Well it’s the last day of the month and I have yet to post a new addition to my bike build. Occasionally life gets busy and buying bike parts is not my top priority. This month, if not for my self-prescribed “at least one purchase per month” course of action, it would have been completely off the radar. This blog is also a reminder to make incremental progress and to not let this project drag on forever.
This month’s new part is the crankset (or chainset if you’re from the UK), which of course is really a bunch of parts. So, technically, I could have disassembled this into multiple sub-parts and released only one the sub-parts this month. And another the next month. And so on until Christmas or Easter. But I’m not going to be really cheap and go that route, yet. It may come to that though. Let’s hope not.
After considering a few different products at different price points, I went with the fairly utilitarian and budget-friendly Shimano Deore 48/36/28T. I also looked at XT, Sugino and Truvativ cranksets that were similarly geared.
The Shimano Deore XT crank is a popular choice among “serious” bicycle tourists and is about 2-3 times more expensive than the Deore M590 (pictured above). From what I can gather, the XT’s premium price is due to the fact that it’s lighter, stronger and has a nicer finish. For me the cheaper Deore model is light enough, strong enough and pretty enough. So, I ruled out the XT crank fairly quickly, but kept my eye open for a deal.
The Sugino XD600 triple is another popular choice for touring bike builds. And, for me, it’s nearly the perfect choice considering its classic looks, reasonable price, versatility and excessive number of rave reviews. Unfortunately, its silver, not black. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
I also took a look at the Truvativ FIREX 3.3 GXP crankset. While it satisfies all my requirements, there weren’t many reviews or information on component compatibility. So, I shied away from this product as well. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
To date, I’ve spent more time shopping for and researching the crankset than all the other parts included in the build so far – combined. I’m not really sure why. In the end I went with the obvious choice.
Another month has passed and the dream is still alive. My intent is to buy at least one thing, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, per month contributing toward the overall build of the bike. In doing so, my logic is that I will eventually finish this project.
This month’s addition is wheels. If you consider the pair a single unit, this was actually one of the pricier purchases left on the list. Wheels are also pretty important when it comes to riding a bike. So I feel like I’ve made some good progress despite only adding the two items this month.
700c Rear Wheel – XT Hub Laced to Mavic A719 (new)
700c Front Wheel – XT Hub Laced to Mavic A719 (new)
Both the front and rear wheels are from the Handspun Pavement Series. I paid just under $300 for the pair. In the world of bike wheels, that’s not a lot of money. Of course most of the expensive stuff is intended for racing purposes. If you consider my humble utilitarian build, 300 bucks may seem like a bit of an upgrade. It depends on your point-of-view I guess. My thought is that if I’m going to make the effort to build a heavy-duty bike with the intent of carrying heavy loads (at least some of the time), a strong 36 spoke, hand-built front and rear wheel is the way to go.
I did mention that this was going to be a rather slow build, right? Below are the parts I managed to assemble over the past month or so.
FSA Omega Compact drop bar (new)
FSA OS-190 Stem – 84/96 degree (new)
FSA SL-280 Seatpost (new)
FSA Assorted Headset Spacer Kit (new)
Brooks Flyer Special Black (previously owned)
The bars, stem, seatpost and spacers were all part of the same order from QBP. Nothing fancy. But they all suite my needs both in terms of functionality and price. Not bad for $100. These are all parts I don’t get too excited about unless they break or don’t fit correctly. Since FSA makes pretty decent stuff and all these items have similar specs to what I’ve used in the past, I think they’ll work just fine.
Unlike the simple stuff above, the Brooks saddle may seem like more of an extravagance to some. For me, it’s become a necessity. I think (“feel” actually) a seat is the single most important part on a bike. Diehard cyclists may scoff at this idea. You could also argue that the overall “bike fit” is more important. I would agree. But that involves multiple parts.
This is my 3rd Brooks saddle (2nd Flyer model). This particular unit was on my Pugsley for about six months and is still not quite broken in. I currently have a B-17 on my other bike.
Cold press coffee is made by steeping coffee grounds in room temperature water for an extended period of time. As the name implies, the beverage is meant to be consumed cold, sometimes diluted with milk or water, and usually over ice. This brewing method produces coffee that is less acidic and sweeter tasting than traditional hot brewed coffee.
Dunn Brothers Infinite Black is steeped for 24 hours using a proprietary blend of beans. The coffee is available in multiple sizes including a take-home 64 ounce growler. The initial cost for a full growler is $12.95 and $10 for each refill.
If you’ve never had cold press coffee, don’t confuse it with those sugar and cream laden syrup-bombs with whipped cream on top. Often referred to as a “coffee concentrate”, this is a bold and highly caffeinated beverage. If drinking it straight over ice is too much to handle, try one of these less potent coffee recipes provided by Dunn Brothers.
Over the years I’ve utilized my current bike, a 1991 Bridgestone RB-T, for it’s well designed purpose and then some. It’s proven to be extremely versatile and has performed admirably under most conditions. It is, however, considered a “light” touring bike and is somewhat limited when it comes to carrying stuff. I’ve convinced myself that this minor shortcoming in an otherwise perfect bike is a great excuse to obtain yet another bike.
My intent is to build an affordable, nondescript and durable bicycle to be used primarily for camping, commuting and general grocery getting. I chose the Surly Long Haul Trucker frameset and am envisioning a fairly unspectacular yet functional bike. I’ll probably spend a little more on things I’ve come to value from my experience. But, in general, there won’t be a lot of expensive upgrades here if you’re into that sort of thing.
With all that said, several obvious questions come to mind. First of all, why didn’t I just buy the Surly LHT complete bike? And, why did I spend $$ to powder coat an already neutral color frame? Those are good questions for which I don’t have good answers. Enjoy!
To celebrate BrewsLee.com’s 1st anniversary, I’m displaying a year’s worth of beers. That is, all the distinct beers I’ve had during since April 2012. I made a late run for 365 and came up way, way short. I don’t consider this an embarrassing failure. Instead you are looking at 216 small, yet satisfying achievements.
This beer is very good. Is it as good as Furious? No. Maybe that’s the whole point.
In case you’re reading this months from now and wondering why I’m blogging about winter biking in mid-April, the ground is currently covered with 3 inches of snow and there’s more on the way. The past 3 times I’ve biked to work, I’ve considered it my last commute in snow until next winter. Tomorrow I will be making another last commute in snow.
Four years ago I started riding my bike to work. Not every day. Just once or twice a week mainly as an alternative to my intense martial arts training and jumping rope. Biking was fun and there seemed to be no end in sight. Then winter rolled around and I hung my bike up in the garage and reverted to less interesting forms of exercise and eventually to none at all. The following winter I was determined to ride my bike throughout the season and did with some success. The winter after that I purchased a Surly Pugsley which allowed me to commute in more conditions and ultimately ride more frequently.
Along with choosing the right bike, my clothing choices have been extremely important – probably even more so than the bike itself. After my third season of cold weather commuting, I’ve learned that wearing the right gear can really make or break the experience. By far the biggest challenge was finding the right clothing combinations that allowed me to stay warm without overheating and arriving at work in a sweaty mess. I still don’t always get things completely right. But, on a good day, it’s 15°F outside and it feels like room temperature on the saddle.
Obviously, different people will have different preferences and needs. My clothing strategy has largely been influenced by the following factors – climate, terrain, budget and length of commute. The absence of a showering facility at my place of employment also plays a role. And you can’t forget personal style, or lack thereof.
- Climate: Twin Cities, MN – Cold (0-35 degrees F) and usually some snow and ice to deal with.
- Terrain: Over the Mississippi River – a good mix of downhill, uphill and flat terrain.
- Budget: Not completely cheap. But not willing to buy high-end stuff either.
- Length of commute: 11 miles
- Showering facility at work: None
- Personal style: None
The only noteworthy point on style is that I’ve always preferred buying multifunctional items that I can wear while not biking without looking like a misplaced cyclist. The bike helmet is fairly specific. But most of these items get used in other activities.
-Bell Slant helmet
-Seirus Neofleece face mask
-colder conditions: add Seirus balaclava as base layer
comments: Neoprene face masks are a great invention.
-base layer: SmartWool or IceBreaker medium baselayer
-mid layer: old PolarTec-like pullover
-outer layer: Montane LiteSpeed jacket
-colder conditions: add more mid layers
comments: For me, light, wind resistant and breathable fabrics such as Pertex are the best value for an outer layer. Conventional rain-jackets don’t breathe well. Higher-end materials like Gore-Tex and eVent are great, but overkill in terms of cost for my needs. I haven’t tried a soft-shell for an outer layer, but I’ve heard good things.
-base: SmartWool microweight long underwear
-pants: Prana Stretch Zion pants
-colder conditions: add Prana Stretch Zion shorts over pants
comments: I wear these pants for almost everything but rock climbing which they were apparently designed for.
-cold conditions: Manzella softshell gloves (polyester/spandex)
-colder conditions: Continental Divide ski gloves (100 gram Thinsulate insulation)
-coldest conditions: colder gloves + generic liners
comments: These are all cheap gloves and work just fine. I’ve tried two different brands of lobster gloves and, while I see the appeal, I couldn’t get used to the feel of not having the use of all my fingers.
-a variety of wool socks (light to mid-weight)
-cold conditions: The North Face Iceflare Mid -20 boots
-colder conditions: The North Face -40 boots
comments: The -20 boots have an ideally slim profile, but fairly deep tread lugs. The -40 boots are wider with a relatively flat tread profile. Both have pros and cons. While neither are perfect for biking, they’re both great all-purpose boots.