something inside so strong

 

Whilst I was away, suffering from a bad case of real life syndrome and, more recently, a horrible respiratory infection, I had quite literally millio… no, thousan… hundre… OK, so I had one person contact me demanding an update to my blog. Clearly, over a month without a new instalment of Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia! was just too much to bear.

You may even recall me promising a special month long special edition… and, here it is! Please, try to control your excitement.

 

You asked for it, I promised to do it.

You asked for it again, I promised to do it again.

You kept asking for it, I kept promising to do it.

At some time in the last month, you asked for it yet again; so, without further ado, by popular demand, you-kept-asking-for-it-so-I’m-finally-doing-it… yes, yes, it’s finally time for a “Keep Pedalling wheel build review”.

32421_10151271550494863_43233265_nYou may recall I originally built my Surly Troll with an old Sun Rims Ditch Witch wheelset I had lying around the garage. Super wide disc specific rims with a matt black finish, I loved them and I quite literally rode them into the ground; relenting only when the hubs were making so much noise I was worried I wouldn’t make it all the way home (hence the boxes of brand new shiny in my trailer).

206696_10151327132799863_2024200714_nHere’s the finished article being used in anger atop the Hill of Death. For the wheel building nerds out there, here are the specs:

Halo Aerowarrior 26″ disc specific rims in white, Shimano Deore XT 36 hole quick release 6 bolt disc hubs in black and regular, bust-one-and-you-can-get-it-fixed-just-about-anywhere round stainless steel spokes in silver; none of your fancy black bladed [read expensive and almost never in stock] spokes here.

Of course, these wheels were hand built by Rich at Keep Pedalling in Manchester. Interestingly enough, he was actually recommending a cheaper, more sensible, touring bike rim but hey, what’s rock ‘n’ roll about that? So, I splurged the extra cash and went with the Halos.

They’ve been on the bike now for a little over 6 months and have done somewhere between 2000 and 3000 miles (I really haven’t been keeping count) on road, off road, through rain, snow, mud, sand… you name it.

The XT hubs are super smooth and super quiet and will be treated to a service in another 6 months’ time. The rims are as perfectly straight as the day I picked them up and, despite the daily abuse I give the bike, I’m yet to break a single spoke (of course, I fully expect to break several tomorrow now I’ve jinxed it!).

So, how do I rate the quality of Keep Pedalling’s wheel building service? Well, I’m currently saving up to have another one done. What does that tell you?

Oh, I almost forgot! My favourite search term from the last month? Well, it just has to be:

“Olive at Keep Pedalling”

Olive

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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.

jumper

 

As you know, I like quirky things; the quirkier, the better in fact!

But, quirky isn’t always enough; stuff needs to work well too. I mean, look at Boris Johnson’s hair; it’s quirky as you like but what use is it, really?

Allow me to introduce you to the Surly Tuggnut.

Of course, it’s made by Surly so you know it’s going to be really well engineered, rock solid and will no doubt satisfy even your quirkiest of desires.

Designed primarily for single speed / fixed gear bikes, the whole point of the Tuggnut is to incrementally move the rear wheel back in horizontal ‘dropouts’ to achieve the all important correct chain tension without the need for an ugly derailleur or external chain device or some kind. With 2 separate axle mounting points and uber fine adjustment available from the little thumbscrew, finding the right position for your rear wheel is a snap. And, thanks to a neat little washer type attachment, you can also run quick release wheels just as easily as solid axles.

But wait, the Troll isn’t a single speed! Look, there’s a big old shiny cassette and a rather nice Shimano Deore Shadow rear derailleur there – what on earth do you need a Tuggnut for on a geared bike?

Well, the answer is simple. Because I’m running 2.2″ wide Halo Twin Rail tyres and a triple mountain bike chainset, whenever I’m climbing some horrendous hill in the little chainring and the biggest cog on the cassette, the trailing edge of my front derailleur *just* rubs on the outer edge of the rear tyre. It’s only about a half a millimeter, but it’s more than enough to need fixing. The only real solutions available were:

  1. Replace the bottom bracket for one with a longer axle – Not gonna happen, far too much trouble and far too expensive
  2. Replace the tyres for something skinnier – Not gonna happen, far too attached to my Halos and far too manly to run skinny tyres on the Troll
  3. Buy a Surly Tuggnut – Sold!

Available around the £25 range, the Tuggnut is hardly the most expensive bit of kit out there and the best news is, you only need one for the drive side of your bike! You can see here how much I managed to move the rear wheel back; not much, but just enough to avoid any more interference issues. You can also see in this shot the beauty of those sliding disc brake mounts; nothing more complicated here than loosening the bolts, sliding the caliper back a little and retightening the bolts.

So yes, the Surly Tuggnut works extremely well. And the quirk factor? Well, that’s brought to you by the fact it also doubles as a bottle opener! Yep, at the end of a long, hard day’s trolling about, you can even crack open a cold one at the side of the trail. Sweet.

While we’re on the subject of quirky, yet functional accessories for your Surly (and I believe there are other bike manufacturers out there), you could certainly do a lot worse than get yourself one of these.

Maybe I could get Karen to knit me an orange one…

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!