1 3/8″ range which will give a little more comfort but I suspect you’re wondering whether something like the 2″ wide Schwalbe Big Apple would fit, yes? Well, no, it won’t. Sorry.
  • Next up this week is the person wanting a “Keep Pedalling Manchester wheel build review”
    • Seeing as Keep Pedalling, Manchester is my all time favourite bike shop ever and the place I source all my cycling gear these days including a rfecent custom built wheelset, I’d be more than happy to provide you with a review – that’s a job for next week. In the meantime, get yourself down there once they reopen in the new year and have a drool over all the cool stuff they have in stock.
  • Next! “I hate my Long Haul Trucker”
    • Oh. Really? That’s a shame. Please feel free to donate it and I’ll make sure it finds a home with someone who’ll truly love it. Drop me a line here.
  • OK, we have time for just one more this week; there have been so many good contenders but we have to go with “Race Face crown race which way up?”
    • Sigh. If you need to ask that question, you really shouldn’t be attempting to fit the crown race yourself. Get it wrong and your headset simply won’t work and if you try to ride your bike like that, you’re guaranteed to suffer a catastrophic failure which will no doubt result in you going face surfing.
    • If you’re anywhere near Manchester, take your frame, fork & headset in to Keep Pedalling and ask them to fit it for you; they’ll no doubt also advise you on cutting your steerer tube down and other such things which require specialist tools and a bit of know-how.

OK, that really is all we have time for this week; tune in next Thursday for even more mundane search trivia!

somebody that I used to know

 

If I had my way, I’d have a huge barn out in the countryside. Inside, I’d have a couple of old leather couches, an antique fridge full of excellent beer and one of those funky old jukeboxes with lots of chrome and big chunky buttons.

The walls would be adorned with old tin advertising plates and maybe even the odd picture of a scantily clad girl or two. In the corner, there would be my Park Tool workstand, a nice long wooden workbench and my beloved old Snap On tool chest with all my tools carefully organised into their respective drawers.

The rest of the barn would be laid out with row after row of bike stands, displaying all the bikes I’ve ever owned and, because I’m uber rich in my fantasy barn, I would’ve owned an awful lot more bikes by now than I actually have.

There’s just one minor snag… I’m not rich.

Harumph.

Oh well. For now, I’ll just have to do without the beer fridge and jukebox and settle for putting the couple of old advertising signs I have up in the Man Cave. On the plus side, I do own a beautiful old Snap On tool chest but I must confess it’s not nearly as carefully organised as it should be.

Now, as much as it pains me to admit that Karen’s always right… well, she is always right. In this particular instance, she’s been at me recently telling me I just can’t keep my entire collection of bikes; and so, the time has come to clear a few out which has got me all nostalgic about some of my favourite rides:

Way back when, I was the proud owner of a Raleigh Pioneer Trial hybrid which was my first ‘proper’ bike. With flat bars and bar ends, 700c wheels, 21 gears and an all steel frameset with plenty of rake on the fork (Tim will no doubt like this one), this remains one of my all time favourite bikes.

As I started doing more and more miles, I started learning about bikes and bike parts and my faithful old Raleigh was more than happy to go along with my experimentation. Here she is with American Classic wheels, Shimano Deore 27 speed drivetrain, the first of many Charge Spoon saddles I’ve owned and my friend’s Bumper Transporter twin wheel trailer in tow. Eventually, I ended selling the Raleigh to a nice Lithuanian guy who is hopefully still commuting around the Midlands on it.

Before long, I’d built up enough knowledge to have a go at building my own bike and, following a rather steep learning curve, I put together my first mountain bike with my first set of Halo Twin Rail tyres, disc brakes and Marzocchi suspension forks. Man, I loved that bike! And man, was I fat in this picture! I still have some of these parts knocking around but the frame ended up getting sold once I realised it was actually a couple of sizes too small for me (more of that learning curve business).

A short while and quite a lot of saving up later and I put together my beloved Graham Weigh cyclocross bike which taught me so much about road riding, touring and the importance of having the right gearing on your bike. Starting out life with Shimano Tiagra STIs (that’s the flappy paddle style brake / gear levers you see on many road bikes with drop bars – it stands for Shimano Total Integration, by the way), this bike went through various incarnations including aero bars, pannier racks and my introduction to bar end shifters. Here you see it in my favourite setup with full wrap mudguards and matching brown saddle and bar tape. Once I’d built the Troll, there just wasn’t any place for it anymore so again, the frameset got sold off but many of the parts are still knocking around in various boxes that Karen thinks are empty…

In preparation for moving to Manchester, I had to part with my mountain bike. This was another of my all time favourites; the keen eyed observers will recognise the Marzocchi forks and handlebars etc. from my previous MTB and the Race Face chainset from the current Troll build.

The most recent eBay casualty of my collection is my faithful of old Merida. Another much experimented upon bike, I’ve used drop, flat and even butterfly bars on this bike and it really broke my heart to sell it. But, taking the money off the guy certainly helped to numb the pain!

Anyway, with only the Troll in current active service, I am officially a one bike man again… *shudder*

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.

don’t stop me now

 

Part of me always knew the Troll wouldn’t be put together in just a couple of days. I was optimistic that maybe, just maybe, everything would just bolt together and work perfectly; alas, that’s just not the way with custom bikes. Particularly if you’re obsessive about these things; like I am.

One of the things that has gone well with the 2nd stage of the build: The new 11-34 Shimano Deore cassette arrived and looks great with the 160mm disc on the other side of the rear hub and, now the rear wheel is in the frame, I see no good reason why it needs to come out again in the foreseeable future. Oh, by the way, if you’re planning your own Surly Troll (or Ogre) build with full wrap mudguards, you’ll need to undo the lower mudguard mounts to be able to get the wheel out thanks to those horizontal ‘dropouts’.

Also working out beautifully was the installation of the bottom bracket and chainset. I had these lying around from a previous mountain bike build and, quite frankly, I just love them. I remember the Race Face bottom bracket setting me back £60 once upon a time and, do you know what, it was worth every single penny. The chainset with gorgeous Race Face chainrings was an eBay bargain and, despite the overall colour scheme being orange and black, I think the silver crank arms actually look really nice.

Front & rear derailleurs are brought to you by the Shimano Deore Shadow range and fit really neatly to the frame with some rather clever cable routing designed to avoid bits of trailside foliage, small children and the like from getting caught as you ride along. Again, these were lying around from the aforementioned mountain bike which just happened to have a different diameter seat tube than the Surly. Do I still have the correct shims for fitting the front derailleur? Of course I don’t! Happily, Rich over at Keep Pedalling had the ones I needed lying around in his parts box.

Next up is the dreaded job of cutting the steerer tube down to length. Now, this is a job that really shouldn’t be attempted if you don’t have the right tools, the right knowledge or a large pair of balls; once you’ve cut it off, you’ll struggle to stick it back on again so my advice here is to always, ALWAYS err on the side of caution and leave more than you need because you can always take a little more off if you need to. For me, that meant 20mm of spacers below the stem and then an additional 10mm spacer above the stem to give me a little bit of tolerance (even though I knew full well I’d never need it). So, once you have all your spacers and stem in place and you’re confident the headset is nicely seated against the crown race, mark the steerer tube above the upper spacer with a sharp flat-bladed screwdriver or something similar to give you a line to cut to. And, as the great Norm Abram would say “Measure twice, cut once”.

With the upper spacer removed, you can see the litte mark left by the screwdriver blade. Removing the wheel from the fork, the fork from the frame and putting all the little loose bits of the headset somewhere clean, I lined up my specialist saw clamp against the mark I’d made and then wriggled it down the steerer about 3mm; the reason for this is that you don’t want your top cap resting on the the very top of the cut steerer, rather you want about a 3mm gap. More on all that in a dedicated ‘How to…’ blog entry a bit later on.

And so, the moment of truth. With that little bit of excess steerer tuibe cut off and the star fangled nut installed (another ‘How to…’ blog entry and more specialist tools required here), I went ahead and cannibalised my poor old Merida for its bars, stem and shifters. Now, I know what you’re thinking: drop bars, bar end shifters, mountain bike gearing, disc brakes and fat road tyres??? Well, yes. Surly has never been conventional and neither have I. Have a little faith, it’s all going to work. I think.

Now, the reason why this blog entry isn’t ending up with the fully completed bike is simply down to the brakes. Like the derailleurs and chainset, the Avid BBDB (precursor of the legendary BB7) calipers came from my old mountain bike and are, sadly, shot. Which means the Cane Creek Drop V brake levers which were eye-wateringly expensive are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.

Cue another not-so-good-for-my-mental-state 5 minutes.

Ah well, that’s custom bikes for you.

The solution: I bagged a pair of Avid BB5 Road calipers for… well, a less eye-watering price which are winging their way from the US as we speak. What this means for the rather sad looking Merida is that it’ll also now be losing its Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers too and I’ve decided to go completely off the wall and fit a massive 203mm disc to the fork (also winging its way as we speak) so I should be able to throw myself (and probably a fully loaded BOB Yak) over the bars with the application of just 2 fingers. Yay!

watched you fall

 

Well, it’s been a mixed few days. I’m still suffering from deep post-holiday blues, I didn’t get the promotion I wanted so badly and I haven’t done any cycling for about 10 days; all of this makes me somewhat grumpy.

On the plus side, the guinea pigs came back to us today from their little holiday at a friend’s house, I picked up my Surly Troll frameset yesterday and had planned in today to get most (if not all) of the building of said Troll completed.

It seems the universe had other ideas.

First up: fitting the rear mudguard. Now, this may seem like a strange thing to do what with mudguards technically being one of those ‘finishing touch’ type things but (and here’s a free tip for you) getting your mudguards loosely fitted before even thinking about putting your wheels anywhere near the frame will save you plenty of time in the long run. Fancy another free tip? Make sure you clean out the threads of any mounting points you’ll be using later. Mine happened to be filled with overspray from the powdercoating and whilst I could have just forced the bolt in there, that runs the risk of cross threading the hole, damaging the bolt, damaging the frame and causing whatever it is you’re bolting on to fall off at some inopportune moment; again, taking care of this whilst the frame is all stripped down and you’ve got ready access to everthing will make your life considerably less stressful.

If you don’t own a tap and die set, you should go out and buy one first thing tomorrow. Buy a good one made from tungsten carbide or similar; it’ll be worth every single penny. Oh, and when you’re out there putting threads on everything in sight, please remember to clean any excess metal shards / paint from the tap / die after each use and applying a little grease before starting will make the cutting easier and help prevent corrosion later on.

With the threads all cleaned out, I fixed the mudguard in place with the lower mounting point at the chainstay bridge (the one I won’t be able to reach once the wheel’s in place) and loosely tightened the others; throwing the rear wheel in for a test fit, I could then adjust the gap between the fully inflated tyre and mudguard with the greatest of ease. And, now it’s fitted, it’s fitted and there it shall stay evermore; I can get on with all the other stuff and not have to worry about any access issues.

Wanting to get the frame into rolling chassis, the next step was fitting the fork which can be a job all its own. My advice here is that if you don’t know what you’re doing and / or you don’t have the right tools, just don’t attempt it. A poorly fitted fork / crown race / headset will cause a nasty accident; it’s not a question of if, it’s more when and how badly you’ll be hurt. My fork here is suffering from some really poorly finished excess paint which (if I’d left it alone) would’ve ended up causing the aforementioned poorly fitted crown race and associated unpleasantness. A little attention to detail with a carefully handled flat-blade screwdriver and some sandpaper took care of it and the Cane Creek headset all went together beautifully.

With the fork fitted, my attention turned to fitting the front wheel which again seems like a good idea but don’t forget to clean out all the threads for any pannier / mudguard mounting points and get the disc fitted to the wheel and the brake caliper fitted to the fork first. While I was at it, I stuck the rear brake caliper on too along with the rear derailleur, bottom bracket and chainset. Now, there’s quite a lot involved in fitting a bottom bracket and chainset (and disc brakes too) so I might do a feature on those in a later post.

Anyway, with all that fitted, I was getting towards the end of the box of available parts so spent quite a lot of time fabricating custom brackets to fit the front mudguard on the strange fork around the disc brake caliper and threw a temporary stem on to give a good idea of what the completed bike might look like. It’s coming along quite nicely and hopefully, the remaining parts will arrive tomorrow so it’ll be ready for a weekend shakedown.

Very shortly after I took this picture, a gust of wind blew the bike over which means the right hand side of the fork is already sporting considerable damage to the paintwork… Needless to say, damaging a brand new bike before I’d even finished building it didn’t do much good for my mental state so (after taking out my frustrations on some inanimate objects) I gave up for the day.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

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!!!